Are you critical?
I hope so. Being a critic means you have an opinion. And having an opinion means you know what you like and don’t like. Which is pretty important in this day and age of myriad choice.
If you have strong — accurate — opinions, like Siskel & Ebert, you can actually build a reputation on your likes and dislikes. Siskel & Ebert never made a movie, they weren’t formally trained in film or screenwriting, they really had no more credentials in judging film than you or I. But, they had a venue and a voice and they were, well, critical. Not negative, mind you, by this I mean they could critique a film and summarize the good and bad of them in a way that made sense to you and I.
I take this to infer that one doesn’t need a graduate degree in some entertainment medium to provide a critique. It helps if you can explain why you do or don’t like something in a film, show, or novel. But, you don’t need formal training to have an opinion, an accurate valid opinion. Siskel & Ebert proved this.
I point this out so that the next time someone asks you what you think about X, Y or Z movie, TV show or NYTimes bestseller, you can feel confident in giving your honest forthright opinion on said media.
Additionally, and more to the point, the next time a friend or family member asks you to critique some work of theirs don’t placate them. Encourage them, of course; if they create something — whatever it might be — support their creativity. But don’t negate your opinion by burying your true thoughts on their effort. That would be worse that lying. They’re looking to you for your Siskel & Ebert opinion. So, give it to them.
Too often, friends and family members, who beta read or beta watch a creative piece produced by an author or videographer, lie, thinking they are being “nice” by protecting the creator’s emotional state: “She tried SO hard, I couldn’t tell her what I really thought.” Don’t do them this disservice. They really, really want your honest opinion. Only an honest opinion will help them progress.
Let ’em have it. Thumbs up or thumbs down.
(Substantiated of course, but be brutal, really.)