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Being a Movie Critic - A Dream Job?


Being a movie critic sounds like a really cushy job. Being paid to watch film for a living is generally how most people sum up the job title. While there's some truth to this statement and it's probably something most would love to do, it's much more complicated than you'd expect. The Coke and popcorn may come free at more regular intervals than the average person but it's not quite the dream job many mistakenly envisage. Plus, watching a movie is only the beginning... the real work only starts when the credits roll.

In a recent #ConfessionsofaMovieCritic tweet, it was revealed that it's actually quite difficult to get round to watching or rewatching films. Much like the curse of the mailman, the mail keeps coming in and needs to go out. In a similar way this is the same with film, trying to keep your audience in the loop when it comes to recent film releases means aiming for the latest films or those that have captured the public's imagination.

You want your reviews to be relevant, fresh and useful. While you could probably do this with older films in offering a retrospective or tying them in with a remake or current trend, it's another layer of work and more difficult to sell as an article pitch. Simply hitching onto the latest and freshest releases means that there's usually a natural buzz, people are seeing the title doing the rounds or are enticed to know how the film is being received.

watching movies for a living

The Internet as beautiful a thing but being the great equalizer, it means that you're essentially competing with the world when it comes to breaking news stories. Couple this with the speed of Twitter and you've got a near-impossible task to keep news fresh by the time it actually "hits the shelves". The same goes for film, since in many cases, delayed release dates mean the film already has a hundred or so reviews out there.

Thankfully, it's changing with the sheer volume, the advent of a global drop thanks to prolific streaming platforms and localised news channels. In spite of audiences now having access to a film history depending on streaming availability, it's always been about what's new, fresh... the toast of the day. It's a blessing and a curse, creating an inherent and alluring interest factor whilst being brushed under the carpet in a fraction of the time it took to conceive, write, shoot and unleash the film.

This is why it's so tricky as a film critic to actually watch the movies you want to watch! You may literally have 400 DVDs that are waiting in the wings, the kind of movies that are on your bucket list, but if you don't have the platform or commission to do retrospective reviews, you may never get the chance to see them all!

This is obviously a champagne problem but just serves to underscore the strange complexity of watching movies in a professional capacity, yet rarely getting the opportunity to watch what you've been dying to watch for ages. Sure, you get to watch stuff before others and get opportunities to do some interesting movie-related things in exchange for coverage but unless you're in charge of your viewing line-up, there's a good chance you'll have to sit through some awful movies to take one for the team.

Having to review three films a week is not a big ask if this is a pure focus, but coupled with a number of other pursuits makes this a much trickier endeavour. As much as someone may be willing to pay you to cover films for their channel or publication, it's rare to find a situation where you can rely on that single source of income. So, the fact of the matter is that watching movies for a living usually entails doing a few other things for a living concurrently. These days, in the aftermath of print, where your distribution levels lured enough advertisers to justify full-time film journalists, it's about sowing seeds, paying your dues, being a jack of all trades... [insert your platitude here].

Watching the films you want to watch over the weekend is a tip but since press screenings are generally done after 5pm and much of your viewing time is done over the weekend to keep your week nimble, it's much easier said than done. You may think film critics are just vegetating in a dark cinema with an endless supply of popcorn and Coke during office hours. This is just pure fantasy. While it may happen at a festival or movie marathon every now and then, it's a rarity.