HOW TO BE A FILM CRITIC II: PREPERATION







Once you have made the decision that you want to be a film critic and there is no rational argument that could persuade you to change your mind, pat yourself on the back for five seconds. Sure you’ve made a stupid decision but at least you’ve made a decision. Scientists estimate we waste 1.2 years being indecisive. If you’re a woman, it’s closer to 5.8 but either way congratulate yourself for saving a chunk of time.

Back in the days before the internet when the world was young and naive, film criticism was exclusively the domain of newspaper, TV/radio and magazine journalists. Sure there were some hobbyists who reviewed Robert Altman films in their stolen school books and using their own unique rating system gave McCabe and Mrs Miller four crudely drawn Stanley Kubrick heads out of five but they were, on the whole, a rare breed. Still,  no matter if you were an amateur or a professional the only equipment you needed was a piece of paper, a pen and access to a typewriter.

How the profession survived with such limited tools is unclear and if you attempted to send a hand typed or hand written review to your editor these days they would poke and fondle it with the puzzled expression of a gorilla with a Gameboy.

Things have moved on and now every budding critic requires the following items as a matter of course:

1. If you don’t own or have access to a computer with internet capability you’re either permanently trapped under something heavy or you’re a member of an obscure Amazonian tribe untouched by civilisation. You need a word processor and and an email account like you need oxygen and water.


2. Some still hold onto the dream of living their lives without a mobile phone or sticking with their ancient clockwork Nokia. It’s a beautiful dream but in this game if you snooze, you lose. The PR or editor will send emails about screenings and if you don’t stake your claim quickly, all that will be left is the Belgian documentary about Flemish farming methods of the 1920s.


3. Unless you have a charitable editor (rare) or a bicycle you’re going to need money for transport costs to get to and from the screening. If you’re only reviewing DVDs then you’ll save cash but DVD reviewing is the bottom of the food chain and should only be done when you’re first starting out or as a favor to your editor when they need one done urgently. They’ll forget to return the favor, but once in a while they might come down from the mountain and acknowledge your existence.


4. The law states that every writer should carry a notebook and pen and scribbling comments and observations down during a screening are handy when it comes to the write up. Unfortunately as cinemas traditionally turn off the light during a show you won’t be able to see a damn thing you are writing and most of the page will be unintelligible. Still, it gives the person sat next to you the impression of professionalism and like wearing a pair of glasses to a job interview or a suit in court, certain illusions are socially accepted and should be used to your advantage.


So those are the basics. Now all you need to do is to decide whether to start your own film site or write for somebody else’s and I’ll be going through that moral dilemma next time.
Until then.
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