At last! Someone else expresses something I’ve had to explain a few times: the inevitable emails/Linked-in messages of ‘can you please check out my XYZ and provide a critique?‘ So as with any number of rants posted here, this one is created so I can forward the link to the next person who asks me…
I have a few other reasons to add to the list, but first, please read this post:
Why I Don’t Critique Other People’s Work by Cole Thompson
Its ok, I’ll wait while you read it…
But here is my take on it: if I actually watched your project to critique it, I won’t watch it once – I’ll more likely watch it half a dozen times. First time for instinct, second time to verify instincts. Third, fourth, fifth times to verify details that either bug me, or that I like…. And the sixth time to curse ever being asked to watch it in the first place. So your simple request just consumed hour/s of my time. But its not just about wasting my time, the request is misguided.
As an example, someone on Linked-in asked me to critique their work, and as I was already distracted I tried. Turns out their work to date, was mostly ads. Now if you don’t know me at all (then WTF are you asking me?) then you will know I HATE ads. or I should say more positively I do my best to completely ignore ads. And I NEVER listen to them, thats what the mute button was invented for. And thats why I never work on ads – if I dont want to listen to them, why would I want to work on them ie something I already don’t want to listen to? So asking me to critique your ad soundtracks is a bit like cutting me, then emailing me asking if I’d like lemon juice and some salt with my cuts? No and NO! Thanks/sorry/keep searching..
But ads are an easy exit, what about re ‘designed’ trailers? The main answer to why I cannot critique these is the exact same as the reason why I cannot critique your short film or your feature film. And that reason:
I am not the director.
If you only read one part, this is the crux: As a sound designer (or sound editor or re-recording mixer, or composer or any part of the team associated with the project) your/my primary relationship is with the director. It is their ‘vision’ we are contributing to, sonically.
So when someone asks me to critique their work they are either asking me to be the director (no thanks – those people are seriously committed geniuses, and have spent years developing the back story to every moment in their project) or the sound designer/supervising sound editor. I suspect it might be the latter role they are mistakenly asking me to fulfill. As Coles post mentioned, the request may also just be ‘looking for validation’
But the main issue is that the scenario has removed the director from the equation. I might watch the project and think WTF? Where is the sound for the XYZ?? But the omission or muting of that sound might have taken weeks of collaboration between you & the director. Or been a concept in the mix, or it may have been a deliberate decision or request in the spot session. But how could I know that without being party to those discussions? I am not the director and I am not the supervising sound editor, so what role/point of view are you asking me to fulfill?
If you think I might be some kind of Supervising Sound Editor after the fact, then forget it. You are asking me to reverse engineer something that I have had no part in. And if you feel this is doable, please feel free to leave your email address in the comments & I will direct all future such requests to you.
I appreciate there are tutors & lecturers who DO have to fulfil this role with their students & they must make their own peace with it. But that is a different scenario – they are assuming the role of if not director, then at least advisor. Sorry but I am not.