Judging Panels

A forum for sharing views on the art of film, video and AV sequence making as well as on competitions, judging and festivals.
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A.K. Williams
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Judging Panels

Post by A.K. Williams » Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:19 am

Joined IAC May last year and after entering N.W. region competition in Nov. last year and BIAFF this year and after receiving the written appraisals on both, think that we ought to be entitled to request 'de-selection' of any member of the judges appointed off our case if we feel that there is an unfair negative bias directed at what we do. What do you think?

Tony Williams

Michael Slowe
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by Michael Slowe » Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:01 am

With respect Tony, I must ask ''are you serious?'' This attitude is one that I have been fighting for very many years. I must quote ''if you can't stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.'' Film judging is one of the most subjective activities imaginable. One man's meat is another man's poison. There, I've used up all the quotes available on the matter! You made your film, hopefully it turned out as you envisaged and you obtained satisfaction in so doing. Whether others found it to their satisfaction or liking is in the lap of the God's, at least that has been my experience over forty years. Over that time I've been awarded grades ranging from Diamond, right down to today's Three Stars, and never once have I felt obliged to write as you have just done. The judge writes what occurs to him after viewing the film, honestly and, I'm certain, with absolutely no bias. Very often you will find that the same film receives widely differing criticisms, read the reviews in our daily press and you will soon see what I mean.

col lamb
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by col lamb » Mon Mar 30, 2015 4:11 pm

Tony

Take note of Michael's advice he is right. Judging is essentially subjective and the processes followed at BIAFF and within the NW are totally different. BIAFF your movie would have been judged by a panel and if it was graded above a certain level it would have then been reviewed by a totally different panel of judges. The NW Festival is Judged generally by a single person from outside the NW Region. The other NW competition the Mersey Ten is judged by whoever is nominated to judge by the Club hosting the competition.

There is no conspiracy theory, its just pot luck who is judging your movie.

Make the movie you want to make and submit it to whatever competition you want, if it is well received all the better if not then if you like it that is all that matters.
Col Lamb
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Dave Watterson
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by Dave Watterson » Mon Mar 30, 2015 4:52 pm

Let's not name names of judges - but can you say a bit more about what annoyed you?
an unfair negative bias directed at what we do
suggests that it is not simply that you did not get the grading you hoped for.

Howard-Smith
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by Howard-Smith » Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:30 pm

A comment of mine on another thread is pertinent to this subject:

I received 3 stars for my film TOO BAD at this year's BIAFF. I submitted the same film to the Midlands region film competition (Cemriac Spring Movie Festival) where it was awarded second place by the judge (who is also a BIAFF judge), and in his appraisal he stated: "The actors are exceptionally good, Dan (a 13-year-old boy) especially. The way he handles a boy's growing fears as he enters the house is beautifully done..." This contrasts with what the BIAFF judges said: "The performances were adequate rather than great. It is always difficult to portray teenagers convincingly... Vaughan slightly overacted the "ums and ers" as Mr. Munden (an old man)."

I point this out not to criticise any judges but to show further evidence that film judging can never be scientific: judgements of aspects such as acting are inevitably subjective. As Col says, it's pot luck which judge(s) you get!

Frank Maxwell
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by Frank Maxwell » Tue Mar 31, 2015 12:21 pm

It's a bit like "What Is The Perfect Weather". Any film or video enter into a competition is a winner from the film makers point of view. Every judge will view the film from a different perspective. Put it into an other competition venue and the results will be different again.
I have given up entering video's into competitions. I get more pleasure of the simplicity of editing and close members of my family and friend enjoy what I have done.
I think the best way to understand the judging game is ..to go on a panel and judge some other peoples work and see how you come to the conclusion awarding the film a merit.

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John Roberts
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by John Roberts » Tue Mar 31, 2015 2:55 pm

Hi Tony,

There are some good tips in here, and I'm certain everyone has felt the same as you do at one time or another (even if they don't care to admit it). It's a horrible mind-set to be in because you want to just shout from the rooftops (or shout at the judge) to try and explain what your piece of art really means, because the judge didn't 'get it!' It can be incredibly demoralising and I know from personal experience that anger can lead to rash decisions - I returned to filmmaking in 2012 after a 15 year absence triggered by bad judging, with a documentary called 'Thinking Time' (you might have heard of it or even seen it). It went on to win a Diamond at BIAFF, yet didn't even manage a 'runner-up' in my own club's 'Film Of The Year' competition. I could've walked away again, but I found it helped me to understand what the judge was thinking, whether his/her technical or artistic issues were valid, whether he/she 'got it' or not (and if not - did I make my point clear enough) or whether he/she was just an idiot. And yes there are a small number of idiot judges out there, so if it helps you to think that way, then better for you. Thankfully there are a great number of excellent, supportive judges on the circuit and you will soon get to know who's who, make friends, ask advice, give advice and become part of the collective pool of enthusiastic filmmakers. After all, that's what we're here for :-)

Analyse what the judge said, but only when you're detached enough from your disappointment and anger to rationalise the issues raised, take on board those you think are valid and justify to yourself those you think are not. Every judge is different, and not every judge is 'right' because if we all thought the same, what a boring world of filmmaking we would be in :-)

John

tom hardwick
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by tom hardwick » Tue Mar 31, 2015 4:36 pm

I too, like Dave W, want to know what you mean by, 'an unfair negative bias directed at what we do'. Judges try their best to discard their biases and prejudices when they sit in front of your film, all they're asking is that you stir their emotions in one way or another.

The other thing to say is that when you enter a film in competition, remember that you're in competition with others. On his own, running past your house, the guy who came fourth in the 100m Olympic final looks bloody impressive. Alongside Bolt he's an also ran. Think on this.

tom.

A.K. Williams
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by A.K. Williams » Tue Mar 31, 2015 5:52 pm

Hello to all and thanks for your feedback.

Dave Watterson asks what it was that annoyed me most.
First of all let me make it quite clear that it is not about grades, trophies, awards or anything to do with that end of things I am all for constructive criticism particularly from those who have been at this longer than me, but I must first of all give you some background:-
I joined the IAC in May of last year and this forum group Saturday of last week. I felt that I had reached a sufficiently enough adept level of film-making and after some success at local club and festival events felt that I would like to reach a wider audience and the IAC looked the way to go.
I submitted two films into the N.W. region festival/competition in November of last year one short (5mins. 20secs.) and one longer (27mins. 23secs.) both might be regarded as documentary in style. The judge on both films was apparently a professional documentary film-maker given his two-hour presentation on the day. I submitted one film into BIAFF this year, again which might be classed as 'documentary'. Three names appeared at the bottom of the BIAFF appraisal the first one was the same judge as for the N.W. region event the other two I do not know. I understand that the judging at BIAFF is a combined contribution, but after reading the appraisal it is quite clear to me that the hand of the judge from last years' appraisal is all over it purely in terms of grammatical construct, phraseology, style and typos. If it is a combined effort and while I realise they don't all tap the keyboard, do the other two judges get to read and approve it before it goes out?
Some of the comments are simply incongruous and do not, in my view, display a 'responsible' attitude.
I think that the judge from last years' event (the professional documentary film-maker) has bound himself to a strict set of documentary film-making parameters and when he sees something outside of these he simply dismisses it and while this might take place inwardly, it has to have its' effect ultimately.
The appraisal covering the longer of the two films of last year gave me the distinct impression that he had not actually watched the film right through given some of the comments made on that occasion, but on that occasion I eventually got over it and put it down to experience. Had his name not appeared on the BIAFF critique of this year, I would not - I can assure you - have begun this topic at all and would not be writing this now.
I do not consider it unreasonable to request that my future film submissions into BIAFF not be judged by this particular appointee and will be putting that to the competition manager whoever that may be when the time comes. It will be interesting if nothing else.

Tony Williams.

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Dave Watterson
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by Dave Watterson » Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:39 pm

It is unfortunate that you got the same person doing the crit both times.

The IAC Competition (BIAFF) goes to some trouble to ensure your work is not judged by someone from your own region ... but it is inevitable that you will occasionally get someone who has previously seen your film at another event.

The degree of sharing judges do with their crits at BIAFF varies. Some send their reviews to the others on the relevant panel and respond to any comments made. Others do not. There is a fairly short time window after the viewing weekend before finished crits have to be sent to the Competition Officer (currently David Newman). It is tempting for someone who has seen a film before to offer to write the notes on the grounds that they know the film better than judges who have only seen it once. Perhaps we should suggest everyone resists that idea.

There are not enough reliable judges, so competitions have to share them. In the past I have had to judge the same film at the IAC, Guernsey Lily and Cotswold Festival having perhaps also seen it at a regional contest or club event.

There is a danger of judges getting set in their ways and applying "formulaic" rules to films ... there is a separate debate, for example, about music videos whose constraints make it difficult to assess them along conventional documentary or story film lines.

Do try to get your work to as many festivals as you can and get other views ... but not many will give you detailed feedback. Burning a DVD or BluRay and posting it is not too costly and some festivals accept entries sent electronically. Try English-speaking countries first - Australia has several contests and we hope that the American AIFVF will return this year, Malta .... But it is also worth trying festivals in other countries for English is widely understood. Our friend Ian Woodward has had considerable success at festivals in the Czech Republic, Poland and other countries. There is a list of festivals on the main IAC website under the EVENTS menu ... look for Competitions and Festivals.

A.K. Williams
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by A.K. Williams » Wed Apr 01, 2015 11:51 am

Thanks for your advice Dave, I certainly do intend to venture further afield in the film festival world and, no doubt, will eventually make the contacts so valuable in the amateur film-making fraternity. I felt, as you suggest, that this was a bit of a freak situation especially first time out and felt also a bit cornered, but chances are it won't happen again, this was a different film to last years' N.W. event by the way and also, by the way, it received a 2-star rating with which I was happy enough, film is not about winning awards for me it is about creativity and if others find some pleasure in what I in my small way am able to produce, then that is good enough for me.

Just a word on judging while I'm at it. I was asked to judge the documentary section at a film festival local to me in Birkenhead in November 2013, what a nightmare! 14 films in all ranging in length from just under 10mins to just over 70mins. I spent just over two weeks watching them all right through in the privacy of my own home and in isolation and at the end of it decided 'never again'. I was required only to place the first top three (in my opinion) and to this day still find myself thinking from time to time that the one I put second I should perhaps have put first. The organisers suggested that I should write a few words in terms of feedback for the films submitted, but when I was finished viewing and started to put my thoughts down on paper I realised that I was simply trying to 'intellectualise' my likes and dislikes and so told them that I was unhappy to do that which they accepted. If I am 'entertained' by any film no matter what the content, subject matter, style or genre, then that is sufficient, if I am not, then that is also sufficient.

Tony Williams.

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TimStannard
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by TimStannard » Wed Apr 01, 2015 5:03 pm

A.K. Williams wrote:If I am 'entertained' by any film no matter what the content, subject matter, style or genre, then that is sufficient, if I am not, then that is also sufficient.
Then you are probably wise to decide "never again" as most people, when submitting a film, like to have some sort of appraisal. Mind you, most of us would probably balk at the idea of watching 14 amateur films of which the shortest was 10 mins, so I hope they were duly grateful.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

A.K. Williams
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by A.K. Williams » Sat Apr 04, 2015 3:01 pm

I take your point about appraisal Tim and from my own experience recognise the value of it, in my view and as far as I can tell there are only two types, verbal and written. Verbal is as we all know, delivered usually on the day pretty much immediately after viewing (sometimes during) and takes different forms, audience reaction is probably the best indication of all. Family and friends will tell you what you want to hear or -more accurately- what they think you want to hear, that's what family and friends are for. The best form of verbal appraisal is that which comes from strangers I think, strangers have no axe to grind or if they do, then you can soon pick them out while comments from such sources are generally more considered given the circumstances. Written appraisal is quite different however. When given by 'total' strangers as in the case of the IAC it is probably the best there can be, but it cannot be queried and if it is not 'responsible' then I can see it might be quite damaging.

Perception of the IAC is pretty high I would say and for anyone to be 'critiqued' by those who, for the time being, are in effect IAC representatives it is important I think for those so appointed to 'encourage' rather than the other way around, indeed the IAC homepage uses something along these lines in order to state its' reason for being.

As I stated in an earlier post I am all for constructive criticism.

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TimStannard
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Re: Judging Panels

Post by TimStannard » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:56 pm

Tony, I think you're pretty accurate (if perhaps generalising somewhat) in your categorisation of comments (friends & family, immediate feedback of peers, and written feedback). You have diplomatically not posted the comments about your own films but said "Some of the comments are simply incongruous and do not, in my view, display a 'responsible' attitude." We have to take your word on that. You imply that the criticism was not constructive. Without seeing the film and the criticism it is impossible for anyone here to comment on whether they agree with you or not. If you have a serious grievance I suggest you take it up with the competition manager and provide him with the details and he can take it further if he believes it is necessary. Your accusations are pretty damning after all.

I don't believe we can move the discussion on any further on this forum. Judging is difficult and to some extent subjective. All judges endeavour to be unbiased. Some people will not be happy with the marks they are awarded. Some will disagree with the comments received. But marks and comments are given in good faith.

Incidentally I have previously politely asked judges for clarification on points they have made and have received that clarification. I'm not suggesting that all judges are willing to do this, but clearly some are and most people are happy to explain their decisions further.
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it

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