Some say that critics place judgments on art only because they cannot create it themselves.
However, a way to deflect this criticism is if you are already an artist such as Fort Wayne native, avid film blogger, and 20-year veteran of theater Roy Sexton, who will release his first collection of essays titled, “Reel Roy Reviews, Vol. 1: Keeping it Real.” The collection will be published through the Open Books imprint Friday.
Paperback copies of “Reel Roy Reviews: Vol. 1” retail for $15.95, and will be available through the Open Books site at www.open-bks.com and Amazon. Digital versions for e-readers such as Nook and Kindle will be available for $6.49.
The book contains essays that are composed with amounts of tribute and frustration with the cinema art form, along with a few analyses on theater, music and concerts.
Whenever Sexton conveys frustration with certain films, his aim is not to ridicule, but rather to offer some constructive criticism.
“I try to respect that (for the most part) these are show business professionals putting (ideally) their best feet forward and that they are human beings with hearts and souls and feelings,” Sexton said in a news release. “I hope I never seem cruel. I don't mean to be. These writings are off-the-cuff and journal-style and come from as positive a place as I can muster.”
Before launching his entertainment blog, www.reelroyreviews.com in July 2012, Sexton, who now resides in Ann Arbor, Mich., initially published his capsule reviews of either popular or Oscar-nominated films on Facebook.
“It's a chance to interact with somebody who either saw the movie or wanted to see it, and help promote water-cooler discussion,” Sexton said.
With the support and encouragement of his friends and family, he expanded his interest in film criticism to a blog format. However, the transition from Facebook was not an easy one.
According to Sexton in an email, “I will note that initially I had no readers. The problem with the blog was that it was like starting over. The friends who loved my status statements didn't realize that Facebook is a pretty effortless delivery mechanism. With a blog, I had to lure people to go find the reviews and read them.”
In order to attract viewers outside of his social circle, Sexton used other social media outlets such as Reddit, Twitter and Tumblr. This exposure helped his blog grow to 3,000 viewers per month in January, and he expects it to reach 6,000 viewers before the end of this month.
Even though Sexton is pleased with the accessibility and immediacy of publishing individual reviews online, the leap from blog to book stems from his preference for a format that feels more like a personal journal about the art that interests him.
Sexton's educational background — which includes a bachelor's degree in English and theater and a master's degree in theater history and criticism, along with a 20-year involvement in his community's theater scene — have given him a sense of empathy that plays a role in his approach to criticism.
Regarding this, Sexton said via email, “I've been an actor, a singer, a director, a producer — I know what those jobs entail ... so I can tell when someone isn't doing their job well or when they are being stifled by someone else not doing their job well.”
He believes incorporation of personal experiences into his work makes it more accessible to casual readers.
“I'm very grateful that, even years later, people will acknowledge my work, and I hope that my roots in Indiana and Michigan will be reflected,” Sexton said.
The “Vol. 1” part of the title suggests that Sexton is planning sequels, and he is hopeful that will be the case.
“The book has definitely jumpstarted my reviewing output,” Sexton said. “I have completed about seven additional reviews to what appear in the book. I guess it (sequels) will depend on how many people enjoy it!”