How can I get a job as a movie reviewer?

Some of you may have read my movie reviews online or have seen me refer to them on here. (I have a small mailing list of around 50 people I send them to.)

I’ve received quite a few compliments over the years. I’ve received criticism too, of course, and most of it has been very helpful.

Lately people have been wondering why I don’t do it for a living. I’d love to, I reply, but I think such reviewers are a dime a dozen; that is, either there are few opportunities to do them for pay or there are opportunities but the job pays precious little.

But let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say that what I’d like it to write them full time (that is, no additional income needed). Let’s further say that I could be convinced to relocate if a) the pay was sufficient (natch) and b) the climate was warm. (For example, San Diego, Calif., would be good, but Augusta, Maine, would not.)

So here’s my question to you all: How should I go about this? Should I just target cities I’d like to live in and then write the editors of newspapers in those cities? Is there a better way?

This is really just off the cuff. I have no reason to leave my current job whatsoever. But if the opportunity to do what I’d like to do for a decent pay arose, then I’d be foolish not to consider it. (I’m just trying to explain that I’m by no means desparate here.)

Any ideas and advice welcome, although it may be ignored. :slight_smile:

I, for one, would have to advise against anyone giving you advice on becoming a movie reviewer. Didn’t you once give The Usual Suspects three out of a possible four stars?

Well, I dunno about that. According to this site, which oughta know, it was more like three and a half.

3.5’s not good enough…

Unless your local newspaper is hiring, I think the best thing to do is simply to get yourself a domain name and some low-cost web hosting, and then start posting your reviews on a website. Tell your friends, and have them tell their friends. Wait until the site has enough traffic to mandate paying commercial fees, and then try to find some sponsors (it’s easier to find a sponsor if you can first show that you have a lot of visitors).

If you can’t afford to go out and see every new movie right when it comes out, consider being a “niche” reviewer. Just do cult movies, or sci-fi flicks, or schlock films, etc.

Good luck!


Get some time on your public cable station. Or better yet, call that kid who does the talk show from his parent’s basement (what ever happened to him?). You could be a weekly guest on his show and get some big-time exposure. Couldn’t hurt!

Well… it could hurt. I don’t particularly want to be on TV. I know, I know! Hard to imagine, in this day and age.

Barry’s plan seems to be the most sensible.

dan, check your mail.

I wrote film reviews for The Advocate during the Berlin FilmFestival for many years.

I simply sent them a sample of my work and offered to write reviews. They sure didn’t have the budget to send someone to Berlin, so I got the job. They edited a lot of my good stuff, but over the years, I was able to cover a lot of films and get some pretty good interviews with up-and-coming film folk.

Find a local newspaper or two or ten, and simply offer to write reviews. And be persistant.

By the way - I found it was a lot more work than it seemed at the beginning. During the festival, I was going to 6-8 films per day! Of those, 90% were crap. And sometimes I would be the only one in the theater watching it. I remember one truly horrible film from India that started off with an audience of about 50 people. The film went on for almost 3 hours and by the time it was over, I was the last person in the screening room. (I always felt obligated to sit all the way through every film I reviewed.) On the way out, the director, the producer and a couple of the stars of the film were standing there and asked me, “How did you like the film?” You would think they might have got the hint watching 49 other people flee the theater.

Ryle: I got your email and will respond in a little bit. Thanks!

DMark: See, now that sounds pretty cool. I hate to limit myself, but film festivals aren’t usually my thing. But perhaps it’s worth looking into. You never know.

I bet there are some local papers here that have small readerships and don’t have anyone doing it.

DMark has it right on. What you need is clips. And you can’t get clips if you don’t review movies for someone. And you can’t review movies for someone if you don’t have clips. And you…you get the idea.

What you need to is pick up the phone, and call up the smallest, most podunk newspapers you can find in your area, and offer to write movie reviews for them for free. Ask them to give you a chance. Tell them yuo’ll be very punctual, and show them some of your online writing samples.

No one wants to write movie reviews at small newspapers, really, but everyone wants to go see movies for free, so you’ll run into some problems there, where other staff members steal the free tickets.

Find one where they don’t have a movie reviewer, and one where they don’t get free tickets. Get them to agree for you to write movie reviews for them. Then, call up your local advertising agency that handles the studios. This can be a challenge if you live in New York, but a few quick calls to ad agencies asking “Do you handle the Universal Studios account?” should do the trick.

Get the ad agency to send you notices of screenings by dropping your new “employer’s” name.

Go to movies, and write reviews of them. Trun several in each week to your paper. Be warned, most movie screenings are held in the middle of the day (10 am or so), so be prepared to have to work around screeings.

Do this for a few years, and then take your clips somewhere a little less small, and try to get paid for it. Someone may hire you. The pay will be very shitty. Work your way up, and pretty soon, you’ll be sitting next to Ebert. Yeah, Ebert and Dantheman. That has a nice ring to it.

Former movie reviewer who actually got paid for it

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention. Two big downsides to doing the job for a living (besides no money):

  • Being inside a dark, air-conditioned theater when it’s a gorgeously beautiful spring day outside; and
  • Having to sit through some unbelievably bad movies. “Gunmen” with Mario Van Peebles and Christopher Lambert comes to mind as one of the worst I had to watch. You don’t get to pick and choose which movies you see. If it opens, you see it. Although the bad reviews are A LOT of fun to write.

They ARE a lot of fun to write, because you can usually whip up more passion for something you despised. Well I can, anyway.

Of course, I’m also perfectly happy doing them as I am now - gratis for a small number of people. Putting them up on IMDb is fun and easy.

So, if we want to be among the elite to get your email, should we drop you a line???

I write a monthly review for the staff magazine at work. It’s good fun but often tricky. The editor may tell me I have space for 220 words and I have to tailor what I want to say to fit that.

You can do that, scout; it would be my pleasure to add you on.