SXSW: 5 Female Film Journalists on How Twitter is Shaping the Industry

The female voices of film twitter provide their insight on the current state of film criticism.

In a panel Sunday afternoon at SXSW, five professional female film journalists came together to discuss reporting on film in the age of social media.  Moderated by Fandango and TCM host Alicia Malone, the panel consisted of Monica Castillo of the New York Times, Jaqueline Coley of Rotten Tomatoes, Amy Nicholson, a freelancer for Variety and other outlets, and Jen Yamato of the Los Angeles Times.

All had very interesting and important things to say about this new digital age, and we’ve gathered some key takeaways from what they’ve shared.

Film Criticism in the Age of Twitter resembles a Football Game 

During the session, Nicholson made a really intelligent analogy regarding the way in which film criticism has almost become a sport. With people constantly looking for Rotten Tomatoes scores and following  Twitter reactions to a film after it’s release, “teams” are created in a sense, sometimes making it more difficult for discourse. She said:

“Social media on the web I think has turned film criticism into a common…it’s almost like watching a football game now with everybody. There are points and there are scores, and there’s this idea that if something is a first rotten on a film, then that gets a bunch of tweets about it and it becomes a thing. Everybody is invested in numbers and stats, almost like we’re judging how many touchdowns a film got. And that’s changing the conversation in a way that is really complicated, and I haven’t quite figured out the best ways to handle it here either. You know, because it’s harder for anyone to have any clear opinion of their own that’s not judged by somebody.”

Women Must Create Their Own Space

Twitter can be both a positive and negative thing when it comes to engaging with others and making your voice heard. That said, getting drowned out can still be a major problem, but having the ability to control your space can help. Yamato had a great point when she said:

“It has been a very powerful force to create a community out of, but in terms of feeling empowered to express my opinions, it began for me as a ‘hey I can say what I want to say here’ and maybe have some interesting conversations, maybe pretend I didn’t hear somebody respond. Maybe hit that mute button, which I have come to really love. So, it’s been a really interesting thing because to me my career has parralled with the birth of this thing, this online community, and now it lives on Twitter, so it’s very much a part of how I have come to engage in these conversations.”

Differentiating the Internet vs. Workspace is Becoming Increasingly Difficult

If you’re a female writer of any kind, chances are you’ve probably experienced some level of online harassment or trolling. Sure, it’s possible to log off, but when your workspace is on the Internet and consists of using Twitter, signing out and separating yourself is cannot be so easily done. Either way, you shouldn’t have to log off. During the panel, Castillo discussed this point and noted that:

“I think sometimes we get a little bit protective. We don’t want to point this out to our friends, or maybe, you know, our friends will kind of dismiss it as ‘well it’s only the internet.’ Well, unfortunately, we work on the internet. So that is invading our space, and depending on what it is you might have to potentially seek some help.”

Keeping Hope While Staying Proactive Is Important

The Time’s Up and Me Too movements have made strides in the industry so far, but there is still quite a long way to go. Social media platforms have made both positive and negative contributions to the movement. However, with an account and space on places like Twitter comes great responsibility to continue furthering progress. Coley spoke to this during the session:

“I’m hopeful but everyday I’m also like ‘what are we doing? What are you doing if you have a platform and you have access and you have power?’ And what are we doing?”

You Can Make Your Own Film Club

Probably one of the best things about film Twitter is that people can share their love of cinema with one another, keeping a discourse going and finding others with similar interests. In Malone’s case, Twitter allowed her to finally create a “classic film club” of sorts where she and many others could keep their love for classic movies alive. She talked about her experience with this during the panel:

“The thing that keeps me back on Twitter is being able to find a community of like-minded people. When I was in high school and loved classic films, I’ve told this story before. I tried to start a classic film club and no one showed up to my screenings. So now I feel like I have a whole community I can talk about classic film with and share the love for classic film and it makes me feel like there are people out there, my tribe.”

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