How to become a film critic – The essential guide

In the 2007 smash hit animated film ‘Ratatouille’ the character of the Chef Gusteau famously remarks ” Anybody can cook.” Something on similar lines can be said about the job of a film critic. Anybody can critique. As long as you love watching cinema. Sounds too simple? But this is indeed a fact. When you are writing a review or even two every week all through the year, that means having to watch fifty odd films of which perhaps just half a dozen stay with you after the curtains have come down. And of these even lesser number of films are worth revisiting. Even by way of a review. Having said that, regardless of whether a film is good bad or avoidable there is always a takeaway from it. And remember this. To critique a bad film is nothing short of social service. If the film viewing experience has not been a memorable one for you it becomes even more imperative that others cinephiles are given advance notice.

The job of a film critic comes with a quirk that is all it’s own. Where the ones reviewing a film neednot really have first hand knowledge of making a film themselves. And yet they are at complete libertyto trash a film that is not to their liking.One even personally knew of a film critic who took it uponhimself to give a thumbs down to all those films that he could not really understand. Besides cricket,cinema and politics are subjects where everyone in this country (read India) seems to anyway regardthemselves as experts.It is another matter altogether that when these film critics themselves triedtheir hand at making a film, the end results were nothing to crow about. Be it the legendary RogerEbert in far away Hollywood or our very own Khalid Mohammed in Hindi cinema.

Thanks to the internet explosion, the job of critiquing a film has all of a sudden become a viable proposition for those interested. Where earlier it was a pre requisite of sorts to have a degree in either journalism or even mass communication before one could start reviewing films for a newspaper, today there are hundreds of portals online related to films where you could start writing. All you have to do is to badmouth a big budget film featuring stalwarts and your two minutes of fame is assured. Earlier a smart alec filmmaker could rip off a film from the west (or the east if you like) adapt it to Indian sensibilities and walk away with all the plaudits. Not anymore. The audience has wisened up.
The new generation film buffs have access to cinema from all over the world making them so well informed that a lot of times, by viewing just the teaser of a forthcoming film they are able to figure out which European/Korean film is the ‘inspiration’ behind a film. So exposure to a diverse range of cinema from all over is one criteria paramount to becoming a film critic. And it does not hurt if as a film critic you have a way with words, a sense of humour and a gift of the gab.On top of it technology today gives you the option to broadcast you opinions  live, to the entire world.

But all this may still not suffice for there are enough folks out there all vying for the attention of a reader. Which is exactly why it is important that you carve a niche for yourself. By using catchy words & phrases (Two Thumbs Up was one such phrase made memorable by Ebert) and by working out a format and style of reviewing that is all your own. And no, narrating a story line by line with spoilers
galore does not qualify as film criticism. That is just being a party pooper.

Film trade analyst – Who, What and How?

In the dailies that we read there is usually an entertainment section that brings us up to speed withthe latest happenings in the world of arts,culture and cinema. Here you might notice a trade analyst reporting the daily,weekly and till date collections of a film. Apart from which the analyst is also able to forecast how much the film is likely to end up making by the time it’s theatrical run gets over. With a fair amount of accuracy too.So who is a trade analyst? In film parlance a trade analyst is someone who is able to make sense of the extremely unpredictable business that is of cinema. Where a film critic looks at the creative aspect of a film in order to decide whether the film is worth your while, the trade analyst delves into the commercial prospects of the said film. The pros and cons of a film are also decided by the analyst based on this parameter only.
In Hollywood, trade guides and film magazines have been around for the longest time informing viewers how much a film earned in ticket sales at the box office. This information is usually correct, right down to the last dollar and can be relied upon. Things are drastically different back home where producers, distributors and exhibitors have been reluctant to reveal how much was spent towards producing the film, how much it was sold for and how much money it eventually made. The reasons for this are not difficult to fathom. For years many of those bankrolling and financing films have had dubious backgrounds and have been using black and ill gotten money. Due to this it was not uncommon for producers to make all kinds of tall claims about how much their films had earned. In short, the film industry was largely unorganised for a very long time.

But there has been a sea of change in the way the business of cinema has been run in the last decade or  so. The single biggest factor for this has been the entry of corporates into film making. The corporate world has brought in a professional approach to the entire process of film making thereby making sure that every rupee is accounted for. Be it the monies that go into funding a film or the box office receipts there is no chance that producers can get away as easily by quoting fancy figures which are quite obviously exaggerated. The other factor that has contributed to creating a sense of order is that today Bollywood (the Hindi film industry) is an industry that has grown by leaps and bounds. Not just on the domestic front but worldwide too. There is serious money involved in this multi million rupee business, no laughing matter this.

A film trade analyst’s job is not without it’s fair share of challenges and controversies. Reporting box office figures is easier but it is not always possible to predict the success or failure of a film correctly. After all, film making is a creative process. Many times it so happens that films considered as safe bets at the box office turn to be damp squibs while others exceed all expectations to become box office blockbusters. So one has to be thick skinned and prepared for the brickbats that come with the bouquets. Also many film trad analysts are guilty of looking only at the commercial angle at the expense of creative excellence. Due to which trade analysts are found wanting when it comes to path breaking films which are usually ahead of their time. All said and done, one thing is certain. There is no business like show business.