When I talk with my friends, I realize that I might just have the best blogging gig in the world with my Dave On Film blog. Every week I get email from the major movie studios and their agencies, inviting me to special screenings of motion pictures large and small, and every day I get updates on what’s in production, what’s filming, the upcoming schedule for studios, and much more.
Yeah, I’m a film geek. But here’s the thing: there’s nothing I’ve done that you couldn’t do too, fellow film fanatic. I often get questions from friends on how to become a film blogger or film critic, and even got one today from a friend who wants to know what elements should be present in a good film review on her weblog.
So I’ll spill the beans, share the secret sauce, let you in on the secret cookie recipe. The real secret? Love films, see a lot of them, and write about them.
Don’t write a narrative about what happens in the movie, however, write at a higher level. Did the story arc (the logical progression of events from beginning to end) work for you? Were you aware of the actors or did you just see the characters themselves in the performance? Was it set in the right location? Did it capture your imagination?
One thing that I always look at in a film is what I call the “POV”, the point of view. A good director and cinematographer will work together to make you a presence in a scene, rather than a passive observer. In this vein, ask “who am I supposed to be, viewing this scene?” then ask if it makes sense and is consistent. This is a fascinating exercise in horror films, where the director wants you to feel threatened and in danger.
Story progression is a big one too, especially in an age of amazing computer-generated effects and the rise of 3D technologies. Did the film stumble because it became so enamored of effects that it forgot to have the story flow? I’m thinking Clash of the Titans as I write this paragraph, for example.
Personally, I also enjoy film reviewers who are knowledgeable about the actors and directors previous works. Sam Worthington stars in Clash of the Titans as Perseus. What was he in previously, and how did his work in those previous films compare? A handy shortcut for this sort of data is the invaluable Internet Movie Database: I always have a second window open to the IMDb entry for a film while I’m writing a review.
I’m pretty sure the Federal Trade Commission isn’t tracking film reviewers, but it’s still a good idea to expose your bias in your review too. If you’re a huge fan of Gerard Butler (I’m not) then say so in your review “This film stars Gerard Butler, who I adore.”
My bias is towards classic dramas and I often like films no-one else likes and dislike films that are quite popular, even with other critics (like The Hurt Locker). That’s cool, it means you have a unique voice and different perspective, which makes you an interesting writer. But justify and explain yourself.
If you’re writing film reviews, you’re probably also reading other film reviews and that’s great. Join the network, leave comments on other film bloggers sites, even try to meet up with them to learn how they approach their craft. Study their reviews (I certainly do) and ask yourself why they write about one aspect and ignore another.
I also take notes during movies, with a light up pen. I mask it with my hand, but I like to keep track of the small details that make a good review turn into a great one. As I am inspired – or appalled – by a scene, I’ll jot that down too. Sometimes I never even review my notes, but it’s a great tool to help you remember exactly what happened in a movie.
In the spirit of true disclosure, I do have to admit that the studios I work with don’t particularly think blogging is a legitimate outlet, so you might need to find a local publication that will print your reviews too. But how cool is that to be a published film reviewer? Ask around, you might be surprised how many local papers would love to get someone local to write the reviews.
Finally, I’ll end as I started. See a lot of movies. Read about movies, read reviewers you like – and that you don’t agree with – and write, write, write. Get into the groove and make sure you always talk about the “why” instead of just the “what”. Why did you like Transformers 2? Why did you think Avatar stunk? How could you possibly not like The Maltese Falcon?? Explain your thinking, your feelings, and you’ll be well on your way to being a great film blogger.
By his last count, Dave Taylor has now been online for thirty years, which means he was on the information superhighway when it was a dirt path winding through the woods. Now he runs a number of popular blogs including Ask Dave Taylor tech support and The Business Blog at Intuitive.com. You can find him on Twitter as @DaveTaylor.