A Week in the Life of a Redblog Film Writer (aka Me) — Part Two

by | Nov 24th, 2011 | 2:30PM | Filed under: In My Humble Opinion, Movies, Other Bits

Last week marked my third year as a co-editor of Redblog, so I thought it’d be fun to give you a look at what a typical Redblog work week is like for me here in Chicago.

We left off in Part One (read it all here) with my surviving a screening of Breaking Dawn, and prepping for two major interviews on Friday: Gary Oldman and Patton Oswalt.

Thursday, December 17

  • It occurs to me that I have to talk semi-knowledgeably about Happy Feet Two on the radio tomorrow, but have never seen Happy Feet One. I’m weak when it comes to singing, dancing penguin lore. I correct that this morning by watching the first film while I skim the online movie news sites to see if there’s any big breaking Hollywood news to write about.
  • There’s usually a several-week gap between when I do an interview and when that interview runs at the film’s release. The gap’s even longer right now because back in October I did a series of interviews with folks in town for the Chicago International Film Festival. In October I talked to young Shailene Woodley about starring with George Clooney in The Descendants, and a few weeks later her co-star Judy Greer was also in town. (These interviews are set up through a Chicago publicity firm that the studios hire to handle our local press screenings and press tours.) Now The Descendants is opening nationwide, so I have to get those interviews posted. When transcribed, most 20-minute interviews come out to around 2,500 words, but for Redblog we like to keep them under 1,000 words. So lots of slicing and dicing and condensing takes place to get the two interviews down to publishable sizes.
  • Later in the afternoon I head downtown to the Icon theater for a screening of Arthur Christmas. The animated holiday movie’s not getting as much hype as The Muppets, but as an Anglophile and fan of Aardman Studios (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run), I’m looking forward to it. (Spoiler Alert: I really enjoy it–review coming later!)
  • Back across downtown again to the River East for an evening screening of the new version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. As I said earlier in the week, I’ve already seen and really like the film, but now that I’ve re-read the novel and re-watched the 1979 Alec Guinness version, I want to see the new one again.
  • Plus, director Tomas Alfredson and star Gary Oldman will be doing a Q&A afterwards, hosted by Cinema/Chicago. Since I’ll be interviewing them both in the morning, I want to see the Q&A. It helps sometimes to get a sense in advance of what kinds of questions they often get asked, how they respond to them, and just what they’re like to talk to. The down side of that approach is that folks will say great stuff in the Q&A the night before, and then you spend part of your interview the next day trying to coax them into telling that funny story or using that perfect description again.
  • The Q&A is enjoyable and informative. (Oldman says Chicago, where he played Jim Gordon in the first two Nolan Batman movies, “feels like home… Gotham.”) Back home, I prepare my Tinker Tailor questions–we’ll be talking to Alfredson and Oldman in two separate round tables sessions, so I need several questions for both. When talking for a brief time with someone like Oldman who has a long career, I try to keep the questions focused on the current film they’re there to promote and don’t get into their past iconic roles, or ask too much about upcoming films like Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises next summer.
  • But that’s not all I have to prepare for tonight. Because tomorrow will be a mad-cap, non-stop day of events, I need to prepare for radio ahead of time, which means going through my screening notes and trying to come up with several interesting things to say about Breaking Dawn, Happy Feet Two, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, as well as a couple home-video new releases.
  • And still not done for the day! I also have to do a phone interview (or “phoner”) with Patton Oswalt tomorrow afternoon, so I read a few chapters out of his new book Zombie Wasteland Spaceship. It’s actually quite helpful, as the book (which is half humor, half memoir) has several parts about growing up as an ostracized film and sci-fi/fantasy nerd, which plays directly into his character in the new film Young Adult.

Friday, November 18

  • The busiest day of the week kicks off with a quick going over of my Tinker Tailor questions and my radio notes. Then it’s downtown to yet another super fancy hotel lobby (I’ve found, the fancier the hotel, the harder it is to find trashcans or bathrooms in the lobby), where once again I find myself hanging out with my Chicago film-writing pals. There will be five of us in the round-table groups for Alfredson and Oldman, and I know three of the others very well.
  • First we talk for 20 minutes with the film’s director Tomas Alfredson (director of the Swedish version of Let the Right One In) and it goes well. While all the prep work I did–re-reading the novel, re-watching the BBC series–may seem like overkill, it pays off. I don’t like interviews to be just a series of questions–I prefer as much as possible to have a conversation with the person, so really knowing the subject means you can follow whatever direction things go. (Though you always want to have enough questions on hand just in case.) We have a good group today–everything flows nicely from topic to topic.
  • Next up is Gary Oldman, probably one of the more venerable and famous people I’ve interviewed. But I remember what Jay Leno told me decades ago in an interview: Talk to everyday, ordinary folks like they’re famous; and talk to famous people like they’re everyday, ordinary folks. So I try to keep our talk with Oldman loose and fun for him, but still informative for us. He’s absolutely charming, laid back and quiet–very much Tinker Tailor‘s George Smiley, not Sid Vicious or Red Riding Hood‘s Cardinal Solomon. We get to laughing about the Rolling Stones (you’ll see why in the actual interview a few weeks from now), and best of all Oldman does impersonations of “old Al Pacino” and “new” (post-Scent of a Woman) Pacino.
  • Now comes the tricky part. I have to call into The Bob Miller Show on KPAM radio in Portland in 40 minutes, and 40 minutes after that I have to be at a downtown screening of Young Adult so I can interview Patton Oswalt about it later this afternoon. Which means I don’t have time to cab it back home to do the radio call in in the quiet privacy of my apartment. I have to find a relatively quiet place downtown, so I stake out an empty foyer area at the hotel. Alas, minutes before I’m supposed to call in to the radio station, a businesswoman thinking the exact same thing comes down to the foyer and begins loudly conducting her phone call. So I sneak into a nearby empty ballroom and, after explaining to a couple bus boys what I’m doing, make the radio call from there.
  • Then it’s across downtown to the Lake Street Screening room to see Young Adult. Lake Street is a private screening room where we critics usually see about half our screenings, always during daytime hours. Located on the top floor of a Loop office building, it seats about 50 people and has excellent, professional sound and picture projection. It’s also kind of like the Chicago critics’ clubhouse–everyone spreads out with their lunch on their laps, and we spend most of our time before screenings joking and teasing each other (usually about really bad films each other might have liked). Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz are usually here, seated in the right-rear corner, and Richard Roeper prefers the aisle seat in the middle of the right-hand side.
  • A word about my film-screening diet, or lack thereof: Especially during awards season, as you rush from theater to theater, it can be hard to find time to sit down and eat right. So for the next month, a horrifyingly large percentage of my meals will be eaten at theaters and consist of either hot dogs, re-heated chicken tenders, convenience-store sandwiches grabbed on the run, or the gut- (and belt-) busting gourmet macaroni and cheese from a little place next to the Lake Street Screening room. I’m not saying I don’t eat that stuff the rest of the year, but it gets worse during November and December. The diet re-starts January 1, I swear!
  • After Young Adult, it’s back home to finish up and publish the Shailene Woodley interview for The Descendants. I also have Patton Oswalt scheduled to call me in an hour or so, but I’ve made a near-disastrous mistake: I ate a pile of heavy, carby mac and cheese after the screening and that, combined with a lack of sleep and a very busy day, has me teetering dangerously on the edge of a massive food coma. Here I am minutes away from talking to a writer-comedian-actor I really, really admire, and I can barely keep my eyes open. Luckily they make a little thing called caffeinated soda.
  • I get myself waked up, and Patton Oswalt calls almost right on schedule. Alas our phoner time is limited to 10 minutes–as a sci-fi, fantasy, comic-book, and comedy fan, I could talk to the very smart Oswalt for hours about a million things. Instead we stay focused on the film, Young Adult, and his director Jason Reitman, writer Diablo Cody, and co-star Charlize Theron. It’s probably for the best–the abbreviated time keeps me from falling into what anyone who interviews stars or famous filmmakers fears: The Chris Farley Show routine. You know, where you’re like, “You remember that one thing you did… that was awesome. You’re so great… How’d you get to be so great?”

The Weekend

  • Saturday morning I head to my home state of Iowa for an early Thanksgiving with my family. Sunday afternoon I print out the weekend box-office numbers and work up the weekly box-office report for Redblog while watching my beloved still undefeated World Champion Green Bay Packers win ugly over the Bucs.
  • Sunday afternoon my 15-year-old niece comes to me with a plea: She and a friend just have to see Breaking Dawn that night–if they go to school Monday without having seen it, they will just die. Of course I saw a screening on Wednesday and can easily, happily go another year without seeing another Twilight movie. But because I am the World’s Greatest Uncle, a life-saving solution is reached: I’ll drop them off at Breaking Dawn and then go next door to see A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas again. Of course, before Breaking Dawn starts, I make a point to go over to my niece’s theater and sit next to her and her friend for a few minutes. In public. Because I firmly believe every good deed should accompanied by a dose of public humiliation and mortification.

So that was my Redblog week last week–three interviews, six theater screenings, another half dozen or so DVDs, and lots of cab rides and movie-theater hot dogs. Got any questions about anything? Fire away in the comments!

Read Part One of A Week in the Life of a Redblog Film Writer


20 Responses to “A Week in the Life of a Redblog Film Writer (aka Me) — Part Two”

  1. moviegoer123
    Posted on November 24, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    That’s sweet of you to sit by your niece when they had seen Breaking Dawn. Very sweet of you :)

    I have a few questions for you: What are your influences in your film criticism? What is your favorite and least thing about being a film critic? Will getting a job as a film critic be hard or easy in ten to twenty years from now? What do employers expect from you if you’re applying to be a film critic for their publication?

    I’m an aspiring film critic so I want to see what my chances will be to get the “best job in the world”. I love film and the essence of cinema.

  2. Trevor L
    Posted on November 24, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    No pancakes in all that?

  3. moviegoer123
    Posted on November 25, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Trevor L…with mentioning that, I hope he at least has a decent breakfast!

  4. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on November 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

    @Trevor, sadly no — I was pancake-free last week! I promise to rectify that next week ;)

  5. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on November 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    @Moviegoer Let me do my best to sort of answer some of your questions :)

    – What are your influences in your film criticism?

    Like most critics my age, I grew up on Siskel and Ebert on TV–they certainly made so many of us AWARE of what film criticism IS and can be. (Which makes watching screenings alongside Roger several times a week all the more special.)

    Reading other critics, both current and from the past, is a VERY important part of becoming a film critic. (Actually, reading anything and EVERYTHING is very important: fiction, non-fiction, film writing, novels, history books, everything. The more and more widely you read, the better writer you’ll be.)

    Of course, you have to read Pauline Kael of the New Yorker — she’s gone now, but there are several book collections of her film essays. They are the gold standard, the top of the written criticism world.

    In the ’90s one of my biggest influences was Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, and I still respect, admire and dream of writing as well (and as amusingly) as he does about film.

    The great thing about the internet is that now thanks to sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, you can read a lot more varied critics every day. Some of my favorite online critics these days include Dana Stevens of Movieline, David Edelstein of New York magazine, and my fellow Chicago critic Nathan Rabin of The Onion AV Club. I also like the Entertainment Weekly writers Lisa Schwarzbaum and Owen Glieberman — I think they do a fantastic job of writing thoughtful, informative criticism for a wider, more mainstream audience. And don’t forget our former Redblog colleague James Rocchi, who writes for MSN and others — he’s simply one of the best online critics writing these days.

    – What is your favorite and least thing about being a film critic?

    My favorite thing is writing passionately about films I really love, sharing them with readers. My least favorite thing is that so many films aren’t really good or bad–they’re just sort of in the middle, mediocre, maybe enjoyable on some level, or an entertaining distraction. In part because they are so prominent, those are the hardest ones to write about again and again. You end up saying a lot of “eh, it’s okay, you might like it if in you’re in the right mood.”

    – Will getting a job as a film critic be hard or easy in ten to twenty years from now?

    Boy, I wish I knew. The death of print newspapers has dramatically reduced the number of film criticism jobs out there. There’s also currently a movement toward “user reviews” and sometimes a sort of “anti-intellectualism” that makes people hate critics. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy now for anyone to publish their film reviews, but it’s much harder these days to make a living at it. (Plus, the internet has dramatically reduced attention spans, so that people don’t want to read more than a couple hundred words at a time.) But I’m hopeful that people will eventually realize they want and need thoughtful, knowledgeable writing about film, and we film critics will figure out some way to adapt to new mediums and new ways of interacting with and educating readers about film.

    – What do employers expect from you if you’re applying to be a film critic for their publication?

    Hmmmm, good question. I’d say they want to see that a) you can write; you can put words, sentences, and paragraphs together in a readable manner and that you have an interesting “voice”, b) you know your subject matter; you know about film, both old and new, c) you have something to say about movies; that you’re both entertaining and informative, d) that you’re not afraid to state your opinion, even if it disagrees with most people; and that you can back that opinion up. (You have to have a thick skin, because if you’re doing your job right, most reader feedback is going to be along the lines of, “you stink! you don’t know anything!” lol)

  6. moviegoer123
    Posted on November 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Thank you, Locke!

    I’m always working on my own film criticism. I write as many reviews I can. I just wrote one on Hugo :) I’ve been writing film criticism for two years as an aspiring film critic and I’m “serious” about this — I want this to be my future. You don’t know my determination to become a film journalist.

    I love writing, I love movies, I’m starting to know what I’m writing about (I’ve known that for quite awhile), I always do my research and read other film critics’ reviews. The more I read other film critics’ reviews, I’ve read from a book by Christopher Null, the more I’ll start writing like them :)

    I look up to you and Erika…you are probably two of the many film critics influence my current film criticism.

    One more question: Is there any way where you can skip out on a genre that you don’t like and don’t have to review? The only thing I would not like is reviewing horror films if this is meant to be.

  7. moviegoer123
    Posted on November 26, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    A few more questions for you Locke: When you’re a film critic, do you work on weekends and nights? Will majoring in journalism with a minor film studies with a Master’s degree in Creative Writing get me somewhere to become a film critic? What are the first steps you have to take before you get the job as film critic?

    How do you become a member of a film critic’ association? What are the qualifications you to have to become a member of a film critic’ association? What are the steps to write for a big time publication (e.g. The New York Times)?

    Again, I’m an aspiring film critic so that’s why I’m asking all these questions and you are the one to ask :) And someday, I would love to write for a big time publication and become a member of a film critic’ association — it’s my dream.

  8. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on November 27, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    @Moviegoer:

    Right now you’re doing the most important things you can for someone your age: watching a lot of different movies, reading film criticism, and most importantly writing your own! As long as you keep all that up, keep working to improve your writing, you’ll get there!

    When you read other film writers, you’ll no doubt “copy” or imitate them to some extent at first, and that’s perfectly okay — over time you’ll incorporate all those other critics’ voices you like and admire into your OWN unique voice.

    As you get older, into high school and college, you’ll want to try and write for school papers — that’s where I got my start as a film critic: writing for my college newspaper.

    Now on to a few more of your questions :)

    – Is there any way where you can skip out on a genre that you don’t like and don’t have to review? The only thing I would not like is reviewing horror films if this is meant to be.

    With the Internet, it’s a lot easier to “specialize” these days. It’s tough because I’d say that horror films are about the ONLY film genre that some people (like Erika, for instance) just cannot watch. Rom coms aren’t my favorite genre, but watching a rom com doesn’t give me nightmares or make me sick (well, most of them don’t ;) ). So I’d say for now write about the kinds of films you like–always keep trying out new genres and types of films to expand your horizons (for example, I work these days at watching more foreign films), but if you REALLY cannot stand to watch a genre of film, don’t force yourself too much. Maybe down the road a few years, when you’re older, silly horror films won’t bother you so much. But most places, like Redblog, have a couple different critics with different tastes and different genres they feel most comfortable writing about, so not liking horror films probably won’t hurt your employment chances :)

    – When you’re a film critic, do you work on weekends and nights?

    It depends on your situation and your employer. I work ALL the time, as you see from these articles, but I don’t mind because I love seeing and writing about movies. However, if you were writing reviews of theatrical films for a paper or website, chances are you could see all the film screenings during the week and would have all your reviews written by Friday morning anyway. Here in Chicago a LOT of the early screenings for big, mainstream films are only held in the evenings. Most of the screenings for smaller, art-house or limited-release films are held during the daytime. If you are not on screening lists, or not in a place that has early press screenings, then you’d probably just go see the new films whenever you can, probably on weekends. And then there are DVDs–that stack NEVER goes down. There are always dozens of new and old movies on DVD you need to watch, so that’s going on day and night. But if you love watching movies, that’s not a bad thing :)

    – Will majoring in journalism with a minor film studies with a Master’s degree in Creative Writing get me somewhere to become a film critic?

    Sure, that’s a great path to take education-wise. I studied journalism in college with minors in Film Studies and English–but by the time I graduated, those were flipped around: I ended up with a double major in Film and English and a minor in journalism. And of course any kind of writing courses will help–there are lots of essay or non-fiction writing classes you can take. A film minor or major never hurts–it helps to know both the history of film and the ways in which filmmakers have traditionally created meaning on film. And if you take journalism courses, not only will you learn how to write for mass mediums, but you’ll also meet fellow students and professors who are involved with the school paper or websites or broadcasting and can get you into writing for those outlets.

    – What are the first steps you have to take before you get the job as film critic?

    See lots of movies, write lots of reviews, and work with someone–a friend, a teacher, a mentor–to keep honing and polishing your writing to keep on making it better and tighter. From there, you’ll just have to probably “knock on doors”–that is, send samples of your writing to arts and entertainment editors at local newspapers. Or start up your own film review blog–that way you can say to someone, here’s a site where you can see my writing (and it shows them you work hard and steadily).

    – How do you become a member of a film critic’ association? What are the qualifications you to have to become a member of a film critic’ association?

    To join a film critics association, you have to apply–you go to their website and fill out a form. Most critics associations, like the ones I belong to, the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society, want to see a couple things: That you write for a real publication, whether it’s online or in print; that you are paid for that work; and that you write a certain number of reviews a year (usually about 25-50). Then on top of that, of course they want to see your work to see if you’re any good :)

    – What are the steps to write for a big time publication (e.g. The New York Times)?

    Like any job in any field, its just a process of working your way up the ladder. High school paper –> college paper –> local newspaper or maybe your own online review site –> larger papers or magazines or website, and then on up the ladder to bigger places. It can take a while, maybe even decades :)

  9. Lise
    Posted on November 27, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Locke, as always, you continue to impress me. Most people would just blow off someone like moviegoer asking mentor-type questions, telling them to ‘look online’ or ‘ask your counselor’, etc. I think it’s very classy that you not only answered, but clearly took the time to formulate well-thought-out answers that are actually helpful. While I am not interested in a career as a film critic, I did find the information intriguing. Keep up the good work!

  10. moviegoer123
    Posted on November 27, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Oh, Locke…I can’t thank you enough. Right now, I write for a neighborhood newsletter, a few times in the year and my writing is getting improved each time I write one. I’m working my way up.

    Don’t be surprised if I ask you more questions later on in the week.

  11. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on November 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    You are very welcome, Moviegoer, and thank you, Lise :)

  12. Moviegoer123
    Posted on November 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Oh, wait Locke…I got plenty more questions for you!

    What is the average pay as film critic for a small and big publication? How many films do you see in a day on average? How many interviews do you do in a day on average? Are there any breaks (eg. with family) as a film critic? How long should my reviews be for right now? (My reviews are right now 500+ words with 8-12 paragraphs) Are deadlines tight when you’re a film critic? Is there a difference when you’re a contributing film critic and chief film critic of a publication?

    Is writing for a neighborhood newsletter a few times in a year a good start? Should I be writing a review for every film I see? Is it good that I write about box office and awards buzz every once in awhile?

    And thank you again Locke and don’t be surprised if I ask you more questions — you have the experience and I trust you!

  13. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on November 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    @Moviegoer — Okay, here are more (sorta) answers!

    – What is the average pay as film critic for a small and big publication?

    As in any field, it varies according to the size and readership of the publication. With so many new film-review blogs out there these days, many of them do not pay their critics anything, or they pay something like $10-25 a review. Those are the kinds of places that are great for getting a start, building up a collection of clips, and getting into critics associations, but writing for them has to be more of a hobby you do in your spare time after your regular day job–you probably aren’t going to make a living at them. After that the scale spreads out pretty wide, anywhere from $50 a review to $500 or more. There was a time, a decade ago, when online editorial sites were briefly paying a LOT more for content than print sites, but alas that bubble burst quickly. Nowadays you’re likely to make more writing for an established print newspaper or magazine, but of course those jobs are also rarer and harder to get. (With a lot more competition for every spot.) (There’s also a very disturbing trend lately toward using unpaid “freelance” writers on entertainment websites, but I think that fad will wear off — i HOPE) In general, I’d say if you’re writing for an online film site, you might get between $20-50 a review. If you’re writing for a regional newspaper, maybe a hundred or so dollars. Of course a national magazine would pay a LOT more than that. So no, don’t go in to film criticism hoping to get rich :) (Or even make a decent living, at least not at first.)

    – How many films do you see in a day on average?

    Usually at least two. Weeks like right now, during awards season voting and a large number of holiday and DVD releases, that can jump up to three, four, even five a day. About the most I’ve done is six, usually during film festivals. But I’d say it averages out to 1-2 per day. That includes theatrical releases, smaller limited-release art house movies, and of course DVDs.

    – How many interviews do you do in a day on average?

    Because Chicago is not a top-tier market for press tours, I’d say it averages out to a couple every few weeks. Maybe as many as one a week on average, but probably a little less. Some weeks, during festivals or awards seasons — like the one I wrote about — can have three or four interviews a week, but that’s very rare. Now if you were living in NY or LA and writing full time for an entertainment/film publication or site, you might do several or more every single week.

    – Are there any breaks (eg. with family) as a film critic?

    Of course — it’s not ALL work 24-7 :) The nice thing about doing this job is you don’t work 9-5 every day–screenings and stuff are always spread out, not always the same time every week or every day. The downside of that is you have to be flexible with your time (and willing to give up a lot of your early evenings). But as with any job, you make time for your friends and family and your other interests (like watching Packers football! ;) ) around your work obligations. But yes, it’s very possible to be a film critic and still have a family and spend time with them :)

    – How long should my reviews be for right now? (My reviews are right now 500+ words with 8-12 paragraphs)

    Very good and important question! That issue is always changing. There was a time when the average film review length for a newspaper was probably about 700 words, which is still a good round number to keep in mind. However, the Internet has brought two competing trends: On the one hand, people writing reviews for film websites are not restricted by the page layout of a traditional print newspaper or magazine, so they can write 1000, 1500, 2000 or more words about a film. Back when I started at Redblog three years ago my reviews were often 1500-2000 words, with some as long as 2500. Nowadays I aim for about 600 words, and lately I’ve been experimenting with getting that down to 400-500. There is a push these days with web writing to keep things shorter and shorter, as most readers don’t hang around on a web page to read more than a couple hundred words. However, most critics associations ask that to be considered for membership, you have to write a certain number of “full” reviews, which they mark as being 400 words or more.

    – Are deadlines tight when you’re a film critic?

    They can be — if you write for a newspaper, most of your reviews are going to run on Fridays. Same is true of most websites as well. However, sometimes when studios don’t really WANT critics to make that Friday deadline, they’ll schedule screenings of less-than-Oscar-worthy films on a Thursday evening, sometimes as late as 9 or 10 pm. That’s fine if you’re just going on the radio the next day to talk about a film, but for newspaper writers it means they have to dash out of the screening afterwards and crank out a review of the film by 11 pm or midnight that night. But in most cases you see the films several days ahead of time (sometimes weeks ahead of time for smaller films) and have a couple days to write your review for publication on the film’s release date.

    Speaking of screenings and deadlines, I have to dash off right now to go see TINTIN — so I’ll try to get to your last couple questions later tonight!

  14. Moviegoer123
    Posted on November 29, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you again, Locke. Here’s the last batch of questions:

    What are the steps to take to be able to get screeners, to a screening, and interview stars? Do you have meetings in a film critic association? Is there any way where you can quit\retire from a film critic job? Can you work part-time as a film critic? Should I expect to become a film critic after earning a bachelor’s degree or after a master’s degree? How many weeks in advance do you see a film before its release?

    Thank you so much again!

  15. Moviegoer123
    Posted on November 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    In the previous questions, when I said “you”, I mean “me”.

    I’ll reword a couple questions: Is there any way I can quit\retire from being a film critic after several years? Can I work part-time as a film critic?

  16. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on December 1, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Some more quick answers for you, Movigoer:

    – Is there a difference when you’re a contributing film critic and chief film critic of a publication?

    I’ve never really worked in that sort of situation, but my guess is that a “chief film critic” might help assign reviews out to other critics and maybe even do some editing. Or it might just mean that the “chief film critic” gets first pick of what he or she wants to review :)

    – Is writing for a neighborhood newsletter a few times in a year a good start?

    Absolutely! Any writing for anyone anywhere however often you can is a great start! Get your work out there, let people see it, and then keep working to make it even better!

    – Should I be writing a review for every film I see?

    You don’t have to, but sometimes it’s not a bad idea to force yourself to write a review of a film you may not really feel like writing about or don’t think you have anything to say about. Most likely when you get a full critic job you’re either going to have to review most of the major releases, or you’ll be assigned films to review that you may not normally see or think about writing about. It can be like “working out,” building up your criticism muscles!

    – Is it good that I write about box office and awards buzz every once in awhile?

    Sure! The fact is that if you want to work full time and make a living as a critic or film writer, you’ll probably have to do more than just review movies and DVDs. Writing about movie news, box office and the awards races makes you a more well-rounded, knowledgeable entertainment writer and makes it easier to get hired and get more work.

    –Is there any way I can quit\retire from being a film critic after several years?

    Of course — no one’s going to keep you locked away in a movie theater :) You can try it and if you don’t like it, go do something else!

    – Can I work part-time as a film critic?

    Absolutely. In fact the large majority of critics I know do it as a part-time thing. Like I said earlier, it can be hard to make a full living off just film reviewing, so yes, chances are you’ll have to have other work things going on. The only trick is that while many mainstream popular screenings are in evenings, most of the smaller ones are during the day, so if you have a day job, you may have to miss most of those. But you can work around anything–see movies when you can, write when you can.

    –What are the steps to take to be able to get screeners, to a screening, and interview stars?

    Most of that stuff is handled through a public-relations agency. Different studios use different agencies in different cities, but for example here in Chicago we work with Allied. We sent them information about Redblog a few years ago, including how many visitors and hits we get each month and if your site is big enough (or if you’re already in a critics association) they will try to get you on the screening lists and will try to get you into interviews with filmmakers and actors when they come to town. Not every critic gets invited to every screening or interview. Awards-season screener are sent out directly by the studios themselves around this time of year and those are sent mainly to critics who are listed as members of a Critics Association.

    –Do you have meetings in a film critic association?

    Not really, no. The leadership of the association (the president, vice presidents, secretary, etc) sometimes meet to plan things or meet with the PR agency to discuss overall screenings etc. However, we do try every now and then to get together for fun after an evening screening downtown, to be social. :) And this January, for the first time in years, the Chicago Film Critics Association is going to gather for a special awards show event to give out our picks for the year’s best films and filmmakers.

    – Should I expect to become a film critic after earning a bachelor’s degree or after a master’s degree?

    Bachelor’s degree is fine. And you may not even need that (though I encourage most everyone to try some higher education). But yes a Bachelor’s Degree in the arts, in film or writing or journalism never hurts. You don’t really need a Masters, unless you want one!

    – How many weeks in advance do you see a film before its release?

    Usually it’s just a few days, especially for big new releases. They come out on Fridays and we might see them Mon, Tues or Wed evening (sometimes even Thursday, as I said before). Those are usually public screenings, so the studio wants people to see and talk about the film the week it comes out. If you’re interviewing someone for a film then you might see it weeks or a month before its release, so you can see it before they come to town, and then you have a week or so to print the interview before the release. And like I said, for smaller independent or art-house films, they are often shown weeks ahead of time. The big exception is when you see films at a film festival, like the Chicago International Film Festival held in October. This past October I saw a lot of films that didn’t come out for months — and a few that won’t be out until spring.

  17. Moviegoer123
    Posted on December 1, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Thanks again!

    A few more: As a film critic, do you attend the big time film festivals such as Cannes Film Festival? Would employers want samples of my writing? How does an employer decide if they want to hire you or not? Is it possible to write for several publications at one time such as being contributing writer for so and so and then, being a main film critic for one publication?

    I really thank you…now I really know what to expect. Locke, don’t be surprised if I ask you more because I’m always thinking of more questions to ask :)

  18. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on December 3, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    – As a film critic, do you attend the big time film festivals such as Cannes Film Festival?

    Sadly I personally don’t get to. Unless you work for a really big site or publication, they probably aren’t going to pay for you to fly out and stay at a festival. (I attend the Chicago International Film Festival because it’s right here in my backyard.) When you’re starting out or working for a smaller site, you’re probably going to have to pay to attend festivals and things like Comic-Con on your own, and then hope you can line up enough work from them to pay for your time and expenses. However, if you can work it out, you can sometimes get a site to hire you for the whole festival and if you’re lucky, pay for at least some of your travel and lodging. So unfortunately I have never been to Cannes, Comic Con, South by Southwest, Sundance or the Toronto film fest :( But I’d love to hit them all!

    – Would employers want samples of my writing? How does an employer decide if they want to hire you or not?

    Absolutely. When applying for a writing job, your resume hardly matters–they want to see that you can WRITE. So yes, you want to always have handy a sample of about 3-5 of your best pieces, preferably showing different kinds and styles of writing. (For example, you might have some reviews, some news pieces, some interviews, etc. Or if you’re just doing reviews, you might try to include some positive ones, some negative ones, some for different genres of films, some serious ones, some humorous ones, etc.)

    – Is it possible to write for several publications at one time such as being contributing writer for so and so and then, being a main film critic for one publication?

    Yes it is. As I’ve said before, as a film critic/writer it’s very rare these days to find one place that will pay you a full salary. So it’s not unheard of at all in the new Internet age for a critic to be writing reviews for several sites at once. (Or maybe theatrical reviews for one site, DVD reviews for another, film essays for another, and interviews for yet another.) However, if you can find one site or publication that will use you as their main critic, pay you well enough for it that you don’t need extra work, and lets you write all of the kinds of reviews you want to, that’s great and much easier.

  19. Moviegoer123
    Posted on December 9, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Thanks again!

    A few more: Can I write about a topic that I don’t specialize in while still writing about a subject that I specialize in at the same time? Do you start as contributing critic\writer first before you become a full time writer for a publication?

    Can you write about other topics besides movies for a publication? Can I get internship for a publication? When should I get an internship? Can I give writing samples that contribute to other sections of a publication too? Can I be a contributing writer for one section of a publication while being a chief writer for another section? Does the writing samples go with your resume?

  20. Moviegoer123
    Posted on December 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Another question for ya: Can I give older writing samples to a publication? Should I give older and recent writing samples to a publisher?