Developing your video critic skills
So, you want to be a film critic. It’s a tough position in which to get started. While anybody can write reviews and put them on a blog (which is not a bad way to start out), paid positions are few and far between, as are ones where your reviews will have real, far-reaching visibility. Most critics, in fact, review only part of the time and make a living from related work such as writing books, covering entertainment news or even working in cinemas. If you want what you say about a film to matter, then you’ll need to work hard to hone your craft.
There are a great many people out there who regularly publish reviews, but 90% of them have nothing to say. Read a random handful of reviews for any given film (without first filtering through a site such as Rotten Tomatoes, which curates the better stuff) and you’ll find that most of them simply outline the plot and tell you whether or not that particular reviewer liked it. Condemnation (often demonstrably rooted in ignorance) or lavish praise are the most common reactions. Amateurs rarely give a film three out of five stars. Nuance is lost on them.
If you want to produce something better, then you need to start by asking yourself this question: what are your reviews for? For the most part, anyone who’s interested can look up the plot on the IMDB or Wikipedia. Beyond a brief refresher, they don’t need to hear about it from you. Your obscure, unsupported references will largely be lost on them, and they don’t care which movie stars you find attractive. What they do care about is context (do your research), narrative insight (take your time to consider what the film is trying to say), and technical insight (consider what it does and doesn’t do well).
If you have no background in understanding narrative, then you need to watch older films and films from a wide variety of genres, and you need to read fiction. If you have no technical background, then read up on what’s currently being used in the industry and get out there and play with some filming gear yourself. Everything can teach you something, from the sound equipment in a recording studio used by local bands to explainer video software to use when promoting a business. Variety is the key. When reflecting on what you’ve done, pay particular attention to your failures – they will teach you the most.
Hone your craft
Even if you choose to focus your critical work on one type of film, don’t limit your viewing to what you enjoy. Pay attention to bad films – where other people make mistakes, you can gain insight into things you previously took for granted.
When it comes to writing, keep your arguments clear and don’t use too many qualifiers – it’s good to entertain multiple perspectives, but you should show confidence in doing so. Read over what you’ve written afterwards – check not just your spelling but also your paragraph structure. If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to take a professional approach.
Making an effort brings its own rewards. Your work will improve and you’ll get more out of every video you watch.
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