‘The Role of the Critic’ – Final Recap

I have come to learn over the semester that the critic has many roles. It’s their professional opinion that is valued, it should be understood and also to a degree be persuasive. It is essential that the critic has a great understanding of their text and that should be evident in their writing. The critic’s tone should emulate them as a writer, putting themselves forward as the persona they create; owning their prose and the opinions they have formulated.

Over the semester I found that the discussions we had in class were crucial to the development of my writing. For example, the very first session in which we put forward our first short piece of critical review writing and then looked at each other’s work was hugely beneficial. I suddenly saw what my classmates saw when they were reading my work. The physical aspect is important, looking at the piece of paper that’s been written on, with ticks and underlines, notes of encouragement and constructive criticism. It brought me straight back to high school class and how you would feel when the teacher hands your work back. Aside from that it made you responsible for your writing. Throughout university we are constantly submitting our work online, a quick click and it’s gone. Only to receive a grade and never think of it again. It was grounding this semester to get back into the workshopping and learning styles that are so effective in secondary college. It was this constant reading of each other’s work, explaining your concepts outloud to then realise why it doesn’t make sense on the page; that was the shining light of this studio. It made you want to be better, and understand the role of the critic more. I noticed it with the people that continued to turn up to class, they were invested in this learning, making it special.

Towards the end of the semester we began to conduct group critique sessions. They were a pivotal moment and should have been something that were scattered throughout the semester simply because they were so incredibly beneficial. We were all give a week to write for. Write a review with the knowledge that this piece would be read aloud by Alexia and critiqued and analysed by all class members. Daunting. The class critiques session were more valuable I would say than Alexandra’s critique session, despite the anxious hype that surrounded it. She was incredibly nice through her constructive analysis, almost too nice for us to get anything out of it. Every mistake is the chance to better yourself, but you can only better yourself if you are made aware of your mistakes.

Our group sessions were lovely, everyone was so understanding of each other, knowing that soon it would be their spot in the limelight. Because of this people were constructive, kind and encouraging but used their brains as reference points to help better your work! It was like an editing suite for the next article being posted in our class magazine; we wanted the best from each student. I learnt to move past my fear of others reading my work. I learnt to back myself out. I realise that I hide behind the word perhaps. In a critical review you must stand behind your opinions and this word was my scapegoat when I wasn’t sure. I found by simply deleting it and making a statement it was much more powerful. Confident. Something to be admired in critical review writing, as long as you have the research and expertise to back yourself. When our work was read aloud you could see the author cringing when something sounded off. This class taught me the power of reading your work aloud. It is quickest way I know to edit my work, it is really confronting at first. And yes you do feel like a bit of a looney, but it’s worth it.

I learnt so much from my peers this semester on how to be a great critic. I realised there are so many different ways to go about writing a critical review. Just hearing everyone’s take on a movie or tv show or new album was fantastic. I found that writing reviews and sharing what we have written brings people together. It promotes discussion and essentially makes people want to do something, whether that be jump in the car and head off to the movies or be a reminder to never watch that T.V show. Writing critical reviews is not simply about rehashing a storyline; it is commenting on the social, historical and at times political placement of the  text within society. Over the semester I continued to understand its importance within popular and niche culture. I have grown to love this style of writing and the never ending amount of topics available to us.


Week 9 Update

Monday morning met us with a slightly daunting task of having our reviews on the short films read to the class. Alex showed us each film again before reading out each one aloud to the class. Reading aloud and seeing your words on the big screen is something else. It really makes the mistakes stand out. The flow of the piece is obviously great or not so great when someone else is reading your work. It also really made me see clearly the overuse of punctation to make sentences too long.Alex was very kind with the feedback, focusing on all the standout parts of each piece giving only constructive advice to us. I made some notes of Alex’s top tips after reading our work:

  • What’s the contemporary hook? How do I answer the why are you talking about this now?
  • Context is very important
  • Short sentences are poetic
  • Reading aloud is very important
  • In humanities, critical and arts writing sometimes it is okay to use I and ME and reference yourself
  • Short film allows for more detail to get fleshed out
  • How does this fit into the bigger picture of the director
  • Starting the review off with, something that doesn’t relate to the film but relates to the theme is fantastic
  • After every sentence you should be asking yourself, so what? So why? So before

This was an extremely valuable experience that I am lucky to have been apart of.

Week 8 Update

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Australian Film critic, payed us a kind visit on Monday of week nine to run a lil workshop! We wrote reviews of the 2014 Australian short film I’m You, Dickhead. Alex helped us through the process of note-taking while watching the film twice, and then we swapped reviews and discussed/analysed the different ways we interpreted the task.

Here are the points she discussed:

  • TASTE ­

During the week we watch three short films! Spanish 7:35 in the Morning, artsy Absurda and teen angsty Lick the Star. Our task was to choose one and write a 600-800 word review on one of them. I actually found this extremely difficult. I chose 7:35 in the Morning however I really struggled to meet the word count (and the deadline). After fleshing out as much as possible, I sent it off to Alexia who will then pass them all onto Alex so she can have a read before Mondays class in which we will be reading out everyones reviews nameless!! SCARY.

Wednesday’s class was cancelled so we all got to writing our reviews!


The Pitching Party -Wk 7

Monday Mid-day Pitch session!

It was made into a real life pitch sesh (mmhmm I went there) because Alexia brought with her donuts! She did promise this to happen however in my head I was thinking sure; I’ll happily accept your classic Coles cinnamon style circle donuts. Delicious! But no no no, we were throwing back gourmet true Melbourne style over achieving donuts. There were green ones, crunchy ones, iced ones and misshaped ones. It was fab.

Anyway, in other news. we also pitched our ideas for a piece we would contribute to in the final publication! Hooray. We went around the circle and gave a quick synopsis. Among the myriad ideas such as critically looking at a range of films, film genres, TV series, music, pop culture trends, food and much more.


My idea is to follow the Acai berry. The oh so trendy and oh so expensive delectable berry that is not only a super food (this word will possibly be discussed) but it’s also a tool for Instagram success if photographed right. Food porn is as popular as ever and the Acai berry is getting dragged into peoples feeds everywhere. Perhaps looking at places in Melbourne and if you want to travel abroad, where to get it overseas aswell.

Wednesday’s class saw us working on our grammar again. We looked at the common grammatical errors in our Project Brief assessment tasks.
The topics we covered were:

  • Passive and active voices
  • The difference between colons and semicolons
  • The different types of dashes (hyphen, en-dash, em-dash)
  • It’s versus its
  • Effect versus affect

Alexia introduced the class with the simple activity of reading out sentences by switching from a passive voice (filled with film references) to an active voice. This made us realise how important it is to maintain an active voice in a critical review and how easy it is to fall into the passive voice again.

The Week Six Recap

Monday’s class saw us discussing the definition of a curator. We analysed how it has changed over time. It doesn’t solely refer to art gallery or museum curators anymore, now any individual can be a curator online using a blog, website or Instagram; much like the idea that everyone’s a critic. As a class we tried to outline the differences between a critic and a curator. In this task we unravelled the wide and jumbled web of a modern day curator like Gwyneth Paltrow and her lifestyle “instruction manual”, Goop. We asked ourselves is it a genuine collection of tips and tricks to achieve a healthy happy life or perhaps just a pretentious collection of products the average Jo or Joanne could never afford?

Alexia gave us two readings for the class to read out together, prompting more discussion that helped us nut out the confusing world of curation. The studio finished with an update on PB3 and what our coming weeks looked like.

On Wednesday we tackled a couple of writing exercises. Alexia asked us to think of a tv show, it could be anything we liked. This was daunting as we knew we would be writing on  it but had no idea in what context. I chose Sex in the city. We were then asked to choose from a basket full of pieces of paper with a single word written on them. we then had to use the word and our tv show and write whatever came to our head. Use both topics as prompts for each other and see where we ended up. I received Architecture. At first i was thrown off and started listing the obvious, then i got a bit more descriptive with my prose. When we went around the room and read out our topic and word it was fascinating to see all the different ideas and obscure topic people got onto using their imagination and by following a trial of thought.

We moved onto a grammar lesson. We discussed the difference between active and passive sentences, for example:

Somebody stole my laptop.

My laptop was stolen by somebody.

We identified the object (laptop), the verb (stole) and the subject (somebody). We can identify the first sentence as ACTIVE because the subject does the action to the object. This sentence is more clear and gets to the point quickly.

Another example is:

While Mr. Taylor was driving down Highway 101, he was pulled over and given a ticket by an officer. (PASSIVE)

 While Mr Taylor was driving down Highway 101, a police officer pulled him over, and gave him a ticket. (ACTIVE)

Heading into the second half of the semester, it’s extremely handy to have these sorts of grammar lessons as we are delving into our portfolios and final pieces.

Melbourne International Film Festival

And suddenly we are a month into the semester.

This week has been a highlight so far. Our class on Monday was spent sifting through our works in progress for the assignment. Analysing our own work deeper allowing us to see ourselves as a critic and pin point which style of writing we were inclined to use.

Being the week of the Melbourne International Film festival, we were lucky enough to have a question and Answer session lined up with Simran Hans (UK) & Philippa Hawker (AUS). The night before the Q and A workshop I actually took part in MIFF and went to see a film. I saw “Ingrid Goes West,” a satirical comedy/drama about an obsessive compulsive liar named Ingrid that uses social media to copy and stalk instagram famous women hoping to make friends and steal their limelight. It was frighteningly accurate portrayal, embellished for dramatic effect in parts but in its respect quite shockingly true of the way social media is going.

The interview with Simran and Philippa was a fantastic experience. They were both such interesting characters with a huge amount of knowledge and experience in the field. They are classed as free lance writers so they have written for publications all over the world. They spoke about this and what its like starting off, how you have to really push and simply write as much as possible to get your name out their. Now as they are more acclaimed they have more room to move and can be a bit more choosy in what they write.

They both spoke about pitching and the best way to go about that. Looking back on my notes from the session, I see that they gave very straightforward advice.

– Cold pitch- when you haven’t met them. To the Editor, managing editor, find contact info
– If you’ve met them, email them so they remember you- then pitch
– Be canny about the pitch; what the publication produces, don’t waste a pitch
– The way to get published is to get published.
– Small paragraph
– Introduce yourself
– Pitch a story not an idea!!!!!! An actually angle, specific on the specific (where it will fit in their publication)

– Keep it tailored to them, include three examples of past work, three relevant examples of your work.

They both had a fantastic approach to writing. They just said keep going. Write and write and read and read. It really is the only way anyone will improve. They also shed light on the other side, when you are finally a successful writer or critic, they said it still never gets easier.

Our final workshop on Friday saw us sit in on a live podcast being recorded of The Rereaders which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was super interesting to hear what the young up and coming critics had been doing over the week and their time at critics campus. They were all extremely interesting students, all mostly finished or finishing their studies. The three people interviewing, who were from The Rereaders explained to them what usually goes on behind the scenes whilst making a podcast. How at times it is a little bit disjointed when recording however that it shows just how important the editing process is. I am really interested to try out podcasting in the future so i found this session extremely valuable.

Looking forward to next week!

Week 3 Reflection

What a fantastic week in critical review learning it has been.

Monday saw us watching a documentary called City of Gold. The documentary was about Jonathan Gold, an american food critic based in Los Angeles who currently writes for the Los Angeles Times. After watching the documentary we discussed what we thought. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I thought it was a fantastic angle in showing the audience the true culture of L.A. However, as Alexia pointed out, it did romanticise the man and what he does. It painted him as a cultural phenomenon, a kind of catalyst in helping small businesses thrive. As a class we agreed that we didn’t see the documentary as critical. Despite this I found it very helpful to watch a film about reviewing whilst also criticising it in my head as well.


Wednesday’s class was a productive one. We all read multiple critical reviews on the same film; Edward Scissorhands directed by Tim Burton. It was extremely valuable and helpful task as it directly allowed us to pinpoint the different styles of each critic. It forced us to closely read each one, picking out certain techniques and tricks that each critic employed. I enjoyed seeing what I found to work and not work and noticing some similarities within my writing style. This exercise will help us greatly as we head into the planning stage of our second assessment; the critic profile.





We were all told the exciting news of being able to ask critics who are involved with the Melbourne film festival next week. We will also be able to sit in on a live podcast being recorded, a fantastic opportunity which is extremely valuable to develop our understanding on critical review.


The beginning of the Critic

Well here we are already, with week three so very close to our tastebuds it’s probably time to take a step to the side and swirl around the scrumptious delights we have been served up in the first two weeks.

‘Everyone’s a Critic.’ Why did we even choose this studio? We had been asked to report back and deliver the hot and juicy truth inside a student’s mind, deep beneath the layers of  beanies and hoods forced upon our noggins by Melbourne whose ruthless cold is making our task to recall the very reason for selective the studio just a lil bit tricky.

No no, look at me go, I’m not talking to a stranger here so why did I feel I needed to suddenly and so honestly bring up the misfortunate uncontrollable force of nature that connects us all.  Listening to everyone give their two cents was a really nice way to begin the studio. Dreams of improving one’s writing, learning to have more of a critical eye when indulging in the latest blockbuster, establishing a persona, or perhaps simply fine tuning one’s already exquisite critical writing ability. Although the last one I can only dream to be I tended to agree with most, this studio to me seemed the right kind of creative.

There is an overarching writing niche we are working on everyone takes part in everyday. Whether that be judging someone’s ;latest smashed avocado post on Instagram or writing in the comments section of a beauty Vlog on youtube, we all review and use reviews in our day to day life.

I’ve been immediately impressed with the tasks, the speed of learning is to my level. So far all of the class takes part in discussion which is AMAZING having been in classes when you would think that the students have made a pact with one another that the first person to speak will be publicly shamed in the university square I we had a square.

Within the first two weeks, I have already pitched a review, written a review, critiqued another class mates review and written my first project assessment on five different outlets which feature critical reviews of the text of my choice. So far I have been secretly munching on my popcorn as I watch the semester unfolding, hoping that the dramatic climax where everything goes wrong isn’t coming up  too soon. So far blissful character building, eh eh see what I did there?


So I have a first semester of Communications media under my belt. It was definitely a challenging first semester. I felt like I had thrown myself into the deep end with this course. As i have had no prior media practice; i.e editing, filming and audio, i was quite out of my depth. However the simple tasks helped to ease myself into it without feeling too overwhelmed.

Through this semester i have learnt all sorts of new information. The lectorials were usually understandable and engaging. particularly Dan was a really good speaker and always had an engaging way of getting his point across. This semester i have come to realise that i learn in a combination of ways, i learn in short activities. If we have been given a whole lot of information about a particular topic, i will retain more of that information if i was asked to do a short activity or blog post or answer a question after. Rather than, say, trying to write it down as the lecturer is saying it or red it over. Therefore i thought the regular blog posts was a really good way to keep everyone involved and continuously thinking about the current topic rather than simply the next assignment.

Light bulb moments for me usually came in the middle of a lecture. I had particular trouble with Project Brief 3, the media portrait. And i didn’t know how to craft it. In the week 4 lecture, Liam Ward spoke about editing and not having to fill in all the blanks for the audience. That sent me off on a stream of ideas in the middle of the talk. So i took notes and at the end of project 3 i was happy with how it turned out and that lecture was probably a defining moment for me.

Overall, I’m still not sure about Media. I have enjoyed and benefitted from it but the editing and creating and filming was intense for me and its not particularly what I see myself doing in the future.

Final Post!

Well this is it. The final post for the semester! Gosh. The 12 weeks really have flown and I have accomplished so much. Starting out the course I was confused and anxious which was obvious in my first ever post http://www.mediafactory.org.au/grace-marks/2015/03/03/a-mental-debrief/, however it also shows that I was inspired from the get-go. A challenge for me was the weekly readings and making sure I got through all of them or at least got the key points out of what was being put forward. This is a post I made after the readings about Hyper Attention and Deep Attention. http://www.mediafactory.org.au/grace-marks/2015/03/03/attention-to-details/

A turning point for me was in the week 4 lecture in which I had a lightbulb moment about my project 2 which I was struggling with. This I mused upon in this post: http://www.mediafactory.org.au/grace-marks/2015/03/24/week-4-lectorial/

Collaboration was a big part of our learnings and was effectively put into play in our final assignment. This is a post about collaboration after we had just spoken about it in the electoral: http://www.mediafactory.org.au/grace-marks/2015/03/31/week-5-readings-collaboration/

Finally, this post was after the remix electoral and i think it is a good one to finish on as it both reflects and also is interesting as i linked two of my favourite remixes :http://www.mediafactory.org.au/grace-marks/2015/05/18/week-11-lectorial/

This is my Learning Graph:

Learning Graph