I've been lucky enough to cover a few film festivals (Sundance, SXSW, and Cinequest) over the past couple years. Some of you have asked how I got hooked up with the gig so I've written up some steps for those interested in becoming a film festival critic.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
1. Know the Right People -- This is probably the most important step. I got my MA in Cinema Studies in San Francisco. One of my classmates was the editor of Film Threat. We became friends and when he read my blog, he hooked me up. Connections are important but what's even more important is not to be a weasel. People know when they're being used and they don't like it.
2. Pay Your Own Way -- Most likely, you won't be paid for your critic work. In most cases, you'll have to help pay for your travel accommodations, food, lodging, etc. I finished writing my thesis in Utah which put me in a great position to attend Sundance. I took as much time off from work as I could afford, packed brown bag lunches, and drove into Park City around 8:00AM and drove back home around 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Sundance ended up costing quite a bit for Whitney and I but it was completely worth it.
3. Attend Smaller Festivals -- Everyone wants to cover Sundance, which is why it's so difficult to get a spot. But these days, almost every big city has some sort of film festival. These festivals often have some great movies in their lineups and can be pretty accommodating for independent critics. In fact, Cinequest hooked us up with lodging and some food. They treated us like royalty, haha. Check out the websites for any festivals near your town and contact their press coordinators about acquiring press credentials.
4. Hone Your Skills -- This one sounds corny but when you're forced to squeeze reviews out between screenings or late at night when you'd rather be sleeping, being able to rely on your ability to concisely review the five movies you just watched back to back to back to back to back is necessary.
5. Be Known -- This is definitely one step I'm still working on. Theoretically, enough hard work will lead to exposure which will help you plead your case with press coordinators. Write lots of reviews, try to get on Rotten Tomatoes, and build your brand. Participate in blogging community activities (see: The LAMB), comment on everyone else's sites, and do everything you can (without being annoying) to expand the world's knowledge of your site.
Have you ever covered a film festival? What advice do you have for potential press members?
Have you always wanted to cover a film festival? Is this advice helpful?
Let me know.