Film Criticism Relies on Bloom’s Taxonomy

The internet has made everyone a critic.  Entertainment and media websites are designed upon the principle that the masses have the right to evaluate and rate the quality of a book, restaurant, or film right alongside the professional critics.  Look no further than which puts the aggregate rating of a film by critics right next to that of the general audience.

The key thing to remember is that the general public tends to evaluate a film based on their experience viewing it, a reaction that may be more emotional than critical.  The best professional critics, however, rely on literary and film theory to provide a review that is based on critical thinking. In many cases, these critics are relying on Bloom’s Taxonomy — whether they know it or now.

First postulated in 1956 as a way of classifying learning objectives in education, Bloom’s taxonomy outlines the stages of critical thinking as a pyramid. As one moves up the pyramid, one is required to exercise higher and higher orders of critical thinking.  Educators, it was argued, needed to teach student how to navigate each of the levels of critical thinking.

There are three distinct areas of critical thinking:

Cognitive — commonly abbreviated as knowing/head

Affective — feeling/heart

Psychomotor — doing/hands

In general, film criticism follows the first “domain” almost exclusively.


When critics refer to film history, the body of work of the director, writer, and actors, and their understanding of the terms of the industry in a specific review, they are demonstrating their knowledge — the first level of the cognitive domain.

Comprehension involves showing they understand the ideas and themes of the film while application may be demonstrated by using that understanding to pose a new question or idea.

The bulk of any review may be analysis of the elements, relationships, and structure of the film followed by synthesis of the ideas in a different way, such as noticing relationships between one film and another.

Lastly, critics will evaluate the film as a whole, offering their rating and whether they recommend it to others. This evaluation should build from the previous information and summarize the evidence that led to the final judgment.

Other Domains

The Affective domain may sometimes seep into a professional review as even the hard-boiled critic will occasionally have an emotional reaction to a film.  This domain focuses on emotional reactions and the ability to empathize with the pain or joy or others, which is a primary goal of many filmmakers.  The stages involved in Affective thinking are receiving, responding, valuing, organizing, and characterizing.

Psychomotor has less to do with film reviews as it focuses on learning physical skills, such as operating tools manipulating instruments.  The stages involved here are perception, set (readiness to act), guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation, and origination.

Educators looking for tips on how to teach Bloom’s Taxonomy should check out

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Using Crowd Funding to Make Movies

Crowd sourcing as a financing tool for films hit the big time this year.  While independent and small filmmakers have been making use of these channels for several years, high profile projects took to sites like Kickstarter in 2013 to get funding.

A quick search today reveals over 800 film and video projects on Kickstarter and another 600+ on Indiegogo, the two top crowd sourcing sites for filmmakers.  Documentaries, short films, first features and genre films of all sorts can be found on these sites where directors and producers seek money to either finish an existing project or fund all aspects of a new one.  Literally tens of millions of dollars have gone into these projects and countless films exist or are in production thanks to crowd funding.

Earlier this year a Kickstarter campaign to make a “Veronica Mars” movie set records. It was raised $1 million in less than 4.5 hours — the fastest time to date.  It raised the entire goal, $2 million, in less than a day and eventually raised over $5.7 million from over 87,000 individual backers — the most backers on any Kickstarter project in history. The movie began filming in June 2013 and is set to be released in 2014.

Another big name made headlines when he turned to crowd sourcing to fund his next project. Spike Lee was able to raise $1.4 million using Kickstarter this summer to produce. Lee refused to release details about the film, describing it as a thriller. Over 6,000 contributors pledged money to the project.

Zach Braff also used Kickstarter to fund a sequel to his movie “Garden State.”  His campaign raised $3.1 million. The movie, “Wish I Was Here,” began filming i August and is scheduled for release in September 2014.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at “Wish I Was Here”:

Behind the Scenes on “Wish I Was Here” with Zach Braff from Freefly on Vimeo.

Lena Rivers is an entertainment and film writer.  Her guest posts on the film industry have appeared not only on entertainment sites, but also on established financial blogs.

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How Successful Movies Lose Money

Every week entertainment websites and TV shows report on the highest grossing movies of the previous weekend.  The numbers can be staggering, especially when foreign revenues are combined with American sales. For example, Marvel’s “The Avengers” grossed over $1.5 billion in theaters worldwide and then went on to make more in movie downloads and DVD sales.

The phrase “Hollywood accounting” is used to indicate that movie studios have their own method of accounting those profits and the expenses associated with producing, distributing, and marketing a given movie.  This type of accounting is notorious for its lack of transparency and, when numbers are provided, they are usually inflated on the expense side and minimized on the profit column.  The goal is to minimize or eliminate the royalties and profit-sharing payouts to those involved in making the movie.  Oh, and Hollywood accounting can also apply to television shows and the video industry, not just tradition films.

In regular accounting practices, companies are required to provide documentation for all expenses and overhead costs. This would include payments to a subsidary company for “services” — a practice that is common amongst movie studios. In the Hollywood version, little thought is given to the actual overhead costs. Instead studios routinely use the following calculations:

  1. 30% of movie ticket sales are kept by the film distribution company
  2. 15-20% is usually charged for production overhead, no matter the actual overhead costs
  3. Around 10% of all advertising costs is usually designated as “marketing overhead” (that figure goes on top of the actual advertising expenses)

The majority of accountants agree that these practices are highly questionable, and, unfortunately, highly effective.  Some experts estimate that as much as 95% of movies made never make a profit — at least according to their official bookkeeping.

The result is that directors, actors, even producers and others who have accepted net points as part of their compensation package for a movie will never get paid.  In many cases artists will give up part of their salary in anticipation of the movie’s success only to find that the movie never “nets” a profit.  This is why more and more actors and directors are demanding gross points in their contracts, ensuring that their share of will come from the gross profits, such as that $1.5 billion earned by the Avengers.

Here are some of movie blockbusters that never made a profit by Hollywood accounting standards:

  • Batman
  • Forrest Gump
  • Rain Man
  • JFK
  • Coming to America
  • Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
  • Return of the Jedi
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Many of these movies, on paper, not only failed to make a profit but supposedly incured large losses that the studios were forced to absorb. In some cases artists have taken studios to court in order to get the points they were promised, but even with a team of forensic accountants some of them are still left empty-handed.

Beth Talbot is a frequent contributor to blogs and news sites on topics relating to accounting and fraud. Recently she has been covering fraud stories like this one as well as providing informative articles on general accounting topics.

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James Doohan Laid to Rest In Space

An iconic show from the 1960’s, Star Trek has led to spin-off series, animated shows, movies, and comic books. While the show continues to live on with each new generation, those at the heart of the show live on as well. Science fiction fan or not nearly everyone is familiar with the name Star Trek and the popular phrase “Beam me up, Scotty.”

James Doohan, best known for his role as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, spent several years on the show in various capacities. Even after his death in 2005, he continues to be remembered for the contributions he made to the show. But his love space and engineering didn’t end at his death. In his will he requested that his remains be sent into space and that was fulfilled at last today. You can read the complete article here .

Being a part of space and reaching new places that no one has ever been to before is no longer just a dream. Taking people’s ashes into space is just the beginning. It’s a fulfillment of dreams and a step forward in private space travel; something that James Doohan would be proud of.

Here is a tribute to a legend.

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Pain in Film


If the screen is the playing field for the desires and fears of its audience, then the subject matter of its artifacts becomes a matter of great importance to anyone trying to understand the same audience.  Looking at film, or any cultural artifact for that matter, is a way to understanding that culture.  They offer glimpses, and these glimpses are often entirely skewed.  At the same time, any deep reflection on the nature of these glimpses will reveal that every look is skewed.  Every lens has its imperfections.  And when every version of events seems to have its own peculiar lens, then larger patterns start to reveal themselves.  This is when the moment of going to see a movie becomes an act of looking at the moment as if it were historical already.  And it really already is already.


This is perhaps why it is so interesting when subjects like fibromyalgia make their way into the stories told on the big screens.  In older films, audiences may start to notice that some of the symptoms of a long-suffering character are ones that very much resemble what today would have a diagnosis.  This has a double effect on the viewer, where the experience of the character’s pain becomes doubly marked for having to go on without acknowledgement.  It also brings to the surface the present notions toward the condition, which may indeed be evolved, but there are also plenty of times and circumstances when the public perceptions hearken back to a more barbaric moment in history.  This has the effect of giving the pain of the character more weight, because it is carried backwards in time, and then carried forward again into the immediate present.

Pain in film may be a new subject in terms of popular consciousness, but in film theory, it’s the logical result of a generation or two having worked things to their next inevitable conclusion.  The notion of the spectator, the very same apparatus that constructs the gaze, is one that by its definition invites contemplation of pain.  In any dramatic structure, the characters that we are drawn toward are ones who undergo something important, or extraordinary.  Undergoing something is the same thing as suffering in etymological terms, and the experience of watching is one of sympathy, not empathy.  When the main character has the experience of pain, then, it is as if the viewer is either having the same experience, or else feeling it through their own experience of lack.  However the perception of pain makes itself known, it is one that informs the gaze in profound ways, and plays on fears and desires in multiple forms that are worthy of attention.


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Do you have what it takes to get the shot?

Shooting films for an organization such as National Geographic is the dream of thousands of filmmakers, so it takes more than just some skill with a camera and a dream to get the job. You need to not only be willing to do whatever it takes to get amazing shots, but also have a sincere desire to work with wildlife and the knowledge of how to create the best content possible. National Geographic filmmakers travel the world and shoot in every type of climate and situation imaginable. They are among the elite in wildlife filmmaking, and you will have to prove your worth to be counted among them.

You will want to brush up on your knowledge of nature and wildlife. Read every book, watch every video, and subscribe to all of the current wildlife magazines. Not only will you be learning about different animals and environments, but you will be able to get ideas for future films. It is also a good idea to take classes in wildlife photography. Shooting pictures of animals isn’t like shooting portraits of families or basic landscape pictures. You need to know how to capture great images from a distance, in bad lighting, or in high stress situations.

Taking courses from film programs will help you build a foundation in filmmaking. Here you will learn about camera technology, lighting, sound, shot composition, sequencing, shooting, and editing. All skills you will need to master in order to complete worthwhile projects. If you can find wildlife specific media courses these will help out a lot too. There are some individual programs that last several weeks to a couple of months and take aspiring filmmakers out to areas such as South Africa where they can film animals, study with professional wildlife filmmakers, and complete their own films.

Unfortunately just graduating with a degree in film or media won’t guarantee you a job with National Geographic. You need to prove you are worth it to them first; be an apprentice or intern with professional wildlife filmmakers. Learn everything you can from them about shooting, editing, conceptualizing, and budgeting projects. Start to build up a portfolio of clips and your own short films so that you’ll have something to shop around when looking for a real job. And network. You will meet people in the industry during your apprenticeship or internship and these people may be your ticket in the door.

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Funding the Indie First


When a new filmmaker decides that all the schooling and experiments with friends have reached their zenith, and there’s still much more to say, and a larger audience to reach, it’s natural to think about a bigger picture.  This is literal as well as metaphorical.  Metaphorical because every developing artist reaches the point where they realize they are ready for the next level, or have nothing more to offer.  If it’s the former, then it’s time to literally think bigger.


Fortunately or not, funding an indie means to step into a well-tread path, one that young filmmakers have been walking for a number of years.  There are plenty of great precedents for upstarts breaking into the industry with a DIY approach, where making a film these days doesn’t mean depending on the near-impossible task of breaking into the big studios.  Innovations in fundraising are always helpful in putting a new enterprise into the limelight, but there are also ways of funding that are tried and true.

Taking out loans on sites like are always possibilities for raising funds rather quickly.  Some filmmakers have taken out loans on their houses, used student loan funds, or taken other uncertain measures as well.  Some of these stories turn out to be amazing successes, and some turn out less amazing.  It’s important to keep this in mind, and a very reasonable approach is to assume that the movie won’t break even.  Smash successes are always rare, and even rarer in the realm of independent film.  Making a short or a feature is, however, a calling card that can speak to the filmmaker’s potential, and can often be the stepping-stone to a longer career in the industry.


One of the most exciting things for new filmmakers, or artists in any media, for that matter, come from social media. Facebook profiles are excellent places to look for more information for potential funding sources.  They are also very good ways to get the word out on a new project, and these days, are most certainly a necessity.  Everyone with an email address can start a page, and it’s easier and faster than starting a new website.  The more saturation, generally speaking, the better, when it comes to getting the word out about a new project, and that kind of visibility also tends to attract more funders.  The most important thing to keep in mind, however, is that it is safer to assume this is a labor of love, with potentially incredible rewards.

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Don’t be Ashamed to Get the Help You Need

If you find yourself struggling with a drug or alcohol problem it can often feel like a tug of war is going on inside of you. You will probably be flicking between convincing yourself that you don’t actually have a problem to wondering if you are strong enough to seek the help that you’re pretty sure you need. You will probably also be feeling shame, both at where you have landed in life and the fact that you are considering asking for help. But there is no need to be ashamed on either count.

Letting go of the shame is the first step in seeking help. There are some great addiction recovery programs out there that can help you deal with the shame you are feeling and help you get clean. Choosing to seek help for an addiction can be a hard decision to make and it doesn’t in any way mean that you are weak. In fact, it takes a strong person to face their issues and realize that they need help.

You can try to get clean on your own, but it can be difficult, and sometimes impossible. With a recovery program you not only get the support you need to succeed, but you learn new life skills and coping mechanisms that you can put into place to help you stay clean. You also leave a treatment program with a support system that will continue to help you. And you will have the skills that you need to manoeuvre your life healthy and sober.

If you are struggling with alcohol or drugs and think that you need help, don’t be ashamed. Seek the help that you need and deserve and you will be well on the road to recovery. Don’t let unnecessary feelings of shame stop you from getting better.

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American Graffiti and the Invention of Nostalgia

In terms of pure nostalgia, thinking about the past is never an attempt to rescue it. Nostalgia works through the elusive senses, particularly through smell, opening up a passageway that is entirely temporal and always on the verge of closing again forever. Smell is the thing that wafts in and wafts out, and nostalgia works the same way. Like a perfume, there are ways of constructing it, but it depends almost entirely on the chemical responses on the other side of the equation. Not everyone will take to the perfect smell, revealing that the perfect smell does not exist in itself.

This is brilliantly illustrated in one of the great nostalgia films of all time, American Graffiti . Here, the film about a moment of adolescence that anyone over 18 has walked through, captures an enormous sensibility, and one that is as elusive as any scent. It has produced a generation of fans, particularly among those who just missed the 50s, that particularly self-aware wave of baby boomers who still articulate their experience in terms of instable perceptions. It is that particular kind of self-awareness that fuels a lot of the most complex arenas in hot rod culture. It is a quotation of a certain past, and it is also coupled with an awareness that this will always be the present.

A perfect replica is not the goal, otherwise there would be tires of questionable quality that look the part, rather than centerline wheels and other accoutrements of modern high technology. This does come home with the rider who wanted to recreate the one Paul Le Mat drove in the film. The attempt was not worthy in itself, until the product started to bear a real resemblance, and became, in effect, a convincing replica of a machine that is a quotation of another recreation of a replica. Although this particular fun house is full of complex mirrors, instead of deflecting our gaze, they pull us in further, because this is precisely what nostalgia does.

So while there is a sense that the film that marked Richard Dreyfus in our celluloid imagination forever, it did so for a number of reasons. There is the charm in the style of the visuals, and the crisp and clean performances. There is also a charm in the nostalgia, where it’s not trying to mark a moment to bring it back, but to feel its particular loss. A memory of a car can make any other car look like a ghost, and our own childhood suddenly starts to look like a version of ourselves seen on the other side of a river.

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The First Movie with the Handheld

It might just be every young filmmaker’s dream to make the perfect buddy movie.  Most aspiring performing artists have considered it at one time or another, getting a camera and taking a road trip with friends, and faking their way through the rest of it.  Even the ones who do break through in the business have these dreams, like a young Robert Downey making plans for an art project with his friends, or Jonny Depp, living out a very popular fantasy and turning Hunter S. Thompson’s masterpiece into a cinematic daydream.  All these projects are fragile and tentative, and most of the great ideas with friends never do see any light, but the ones that do are powerful documents for a generation.


For the aspiring filmmaker, then, the main thing to keep in mind is that most of these projects do fail.  The reasons for their failures are multiple and complex, but deciding to actually make the project can put you in a better position than most.  It is kind of a slacker dream, after all, and slacker dreams don’t often make their way into any kind of palpable reality.  One way to avoid having your film become something that only gets talked about is to make a decision to not talk about it.  If it stays under wraps, then it has a better chance of getting seen, because it becomes something you want to show people.  Because you haven’t told them about it already.  And the trick here is to keep it secret long enough that it turns into a film.

The next decision is to consider the genre.  Do you want to make a buddy film, or a road movie?  There is a distinction.  Of course, like any distinction in the art world, it’s not fixed, just as genres are not set in concrete.  Every filmmaker has the right, and in some cases the genius, to redefine these things.  There are, after all, plenty of films that do cross over into both categories.  Buddy films focus on the relationship between two people, and road movies focus on an adventure.  In films like Thelma and Louise, or the Motorcycle Diaries, the adventure and the friendships are equally important.  It’s a very good idea, then, for new filmmakers to know their traditions, to make a choice that is based on knowledge, and a willingness to break with certain forms.


The next step, then, is preparation.  If you are hoping to make a film that inspires generations, you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time developing the script and working with the actors.  But if it’s a project that’s intended to be a rough document of a cultural moment, there isn’t much more that’s necessary than enough money for gas and food, and a link for a saturn repair manual download in case of emergencies on the road.  It is an adventure, after all, and the road to adventure is sometimes well paved, and sometimes filled with potholes.



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