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Indy Film Talk: Hoosier critics at Comic Con

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This weekend, at Indiana Comic Con, you can attend panels featuring the stars of pop culture — and the people who analyze it. 

I'm honored to announce that Saturday, at 7 p.m., I'll be participating in the panel, Movie Critics Speak Out, with friends and colleagues Chris Lloyd, Bob Bloom and Richard Propes of the Indiana Film Journalists Association

This week, I sat down with the panelist who invited me, Joe Shearer, to prepare for the panel and talk about his experiences at conventions and as a critic. 

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NUVO: This is your third go-round participating in a critics' panel at a convention. What is it like to be inside the entertainment world you analyze, face-to-face with the fans and creators of the films you write about?

Shearer: I don't know about a convention counting as being "inside" the entertainment world, but it certainly is fun to interact with other fans. First and foremost that's what I consider myself — a fan of popular culture. Just being at a convention is fascinating. Seeing people who are fans of the same movies, TV shows, comics, books, and other media is a lot of fun. For some of us, it's a rare chance to actually learn new things about them when we encounter people who have more knowledge than we do. This is true even as a critic.

NUVO: What are some of the major things people don't know about film critics, the kind of information you can give them an inside scoop on during the panel discussion?

Shearer: These days, it's rare to encounter a critic for whom writing movie reviews is their primary job. This is true for me and virtually all of the people I know who do reviews. The Internet has made that almost impossible compared to the days of every newspaper having their own critic.
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Also, critics, even someone like Roger Ebert during his heyday, do not see everything. First of all, it would be virtually impossible, because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of movies that are made and released in some form or fashion each year. I don't know how many movies I see a year, but I did keep a log one year and came close to 300. That number fluctuates for me, but I would imagine that's pretty close for someone who would consider themselves a pretty seriously devoted film buff.

NUVO: What do you hope attendees will get out of this panel? What are you expecting them to ask?

Shearer: I always hope people will want to know about our process and discuss the things that we think constitute a good movie and a bad one. At some point we have ended up talking about things that matter to a lot of us critics, like our battles to get screenings so that we can see more movies, but I don't know if that is terribly interesting to the general public. I guess the answer to that is simply that I hope they will ask us questions they would want to have answers for. At our last panel we talked a little bit about blogging and starting your own web site, which is how many of us ply our trade these days.

There are also some fun screening stories that I love to share with people. I was once groped by a man at a screening, and have seen arguments that almost turned to fights, heard all sorts of weird things from people, and seen movies out of the order they were intended to be seen in.

NUVO: I'm honored to be participating in this panel with you. What advice to you have for me in terms of how I should approach it?

Shearer: My best advice is to not look at this as a public speaking engagement and look at it like you're just talking to a bunch of people with similar interests who are interested in knowing more about what you do. Pick one person from the audience and pretend you're talking only to that person. Being relaxed is the biggest thing; a crowd is only intimidating if you let it be. 

NUVO: That's great advice for how to approach Comic Con in general! 

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