I’m A Tool…Tips For Working With Film Critics
By Nic Baisley
I’ve been reviewing indie films for several years now, and two of the most frequent questions I’m inevitably asked by first-time filmmakers is “how can I get my film reviewed” and “are film reviewers even relevant anymore”? While each website and traditional media outlet is unique with their own set of rules, I thought it would be prudent to answer those questions and give you a few tips on how to deal with film critics in general.
To answer the first question “how can I get my film reviewed” will vary from outlet to outlet, but the simple truth is that for most, just asking will yield an answer. Most review sites have a submission policy of some sort that is posted somewhere. Traditional media outlets can be a bit pickier about the content they review. For the most part major newspapers and even radio stations are only interested in reviewing the larger, distributed films that debut in theaters every week. Your best bet is to find the smaller indie papers and get them to cover your film (it also helps if your film is playing in that area in the near future). I recommend in all cases to contact the media outlet (web or otherwise) before you blindly submit your film to them.
When you finally get your film in the hands of your reviewer, make sure that he or she has the tools they need to do their job properly. Here’s a quick list of what should be included with your submission:
- Your film, obviously. Please test it beforehand to make sure it plays all the way through.
- A press kit. I prefer a hardcopy as I’m not always writing reviews on my computer or have access to a PC while I’m on the road. A digital press kit (PDF or website link) is also acceptable, and appreciated. This is absolutely crucial if your film doesn’t have a complete IMDB page yet.
- Your contact information. I find it helpful to be able to contact the filmmaker or PR person once the film review is complete. It also helps to have this info for future communication (like if I wanted to screen your film for an audience).
- If you need your screener returned, please enclose a self-addressed envelope with proper postage.
The answer to the second question (are film reviewers event relevant anymore) is actually quite simple. We are only as useful as you allow us to be. We are tools to help you further your career. If you aren’t making movies, then we’re out of a job (or we will be relegated to reviewing blockbuster films, and who want to do that?) Don’t take it personally when a critic gives a negative review of your film. They might be disparaging your baby, but sometimes it can be an eye opener for filmmakers who might have missed something during production, and can still possibly fix. At least it’s one more outlet that has covered your movie, and even the worst review can have at least one positive pull-quote in it. If the critic behaves unprofessionally, chances are you aren’t he first person he or she has acted this way with, and eventually word will get out and that person will stop receiving films to review. Definitely feel free to follow up with film critics to inquire the status of your review, but please don’t be offended if it takes a long time. If your review is time sensitive, please let us know in advance so we can do our best to accommodate you. Often critics, even sites with several active writers, have a long queue of films to review, and if they are like me, they are on the road attending film festivals and conferences like you are. They aren’t always sitting in front of the monitor watching films and writing. They will get to your film eventually.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to us via your social networks and form rapport with film critics. A lot of us know what’s going on in the industry and even if they don’t like your movie, they might like you and pass along tips to point you in the right direction. Most of us got into this industry because we love films. We want to communicate with you and accompany your movie on its journey.