On a certain Monday night...

"That's dumb!" - remarked someone recently during a post-film screening Q and A session at someone else's question post to the filmmakers.

I am really shocked at how disrespectful some people can be towards others. We can all have our opinions, we can all disagree on certain issues, but at the end of the day, I believe we should all learn to tolerate one another and learn to respect each other. I find respect sorely lacking in today's society, film industry included. People do not feel obliged to show respect to one another, and are often quick to judge and wrongly dismiss.

I think when it comes to film - and by a larger extension all forms of art - all film lovers should have the courtesy of showing some respect to filmmakers and the collective audience. First off, not all film makers are extremely well versed in the vocabulary of film and lack technical know-how; they are self taught and are taking the leap of faith to produce a film, something they are passionate enough to invest huge amounts of time and effort in. Constructive criticism is what they need to improve as filmmakers. Lots of such independent filmmakers rely on critical feedback to grow as artists. Most of them lack the resources to consult world class story/script consultants or to hire top-notch cinematographers; they are not funded by a Hollywood studio! Let's at least give them the respect they deserve for willing to step out of their comfort zone and embarking on a road seldom taken by making a film. Whether it is good or bad, I believe they have exhibited a measure of courage - or at least dedication - that many of us film buffs lack. Many people dream about making a film; not many actually bring that vision to fruition.

I recall during one screening session I attended earlier in the year. A bunch of teenage girls were giggling and laughing incessantly throughout the screening of 3 shorts. During one particular short film, they kept exclaiming "OMG! It's so bad!" OVER AND OVER again and I had to exercise an inordinate amount of restraint not to reach out and give them a tight slap.

Yes, the film was bad. It was cringe-worthy, and if anyone were to review it, they will not run out of bad things to say about the film. The more mean-spirited ones would have a field day slamming the film. Thing is, I'd at least do it in a way the filmmaker would know what had gone wrong in the film, either by writing a properly constructed review or at least telling the filmmaker during a feedback session. I wouldn't just say "It's so dumb!" during the filmand leave it at that. No matter how bad a film is, you shouldn't be constantly yelling out what you think of it DURING A SCREENING, because there may be others who enjoy it. And these three girls seem to lack even an iota of self awareness, because judging by the volume of their constant acerbic remarks, I was sure all the audience present - only a measly 20 or so - could hear them. What was worse was that the filmmakers of the three shorts were present, and I can only imagine their dismay and embarrassment at such disgusting behaviour.

And just recently at a screening I was at, someone in the audience remarked that another audience member's question was dumb. Again, just like filmmakers, not all audiences at film screenings are equally well versed in film knowledge, many of them are mere film lovers. The more experienced film goer with more refined film sensibilities should stop assuming everyone has the critical eye of Roger Ebert or David Bordwell. What one person deems common sense may actually pique the curiosity of another. I think we should all celebrate the fact that a person is passionate enough to pose a question to a filmmaker when he or she could have easily remained quiet and blended in with the background. Shouldn't we celebrate the fact that a film audience is moving beyond mere nonchalance to actually inquire about the film? Besides, no one is forcing you to stay in a Q and A session, so if you have no interest in the questions being posed by the other members in the audience, or if you feel they are dumb, feel free to leave.

Why can't people show more respect at such screenings? It's not rocket science; the basics simply involve shutting up during the session and not demeaning others.

And I realized I've left out an important group: student filmmakers. It is imperative they show respect to the audience and to reviewers. I have a huge beef with film school students thinking they know it all and such students, trust me, is really common in Singapore. Despite -or because of - the fact that film schools are burgeoning in recent years, some film school students tend to conceive of their arts education as a marker for self-declared elitism, just because not many others are studying what they do. An arts education is a privilege, but it is not something you use to elevate yourself over someone else. I've had my run ins with some of these student filmmakers who are so averse to criticism they take anything bad said to their film as personal attacks. It is never easy to read a mediocre or poor review of your film, no one likes having the value of something they have spent copious amounts of time and effort on being diminished. I sympathize with that and I do admit to occasionally feeling guilty about giving a bad review to a film or video. But one must always realize that an opinion is better than none, and ultimately even the bad reviews will still give a filmmaker's work some attention. A safe, token review is as good as pointless, and will not do much to pique a reader's interest.

I am singling out student filmmakers in particular because this is based on my own run-ins with them. But from my experience, the more experienced or seasoned a filmmaker gets, the more he realizes that there is so much more out there to learn, and that there are so many more talented people out there, and this often humbles him. At the recent Singapore Short Cuts, I was really glad to see K. Rajagopal being forthcoming about his lack of technical knowledge when he first started making short films, hence accounting for some shoddiness in his earlier works. I think this is a sure mark of an assured, confident filmmaker - not afraid to openly criticize your own works. I would like to tell the smarter-than-thou types (who are I believe, thankfully, the minority among the film school students) to eat some humble pie, learn to appreciate even less than flattering criticism, and to grow and mature as artists. Try to respect the opinions of others, without letting it get to your head.

I think both filmmakers and audiences should be moving past these repulsive attitudes and behaviour. Singapore's film industry is certainly growing and is no longer in its days of infancy anymore; let us act the part. Filmmakers should learn to be a little more humble (I think many filmmakers have egos bigger than their talents) and audiences, please remember this: every time you unfairly slam a film or ruthlessly denigrate a film, imagine how it'd be like for you if you were the filmmaker.

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