Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The 9 to 5 of Film Critisism

One of the most common misconceptions about being a film critic is that you have an "easy job" that is far removed from the (what most people call) "9 to 5 jobs" that the majority of people work a day.  The whole concept of a 9 to 5 job is that it is a job that takes forty hours of your life every week, eight hours a day, during a time period that is considered reasonable by many peoples standards.  Many people spend the breaks during these jobs daydreaming of jobs that require less work out of them so that they have more time to do the things they want to do.  While it is true that being a film critic changes the dynamic of the 9 to 5 job a little bit, the reality of the situation is that we can actually spend more time doing our job than most 9 to 5 jobs would require.

How is this so?  Read and find out.

The good thing about answering this question is that I get to answer another one of my most frequently asked questions: How many movies do you watch a week.  Well, on average I watch two movies a day (three on a particularly busy day).  At an average of two hours a film that means an average of four hours a day can be spent watching movies.  If you factor in a five day work schedule that's about twenty hours a week.  About half of your typical 9 to 5 job, but for many this is still preferable to what they are currently doing because there's no actual work.  Granted, most people probably assume this is always the fun part of the job.  The reality is that unless the movies are good that four hours could easily feel like four hours (if not more).  For example: Last year there was a day when I had to see two movies in one day.  Those movies were "2 Guns" and "The Smurfs 2," neither of which were very good.

If I didn't have reviews to write I could have theoretically walked out midway through these movies and done something useful with my time.  I couldn't though, because watching these movies were part of my job.  So that's four hours of the day that was wasted (and I knew that I would be wasting an extra two the next day because I had no faith "Planes" was going to be any good).  After you watch the movies you need to write the reviews for them.  Now review times can vary a lot because there are some days when I'm feeling more inspired than other days, but my best guess is that when you add it all up it averages about an hour per review.  So if I'm watching two movies a day that's an additional two hours a day.  Multiply that by five and you can add another ten hours to your twenty hour week to make it a thirty hour week.  Still below the forty hours that a 9 to 5 job demands, but it's getting close to forty hours at this point.

After the reviews are written they normally need to be given a second and third draft.  Thankfully these (usually) aren't difficult as I'm just trimming and rewording certain sentences, so this only adds about a half hour for each review.  Then the reviews need to be formatted for the website.  This takes about another thirty minutes per review, which means roughly three hours each day is spent on writing, drafting, and formatting two reviews a day.  So now my daily work day is about seven hours while my typical work week is thirty five.  And please remember that these are the AVERAGE hours, so sometimes I can end up working for more than forty hours!  In fact, last Christmas there was a day when I had to view three movies in one day: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas," and "American Hustle" (it should be noted that Christmas time is typically busier than the rest of the most other jobs).

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" was 2 hours and 41 minutes.  "Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas" was the shortest of the bunch that day coming in at 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Thankfully "American Hustle" (which was easily the best of the three) ended the day on a high note, but that movie clocked in at 2 hours and 18 minutes.  That's more than six hours of movie I had to watch in one day.  The fact that one of those movies was "Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas" seemed to be adding insult to injury, but the sad fact of the matter is sometimes you spend six hours watching movies a day and not have a single one of them worth sitting through.  Throw in the reviews and formatting and you're now looking at working overtime hours without overtime pay (I'll write an article about what kind of wages a critic these days can expect in another post in the future).

The point I'm trying to make here is not that being a film critic is a lousy job that over works you and pays very little.  I'm just trying to shatter the illusion some of you might have that this is a profession you join to loaf around, watch movies for fun, all while getting paid.  You have to watch a lot of stuff you might not want to, you can't leave terrible movies, and there's the whole writing the reviews aspect that can jumps around from being fun and easy to being difficult and time consuming.  Next time I'll talk about the process of writing reviews and what movies make for the most difficult reviews to write, but for now hopefully this gives all you aspiring film critics a glimpse at what your daily life is going to look like should you pursue this path.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go to a critics screening of a big budget movie, starring an Oscar winning actress, from a Mickey Mouse organization whose name I can't disclose for legal purposes.

Days where you have to watch movies like this can make you reevaluate your life.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Boring Life of a Film Critic

This is the first post in my revised Movie blog.  This is formally where updates and random rants would be posted for my website The Movie, but I've decided to switch gears a bit because that approach wasn't working as well as I'd like.  I'm not much of an update person in the strictest sense.  With new reviews, articles, and YouTube videos displayed proudly on the front page of the main website I almost never made updates on this blog because it would be redundant to make blog posts to mention updates that people would likely notice before they got to the blog.  Most rants ended up being retooled for editorials.  That means for the longest time this blog has pretty much been here for me to occasionally say sorry when updates were slow or the website was down (which reminds me...).

I do get a lot of questions from people who want to know what it's like to have "the greatest job in the world."  While I am always happy to answer questions about my profession, I hear from enough people who are curious about what I do that really have no idea what the daily life of being a film critic entails.  They think it's all fun.  They think there's no real work involved.  Some of them look at you strange when you comment how you almost always want to do anything but watch a movie for fun at the end of the day.  Yes, being a film critic has many perks, ups, downs, and loop de loops.  It's just like any other job though.  There are times when the job isn't much fun.  Sometimes it feels like just that: A job.  There are some serious social side effects to having a job that only requires you to leave the house on occasion.

It's all very mundane stuff and most people really wouldn't find much interest in it.  Yet society is in a position where people want to be self employers, to do things they like to do for fun and get paid for it.  While film criticism as a job is becoming an endangered species this is (ironically) because the internet has given a new voice to a younger generation of people who love to write about films.  With Blogger, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter the phrase "everyone's a critic" is more true today than it ever has been.  The thrill of reading people's comments when they agree with your review is exhilarating (and the people who hate your review can be brutal).  Whether the reviews come in over 700 words or in less than 140 characters, there are more critics in the world than there ever has been before.

That doesn't mean a vast majority of the writing is good, but that there is enough of it out there to read for free that it's becoming more of a hobby than a job.  Though I don't claim to be making the Leonard Maltin money here, I do have a website that does bring in some revenue.  I have written some movie books that have become best sellers in their respective categories.  There almost isn't a day that goes by where I don't write about movies and any expenses I have when it comes to running my website is considered a business expense.  In other words I've (how kids say it these days) successfully "monetized" my site.  This is where the goal should be for many writers, but most either have no clue what goes into making their hobby a business or most don't care.  To make matters even more confusing, the internet is constantly evolving, so many people have trouble keeping up with the changing times.

I've been writing about movies since I was six years old and I've been doing so as a job for close to ten years now.  The purpose of this blog is to share my stories, my secrets, and my daily routines.  For those who want to do this for a living this blog might provide some insight into how you can aim for this to happen.  For others this may be more validation to keep your movie blogging a hobby and look towards other ventures for financial gain.  Whether you find value in what I have to say or not I do thank you for visiting and reading!