Tips for Film Critics: Part One / by Ewan Gleadlow

Before I begin, nothing here is set in stone, and, to be honest, that is the best piece of advice you will ever receive. Nothing is ever set in stone. But, if you are not sure where to start, here are a few tips I have picked up over the past year as a film critic…

JOIN A GROUP AND MAKE NEW FRIENDS

Community is always important in both journalism and critique, and making contacts, connections, and friends is essential. Not only to get your work noticed, but also to make critiquing more enjoyable. It is also a nice safety net to have if you need advice, help or a bit of support.

Groups like A Film Club are excellent examples of the camaraderie within the film critic circle. Weekly chats, promotion of your work, and a genuinely friendly following, all provide you with a good place to get yourself started.

Other groups are available, none that I am personally a part of, but there are various forums and groups scattered across social media that would provide you with similar support too.

WATCH AS MANY FILMS AS POSSIBLE

At the time of writing this, I have watched over 1,000 films. My personal goal is to watch 10,000. Whether that be short productions lasting seconds, or ensemble casts in four-hour long marathons, I try and watch as much as humanly possible. 

The main reason for this is: the more you watch, the more you understand. My personal understanding of film has greatly improved solely through watching as many films as I could get my hands on. And this is evident in the difference between my early work and my more recent writing.

But to watch so many films is a Herculean task. One way to watch as much as possible is to aim to watch a film every day. You could watch something new, or a film you have not seen in a while, and it does not have to be a feature length blockbuster either. 

I usually use short films as a break during film marathon days; where I collect five or six films, and set about watching them all in one sitting. Short films, that last only a minute or so, provide a lovely break in between features. Alternatively, shorts can also help clear your mind after a long day of working or studying… And there is nothing to say you cannot review short films either!

Looking for some film recommendations? Check out the link at the bottom of this article!

REVIEW A VARIETY OF GENRES

Chaining together films from the same genre for long stretches of time can get repetitive. I once tried to review as many Keanu Reeves films as I could in one block, but after four I realised it was not fun for me or my audience. Whilst writing a really great film review requires you to hone your interests, do not be afraid to review films from completely different genres. 

The one thing I wish I had known when I first started out is: do not become complacent. People will not read the same review, and you will tire of writing about the same genre, over and over again. Therefore a change of scenery (and genre) is always great to have. 

If your next few reviews are about films of the same genre, shake it up a little bit. Throw a film in that breaks the mould. Of course if you love Action films review as many as you desire, but always keep your audience expecting something new and unique.

HANDWRITTEN NOTES OVER DIGITAL

This one is more of a personal preference, but writing out your notes by hand can sometimes be far more beneficial than typing them. 

The most integral reason for this is that hand writing notes eliminates the distractions enabled by a laptop or tablet. Writing notes down on your iPhone is all well and good until you ignore the film and start browsing Amazon for more films or, in my case, Pulp CDs.

When you go to make notes on a film, imagine you are going to see that film at the cinema. Turn off your phone and the lights, grab some snacks, and have a few pens handy for your notes. I tend to make four pages of A5 notes due to a poor memory, but make as many or as little as you need!

Aside from reducing distractions, writing out your notes by hand just seems to look really nice. There is something satisfying about having a pile of journals and notebooks full to the brim with notes on films you watched months ago. It is almost like a timeline of your work; something physical that you can display alongside your presumed DVD and Blu-Ray collections.

START COLLECTING

I think one of the reasons I became a film reviewer is because I started to buy films quite frequently. I would come back with multiple carrier bags of DVDs from charity shops, who often sell them for a couple of pounds at the most. Possibly one of my favourite bits of writing is my review of Alien (1979); a film I found in a charity shop.

Buying DVDs so cheaply allows you to build up a library of films that you can review at your disposal. But, on the other hand, you may not want your collection to be full of shelf filler… A problem I have after a year of bulk buying DVDs. What I am going to do with three copies of Man on Fire (2004) I will truly never know.

Of course, you do not have to spend a fortune in charity shops and retail stores at all. Those with access to Netflix and Amazon Prime will be able to give up to date reviews of contemporary products, and reviewing Netflix’s newest original films could get you noticed by a bigger audience. 


This piece was written by Ewan Gleadlow - you can find out more about Ewan via their Twitter and Wordpress site, Cult Following

To see what films Ewan recommends every film critic watches, check out this post, and for more tips, stay tuned for part two!