F*** Your Film Club
In instructor Jon Moritsugu’s Friday at the Movies class last semester, Film majors screened their projects for their peers, inviting critical feedback and advice. Sophomore Caylor Klinkenborg says these critiques often consisted of disappointingly unhelpful remarks like, “You did a good job.”
Josh Leftwich says that while the class was enjoyable, the classroom environment led students to default to “a nice kind of critique, where people have something to say, but they keep it within the bounds of not offending anyone.”
But when he and his friends heard the class would not be coming back this year, they lamented the loss of the opportunity to receive feedback on their work.
“We were sitting around at lunch, shooting the shit and complaining about how we couldn’t get any real critiques…without people watering things down,” says sophomore Film major Michael Marin.
“We kept joking that there should be a club where you fucking rip on each other for a couple hours straight and get it all out in the open,” Marin says.
The jokes soon turned to serious discussion, eventually leading to the establishment of the Fuck Your Film club. Klinkenborg and Marin founded the group, dedicated to improving students’ skills in direction, screenwriting, cinematography and editing. Interim Film chairman Liam Lockhart sponsored the application for the new club.
“They came and approached me and they said, ‘We noticed that sometimes it seems like the faculty are being a little kind in their assessment of our works and we wanted to establish a forum where students could really just be honest and…get genuine feedback from their peers,’” Lockhart says.
While the opportunity exists for students to receive criticism in practically every film class, Lockhart understands that certain social conventions sometimes prevent people from being more critical.
“I know that our instructors have a certain bar that they want our students to reach up to,” he says, “but I think the instructors also realize the encouraging aspects that you have to bring into education.”
In the first couple of meetings, the club runners noticed some of the same inhibition they witnessed in class.
“There were a couple people that were trying to chime in and we’d say, ‘Keep going with that. Don’t sugarcoat it too much,’” Klinkenborg says.
The club appoints a panel of judges from various disciplines to offer their remarks after viewing the movie, while the filmmaker sits in a “hot seat” in front of the panel and listens to what they have to say.
“That guy who has the balls to stand up and show a shitshow of a movie for five minutes and make people sit through it is brave,” Marin says, “but he deserves to hear why it was a shitshow and he deserves to hear what he can do to fix it.”
The group’s golden rule is: You don’t attack the filmmaker, you attack the idea.
“There’s nothing personal about this,” Klinkenborg says. “This is just artists trying to make better artists.”
Leftwich prefers harsher criticisms, because he knows that when he gets out into the real world, people aren’t going to be as kind.
“I think having an environment where students can really dig into each other, but also keep it professional, is really unique,” Leftwich says.
At the club’s inaugural meeting, Marin and Klinkenborg put their own projects up on the chopping block.
“I am a shitty filmmaker,” Marin says. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be in college right now. I’d be working in the industry…We don’t claim to be amazing critics. We just claim to be guys that want to help people get better.”
Klinkenborg showed a movie he shot last summer, and as a result of the club’s feedback, he’s reshooting the entire film in a couple of weeks. He used a DSLR camera and flashlights his first time around, so now he plans to utilize the proper equipment from the Grip House.
“It is a little daunting,” Klinkenborg says. “I don’t 100 percent like to talk in front of people, so naturally I started a movie club where people rip on my movies.”
Lockhart sees film school as a kind of testing ground, an opportunity for students to make mistakes and learn from them.
“This is a safe haven,” he says. “I’m going to be old soon and I’m going to be in a rest home. I want good cinema. I don’t want to see shite. So I want my students to come out of this place making good films.”
Fuck Your Film club invites students from all majors to take part in the process. Sophomore Performing Arts major Dylan Salewski serves as the group’s unofficial acting liaison.
“[Salewski] was there the first couple of times,” Klinkenborg says. “He wasn’t holding back at all and it was great. Nobody was getting offended by what he was saying.”
Salewski has spent time as a director and an actor, so he’s been on both sides of a production.
“To a trained eye, it’s easy to notice what some of the mistakes are,” Salewski says. “I have some more experience to communicate to an actor on how to improve.”
In the future, the club hopes to work with students from concept to finished product, offering their feedback throughout the semester. They’re also open to letting professors sit in on club meetings.
“There’s definitely some interest within the faculty regarding where the club goes,” Leftwich says. “I think sometimes even the teachers think student films need to be judged at a harsher level than the usual critiques where people are just beating around the bush.”
Lockhart encourages all of his students to attend the club.
“It’s not easy being open to criticism,” he says. “We can’t just keep it in a bubble in our head and say this is great. We need to get the feedback…I personally think this club is a wonderful addition to the Film School. If you’ve got the guts, bring your film, show it and then be open to receiving that honest criticism from your peers.”
Fuck Your Film club meets every Thursday night at 8 p.m. in Tipton Hall. Students can submit their work for critique by emailing the club at email@example.com.