So you want to be a movie critic and get paid to watch movies, eat popcorn, and be as opinionated as you like? You might be interested to know that it may necessitate widening your work experience by working two or more jobs (it doesn’t pay that well) and thickening your skin against the merciless criticism of others. Still, you can’t beat a job that entails being in the same room as Angelina Jolie or John Cusack, and then engaging them in conversation.

A major assumption that most aspiring film critics make is that no formal training is required. All you need is an opinion and an ability to express it. This also serves to heighten its appeal.

The theory proved to be true for Dan Kimmel who began life as a law student and then segued into article writing and movie reviews. These days he’s a successful columnist for a variety of print media outlets, yet still finds it necessary to supplement his income with teaching and public speaking. This proves that while the pen is mightier than the sword, it pales in comparison to the chequebook.

Fellow critic, John Black, followed a more traditional journalistic route to his career as The Metro’s “Movie Guy”. Black started at a small weekly paper and had to work his way up to becoming a paid film buff. He too laments the lack of remuneration, however, saying that most free lancers (and most film critics are free lancers) earn less than $1 a word.

To earn the big bucks you need to be a really famous critic, like Roger Ebert. But to reach that level you have to be able to single-handedly make or break a movie with your opinion. That kind of influence isn’t gained by simply penning a few random thoughts on plot-holes and dialogue. You actually need to understand the intricacies of movie making, such as the complexities of lighting, set decoration, editing and cinematography, and how they all impact on the overall movie experience.

It also helps if you can tell people what a gaffer does. I keep picturing a skinny old man wearing a golfing hat and vintage knee-length golf pants, whose only task is to jovially greet visitors to the set. I am, rather obviously wrong. A gaffer is the head of the electrical department on a movie. Responsibilities include designing and executing the film’s lighting plan. It comes from the British term for an old man (I was only mostly wrong), particularly those were in charge of lighting at theatres or who tended street lamps. The “gaff” was a pole with a hook on the end that helped them carry out their duties.

To set yourself on the path to becoming a professional movie critic you need to do some research and that doesn’t only mean watching a whole lot of movies, although you have to do that too. You need to read books on film making, as well as on writing professional critiques. It’s not all about opinion after all. You may hate a movie, but you need to be able to explain why. A reasonable amount of diplomacy and tact is required, as “It sucked” won’t cut it.

Eloquence and coherence are vital components of any critique. Your review should give readers insight into why you felt a certain way about a certain movie, and it should be clear enough for them to make an informed decision on whether or not they see it.

One of the most important aspects of the jobs is to accept that you aren’t going to like most of the movies that you see. Kimmel constantly reminds himself of “Sturgeon’s Law”, which hypothesises that 90% of everything is junk. Black holds onto the belief that all of the teen-comedies that rely on toilet humour are balanced by independent film festivals that showcase original ideas, from artists who haven’t sold out to Hollywood, yet.

Another hidden disadvantage to this dream job is that by placing your opinion in the public domain, you in turn invite critique upon yourself. And people can be nasty. “I had to wonder if you weren’t having this hissy fit while adorned in your official Star Trek uniform.” – was just one of the comments in response to Black’s review of the movie, The Perfect Storm, which he disliked.

If you think your skin is thick enough to take abuse like that, if you have an unerring ability to sway people with your persuasive prose, and if you like spending time in the dark, then perhaps this is the job for you. If not, prepare your pen anyway: there are some film critics with poor opinions out there just asking to be vilified.

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Source by Sandy Cosser