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.

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My First Paid Article

The year of 2016 has come and gone, and the first dawn of 2017 brings with it a glimmer of a hopeful future for me. Today I completed and published the first piece of writing for which I’ll be paid.

It seems fitting that I chose this subject matter. The 1999 game Aliens vs. Predator is one of the many works of fiction that jumpstarted my desire to work in the field of storytelling as a filmmaker or novelist. How poetic that should be the subject of the first bit of writing that would actually put a little cash in my bank account.

This was an article that was in my heart for years, ever since the bungled release of the Alien vs. Predator films, I always wanted to talk about what made the series special, where it had worked before, and why the movies failed. I must have worked four days on this piece, collecting the images, researching the facts, making sure all the bases were covered so that it would all come together.

In the end, I’m very thrilled with how it has turned out and believe it is my best piece for MoviePilot yet. I hope you all agree.

A Different Kind of Star Wars: Rise, Fall & Future of ‘Aliens vs. Predator’

Read at your leisure and you are encouraged to share this piece to your heart’s content. After all, the more it is read, the more it helps me get established in this field. Also, offer up any thoughts you may have for improvement or ideas for future articles.

Thank you to all who helped me get this far, and Happy New Year.

A Night in the 80s

I’m a child of the 80s. Though I was born at the tail end of the decade, 80s culture has been a big part of my childhood. I didn’t bother much with the current fads and trends, instead relishing in the sumptuous mana of yesteryear. This began when I was especially young, spending more time watching old movies on VHS tapes than going to the theater to catch the latest Disney.

Forget that. I was watching Indiana Jones.

My love of 80s was solidified at the age of 12 when I begged the matriarch to let me delve into the Alien and Predator films, and I saw my first R Rated film. Aliens quickly shoved Star Wars aside to become my favorite science fiction series ever, and it retains that title to this day.

So when the opportunity came to see the film on the big screen, I coughed up the money and frolicked to the theater.

The event was for the Burbank International Film Festival for their film history series, which included Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Top Gun, and Aliens.

I arrived three hours early, and found to my joy that the ticket included all events in the festival, not just the main screening of Aliens. So I kicked back and caught Top Gun, relishing in the love triangle between Tom Cruise, his plane and his off centered two front teeth.

Then came the main movie. Seeing it 30 feet high in front of me was something of a dream come true. They say watching a movie in the big screen is the only real way to do it, and I would say that’s a pretty accurate statement. The big screen completely envelopes you in the movie’s world, and it becomes everything.

After the screening was done came a special treat, a visit by none other than Michael Biehn and Jenette Goldstein, who portrayed Hicks and Vasquez in the movie. They joined their fans for a brief Q&A that was filled with much laughter, jokes and nostalgia.

This was my second time seeing these two in person, the first being four years ago at a Horror Hound Convention where they autographed my poster for the movie. Pity we didn’t get to talk in person again, but perhaps that will be something for the future.

After a brief visit to the afterparty, I headed to work and prepared for my early morning shift at 6 am. I expected to feel groggy and grouchy both, but in spite of the very few and frequently interrupted hours of sleep I got that night, the morning came with a warm sun’s glow and a returned smile from me. The night before was just too much damn fun to sully it with a bad morning.

And that’s the story of my trip back to the 80s. It was a night of acid drenched goodness that featured a live performance by two of my favorite actors. It was a night where the work ended and I could just live a little. Should probably start doing that a little more.

Getting Younger Kids to Like Older Movies

One of the things that saddens me is seeing people refusing to watch a film on the simple basis of its age. After all, wine gets better with age. Cannot certain movies be the same way? What does it matter if something is dated? Why should that be a detriment when it can be part of its charm? Why is it that some people, starting at an early age, refuse to give older films a chance?

I never was like that. I got lucky.

Back in 1998, we’d just moved out of Biloxi and to a little town called Dayton Ohio. It was our first year out of the south and back in the snow. Things were a little stressful for me then, so one night my mother decided to surprise me. She said she was going to show me something that would make me laugh. It was a group of men called the Marx Brothers, and she was going to let me watch some of their movies.

The first one was called Duck Soup. Grandma and Grandpa came to join us, the lights went down and the movie began. Then I started laughing and never stopped. Not for almost 20 years. It introduced me to a kind of comedy I had not seen before, killed my initial aversion to black and white films, and became a favorite to show curious friends.

This film remains my favorite comedy to this day, and I first watched it at the tender age of 10 before I knew anything about film as an art for or a cultural phenomenon. A 10 year old boy fell in love with a movie from the 1930s. How does that happen? Well, I’ll tell you how.

Many have had that conversation where you try to show something to a friend that you know they’ll love, but they refuse to watch it because it’s black and white, or it’s from a self applied cut off age. I even met one guy who refused to watch movies that weren’t shot on digital. Me? I always looked forward to those nights in front of the television, wondering what images would grace it next. It never bothered me that some of the movies seemed different.

Now, Duck Soup was not the first so called ‘old movie’ I’d seen. My mother was busy trying to take care of two kids by herself, so she couldn’t take us out to the theater as much as most kids. So instead of seeing new movies, we would spend our evenings in front of the TV watching films from the 60s, 70s and 80s, sometimes on AMC, sometimes on the Disney Channel.

They were fun social events of popcorn and bad microwave TV dinners, but always interesting movies. Interesting because something was just, well, different about them.

All the movies just sort of looked different, each had their own special character, and some seemed to be part of the same family. At the time it didn’t occur to me that these things had to be made or that they came from specific eras that all had a certain aesthetic. Seeing one of those unique looks on a film didn’t turn me off, however. Rather, I knew about what to expect from it.

I was exposed to these films at an early age, and with regularity. If any of you want to give your kids a chance to enjoy these kids of films, that’s the way to do it. Start with something that can grab them, a good monster movie like Creature From the Black Lagoon, or an action film like Gunga Din, or a fast paced comedy like the aforementioned Duck Soup. Above all else, don’t be cynical. Aversion to so called dated material is a learned behavior, and it’s learned when someone is told it doesn’t matter.

You need not say it with words. Not showing them sends the message loud and clear. Film, like any other art form, needs to be seen to be appreciated, so if these films are confined to vaults to forever remained unwatched, a proud legacy of art will be lost. This will inevitably happen to film. In due time, perhaps in a few centuries, another art form will take its place and soon some of our favorites will be adapted into a new kind of art, much like how books were first adapted into films.

Though this is inevitable, we shouldn’t be in any great hurry.

Exposing children to many different types of films is like exposing children to other languages. It’s earlier for the developing brain to learn complex languages, and film has a language all its own. With early experience, they can become fluent. I was blessed to learn there really is no such thing as an old movie, book or video game, just a movie you haven’t seen, a book you haven’t read, and a game you never played.

My First Industry Job

A brief bit of news from me. This week has been a big week, because this week I got my first paying job in the film industry.

I have been interning at a distribution company since September, and just got picked up as a part time employee, where I will be assisting around the office. It is a great place with a great bunch of people.

Today the paperwork was signed, so I will be getting that first industry check at long last.

Forgive me for being more than a little psyched about this. I am happy about this for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my retail job is getting cut way back. Now instead of working there four days a week, I will only be working two, and it will no longer be my primary source of income.

Secondly, this will make me look very attractive to other employers in the industry. All of my positions up to now have been unpaid internships. Now that I will be having a steady income from work in film, that is going to look very nice.

Thirdly, this will be my primary job. No longer retail. I am an employee in the world of the movies.

Hopefully this will be the first of many achievements to be had this year.