Journalism degrees offer students to branch out in a whole spectrum of different jobs as journalists. I think that in my case the most suitable position would be one of a movie reviewer/film critic. For a long time I have been thinking about going for such a job because I am an avid fan of cinema in all of its aspects. Therefore, analyzing film has become a hobby of mine and in many ways a passion. This is namely why I wish to turn it into my profession.
Dream jobs are objectively hard to pin down due to the amount of variables within each position. That being said what I think that an office job in a magazine would be what I am looking for. Due to the creative nature of what film-reviewers do I understand that this does of course include lots of trips to local theatres, film festivals throughout the world and many, many junkets. This is partially why I would love to do this later on in my career.
Within the bounds of the office I think I would be best at doing features. However, I wish to expand on the usual is-this-film-any-good review and focus on deeper aspects of why something is liked, for example. Or maybe dive into why a film ended up a mess. That being said, I do not believe that this form of feature writing would appeal to casual film goers. This is why I will try to focus my work placements and ideal workplace in an environment where my main readership consist of film buffs. In that way I will be able to do as much in-depth analysis as my word count binds me to.
I also love dabbling with graphics design (and will be looking to get ACA certified before the end of Year 1). In that way I will be able to do my own layouts or headlines within the magazine. These skills are something that will surely make me more desirable, since in that way I can cover more aspects of feature production that the average writer.
Writing for an entertainment magazine does bind me to writing for a specific audience. This hinders my ambitions to be a generalist and cover a wide arrange of topics. However, I believe that if I go out of my way to be involved in other types of journalism I will have a wider understanding of key topics. This will be key for having thorough reviews as every film is about a different thing and requires expertise to review in depth. Therefore, I think that while professionally I might not be able to directly write about anything but film, I will be able to write about all sorts of different topics through film analysis.
As far as Matt Thompson’s four types of journalists go, I will try to be a healthy mix of a storyteller and a provocateur. Storytelling will be key for feature writing, especially when I will usually be tasked with retelling an intricate story in a comprehensive manner. In combination with being confident enough to counter the common opinion in a provoking way, this sounds most successful.
Talking more specifically about where I would like to work there are two magazines that come to mind – Variety and Empire. For a long time I have been reading online and print versions of both and I admire most of what they put out. Variety is a great magazine because of its already established brand. It mainly produces entertainment news not just about film, but the whole industry that surrounds it. This gives them a much wider spectrum of topics to cover, rather than just film reviews. Empire on the other hand focuses more on what happens within the films themselves. They review in a comprehensive manner and always do exclusive interviews, photo-shoots etc. Empire is also well established but its readership tends to be a bit more casual than Variety’s.
On a side note, I would love to try and establish an entertainment magazine back in Bulgaria. There is currently not a single entertainment magazine focused on arts and cinema. Sadly though I have come to know that there is simply not an established movie-going culture there. People are less and less interested in quality cinema. Therefore, it might not be the most suitable place to start up an enterprise of that specific kind.
One of my favourite reviewers is Owen Gleiberman. He works for Variety as a chief film critic and I would love to be in his line of work one day. He mainly does straight reviews of film, but he also covers celebrity stories occasionally. But what I most like him for is comment pieces on films and their effect. He very often does features on movies in a highlighting way. After the initial review, he sees more potential in a film, rather than just the review. I will use his article about a recent musical, “La La Land” as an example.
In in he gives us his thoughts on the film after the second viewing, something not many reviewers do. This alone promises more depth and insight into what the film is. He highlights the aspects of what a musical is, where it is coming from and how it has surpassed the classics seamlessly. This all in a very dynamic and revealing way. What excites me about reading this article is his vast amount of background knowledge of classic musicals. He pulls from previous experiences and compares them to the current one. His use of punctuation and style is also effective in the way it assists the reader and keeps the pace going. Gleiberman’s comment is loud and bold, his statement clear.
Similar articles can be done for any type of film and not many media outlets actually do them. When a bad movie comes out and makes a lot of money very few actually write about why that is so. Or when a critical hit fails at the box office and nobody knows why. This sort of writing can incentivize a lot of research and in turn, quality features.
In order to become a film reviewer I will surely need to gain a significant amount of skill in these two areas:
- The first one that comes to anybody’s mind should be a massive library of films. This is key for any reviewer in any field. All sorts of different films, good ones, bad ones, mediocre ones and most importantly critically acclaimed ones. As my database of films grows, I will have more experience to pull from and make references to.
- As previously mentioned an ability to tell a story is vital. Since most features are longer I will need to write in a dynamic way that keeps to a certain narrative. Accompanied with references to keep the pace going. This skill can be honed by practice in writing and reading lots and lots of different features, not just from Arts and Entertainment, but from all sorts of media outlets.
It is important to follow numerous blogs and twitter accounts. Following famous film critics and producers is always good. That way you can always take part in all the discussions and get yourself noticed. Here is a list of 20 bloggers and twitter accounts I follow in order to keep up with all the latest topics (also I included three notable film-analysts on YouTube, who produce quality content that is both accessible and insightful): RogerEbert.com, Collider.com, Max Landis, Ben Affleck, Lessons from the Screenplay, Every Frame a Painting, Nerdwriter1, Owen Gleiberman, Robbie Collin, Peter Bradshaw, Peter Debruge, Olly Richards, James Franco, Edgar Wright, Jon Ronson, RottenTomatoes.com, MetaCritic.com
As far as my option choices in university go, I think I will focus on modules set around Lifestyle and Entertainment journalism. For the second semester of my first year I have already picked Consumer and Lifestyle Journalism as an optional module. Out of all my options it was the closest one to what my end goal is.
As for my second year I will chose Multimedia Storytelling and Production with a focus on Online, rather than Broadcast. In that way I can better improve my writing. For my second option in Year 2 I will go for a Specialist Journalism 1 module. Out of all four choices I have within this module the most suitable one is definitely Literary and Long form Journalism. It will again be useful for my storytelling skills which will all be beneficial for the quality of my reviews and analyses.
Going into Year 3 I think an 8000 word Dissertation is what I will go for. My additional module being Arts and Entertainment Journalism. This is the one I am most looking forward to studying as it is spot on what I want to do immediately after graduating.
Finally, when thinking about potential work placements I have found out three places I where I will be happy to apply:
- The Youth Media Agency is a great place to apply since it works only with young people. They basically work with young people and help them get a job within the media industry, which is why I think they will be a good place to start.
- Another place I can apply is BBC’s Work Experience programme. It is not a job but is a way for you to get a feel for what actual media environment is like. Additionally, it helps out when you are trying to apply for an actual job or internship at a later date.
- What The Guardian offers as work experience is equally valuable. They offer to give work experience in their editorial departments several days.