The Back Lot (FILM NEWS & RUMINATIONS): Frequently Asked Questions (for film critics)

Mar 4, 2008 at 5:13 pm

1) “Wow. You really make a living watching movies?”
Answer: Nope, not really. Unless you are one of a few dozen lucky individuals in the world who are full-time critics (and even than number is dwindling), writing about movies means hustling for dough. Most film critics support themselves with day jobs (like me) or by being editors for the papers they work for. It’s not a small-town thing, or a LEO thing. It’s an industry thing.

2) “How do I become a film critic?”
Answer: Learn how to write, because it takes more than liking movies to write about them. Roger Ebert, A.O. Scott (New York Times) or J. Hoberman (Village Voice) aren’t film watchers, they’re film critics. If you want to be a film critic, read a ton of good writers and get a ton of practice. Once you’ve done that, the rest is pretty much dumb luck and a good editor.

3) “How can you criticize movies if you’ve never made one?”

Answer: First, I did make a short film, and it was awful. At least I realized it should never see the light of day. Still, the real issue is keeping in touch with your intended audience. The people I write for are moviegoers, not movie makers. Most of those people don’t care if a poor film had good intentions: They want to know if it’s worth their time and money.

4) “Why did you hate ? I loved that movie!”

Answer: Sorry. Believe it or not, we don’t really mean to offend anybody. But it’s hard to maintain moderate tastes once you’ve had to sit through the movies we have. “I Know Who Killed Me” anyone?

5) “What makes you an authority?”

Answer: Good question. The ability to come in under word count?