Listen. You gotta keep quiet about this review. Otherwise too many other people will try to cut in on the territory.
The thing is, Christopher Null’s Five Stars! How to Become a Film Critic, The World’s Greatest Job, actually does what it says. It tells you how to become a film critic.
Now Null, the founder of filmcritic.com, doesn’t guarantee Five Stars! will actually turn you into a published film critic. But he certainly lays out an excellent road map for becoming a capable film critic or, if nothing else, a more educated film-goer.
Null never misleads about the prospects. He makes clear from the outset that not only aren’t you going to retire on your pay as a film critic, the odds of making it a full time job are infinitesimal. (He estimates there’re 1,600 film review jobs in the mainstream media in the US, including part-timers.) In fact, Null freely admits it’s tough just to get someone to pay anything for your reviews, and says the best option to start out is contributing to existing or new Internet sites. And he tells you even that requires work, practice and patience.
Why, then, should you read Five Stars!? Because if you have even a casual interest in movies, you WILL learn something. There’s something here for the novice, for those accustomed to routinely seeing the latest big release the day it opens, the art-house film aficionado or the DVD enthusiast. With extensive use of examples and comparison, Null mixes the basics of film history, film theory and film making, writing reviews, analyzing films, and marketing yourself and your reviews. He even talks about the pros and cons of rating systems, from thumbs up or down to four or five stars to letter grades. And if you’re truly serious about becoming a film critic, there’s a valuable compilation of contacts and distributors. This truly is an all-in-one guide to film criticism.
If you’ve got some basic or advanced knowledge in any of the areas Null covers, you can skip past or skim that particular section without it detracting from the balance of the book. It’s likely, though, that his discussion will at least reinforce important points. Moreover, the book is never academic or stilted. To the contrary, he comes across like he’s working with you one-on-one at the kitchen table.
Despite Null’s warnings, the book does carry the potential for creating the impression the world can always use more film critics. Still, whether you become a published film critic or simply one in your own mind, Null’s discussion of film theory and styles, and his personal list of 300 “Must-See Films for the Aspiring Critic” are alone worth the price of admission. I guarantee you will come away watching movies with a different – and more informed – perspective.
But, like I said, keep this on the down-low. There’s already enough competition out there for those high-paying reviewing jobs.