David Michod

On Monday I wrote about debut writer/director David Michod’s new film, Animal Kingdom, which received the prestigious grand jury prize at Sundance last week. Hearty congrats to Michod (pictured above) for what sounds like a promising start to his new career. Looking forward to watching it.

The 37-year-old former film journalist’s transition from writer to doer gives some credence to the argument that film writers are essentially frustrated filmmakers. But let me take this moment to state in no uncertain terms that this idea is total bunk.

Over the years, when I’ve been privileged enough to receive bursts of hate mail (and I do consider it a privilege) I’ve noticed that plenty of people have commented on my supposed aspirations to become a filmmaker.

A peeved crew member of Superman Returns wrote to me a few years ago in response to my less than positive appraisal of the film (I may have implied – or outwardly stated – that it was written by monkeys).

Here’s a short snippet of what he wrote:

The only thing that I discovered was that YOU ARE THE BIGGEST BRAIN JUICE LACKING UN-TALENTED MONKEY OF THEM ALL.!!!!!! that’s it… keep working on that little script you’ve got that you keep telling all your friends about……. it’ll never see the light of day

Just last week one reader commented on my review of Invictus: “no doubt you don’t have the nous or the patience to write a film.”

I have more examples I could dredge up. Like, a lot more. I should emphasise that I don’t mind receiving hate mail. In fact, for reasons I might disclose in a future post, I actually love receiving hate mail, as disturbing as that may sound. At the very least it proves people are engaging with my writing, even if it is in a string-him-up-by-the-balls-and-let’s-teach-that-prick-a-lesson kind of way.

But let’s make this absolutely clear.

News flash: I am not working on a screenplay. While I have a deep respect and interest in the craft of filmmaking, like every film writer should, I am not an aspiring filmmaker. I am not working on a film.

News flash #2: writing films and writing about films are two very different trades and they require very different skills.

If you’re deranged enough to believe there is any credibility in the idea that a film writer’s opinions are unqualified or ineligible if they themselves are not a filmmaker, think twice before you offer your opinion on anything you’ve never made yourself. Think twice before you critique a book you’ve read – have you ever written one? Think twice before you talk about the architecture of a building you think looks ugly – have you ever built one? Think twice before you grumble about the cheap wine you’re quaffing – have you ever picked and fermented your own grapes? And so on and so on.

The argument that you have to make a film in order to properly critique one – or the suggestion that a person who writes about film is inevitably a failed or frustrated filmmaker – is silly stuff, the sort of mud readers hurl at reviewers when they take strong objection to their opinion.

Having said that, it must feel pretty sweet to belong in the clique of people who are jacks of both trades, thus impervious to any sort of silly criticisms about being wannabe filmmakers. Welcome aboard David Michod – you’re now officially part of the club.