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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Current print review jobs disappearing might be, in the long run, one of the best things to happen to people who are serious about film criticism

The empire is crumbling, few chosen officials will lose their dream jobs, but the whole situation has already been partially replaced by a fast growing democratic republic that will become much larger & more influential & richer than the old empire ever was.

If you are a writer who dreams about criticising or reviewing movies for a living, the current situation - with print review jobs being cut left and right - might be disheartening.

However, let's take a look at exactly what you may be losing and what you, and the world, might be gaining.

The relationship between Hollywood and the rest of the world is an imperial relationship. Few companies in LA & NYC & elsewhere work together to produce filmed entertainment that generates a lot of revenue (& also employs a large number of people, a very good thing). All the power rests in the hands of the studios or Hollywood - or, in these day of "independent" Hollywood producers and companies - in the hands of the financiers, distributors and studio executives. The business is a quest to make bigger and bigger profits. Thus the product that gets created by the business is often, not counting some of the 5% of prestige pictures, not something that should intellectually or emotionally fulfill a grown, observant, critical, creative person year after year after year.

So you, the film critic, earned money by spending your talents & intellect analyzing a large amount of Hollywood product designed for maximum profit at the expense of any other quality that the medium of cinema is capable of displaying. Now you find yourself in a world full of inter-connected home computers - basically a fancier version of paper - a medium through which words and images can be shared, and in a country full of 200 - 300 some million people always looking, desperately looking in many cases, and willing to pay lots of money, for new ideas, new distractions, new ways of seeing things, or even old familiar things packaged in new ways - a country full of lots of potential customers for your talents; the ability to make aesthetic judgements, compare art/entertainment and various aspects of real life, teach and explain things to people, and even motivate & challenge people. Unless you were the 5% of print critics who always spent a lot of time writing about challenging art/indie/foreign & rare excellent Hollywood & indiewood films, how happy were you really to watch & write about "blockbusters" and or only-slightly-different-than-last-week's-movie-about-the-same-sex-and-violence, very-few-non-white-people-if-any, topic concerned Hollywood movies week in and week out?

The imperial world of Hollywood film production and distribution & marketing through print papers and magazines is being successfully challenged at the moment by the democratic world of the internet, the home computer, & other more interesting forms of entertainment & pass times. However, for people who are able to write well, and more importantly, think well; creative people who can come up with a million new ideas or ideas that just seem really new to the rest of consumer America because they do not spend their time keeping an eye on history and the future, there will always be work, and most likely very satisfying work, in this information and ideas and aesthetics driven country (and increasingly, world).

Print film criticism and reviews might die today, might die 5 years from now, or might never die - might remain a niche activity forever. But you have talents, and your life is finite, and you live in the midst of an information boom, of a consumption & consumer boom when it comes to the hunger for new & different ideas & things. Much of the world is under developed but is hungry for advancement in all areas, including in the so called developed countries with good economies and law and order. In very few places are most people doing well & accessing even a quarter of the awesomeness that humans are capable of accessing - thus, lots of work for people who are able to work with ideas and who can think critically; lots of opportunities to re-create and re-imagine the world, and to try to help implement those visions. On a less grand level, use your evaluation skills to evaluate how you can take advantage of the zillion opportunities that will open up by you losing your full time or part time job which required you to watch and think about Hollywood product, for the most part.

When you get over the fear of the job hunt, when cash flow is back on track, and when you are using your writing and analyzing and reviewing skills to fulfill & create other dreams that you once had and that you will have again - you might end up being glad that you were escorted out of your Hollywood funded (perhaps indirectly) print criticism situation.

And, since you know a lot about movies, now might be the time to collaborate with people and take your love of cinema to the next level - write some screenplays, make some movies (using the same digital technologies that are putting print media out of business). I know you've thought to yourself a million times during your current or previous film critic/reviewer job that you could do better than the questionable art/entertainment that you were asked to evaluate and or help sell, however indirectly, to the public. And you might be right on that instinct, some French critics back in the 50's/60's were, and they gave the world not only one of the great reasons to desire the position of film critic, but the ability for humanity to see itself in a new way - through film as art.

If all that has not convinced you, let's take the long view. Modern humans are over 200,000 year old as a species. Hollywood and the job of film criticism is barely 100 years old. If Hollywood, indiewood, real indie film, the entire structure of art/entertainment/commerce/ego/power/happiness/status/misery were to completely implode and disappear from the planet, we won't miss it all that much after a while; and we might re-discover other talents & other pass times & other ways of being happy that might actually be healthier, more fulfilling, more wealth generating - you get the idea. Humans do not need movies, we have gotten by very well without it for over 199,900 years, give or take a few. And if Hollywood disappears, all of us will be doing what some of us are already doing, what you might have to do very soon as the paycheck derived through Hollywood product disappears - come up with a better way to spend your limited time on this awesome planet & comparatively awesome democratic republic.

The important things - your talents and desire and vision - still exist, just one source of employment is disappearing. Not an insurmountable challenge for one who knows every plot twist at the screenwriter's disposal, flawed characters who redeem themselves after great struggles, and of course happy endings - as well as you do.

Regardless of what happens with print film criticism, someone who has written or who can write a good movie review has the intellectual skills to organize information that can allow that person to do a decently paid job somewhere; from which savings can be invested to develop fortunes in the long term (we are an open individualist capitalist economy, meaning most anyone can invest in most publicly traded companies, as far as I know) - and in the after hours, after the day job work day, you can still join the thousands who take to their computer to share their passion for the movies - and most likely, since you have more training & skill then them at that task - your blog or site can become successful, and can lead to other paid work or collaborations where you can use your film critic skills.

Or, what I am saying is that the end of print film criticism is not the end of film criticism.

Most likely there will always be movies during our lifetime & beyond - with hundreds of new nollywoods & dogme 95s & DVD labels & VOD conglomerates springing up everywhere every day - and thus there will always be film reviewing & criticism that someone will have to do well; maybe you.

I am sure you knew all this stuff already; but perhaps it is interesting to hear it from a real indie filmmaker with a day job - where nothing about that work condition compares one way or other to the joy of being able to make & show movies, and to the joy of enjoying life in a country full of opportunities, choices, and delicious distractions. Even if filmmaking becomes the sole source of income for me at some point, the fearlessness with which artists must approach their lives will still be necessary to maintain the life that I now enjoy - the creative life; there is no work guarantee in art/entertainment/creativity - when you lose the desire to dream and create new work, it is all over, money or no money, indiewood connections or no indiewood connections - and nothing kills desire faster than fear. The fearful are not bold. And happy creatives - filmmakers or entrepreneurs or film critics - must suppress their fear of unemployment (failure) to a sufficient degree, must be bold, so that they can venture out and create; live their dreams and desires, generate work & money & community & more work & more rewards.

Anyway, don't worry, even if the entire print film criticism game completely ends tomorrow, you will be fine as long as you get back in touch with the dreams and skills that drove you to become a film critic in the first place, and as long as you look around with wide open eyes and search for all the better work that you could do to fill up the vacant time, and as long as you, most importantly, move forward boldly.

- Sujewa

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