John Waters hasn’t really been involved in the film industry for quite some time. He last major film was the 2004 feature “A Dirty Shame.” But previous to that, the filmmaker was notorious amongst film fans and Hollywood types for being one of the most subversive names in the industry. And when you’re the self-appointed King of Filth, you’re bound to experience some bad reviews from time to time.
Speaking in a new interview with Lit Hub, promoting his most recent book “Mr. Know-it-all,” Waters sheds some light on what filmmakers and creative types should take away from bad reviews and why they shouldn’t avoid them.
“Read the bad ones once, the good ones twice, and put them all away and never look at them again,” said Waters. “Of course what you always remember are the bad ones. You can ask people to quote the meanest review they’ve ever gotten and nobody says I don’t know.”
He continued, “But you never answer them, because when you answer them they get to answer you again. So all the people who didn’t read it the first time see it the second time. Sometimes you learn from a bad review. Sometimes they’re right—a little.”
We’ve seen many filmmakers talk about the effects of bad reviews. And unsurprisingly, not all of them have the same confidence and maturity about negative critiques that Waters has. Of course, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, considering there aren’t very many people out there like John Waters.
That being said, at the age of 73, Waters has plenty of life experience and has gone through the Hollywood wringer multiple times. So, if there’s anyone you should listen to about positive and negative reviews, the director is probably near the top of that list.