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If you love movies, you might think film critic is an ideal job. It's more than kicking back with a bucket of buttered popcorn, though. The opinions of respected critics can make or break a film. You must be a good writer who can back up your opinions with extensive knowledge of movies and how they're made.
Film critics offer their opinions on movies, often before the movies are widely released to theaters for the public to view. It's not enough for a critic to "love" or "hate" a film. Critics consider the direction, storyline, dialogue, actors, costumes, music and special effects. They look at everything that goes into the finished film to guide viewers in their decisions about whether to see a particular film. Going to the movies can be expensive with the ever-increasing costs of tickets and concessions. Moviegoers want some assurance that their money will be well spent. Film critics usually write reviews, although some critics review movies on television or radio programs. The same person may write a review and then talk about it to TV viewers or radio listeners.
It's not enough to love watching movies or quote dialogue from classic flicks. You have to be knowledgeable about films and the film industry. The first place to start is to watch a lot of films of all genres, so you have a basis for comparison. You have to learn to look critically at aspects of the film such as lighting and camera angles. You must try to understand the choices made by the actors and the director as they brought the story to film. An appreciation for the art of cinema and knowledge of the history of filmmaking are important.
There are no formal education requirements, but a degree in movie history or journalism can help you be hired by a newspaper or magazine. You may have to start writing other kinds of news stories or features to demonstrate your writing skills before you have the opportunity to write movie reviews. Strong writing skills are essential, so it's advisable to accumulate all the writing experience you can. Publish in a school newspaper if you're still a student. Talk to someone at a local newspaper and try to get some freelance assignments. Don't overlook free community newspapers if there's one in your locale. It's not important to be paid at this point. What you're looking for is experience and some published clips that you can later use when applying for paid positions.
You have to establish credibility as a film critic. Why should moviegoers pay attention to your opinions? One thing you can do is become a member of the Online Film Critic Society. Requirements are rigorous, as you must demonstrate your knowledge of the film industry and have evidence of publication in online sources, such as websites, blogs or internet interest groups.
Film critics view movies at special screenings before their general release. Well-known and established critics, such as those who work for major magazines and newspapers, can find themselves in the same room as the celebrities who appear on the screen. Most critics agree that meeting the actors is one of the most exciting perks of the job. If you're a small-town reviewer, you may not have the opportunity for a prescreening. You might have to write your review after seeing the movie in a theater along with other customers.
Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks data on all civilian occupations and makes predictions about future job growth. The Bureau does not have a specific category for film critics, but they can be included under the broader category of writers and authors. Median pay is $61,820 per year. Median salary means that half in the profession earn more and half earn less. The median for a movie critic salary is difficult to establish. Famous film critics such as the late Roger Ebert made millions from reviews, books, lectures and television appearances. However, entry-level film critic jobs are usually worthwhile only because of the opportunities they afford rather than the salary you earn. A person who writes film reviews for a small, local newspaper may make as little as $25 per review or may receive only free movie passes. Some reviewers don't receive any compensation at all, writing for the love of movies and the thrill of seeing their name in print.
The job growth for writers and authors is expected to be at about 8 percent through 2026, which is average compared to all other occupations. Making a living as a writer depends on the demand for the kind of writing that you do. Opportunities that allow you to make a living as a film critic are rare. You're probably not going to see listings for movie critic job openings in the classifieds or on legitimate job search websites. Although it's possible to make a full-time career as a film critic, most write on other topics as well. Those who only write movie reviews often do so as a hobby while holding down other jobs that pay the bills.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.