My (Brief) Career as a Paid Film Critic

Last month I was a paid film critic. I wrote my opinions on films both old and new and received capital for my opinions. It gave me an outlet to vent my frustrations, and sing praises to the things I loved. And it was a job. Not a hobby, but a job. Unexpectedly last month, that job ended.

This was honestly why I haven’t been producing content on this site very much. Between re-writes for my book, my part time job and the magazine, it was hard to make time. So while I am happy to return here, it has come at a cost.

It wasn’t exactly something I was getting a lot of money for. I perhaps earned around one hundred and ten dollars since being hired in December of last year. Still, it was something that made me feel more on the professional side when it came to writing, and the circumstances around it ending were both sudden and beyond my control.

Last year I wrote an article here on tonal shifts in stories, commenting on how to do such a thing right and what mistakes to avoid. That article was noticed by someone from Creators.Co, a fan run writing website where people would write content for online magazines to be read by the masses. They offered me a job. It was hardly a big magazine, but it was still about as fairy tale a story as you could expect.

I wrote on a variety of topics, from retrospectives of established classics to commentaries on current films. My most successful were still the articles on the Alien films. Between half of and a third of my earnings were based on that series alone. People ask what was the point of me hating Alien: Covenant so much? I got paid to share my opinion.

Then unexpectedly at work I got a message. It wasn’t about being fired or dissatisfaction with my content. At least those were things I would have had some control over. No. The message I got was that MoviePilot was closing its doors.

It came at a bad time. I was at work having a bad day, and on top of all that was this one additional bad thing. I wasn’t at all stressed with the money. I can survive without that extra ten bucks a month. What bothered me was what those ten dollars represented. I was being paid for my writing. My actual content and it was earning me money. That measly one hundred dollars is more than most writers see in a lifetime, and I knew it was a sign of things to come.

That it ended so unexpectedly was a major blow, as I wondered if perhaps maybe my position would climb at this modest little online venue. Sad to say, it wasn’t to be.

I must have spent three hours going through all fifty five of my articles and saving them, hoping that even when the magazine was going under I could find other places for this content to survive. I’ve already found a place run by a close friend of mine that will gladly be hosting my content dealing with monster movies. I won’t be paid, but I will be read. It’s at least a way to start over.

If there’s one thing I take away from this, it’s that I now have an actual publishing credit to showcase to potential buyers of this book. Here’s hoping that will be enough to turn another head or two.


The Dialogue Problem

Every writer has a shortcoming of some sort. It’s not something they can’t overcome, but damn if it isn’t a difficult thing to do. In working on my first book, I’ve found my biggest issue is my dialogue.

It seems like the easiest thing in the world. You are after-all just writing a conversation. We’ve all had those so how hard could it be? I think it may be a similar problem to all of us remembering the precise look of a minted coin. We’ve see it so many times that when you’re shown a picture it looks right, but sometimes it’s hard to remember precisely where the date is on the coin, what direction the person on the coin is facing, etc.

Conversations are the same way. Since we’ve had them so often and seen them so often, sometimes you go into one with a little more confidence than you should have and the dialogue comes across as forced or stilted.

As someone on the autism spectrum, I have my work cut out for me. When it comes to my writing, description is where I flourish. Dialogue on the other hand has been a constant struggle.

One of the characters from my book, the intended comic relief, was marred by their dialogue. While speaking with an editor, the comment I received where the character’s actions were of someone courageous and loyal, but the dialogue made them into just about the most annoying character imaginable.

“I shouldn’t hate this guy because their actions are good. But the dialogue kills them,” my editor said.

Ouch. But hey. If it’s flawed what can you do? Do you give up or try to fix it?

My portrayal of the art of conversation is getting better, but it has been a struggle. But for all the bad lines of dialogue I’ve written that really are cringeworthy, nothing compares to the feeling when you look at a line and know it’s a good one.

So What Next?

As the time approaches to once more submit my book for publication, things have gotten pretty exciting. I have found several publishers that are willing to take manuscripts without the need to work through an agent, and couldn’t be more enthusiastic about that. It’s just a matter of waiting for the deadlines while we send out queries like usual.

Of course, then comes another big question. What next?

It’s been a mixed bag of a month. The magazine I was writing reviews for suddenly folded, ending my brief career as a paid film critic. But I’ve also been working on a number of other projects, including a novella with my roommate, and two scripts with friends. Still, while the writing itself has improved and remained prolific, there’s still the feeling that things are moving still.

I’m the sort of guy that likes to feel like things are moving. I just feel like there’s something more I could be doing in order to get this writing career going. I’m a person of faith, but I don’t believe getting on my knees and asking for success is a way to get it. I also don’t think staying in my apartment and writing all the time is a way to get it either. I don’t believe in networking events as the people there will be just as desperate as I, and I’m not sure what jobs I could apply for where these kills would come in handy.

There has to be something, and it’s something I’ve been mulling over a lot.