This article is not one of our usual items. It is rather a part of a new series of articles from our union of self-employed, which will assess the various challenges faced by these workers whose domain is, by nature, unpredictable. And, a more significant, it will assess what we can do about these issues.
Does film criticism still has value? I have seen more rumblings to that effect recently, but as with all things, This will work as well. This is a transitional pass; I barely thirty and film died and was saved a dozen times in my life. Critics are thinkers and thinkers; they and they contextualize the world of art. But I'm not here to discuss the critical role. What I am here to do is break down the work that goes into a fairly standard movie review. Because, naturally, criticism is work.
Little is also taken for granted that the work published online. There has been a steady devaluation of writing in cultural nature of the Internet as a service paid, for over a decade now. The legends of this area can not maintain a contract. Publishers and editors lead a mediocre contest to see how much content they and they can squeeze their team with an almost nonexistent funding. All you see online is written by someone-e and shocking part of these writings was made for peanuts.
So how much is a film critic? Detail all.
Before going further, This is to clarify that 100% an estimation. The rate that I will use are based on strong intuitions and some fifth-grade math. Where I try to come in here is an approximate figure that is larger than, good, zero.
Now, even before you take paper and pencil to write this vicious row or sparkling leaflet, you must watch this damn movie. It is obvious that this is part of the job, and so you should be paid for it-es. Think of it as training; it's part of the job where you learn what you have to do. Without this, you can not do the job. Critics should definitely be paid es for their time and they spend watching the film. Now, I know that critics are often invited es to broadcasts,get links or receive one way or another a film copy. But you do not watch the movie for fun! If we are going to exist in a capitalist system, and if someone will extract the value of our work (in that case, a movie review), fair wages should be expected. The time during which you're stuck es on the film office is part of that value which is extracted because it is an inextricable part of the work you do. No movie, no critical, It's that simple.
"But wait," say definitely someone-e backstage, "Does that mean that a video game critic should be paid for the many hours he or she puts in a game so that they can write about them?? "Absolutely. AT 100%. "More “Breath of the Wild” is a game of 45 hours?!"You want me to play the full game and I write about it? pay!
So, if we assume a rate of 15$ /h (and seriously, why do not I?) and a film lasts two hours, it should 30$ in your pocket from the start. We have not even started to put words together. Once again, using well elementary math, presupposing a ratio 1:1 viewing time – write time, a salary 15$ /h, and a text 700 words, we arrive at a rate of about four cents a word (which is in the lower bracket of the price of honest self-s-worker). So the rate minimum for this text 700 words would 60$. A short capsule 200 word back to 38$. An texts 1000 words would 70$. This rate of four cents a word plus a living wage for the film screening is a absolute floor what is your job.
This is for a single film. These numbers can not be transferred for a full week; those who keep score at home will realize that our way text 700 Words cost four hours of work: two to watch, two for write. There is absolutely no chance that a person look ten movies a week and write about each. This is a sure way to destroy your work-life balance. Furthermore, the highest amount of movie releases in one week is four, with an average closer to three. But assume that the film section of a publication committed one in the new releases, and say there is a big weekend of four films coming up. Take for example 6-8 april 2018. This week saw the exits of :
A Quiet Place
The Miracle Season
These four films were covered in the New York Times therefore use the figures set out above with the respective length of their journals in Times as a base, decompose these films in terms of labor costs (15$ Time for viewing, four hundred word).
A Quiet Place: (651 Words * $ 0.04) + (91’*($15/60’)) = $48.79
Blockers: (674 Words * $ 0.04) + (91’*($15/60’)) = $52.46
The Miracle Season: (252 Words * $ 0.04) + (99’*($15/60’)) = $34.83
Chappaquiddick: (881 Words * $ 0.04) + (101’*$15/60’)) = $60.49
So if a person covers the entire weekend, this amounts to a pay 196,57$. These films are relatively short and one of the five is roughly a capsule; if we keep our example two hours, 700 words, a weekend in four films amount to a pay 232$, which is still not a living wage. But there are precedents in terms of being able to live on a critical new releases salary. Let me take you back to ancient times, pre-recession 2008, and the hourly rate of Mike D'Angelo, currently one of the many many film critics who work on contract. According to this tweet, he was paid 400$ by review when he worked for the Las Vegas Weekly. That's four zero zero. This is a rate that has negotiated the 200$ magazine offered him because, according to him, there was "no need of work". M. D'Angelo, and presumably other critical full time around the same time, earned enough money by writing for a living wage with two or three journals, or about 2100 words, per week, and had enough leverage to negotiate a rate twice that which was offered at the beginning. It's amazing.
More depressing still: take the hourly rate received by D'Angelo 2008 according to its updates (400$ by review, 600-800 words per review) and analyze it. Keep the same hourly rate 15$ for the time spent watching the film and assume an average week end of three film releases, a two-hour film. Six o'clock, 90$. this leaves 310$ for the act of writing, and if an average of criticism is presupposed 700 words, this gives us a rate just words above 44 cents.
All this is another way of saying something you already knew. Capitalism has destroyed the safety net that critics had a decade ago and since hastened to cut more corners. But you should be compensated fairly for your art-work, without exception. By sticking together, fair rates can become a reality rather than a rarity.
This article is not our usual cup of tea. Instead it is part of a new series of articles by our union local for freelancers that will examine the various issues faced by workers who’s sector is, by its very nature, unpredictable and subject to change from day-to-day. And, more importantly, what we can do about these issues.
Does the film critic matter anymore? I’ve seen rumblings to this effect more and more lately, but as with all things, this too shall pass. It’s a transient take; I’m barely in my 30s and cinema has died and been saved about a dozen times while I’ve been alive. Critics are thinkers; they contextualize the art of the world. But I’m not here to debate the role of the critic. What I am here to do is break down the labour that goes into a fairly standard film review. Because, naturally, criticism is work.
Little is taken more for granted than the written word as published online. There’s been a steady devaluing of internet culture writing as a paid service for over a decade now. Legends in the field can’t hold down a contract. Editors are in a race to the bottom to see how much content they can squeeze out of their stable with a next-to-nonexistent bankroll. Everything you see online has been written by someone and a shocking amount of it is done for peanuts.
So how much is a film review worth? Let’s break it down.
Now before I go any further, I’d like to point out this is 100% guesswork. The rates I’m going to be using are based on some solid hunches and a little fifth-grade math. What I’m trying to get at here is a ballpark figure that’s higher than, well, zero.
Now, before you even set pen to paper to write that vicious pan or that gushing notice, you actually have to watch the damn movie. So it stands to reason this is part of the job, and thus you should be paid for it. Consider it like a form of training; this is the part of the job where you learn what you are dealing with. Without it, you can’t do the job. Critics should absolutely have the time they spend watching movies remunerated. Now, I know that critics are often invited to screenings or get links or are otherwise provided with a copy of the film. But you’re not watching this for funsies, bud! If we are going to exist in a capitalist system, and if someone is going to extract value from your work (in this case, a piece of film criticism), a fair wage should be expected. That time when your butt is parked in the theatre seat is part of that value extraction because it’s an inextricable part of the work you are doing. No movie, no review, simple as that.
“So wait,” someone in the wings will undoubtedly say, “does that mean a video game critic should be paid for the hours and hours they sink into a game in order to write about it?” Absolutely. 100%. “But Breath of the Wild is like a 45-hour game?!” You want me to play the whole thing and write about it? Pay up, son.
So if we assume an hourly wage of $15 an hour (and really, why wouldn’t I) and an average movie length of two hours, that’s $30 that should be in your pocket right up front. We haven’t even started putting words together. Again, using some shaky math assuming a 1:1 running time-to-writing time ratio, a $15 an hour wage, and a 700-word text, we end up with a rate of about four cents a word (which is on the low end of what freelancers charge). So the minimum rate for that 700-word text would be $60. A short 200-word capsule adds up to $38. A 1,000-word longread would be worth $70. This rate of four cents a word plus a living wage for the runtime of the film is the absolute floor of what your labour is worth.
Now this is all for a single movie. These numbers absolutely do not scale for a whole week; those keeping score at home will notice that our average 700-word piece has cost four hours of labour: two to watch, and two to write. There is no way in Hell someone is going to watch ten movies in a week and write about all of them. That is a surefire way to annihilate your work-life balance. Plus, the high end number of new wide releases in a given week is four, with the average being closer to three. But let’s assume a publication’s movie section has one person on the new release beat, and let’s say there’s a big four-movie weekend coming up. Let’s take April 6-8, 2018 as an example. This weekend saw the wide release of:
A Quiet Place
The Miracle Season
All four of these were covered in the New York Times So using the numbers established above with the length of their respective review in the Times as a baseline, let’s break these movies down as far as the labour cost goes (i.e. 15$ an hour of runtime, four cents a word):
A Quiet Place: (651 words*$0.04) + (91’*($15/60’)) = $48.79
So if one person covers the whole weekend’s slate, that adds up to a payout of $196,57. Now these movies are a bit on the short side and one of those review is basically a capsule; if we maintain our two-hour, 700-word example, a four-movie weekend would add up to a $232 payout, which is still not what I would call a living wage. But there is precedent for being able to live off the new release grind. Let me take you to the far-away, pre-recession land of 2008, and the working rate of Mike D’Angelo, currently one of many film-crit lifers working as a hired gun. As per this tweet, he was paid $400 per review while working at the Las Vegas Weekly. That’s four zero zero. That’s a rate he negotiated up from $200 a review because, according to him, he didn’t “need the gig.” Mr. D'Angelo, and presumably other full-time critics around the same time, was pulling enough dosh writing to earn a living wage writing two or three reviews, or about 2100 words, per week, and held enough saw to negotiate twice the rate he was initially offered. It boggles the mind.
Let’s get depressing: let’s take the rate D’Angelo was pulling in 2008 according to his tweet (i.e. $400 per review, 600-800 words per review) and break it down. Let’s keep the same hourly rate of $15 for the time spent watching movies and assume an average weekend release of three movies, at two hours a movie. Six hours, $90. This would leave $310 for the actual act of writing, and if we assume an average review length of 700 words, that gives us a per-word rate of just north of 44 cents.
This was a roundabout way of saying something you already knew. Capitalism collapsed whatever safety net writers had a decade go and has hastened a race to cut the most corners since. But you should be compensated fairly for your work, no exceptions, and by banding together, fair rates can become a reality instead of a rarity.