So you want to be a movie critic? Who doesn’t. It is a great job to have. I mean if you love movies, then what better way to make a living then watching them and telling people what you think about the movie you just saw. Most of us are already critics, but it is a big jump from just telling your friends what you think to making money telling the world what you think. The jump is big but not insurmountable and the first step is to know how to write a good review. Well of course, you may say, but it is not as easy as it may seem. Anybody can write a review, but not everyone can write a good, compelling, I have to read this person’s review before I go to the movie’s this weekend, review. What’s the difference?
1. Actively Watch the Movie
Yes, I recognize that movie watching is a passive activity. Watching a movie isn’t something you do, it is something that happens to you. However if you’re planning on being a movie critic you have to learn how to watch a film with a critical eye. This means you need to pay attention to everything and I mean Everything. Notice how the actors are placed in each shot, the setting, the camera angles, even the music. All of these elements play a role in the story that is trying to be told and are important to talk about if you want to write the compelling sort of reviews that you’ll need to write if you want or make a living at reviewing movies.
2. Take Copious Notes
No, I don’t expect you to sit in a theatre with pen and pad or laptop in hand. But I do expect you to take solid mental notes. Once you make a name for yourself you’ll probably be attending advance screenings of films and won’t see these movies again before your review will be due, so it becomes necessary for you to be able to take solid notes, mental or otherwise of some of the more important elements of the film. Information such as the actor’s names or who the director was is easy to come across, but information like camera shots, or plot devices is not, so you need to train yourself not only to watch for that type of information but also to remember it.
3. Summarize. Don’t Spoil
This is important. Nothing is worse then reading a review that tells the whole movie from beginning to end and leaves nothing for you to see. You’re being paid for your opinion, not to be a spoiler. A basic summation of the plot is all that is necessary. From there you can talk about whether or not the plot worked well or was the plot even a plot at all. Let the details of the film be revealed when your readers see the film, not when they read your review.
4. Critical Analysis is Key
The difference between a review anyone can write and a review someone will not only pay you to write but people will clamor to read is how well you analyze the film. Think about those papers you had to write for lit class in college. The professor didn’t want you to just tell him what the book was about but wanted you to break down the themes in the book and how they related to the plot, the characters, etc. Well the same is true for a movie review. No one wants a summary of events or the plot. A good review will examine the themes or ideas the movie raises and talk about how well or not so well the movie executed those themes and ideas.
5. Point Out the Pros and the Cons
No movie is perfect and rarely is any movie all bad, so take the time to talk about what the movies does well and what it does not so well.
6. Be Open Minded
If you’re serious about doing this for a living then you’re going to watch movies from genres you don’t like. You may hate romantic comedies but you find yourself having to review one every week. It’s okay that you don’t like the genre but be able to know a good film in that genre when you see one. A movie can be a good film and well made even if personally you feel the whole genre should be wiped off the face of the earth. Learn to know the difference between a good movie and a bad movie in a particular genre of film that you may detest.
7. Be Original
For some folk it is two thumbs up, for others it is rotten tomatoes. Whatever you decide you want your rating system to be, be original. Try to find a hook that works for you. Just don’t do something that closely resembles someone else or you’ll just seem like a bad copy of the original.
8. Have Fun
You’re not saving the world here, but you are trying to save a person’s movie going experience, so relax, have fun, and remember this is a great job to have and you’re one lucky person if you can say this is what you do for a living.
© Tamika Johnson