The Difficulties of Being a Film Writer in the Modern Age
Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a writer, be it for work or pleasure? It’s terrible. If you think it’s as easy as sitting down at your computer and just starting to type, you are dead wrong. (For a good example of what being a writer is like, just look at Emma Thompson’s character in Stranger Than Fiction.) It. Is. Brutal.
Alright, alright, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But from my standpoint, I don’t enjoy writing sometimes. I’m on an antidepressant and I have Asperger’s, so truly expressing how I feel about a movie/book/TV show can get complicated. I sometimes find myself either repeating things I said in other reviews from months earlier or literally taking months to write out a five-paragraph review. And that’s the least anxiety-inducing problem I face. (Okay, maybe the second or third least.)
Writing about movies is tough enough as it is because in this day and age of nigh-obsessive social media activity, it seems anyone with an internet connection has an opinion on what they’ve watched. (And being or identifying as a woman makes it even worse at times.) From what I’ve seen, whenever the next installment of a big franchise gets released or awards season rolls around, there always seems to be this sort of pressure to watch everything within a week of opening day so you can be in the loop and/or not get bombarded with spoilers during the first weekend.
Now I don’t like that feeling at all; it just makes me feel anxious. Sure, getting all the inside jokes you see on Twitter is a good feeling but is it really worth seeing something you didn’t have much interest in to begin with? And if everyone’s seeing the same thing at the same time, what makes you so certain that your opinion will actually be heard amid everyone else’s? (Bear in mind I’ve been running my blog Defiant Success since August 2009 so I know how site traffic works… for the most part.)
More often than not, I’m prone to watching and writing about movies that are older than me (I was born in 1993). But because of that, the amount of clicks those posts get are not what I was hoping to receive for my work. So I’m either watching something I didn’t really want to see for more views, or something I do want to watch but know no one will care much about. It’s very conflicting. And yes, I’ve found those titles that fall somewhere in the middle but regardless, they are few and far between, and the writer anxiety – which is completely different from writer’s block, let me tell you – persists.
Sometimes it’s not just mental exhaustion that wears me out and stops me from writing. Most of the time it’s me trying to watch as many movies as I possibly can in a short period of time. For instance, when I went to the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2013, I saw eighteen films in a span of nine days. That in itself sounds tame but it’s worth mentioning that I watched nine of those movies in a period of three days. The end result was a burnt-out me, and a vow to never do something like that again. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson and in the years since then, I’ve attended several other film festivals (ones much closer to home, thankfully) and continued that vicious cycle. (Hey, to err is human, to forgive divine.)
Oh, and you know how I mentioned that being or identifying as a woman isn’t great if you want to write about movies? What I meant was that – as history has annoyingly shown time and time again – women tend to get the short end of the stick (so to speak) when it comes to self-worth. It seems that some people (read: those that were butthurt by the Ghostbusters remake and The Last Jedi) think that women don’t have much of a worthy opinion in anything. Well, to them I offer these few words: fuck off.
Speaking of which (and possibly as a good closing point to this piece), what does constitute as good film criticism? Even though I’ve been running my blog for nearly a decade now, I can’t truly say what the epitome of it is. But if I have to go by what I sometimes see on my Twitter timeline, analyzing every frame of a two-minute movie trailer definitely does not count as that. (Same to those that hate a movie that they haven’t even seen.) Basically it’s only good criticism if it’s actually, you know, good.