Cinephiles: the role of critics in a “Liked” space – UPDATED

On the 16th of June as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), the Project: New Cinephilia event explored the role of film critics and intellectual thought about cinema. Prominent bloggers are included in the debates at their website linked above.

The event prompted a number of very interesting issues for areas of film research.

In the digital age of Metacritic, recommendation algorithms and the recent purchase of recommendation tools Flixster / Rotten Tomatoes by Warner Bros and Fflick by Youtube, the importance of critics as a business force in the industry is open to question.

Elliott and Simmons offer an interesting model for assessing the relative importance of critical praise on films’ box office. They note the problems in separating out linked variables and their impacts – critical successes tend to get more advertising support for instance. Therefore direct and indirect results must be separated out.

Of course the role of intellectual appreciation of film is greater than reductive measures like revenues, but some interesting issues appear when the impact of film criticism is questioned.

It may be a case of “for us by us”, cinephiles exist for the value created by such artistic debate.

However this position misses something, as the intellectual appreciation of films and social media sharing / public engagement / recommendations do not need to be mutually exclusive, with Little White Lies’ digital presence proof of that. Certainly Sight and Sound could learn something there, the contrast between the two sites is stark

There appears to be a role for integration of serious criticism and the social element of marketing in a film’s life cycle and in the involvement of Mubi in the Project: New Cinephilia event and organisation is evidence of this.

The business of cinephilia itself was also covered at the event. Yoram Allon of the Wallflower Press made excellent points about the economic necessities of being involved in any cinephilia-connected area of business.

A diverse range of revenue streams are captured by cinephilia: books, magazines, comics and merchandise as well as experience goods all potentially play a role for the film service sector  (festivals, shops, venues). They can also be valuable to film producers and the lack of exploitation in the independent film industry of fetish objects – high priced limited number goods, was noted on the 2010 NESTA Take 12 Digital Business Program last year (details on the current program).

Whilst it is potentially easier to develop cross media properties and attendant products in genre or mainstream film, the cult cinema opportunities remain underexploited. Events like Secret Cinema and Midnight Movies predominate.

The varied Integration of experience events, tangible goods and online services represent potential models for companies such as Edinburgh’s new Centre for the Moving Image. Festival financing models were noted at the Project: New Cinephilia event to be notoriously difficult, but also a good illustration of the need to drive partnerships and obtain funding. Dr Alex Fischer‘s work at Bond University and the University of St Andrews offers great understanding of the film festival operations model.

The year-round, multi media and multi sector presence of institutions like TriBeCa and Sundance and their talent training and film distribution initiatives are the benchmarks.

Doing everything very well is a challenge, but the EIFF’s new recognition of the role of criticism, journalism, academia and new media is a good step in that direction for Scotland.

Michael Frankiln
Research Associate, Creative Scotland




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