6 Biggest Mistakes of Freelance Writers

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You know the old adage: Everyone makes mistakes. But when you don’t recognize that you’ve made a mistake, sometimes you can get into that endless cycle of making the same mistake over and over again. For freelance writers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mistake-making if you’re never alerted to your mistake in the first place! Kelly James-Enger at at Dollars and Deadlines has published a post about some common mistakes that freelancers make, and how to recover from them. Here is a roundup of some of Kelly’s greatest tips on how to recognize a freelancing mistake, and how to correct it.

Find out more tips from Kelly in the full article here.

 

What are some of the most common mistakes you have made as a freelance writer? How do you recover from them? Let us know in the comments!

How To Write an Effective Movie Review

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So after spending time as a beat reporter, sports writer or feature writer, you’ve finally made the leap to becoming a film reviewer. It’s no doubt a big transition, since your sensibilities as an article writer will have to change: no longer are you reporting on a person or event objectively; as a movie reviewer, you are now expected to give your personal opinion of a film through a critical analysis of several elements that add up to the overall movie experience.

So is there a right or wrong way to review a film? Not really, as long as it’s done in a professional manner.  I don’t claim to personally have all of the answers, but there is a definitely a mindset that I approach each of my film reviews with. Since I use the four-star rating system in my reviews, here’s a look at the top four things to consider before you start writing your own review.

4. Engage and Inform A review should be engaging because the review should be well-written enough to keep the reader interested throughout the piece; and informative because the point of a review is to advise the reader whether the film is worth their time and money. Readers are likely looking at your review because they want a professional opinion. As a film reviewer, you generally see many more movies than Joe and Jane Public, and over time, that should give you more insight into the merits of filmmaking. Because you are professional, your opinion is trusted and valued.
Being informative just comes down to basic journalistic common sense. After your lead paragraph — which should essentially be a short, opinionated summation of your entire review — the next thing to do is inform your readers with the basic facts surrounding your subject. Tell them, in no more than two or three paragraphs, what the basic plot of the film is. This can be the trickiest part of the review, because there’s often a fine line between what is basic information and what is a key plot point, aka a “spoiler.”

3. Focus On The Big Picture While it’s generally the actors who attract the most attention, a film is a tremendous undertaking that involves huge amounts of human and technological resources. Generally, the quality of the acting is vital, because generally (unless it’s director Terrence Malick’s trippy “The Tree of Life”) acting is the glue that holds the whole film together. If actors can’t suspend our disbelief, then the mission of the filmmakers to entertain you is futile. Other big elements to consider are story and direction. Within its own genre, how does the film hold up against other, similar notable films? Are there plot similarities? Or is there something different that separates it from the rest? Determining originality for your reader is key, since you reader, who is spending their hard-earned money on the film, wants to know if they are just about to see something borrowed or something new.

Also to be considered are any number of surrounding elements that enhance the film, both seen and unseen: from visual effects and the set pieces, to the pacing of the story, the score (which has just as power to affect viewers’ emotions as the acting) and the overall tone of the film.

2. Remember The Film’s Intended Audience While part of the reviewing process involves how the piece moves you personally, remember you are not reviewing the film JUST for your own satisfaction. With every film you need to ask yourself, “How does the film work for its intended audience?” Don’t make the greatest film of all time the standard on which ALL other films should be judged. Sure, it’s fair enough pair it down and compare it to other films in the genre — especially if you see plot similarities: but in no way should you ever compare a dramatic epic like “The Godfather” to a comedy hit like “Father of the Bride.” They are two completely different types of films. The best way to criticize, naturally, is to judge a film on its own merits.

1. Remember Who The Star Is While engaging readers is a vital part of the film reviewing process, never should the aim of a piece be to entertain. This is where many movie reviewers go wrong. In an effort to draw attention to themselves and their “clever” writing skills, reviewers sometimes will try to make outrageous statements in an effort to solicit a response — generally, laughter, from their readers. If reviewers somehow look upon themselves as the “star” of the piece, then they’ve forgotten what their role in the whole process is. And true, while it’s an opinion piece they are writing, at heart, they still are reporting their findings to the readers. Remember, you are writing about a film project of a star or stars — and are not a star yourself. Be honest and be yourself. If you are, readers will give you four stars (out of four).

 

I Want To Be A Movie Critic (But Don’t Know Where To Start)

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You’ve heard the old saying: “Everyone’s a critic.” And that especially seems true when you’re exiting a movie theater, where, to some degree, you’ll hear a great number of people weighing in on the film they just plunked their hard-earned cash down for.

For some, that’s as far as the criticism goes. They’ll think it’s either the best $10 they’ve ever spent, or they’ll complain that it’s $10 (and two hours of their lives) that they’ll never get back. Others will be half-hearted about it, and lament how they kind-of, sort-of liked the movie, but should have spent $6 on a matinee instead. But then there are viewers who are already established journalists — folks who have a leg-up as writers thanks their experience as hard news reporters, sports reporters or feature writers — who may fancy the idea of branching into film criticism.The problem is, while they have the passion for movie viewing, they’re at a loss when it comes to establishing themselves in the film press as they switch gears on their career paths.

While your sensibilities change from a writing standpoint (you’re going from being an objective writer to one with an opinion), fundamentally, being a film critic is no different than any other job in the newsroom because you’ll need to build a base of contacts to help lay the foundation for your stories. In the case of film criticism, you’ll need those contacts if you want to take the next step, which is gaining access to advanced screenings of the movies you plan to critique.

Of course, the easy way is to buy your ticket and see the movie the day it comes out.  But in this ever-competitive age of digital journalism and copywriting services, where publishing embargoes are often broken so any of number of outlets can vie to be the “first” with its opinion, you’re immediately at a disadvantage because other reviews have already been published. Readers’ accessibility to reviews around the time of release is key, since generally, a movie will likely get its biggest audience in its opening weekend (if it opens weak, it will go away fast). So if you’re late to the game with your review, the chances of it actually being read will likely be diminished.

While the digital age may pose a disadvantage for newbie film critics initially, it should also be considered a blessing, because it will ultimately increase your chances of getting on a press list since journalists can often access press materials online and receive advanced screening notifications via e-mail. In the days before the Internet, studios would mail paper press kits (accompanied by glossy still photos) and advance screening passes to media outlets, and with the cost of postage to bear, costs had to be justified (1,000-reader circulation weekly newspapers weren’t a high priority).

Gaining access to advanced film materials and press screenings is generally achieved one of two ways: If you live in New York or Los Angeles, you should be able to contact studios directly to make arrangements; and if you’re in someplace like the Midwest, studios will direct you to a regional publicity office to accommodate your press needs.

While writing movie reviews for a smaller, weekly publication may not immediately qualify you to be included on a press list (again, studios need to justify your access and audience size is usually a major factor), don’t ever be discouraged.

Generally, the reason you are reviewing films in the first place is because you have a passion for it — and passions aren’t easy to give up. Plus, with every review you write, the more experience you gain as a writer. As long as your skills continue to develop, you will get noticed, and those notices will lead to bigger opportunities. Never forget that a four-star career as a film critic is always within your reach.

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