Friday, June 01, 2012

How To Become A Bonafide Hollywood Movie Reviewer Online

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As I type this blog, there's a voice in my head saying, "Why tell people how to do YOU? Don't create competition for yourself?" But I'm going to tell that voice to shut the hell up! I'm at the point in my life and career where I desire to share more about this entertainment game than mere movie reviews and celebrity interviews. Everybody body and their cousin is doing them!

I've been there, done that! So now I really want to share what I know to help others get to where they desire to go. So aspiring movie reviewers here's some tips on how to become a BONAFIDE Hollywood film reviewer:

1. Have a strong interest, a passion even, for films and filmmaking. Duh, right? But not everyone writing reviews nowadays loves film, they review because they need the content to fill their sites or publications.

YOU as a bonafide Hollywood reviewer should be up on the old and new directors, actors, the filmmaking process, and the business of making films.  If you don't already subscribe to a film related magazine, website, or blog and consume their content frequently then this gig may not be for you. Just saying! And of course, you should reach out to those established film critics and their organizations. Start asking questions and attending events when and where you can.

2.  Be willing to see different kinds of films and see them often. STUDY THEM, contrast and compare, take notes, don't just merely watch! You're expected to have a critical eye.

3.  Like to share your opinions through writing or videos or podcasts.  If you don't like to write, other options exist. Explore them and communicate your opinion well.

4.  Be fearless in your writing. If you didn't like a film or an element of it, say why.  Have a perspective based on what you know about acting or filmmaking, but ALWAYS keep in mind you're sharing your OPINION, not necessarily facts.

Those are the basics, but you'll need more than that to really set yourself up as a true movie critic or reviewer in the eyes of showbiz big wigs. Here's what else you need in 2012 and beyond:

1. YOUR OWN SITE & DOMAIN NAME:  A website, blog, YouTube Channel, newsletter, or a combination of these things. In 2012 you MUST have a STRONG online presence. It's not optional anymore, especially if you are just getting into the game.  This industry has turned its camera lens to the second screen--the computer, and thus the internet--and if you're not actively engaged online then you are not part of the ongoing industry conversation, nor will be invited to join unless you're rich or famous.

You'll also need a roomy mailbox. That's right, a mailbox! Once you've established yourself as a bonafide reviewer, eventually you may be asked if you want to receive screeners and promotional materials by mail.  Some publicists still use mail or FED-EX when there's SWAG (Stuff We All Get) like a t-shirt, bag, etc. involved.

But if no SWAG is involved publicists NOW email links to trailers and EPK's (Electronic Press Kits) or post them online on a secure site. Passwords or account set ups are sometimes required.

2. DEVELOP A NICHE. Decide what kinds of films you want to review the most. Many bloggers and entertainment writers are broad in their approach, but these days in blogsphere and the internet, creating a niche for yourself will help develop what's most important, AN AUDIENCE.

HOWEVER, be willing to see and review different genres of movies from time to time, but set yourself up as an AUTHORITY in one or two genres. As with actors, film reviewers can be pigeon-holed.
3. AN AUDIENCE.  THIS IS CRUCIAL and will be the most challenging thing to acquire especially as a newcomer.  Many film publicists, especially those that work for major studios, are smarter than they used to be about site traffic, commenting, social media, etc.  They want to see some sign that YOUR review will be read and that YOU have a certain amount of INFLUENCE with getting people to theaters to see their movies.

4. INDUSTRY RELATIONSHIPS.  Yes, it's nice to be INVITED but when starting out or even later you may have to ASK to attend screenings, premieres etc. Movies don't make and promote themselves, people do it for them. So get to know those people! 

Reach out via email or social profiles--these days--to established movie reviews, publicists, directors, actors, etc. And don't overlook those that promote and create INDY filmmakers and student films.  Work your way up to the major studio peeps because once your name and site gets in the circulation of publicists, eventually you'll start receiving invites to bigger films.

5. STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE LIST!  As with most things Hollywood there's a list to be on! In this case, the list is of movie reviewers and entertainment writers that the studios deem worthy! These selected writers and representatives get invited to ALL the major and indy studio screenings.  And yes, as with Hollywood in general, it's hard to break into that clique. And NO there isn't a lot of "cultural diversity"--to say it nicely--on the list. But that shouldn't stop you from doing what you want to do in becoming a bonafide movie reviewer.

So forget about THAT list! Worry about getting on general media lists per movie basis. You can network your way to media screenings and related events thanks to IMDB Pro, social profiles, trade mag mentions, film related events, etc., but once there you need something to back up your business card.  That's where your site comes in.

Do you have to live and work in Hollywood to be a bonafide Hollywood movie reviewer? No, but honestly it helps. Having a presence here is important, but not a deal breaker in this case. Use trusted individuals locally to represent your site at film screenings, press days, and related events.

In developing your audience learn from my early mistakes:

1. DON'T ASSUME just because you write well, people will respond immediately with comments. They probably won't at the beginning. Trying to get my audience here to respond via comments has always been a challenge, but my readers, generally an older crowd is accustomed to consuming content not engaging with it online. They are bonafide lurkers.

That said, get to know your audience early. Learn what they respond to and what they won't. Be willing to try different techniques. I suggest following PROBLOGGER, COPYBLOGGER, and similar sites to learn great writing and audience developing techniques.

2. GET A TEAM of people you trust to work with you. I've done it solo for years and trust, you'll want and need help if you really want to develop great content and promote it. Trying to do it all will become tiresome especially if you do more than just write like I do. 

3. BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? I blogged in the early days because I like to write and share my opinions about films; it was not about making money.  Most entertainment sites and blogs NOW are about BUSINESS--generating audiences to attract advertising and sponsorship dollars.  Decide from the start if you will write and review for the love of it, to create an online business, or both. HAVE A PLAN!

4. USE EMAIL!  Set up your site to COLLECT emails on your homepage along with the RSS option. Social profiles are great, but ERRBODY has an email account. Develop a good newsletter to further promote your site and generate traffic.  But don't be spammy, be timely! Not to mention email can be read by all phones nowadays, not just smartphones for those relying on the mobile web for internet access.

5. SYNDICATE your reviews to other related sites. Be sure to post or submit your written reviews to article submission sites like Zimbio, Squidoo, and even other movie and entertainment related sites. Use YouTube's video response tool to get your review on camera seen by more people.

Since you're starting out and establishing a name for yourself, submitting reviews to related sites with better traffic than yours is key. But be internet wise! Always ask for a hyperlink of your name that links BACK to your website, blog, or social profile in their byline or video description.  Be willing to return the favor too!

The goal in syndicating/distributing your write ups and other content is to establishing yourself as an expert across the internet and to generate traffic back to your own site or social profiles.  You want to get your review in front of as many eyes as possible.

Lastly, if it appears I'm not practicing what I preach, you're somewhat right! Honestly, I've begun a NEW business, SHEER SOCIAL, and it keeps me busy writing, consulting, and teaching others on social media marketing.  Admittedly, I need help keeping THIS blog going like I used to.

If you'd like to contribute movie reviews or other content here, help with web design, or help promote via your site or social profiles email me!'s inbox would love to receive an email from you. You can hit me up on Twitter too at @hollywoolvwork or the fan page.  The links to the blog's social profiles are top right.  Thank you in advance!


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