What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a film critic?
I never intended to write about movies. I started out as a theater critic. My mother had taken me to musical theater as a child and, of course, I had also seen movies. I began writing about theater because there was an important play coming through town and no one of the staff of the small daily newspaper I worked at part-time, including the current entertainment editor, wanted to touch this Tony award-winning play because of the content. I paid for my own tickets and wrote about it. As a theater critic, I feel I paid my dues. There was a time when I went to as many plays as I could–going to see small plays in small venues every weekend. Only the price of gasoline and my new found interests in movies and dance have taken time away from that.
I began a blog because as a copy editor at a weekly newspaper, I was forced to read the reviews of the then-film critic and couldn’t believe the nonsense in the reviews. Besides factual inaccuracies about the movie, there were historical mistakes. Out of pure outrage, I began a blog specifically to write something about a particular movie. Anger can be a good thing if you keep your cool and don’t rant. From there I joined an online magazine–it didn’t pay anything but I got practice writing.
You want to be a critic? Everyone can be a critic now so write. Stop talking about writing and plunge in and write. Start a blog and write about each film that you’ve seen. Just like I hear many people talk about wanting to learn a dance like the Argentine tango, too often they are all talk. There is nothing really stopping them from taking an Argentine tango class, at least not in Los Angeles. Likewise, in today’s Internet age, there’s nothing to prevent someone from writing and getting people to read your commentary. Don’t do write for fame or money. Write because you have something to say and you love movies.
Read. You aren’t an island. You don’t exist in a vacuum. Read what other people write. Find an established film critic whose writing interests you and read that person’s reviews regularly. You don’t necessarily want to find someone with whom you always agree with.
Don’t be mean or unnecessarily snarky. While I did at one point admire the queen of mean, Dorothy Parker, I rethought that when I considered her life and wondered if it would be wise to model mine after hers. Likewise, many of the critics I knew at one point were single, bitter or argumentative and lived unhealthy lifestyles.
So lastly, I would advise: Get out of your house, get out of the dark of the theater, and experience life. Don’t use movies, video games or theater to live life vicariously. Movies should not be a substitute for participating in the world around you.
You never know where life will take you or the opportunities that might open up, so write every week but also don’t forget to be an actor on the stage of life every day.