Film criticism is, perhaps, a controversial job in the film industry world. To the public eye, all we do is talk about films and try to take them down. With the rise of social media and the internet, the field has become overpopulated with many people starting blogs to writer about the films they love and joy. Despite this, film criticism is still an important job in the industry: They champion films and push independents forward in attempt to steer you into the best movie experience.
So what does it take to be a film critic?
We spoke with upcoming and brilliant film critic Charlotte Sometimes about working in the field.
What job do you do?
During the day I work as a secondary school teacher in East London. But by night, I’m a film critic.
How long have you been doing film criticism?
I’ve been writing reviews for two and a half years.
How did you fall into the field?
I’ve always loved film to a pretty obsessive extent. I was absent a lot from school and made the most of it by watching as many films as humanly possible. I studied film both at sixth form, then at uni. Once I started teaching it felt like I no longer had time for film, or time for anything at all. I’d bought a cineworld unlimited card on a whim in January 2015 but didn’t actually use it for the first couple of months; I confessed this to my parents one day and they set me a bet to go to the cinema at least once a week and write a review of each film I saw. I created a blog – charlottesometimesgoestothemovies.com
– and have been doing it ever since. From there it was thanks to an online ad that I started writing for Vulture Hound and it was through Twitter that I started writing for Den of Geek.
Why did you choose the film industry?
I love nigh-on everything about cinema. The fact that each film captures a particular moment in time, like a time capsule of that particular moment. That it can be universal and with the simplest of comments, ‘Oh, I saw … at the cinema yesterday’ you can develop an instant rapport with someone. That film can make sense of the nonsensical, calm us at our stormiest and take us back to happier times. Aside from books, I can’t think of anything that can do all of that!
How is your job important to the film industry?
I think film criticism is simultaneously both extremely important to the film industry and not very – or at least to the extent that some people I’ve spoken to believe. Often, when it comes up that I work as a film critic, I’ll be asked if I enjoy slagging off films. The obvious answer is no, as I’m not a cinematic masochist! Maybe because the term ‘critic’ is involved, there’s this misconception that we want to criticise all films and that we enjoy hating films – but why on earth would I want to spend 2 hours of my life (plus any ads, time getting to the screening etc.) to watch something I might hate? Every single time I go to a screening I want to see something I love, something good which represents all I adore about cinema and that I will connect with on some level. That’s where the important bit comes in, writing the best possible piece the good films deserve to help them get seen by others who will love them just as much as I did. There’s the Goliath films – the blockbuster juggernauts that might be panned by most critics but that won’t put off people seeing them – that’s when film criticism is less important. It’s the David films – usually the smaller budget, less well known films – that make film criticism important. Like some sort of matchmaker, I write as I want people to go the cinema, discover something they may not have seen otherwise and love it just as much as me! Few things thrill me as much as when someone watches something I recommended and comes back to me singing it’s praises as loudly as me!
What advice would you give people trying to get into the field?
Just keep doing it. Even when you think no-one is reading or that no-one care, just keep doing it. On the most obvious level it’s great practice – the more you write the more you develop your craft and hone your writing style. Plus, you never know who may be reading..!
What has changed about film criticism?
I know it’s been written about by those far more informed and articulate than me but the biggest and most obvious change is the role of social media. ‘Everyone’s a critic’ may be an old adage but it’s more than apt now. Anyone can declare an opinion via tweet or post. Anyone can set up a blog and get writing. I did/do both of those things but as a result there’s more voices than ever.
How hard it is against all the film critics out there?
I don’t tend to think of myself as being in competition or against any other critics, the temptation to compare would lead me on a self-sabotaging spiral of anxiety/inferiority! I love film twitter and feel like it’s allowed me to become part of a community that I would never have known otherwise. I think the hardest thing for all film critics, particularly those like me starting out in the industry now, comes from higher up – from established institutions that refuse to pay for writing or from websites that use your writing without your knowledge/consent.
Find Charlotte on Twitter!