Wikipedia:WikiProject Film/Essay on writing film articles

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(Rescued from deletion on meta.) 00:46, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

How to write about film:

  • Write in complete sentences. (All Wikipedia articles should be in complete sentences, but for some reason articles on the arts seem to attract fragments).
  • Write about what can be proven: "The Mummy Returns is the greatest movie of all time" can not be proven or un-proven, since criteria for judging movies vary widely. "The American Film Institute voted Citizen Kane the greatest American drama" is closer to what we want in encyclopedia articles: it can be proven or not proven (though whether we agree with AFI's assessment or its relevance is another matter entirely).
  • Avoid adjectives such as "stunning," "brilliant," etc., unless you're describing a blow to the head or the wattage of lights on set (in other words, strive to follow NPOV).
  • Movie titles are italicized. Albums are italicized. Songs are in quotation marks. Poems are in quotation marks, unless they are epics (such as The Iliad and The Odyssey).
  • Do not confuse actors with characters. Robert De Niro did not shoot Harvey Keitel and go upstairs to save Jodie Foster, nor did Janet Leigh get stabbed to death in the shower. Travis Bickle shot 'Sport' Matthew to save Iris; if De Nero has ever shot anyone, he's not likely to brag about it. Marion Crane died in the shower and for the next 40 years Janet Leigh continued to star in movies.
  • Do not speculate on a director's motivations. It ranges from difficult to completely impossible to determine why someone does something--unless that person tells you, and even then s/he may lie (Hitchcock either lied or misremembered with alarming frequency in his interviews).
  • Do not assume a director is responsible for all aspects of a film. Directors are not. (Successful directors may forget this fact; unsuccessful directors often will not.) A director's role within a film will vary widely--some directors let the DP(?) set up all the shots; some of them storyboard extensively and check the shot with what they anticipated; some of them double as DP, working the camera themselves. Some of them write or rewrite the script; some do not. Some of them edit their own films; some do not. Unless you know a director's role within a film, try to consider it nothing more than "scapegoat" or "megalomaniac."

(I quite agree. An article in (I think) w:Sight and Sound pointed out that if you take this "auteur" theory too far we'll end up describing Police Academy: Mission To Moscow as "an Alan Metter film". – w:user:Mswake)

  • Conversely, do not lay all blame for a film's perceived failure at the foot of a director: few directors have final cut: most are under pressure from their studio, distributor, or publicist to release a film fitting their agendas as well. Currently Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are two of the directors in the enviable position of having studio funding and also having final cut; most directors who want that much liberty seek independent or foreign funding and work with much smaller budgets.

A reader may ask then "what does a director do?" The answer is "it varies." It is safe, however, to assume that a director does the following three things: a director says "action" (indicating that filming of a take will now start); a director says "cut" (indicating that filming of a take will now stop); a director says "print" (indicating that there is something about the take that s/he wishes to keep, for instance to compare against another take, to use in the film, or to put on the blooper reel). (When the director gets to full of his-own-self, fire him and do it yourself.)

  • Do some research. Have you read a dozen reviews online via http://www.imdb.com 's "external reviews" section (or many other print sources)? Look for some meaningful facts about the movie – what do reviewers agree or disagree? Where do they pay attention to the most? And don't forget to cite sources.

  • Don't duplicate imdb.com. Include an imdb.com external link and only add "meta" information. (The imdb is effectively a wiki, except it is more structured and existed long before the term.)