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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Can you still make money from film critiquing?

Time was, when people wanted to know if a film was good, they’d look to the experts.

But nowadays, everyone and their aunt can watch a film, type out a review, and lay claim to the title of ‘film critic’. Furthermore, some moviegoers even argue that the word of the professionals means nothing. Using Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as an example; following a horde of negative reviews, claims came out that the film ‘wasn’t made for the critics’ and that the critics were following ‘an agenda’.

I’ve always been interested in this as a possible career path; but in a world where everyone has the tools at their disposal to write their own reviews and disavow anything career critics say, is that even possible anymore?

So when we started our ‘Research and Development’ module in class, and were told that we had to research a section of the industry, I instantly knew what I’d look into.

At first, I questioned how one would become a major film critic, but it was eventually whittled down to ‘Is film critiquing a viable means of making money?’

After agreeing that that was a feasible topic to research, my lecturer quickly interjected that the answer was ‘no’, unknowingly crushing my future prospects. My hopes and dreams were further beaten to a bloody pulp after a meeting with my supervisor, who told me to stay away from a portfolio of film reviews for my MA project. And a career in it.

I’m sure it’s not just me whose been told all of this. But I was determined to set the record straight. Obviously it must be possible to get paid for reviewing films, otherwise, who would write publications like Empire and Total Film?

The boundaries for our research were clear; the lecturers wanted us to talk to people in the industry and find work experience.

So, I started e-mailing around. If I could think of a blog, publication or prominent YouTubers who may be able to help me out or offer me experience, I messaged them.

Meanwhile, I began scouring indeed to see what sort of jobs were on the market. The first related results I came across were these:

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I applied to VultureHound and No Salt Popcorn, mostly out of curiosity.

I heard nothing from the latter. Likewise, I heard nothing from most of the other people I tried to contact.

But what I did get was a job offer from the former. As you can see from the advert, it was unpaid, but I took it anyway, painfully aware of the fact my lecturer and supervisor were still in the right, and that I was perhaps destined to work at Subway until the end of time.

Fortunately, as anyone who reads my blog on the regular will know, that was not to be the case.

Unfortunately, I still had to get by that whole ‘not getting paid’ thing. I searched on.

Still regarding Empire as the pinnacle of British film publications, I applied for a work experience placement. Empire don’t accept these placements directly, and so I was forced to do it through a company called GoThinkBig.
GoThinkBig were nice enough to let me know just the other day that I didn’t have a place on the program. Y’know, almost two months after I applied and after several of the allotted times for the placements had been and gone. Gee, thanks for that. I obviously wouldn’t have figured that out myself…

That was sarcasm.

I did figure it out by myself.

It was starting to seem like getting to a point where you could be paid to review films was an impossibility for anyone not already inside the review world. In fact, this was compounded by a little anecdote I heard when I attended a guest lecture by Mark Fisher, who revealed that he happened upon his career in journalism while he was renting a room from the former publisher of The List. With his job as a box-office assistant about to come to an end, Mark was offered a a job at that same aforementioned magazine as a production assistant, and soon began taking on editorial work.

He’s now a theatre critic who writes for The Guardian, Scotland on Sunday, The Sunday Times, The Herald and The Scotsman. He also gets the award for ‘fastest reply in regards to this assignment’, after I e-mailed him to confirm the details of that story. Ten minutes. Winner.

So y’know, he’s kind of a big deal.

Fortunately, the rest of the lecture was amusing and informative; perhaps one of the most interesting and enjoyable that I’ve been to in my time here in Falmouth.

Unfortunately (yes, I’m doing the whole ‘fortunately, unfortunately’ thing twice in the space of 300 words. What of it? It’s my blog. I’ll do what I want) it, unintentionally, suggested that if you really want to be paid to write reviews, you had to have connections and a lot’a luck.

Downer.

And that’s when I realised for the first time, despite having been collecting Empire for more than half a year, that they actually have their phone numbers on the intro page. No more faffing about in the hopes that someone would respond.

In other words: stalker time.

So I called the reviews editor at Empire, Nick de Semlyan. Initially, he sounded skeptical hearing an unknown voice on the other end of the phone, but he’s a stand-up guy, so he agreed to help me out.

His words provided some much needed positivity, as he explained how enjoyable it is to be a film critic; to get paid to do something that you love. In regards to becoming a prominent film critic, he stressed that practice was what it took. That one would need to be constantly reading (/watching) and writing to perfect their craft.

True words, and ones that reminded me of a speech we had been given by our lecturers at the start of the course. Words that they gave to all of us, whether we wanted to write novels, non-fiction, copy or script. We needed to keep reading (/watching) and keep writing.

He recounted his own journey; revealing his origins as a writer for Sheffield’s university paper, before eventually moving on to bigger publications like Rolling StoneFHMStuff and Time Out.

So Nick essentially confirmed for me that it was possible to get paid to review films, but
that it took a lot of practice and preparation.

However it was clear Nick was quite like Mark; he was already embedded in the system. But how would one get to their level?

It was following these encounters that I managed to get hold of a freelance critic by the name of Chris Edwards. Being a freelancer, Chris was able to look at this from a different point of view.

Chris explained being a film critic, for him, is fulfilling and claimed that being treated like the rest of the press was an odd privilege. But it wasn’t always that way, as Chris spent three years writing for a blog site for free. He described that part of the process as frustrating, saying he doesn’t think editors should use a writers words purely for exposure, as it’s a skill that deserves payment. He then went on to give the most decisive answer I’ve had. He said that he didn’t think it could be viewed as a viable means of making money. But when he said that, he wasn’t talking about film critics as a whole; so much as people just starting out, a.k.a. me; the guy whose blog you’re reading.

He went on to reveal that he’d built his entire career around Twitter; promoting himself and his work; and from a combination of experience and his social media profile, he was able to get to the stage where job offers come ‘thick and fast’.

So surely that’s the key then? Mark, Nick and Chris stressed how important a wealth of experience and practice is, and how social media is perhaps the most useful tool of a critic in this day and age.

Except, I guess… their words.

But it seems it takes time for those words to make an impact. As I stated at the start of this post, anyone can write a review if they feel like it. And a lot of them don’t ask for pay. I spoke to my own editor at VultureHound, Michael Dickinson, who confirmed that VultureHound doesn’t need to advertise paid positions because they know they can hire writers who are simply looking for exposure; a chance to make a name for themselves and write about things that they love.

Taking the other writers I’ve spoken to’s words into consideration; this is a necessary step. VultureHound itself is still growing; and so perhaps looking for big-time, well-paid writers might be slightly unrealistic. But by allowing people to write for free, as long as they can write to a good standard, it helps elevate VultureHound‘s status and give aspiring writers a much needed platform for their work before they get the chance to seek employment at bigger name publications.

The importance of this was further highlighted when a friend from my previous degree forwarded a job advertisement on Twitter to me the other day. The site, Polygon, asks for writers to submit previous examples of their writing, but highlights these pieces must not be from one’s own personal blog. Hence the need for magazines like VultureHound.

So at the end of the day you, obviously, can get paid to watch and review films. But firstly, it may well take a while. And secondly when you see these jobs advertised, you might notice that they’re not just looking for ‘film critics’, they’re generally looking for ‘film journalists’ or ‘writers’ or ‘article contributors’ as well (/instead).

Still, it’s good to know that I’m on the right track.

Also, I feel like the longer this post gets, the more frequently I say VultureHound.

So, speaking of VultureHound, keep an eye out this Saturday for my next feature and a review of The Tunnel: season two at some point next week [read: whenever I actually write it].

Thanks for reading, and good luck to any prospective film critics out there! We can do this!

And yes, the first film I chose to review for something other than my own blog was 50 Shades of Grey. Please don’t judge me.

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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Film & TV, Life

 

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Subway Stories: That Time I Got Blamed For Famine

No, you didn’t read that title wrong.

So, in Subway, you can get three different sizes of sandwich; the foot-long (over which there was some controversy in America, when customers began to question whether they were actually getting a foot-long sandwich); the six inch (which after ordering, one guy once walked out of the shop after ordering and finding my co-worker had cut it at 5.8 inches); and the kids pack, which is four inches long.

I don’t know if adults are technically allowed the kids pack, but what the heck, I don’t work there anymore. It’s behind me now.

Anyway, this one time, a guy comes in; it’s late, he’s pretty drunk, and asks for the smallest thing on the menu. I try to be nice; I suggest the kids pack; it’s like a quid cheaper than everything else on the menu. He’s all for it.

So I get the bread out; cut two inches off a six inch. And since no one get’s two inches of sandwich, I put it with the other wasted bread.

He instantly catches on to this.

“What’re you going to do with that piece of bread?” he asks me. And I tell him. I’m tired, I just want to go home.

“You’re throwing it away?!” he asks. I already hate him by this stage. But I don’t show it.

He goes on to remind me there are people starving in Africa. A whole continent of starving children. And here I am, throwing away two inches of bread. He looks at me as if asking how I sleep at night.

And then he just goes ahead and says it. That those same children are starving because I’m throwing away food.

He then asked me how I felt about the whole situation. How I felt that I was causing people to starve.

HOLD UP. Not that this is entirely relevant; but you’re a white Irish guy. I’m a second generation African. I FEEL LIKE I HAVE MORE BLOODY STAKE IN THIS THAN YOU DO. Prick.

And I’m making you food. I could just tell you to fuck off. Don’t act like you’re better than me. Drunk, alone and heckling someone who’s making you some much needed food.

So I turned it around on him. I asked how he felt ordering such a small sandwich to force me to cut some bread off and waste it, thereby starving those same children.

He didn’t like that. He tried to glare at me. But he was too drunk to maintain eye-contact.

He tried another retort. I’d stopped listening by this point, so I told him whatever he said was ‘Great’ and asked if he would like any salad in his sandwich.

He shut up after that. The silence was bliss.

Now, on one hand, I understand that it is a waste. But then, if we were to cut some of the bread into thirds, and no one ordered kids packs, that in itself would be more of a waste. Kids don’t want smaller bits of food. They want what adults are getting.

And more importantly, as I’ve already mentioned. If you’re asking someone to do something for you, maybe DON’T FUCKING TRY AND INSULT THEM IF YOU WANT THE JOB TO GET FINISHED. I don’t care if you need to sober up. Try dealing with your drinking problems without being an arsehole, yeah?

You just can’t win.

So that was the time I got accused of famine in Africa. I don’t miss Subway.


 

Anywho; completely unrelated; this week I’m working on a project researching if it’s possible to make money off film reviewing. Because watching films and getting paid for it sounds quite lovely, am I right?

That’ll be up in a few days. So film buffs, keep an eye out. It’ll feature input from a couple of magazine film editors, provided they actually allow me to cite them.

I don’t know how confident I feel about this. I won’t lie to you.

There will also be less anger and swearing. Probably.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Life

 

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Subway Stories

I’m not sure what time I fell asleep last night, but I think it was around seven pm.

And now I’m awake, and I have to tell you, I don’t think I’ve felt this refreshed in about nine months. Which, coincidentally, is how long I’ve worked in Subway. Which, also coincidentally, I finished working at at 3.30 am on Tuesday morning.

Any time I’ve logged onto this computer, I’ve been confronted by the fact that this blog has slowly been falling by the wayside. And of course, it would be stupid to blame all my problems on Subway. But in a few days, depending on how I feel, I may well put the majority of my weariness, lack of confidence, and general aggression at life down to Subway.

But that’s not really Subway, the job. It’s just making sandwiches, cleaning a shop, handling money and prepping food. It’s easy. It’s an easy job. It’s easy money.

No, the problem with Subway, specifically the one I worked at, is the customers.

Let me lay down the basics for you. The shop opens at 7am, and closes at 3am Sunday (Subway’s so ingrained into me that I can’t write ‘Sunday’ without automatically typing ‘Subway’ first. Little info-bite for you there)through Thursday. Friday and Saturdays, it’s 3.30 am. Fun fun fun.

And in Falmouth, the street Subway is located on, Church Street, has this rule. After 11pm, we can’t do hot food of any sort. The toaster. The coffee machine. The microwaves. They’re all cleaned and shut down.

And you know what tends to make people unhappy? Going to Subway and getting a cold sandwich. Or working a long day and then being denied coffee.

It’s a stupid rule. But you know what? Us workers? WE DIDN’T DECIDE ON IT OURSELVES, SO ORDER YOUR SANDWICH AND FUCK OFF.

Of course, I never said that to a customer. I like to think for the most part, I was polite to the customers. Even the ones I wanted to stab.

But the store gets a lot of shit from it.

I’m just painting you a picture here. I feel like over nine months I’ve amounted too many complaints/stories from working there to fit into one post. Maybe it’ll be a recurring theme. Maybe, with each post, I’ll chart how much better I feel, both physically and mentally, and come to a conclusion on whether or not I’ve made a mistake by resigning.

I’ll give you a hint, I (probably) haven’t.

But I felt an introduction was necessary, so you understand how our Subway works, so you’d understand before I begin aimlessly raging at all the people I’ve served.

One other important thing to mention. I obviously didn’t hate all the customers. I’d say there were a third I was indifferent about, a third who I genuinely did like and will probably miss talking to, and a third who… well. I’ll get to that in future posts no doubt.

But for now, I’ll say this: I am free.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Life

 

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