How-to-be-a-film-critic-in-a-modern-age

How To Be a Film Critic In a Modern Age

Chris-Tilly

Chris Tilly

Chris Tilly is IGN’s Movie Editor, a Crystal Palace season ticket holder and co-host of The Superhero Show. We had a discussion regarding what the world of a film critic really entails in the age of the Internet.

When asked what he does in his day to day job, Chris replies, “I come in, update the site, check my emails, I always have a lot of emails to go through. I then have a meeting with my team where we discuss what’s going on.” He continues, “the main parts of my job would be managing a team, coordinating with publicists and dealing with film studios.”

Chris is a man who has been in the industry for a while, some may call him an industry veteran, “I’ve been in the industry for 12 years. I started at a magazine where we didn’t have a website. I started off working for Hot Dog, then moved to Time Out and started working for IGN about 7 years ago.”

Being a film critic today is very different to what it was like when Chris started out. People use the internet a lot more to get their news fix, which would include reviews of the latest movies. “Now I find myself writing scripts for video reviews, or presenting on camera. I didn’t train as a presenter. It’s all about having an opinion, forgetting about the cameras and getting your opinion across. It’s harder than I thought it would be.”

When it comes to reviewing films Chris has one very clear message, “I don’t find writing about films too difficult, it’s all about having an opinion.”

Hot Dog vs Time Out

Hot Dog vs Time Out

Chris now works for IGN which is an online entertainment news and reviews outlet who specialise in video games,  yet also have a growing film and TV section. “It’s nice to be in a place that puts the website first. People now like to watch videos on their phones or laptops rather than reading a long review. We respond to what our audience wants.”

He continues, “We know what our identity is, our bread and butter is comic book stuff and superheroes. We recently started The Superhero Show which really caters to what our audience likes. Although I would like to cover other sorts of films, more horror and indie based stuff would be nice, but our audience is looking for other things.”

IGN's logo. Photo Credit: hdw.eweb4.com

IGN’s logo. Photo Credit: hdw.eweb4.com

“People now like to watch videos on their phones or laptops rather than reading a long review. We respond to what our audience wants.”

However, Chris points out that the internet does not necessarily mean the death of print. “I don’t think that print will ever die. People like to read magazines and newspapers. It’s always nice to read and hold something physical and it’s a lot less strenuous on the eyes.”

We then start to chat about what he does whilst watching a film for review, “during the screening half of the critics take notes. I take notes. Sometimes I’ll sit there and come up with a good line. I prefer to write it down to make sure I remember it later and write up the notes the next day.”

Sometimes it’s best to take some time to reflect before you start writing a review, the same could be said after you’ve written it. “Over time my opinion on a film can change. I like to read through my review a couple of times before it goes up on the site.”

One difficult aspect of being a film critic is the rating. How many stars does a film deserve? What’s it score out of 10? “I find giving a film a score difficult, especially the 100 points score that IGN use. There isn’t a formula you can use, it’s just a feeling. I think this film is an 8.5 or I think it’s an 5.0. That’s how I do it.”

The pram rating system. (Photo Credit: http://projectredhotmama.com)

The pram rating system. (Photo Credit: http://projectredhotmama.com)

What makes people want to become a film critic? “I liked movies and liked writing. I wanted to do a job that didn’t feel like work.” Chris starts to map out how he went about trying to become the film critic he is today, “I did an MA journalism course. I don’t believe it helped. I could have learnt all of that on the job. I spent a long time not being paid very well, mostly working freelance until I got a job.”

Everyone has a role model, as does Chris, “I always liked reading Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin. Roger Ebert had great sense of humour as does Leonard Maltin. They love movies and it comes across in their writing. I prefer it when I can tell that the reviewer loves cinema.” He continues, “Now there’s lots of snark. Too many people I read today are angry. There’s not much point to it.”




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