How to Become a Film Critic

Film critics discussing movie

When students consider career possibilities in the movie industry, their first thoughts often turn to the roles of actors and directors. But there are many other people who work either directly or indirectly in the film industry, such as film critics or movie reviewers. If you’re passionate about all things cinema, you may want to start thinking about the process of how to become a film critic.

What Does a Film Critic Do?

A film critic, or movie reviewer, watches movies and analyzes every aspect of them. They consider the story development, plot lines, character development, acting, pacing, directing and more. Then, the critic writes an honest analysis of the film for publication.

Many experts draw a sharp distinction between the work of film critics and movie reviewers. However, the same professional may write film critiques as well as movie reviews. Here’s a look at the differences:

  • Movie reviews – These are typically published at the time a new movie is released or shortly beforehand. They are consumer-oriented and typically comprise an evaluation of the critical reception of the movie and how well audiences enjoyed it. Movie reviews emphasize the entertainment value of a film. They usually offer recommendations on whether the average consumer would enjoy a movie.
  • Film critiques – Film critiques are more professional and intellectual in nature than movie reviews. Whereas movie reviews are usually short, film criticism is typically long-form writing. A film critique assumes that the reader has already seen the film. As such, it does not offer recommendations on whether people should watch it. Instead, film criticism delves into the elements and finer details of the movie, such as the screenplay, cinematography, film editing, acting and historical context.

In short, film criticism is scholarly and academic, whereas movie reviews are consumer-oriented and more accessible to the average moviegoer. Movie reviews tend to be published in magazines, newspapers and entertainment websites. In contrast, film critiques may be published in scholarly journals and books.

However, it’s worth noting that when the average person refers to film criticism, they are generally talking about consumer-oriented movie reviews, rather than scholarly critiques. For that reason, this career guide consolidates both types of work under the general category of film criticism.

Where Do Film Critics Work?

Film critics can work for a variety of outlets. Most often, they are hired by newspapers and magazines, although they may also work for radio or television stations. Many film critics work for online publications, and some also run their own blogs, which they may or may not monetize.

The pursuit of full-time film critic jobs is highly competitive. Many of these professionals moonlight as film critics while working full-time jobs in a related field. For example, it’s not unusual for a film critic to also work as a journalist, TV broadcaster, radio show host or podcaster. They may also work within the movie industry as a screenwriter or set assistant.

Starting Your Career as a Film Critic

The field of film criticism isn’t a regulated one, and there is no universal process for how to become a film critic. Film critics may come to this profession from a wide assortment of academic and professional backgrounds. However, they are generally expected to have a bachelor’s degree.

If you’re still in high school and you’d like to get started on the process of how to be a film critic, it’s a good idea to talk to your guidance counselor about your career plans. You might also want to have a discussion about your options for full-time employment as a journalist, screenwriter or similar professional, given that many film critics publish their critiques on a part-time basis.

Your high school may not offer a cinema studies class, but do try to take as many humanities courses as possible.

Below are some examples of humanities courses that may help prepare you for a career in film criticism:

  • History
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Creative writing
  • English language or literature

You might also consider joining (or starting!) a film club and writing for the high school newspaper.

As you approach your high school graduation date, it’s time to start sorting through your degree options. One popular choice for aspiring film critics is a cinema studies or film degree, which will enable you to develop an in-depth understanding of how films are made, as well as how stories and characters are developed.

Other degree options depend on your thoughts on alternative employment. Because many freelance and part-time film critics are also full-time journalists, you may consider earning a journalism degree. On the other hand, if you would like to work entirely within the movie industry, you may prefer a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film or similar degree.

Pursuing Your Film Degree

If you decide to earn a film degree, it’s a good idea to enroll in a program that is writing-intensive; this will prepare you to pursue a career as a professional writer. For instance, you may want to choose a film degree with a concentration in screenwriting. This type of degree typically explores topics such as the following:

  • Storytelling theories, techniques and skills
  • The development of interesting characters that resonate with audiences, as well as the development of relationships between characters
  • The elements, trends and styles of genre conventions and tropes
  • The techniques for creating emotionally impactful dialogue
  • The process of developing a dramatic television series, from idea development to pilot writing to pitching

Your film degree curriculum may also include a class on navigating the business side of the film industry.

During your time in college, you should work on developing your skills as a film critic. Watch lots of movies and analyze them. You may want to try publishing your best critiques on a personal blog to serve as an online portfolio.

Required Skills and Qualities for Aspiring Film Critics

It can be challenging for new graduates to break into the film industry in any capacity, so it’s best to approach this endeavor with an open mind. Consider pursuing entry-level positions, such as that of a production assistant on a movie set or a human interest reporter at a local newspaper. As you gain real-world experience, you’ll move closer to your goal of becoming a professional film critic.

The following tips offer practical advice for how to be a film critic:

  • Always meet deadlines – No matter what sort of entry-level work you find yourself doing, and no matter how far you progress throughout your professional career, one rule will always hold true: Always meet your deadlines. Professionals who consistently miss deadlines will have trouble finding steady work. While you’re still in school, get into the habit of completing assignments at least a day or two ahead of time to ensure that you never miss a due date.
  • Read extensively – The human brain is like a sponge; the more film critiques you read, the better your own critiques will become. You can learn a lot about film analysis and effective writing techniques simply by reading.
  • Focus on your professional network – A film critic’s professional network is crucial for their success. Get to know the people associated with local film festivals and art house theaters in your area.
  • Keep an open mind – Many aspiring film critics are interested only in reviewing the latest blockbuster movie that appeals to their own personal interests. However, in order to be an effective film critic, it’s necessary to become acquainted with a range of genres.

Above all, be patient and persistent. It can take time to break into the field. In the meantime, you should continue to polish your film analysis and writing skills so that you can take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way.

Students who are passionate about cinema will find an array of exciting media degrees to choose from at the College of Arts and Media at Grand Canyon University. Take the first step in the process of how to become a film critic by applying for enrollment in the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film with an Emphasis in Screenwriting degree program, which gives students a broad framework of knowledge in storytelling, character development, acting skills and more. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to begin planning your future at GCU.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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