One of the central challenges for any film critic is finding opportunities to turn the practice into a profession. The gateways to launching a career in film criticism have dwindled to a few scattered university courses and internships. A budding critic looking for places to write will find more outlets than ever before, but after a few bylines even the most ambitious newcomer will be forced to ask: Now what?
For many critics, film festivals are the ideal arena to practice the craft. Bigger festivals contain a dense lineup of films for critics to cover in a deadline-driven environment. The challenge is getting there in the first place.
That's where we come in. Indiewire has stepped up its efforts to create a support system for film critics by developing the Criticwire Network and the accompanying blog run by Matt Singer. Now, we're taking the next step.
This summer, Indiewire is partnering with the Festival del Film Locarno — aka the Locarno Film Festival — along with the Swiss Association of Film Journalists and the Film Society of Lincoln Center to run a workshop for aspiring film critics.
Indiewire and Locarno will select six college-age participants to attend the two-week festival in early August, where they'll write about the program in a deadline-driven environment. With the support of Gohner Stiftung, the festival will provide housing from July 31 through August 11. Indiewire will contribute with a share of the travel expenses depending on the country of origin of the participant.
The Critics' Academy is a subset of Locarno's larger Summer Academy initiative (more information can be found here). While the festival has co-hosted a workshop for Swiss students in the past, this summer's Critics' Academy will mark the first time it represents an international selection of aspiring critics, some of whom may also attend a similar workshop this fall in New York during the 50th edition of the New York Film Festival.
During Locarno, participants will work with me and other critics and journalists to cover the festival on a daily basis. Their writing assignments will appear in Pardo Live, the festival's daily newspaper, the Film Society of Lincoln Center's website, filmlinc.com, and Indiewire's Criticwire blog. They will also be encouraged to pitch other outlets based on their experiences in Locarno.
One of the oldest festivals in the world, Locarno attracts thousands of press and industry members each year. Most famous for its Piazza Grande section, which hosts nightly outdoor screenings before crowds of 8,000, Locarno has grown into one of Europe's most significant film events. In addition to premiering many films that go on to play at other major festivals, Locarno also hosts an annual retrospective (this year's is dedicated to Otto Preminger) and tributes to accomplished filmmakers and producers. Participants in the Critics Academy will have the opportunity to write about all of these events.
As one of the few U.S. critics to attend Locarno over the last few years — beginning when film critic Olivier Pere took over as artistic director — I can attest to the quality and scope of its programming that has been tailored to meet the standards of committed cinephiles. It is one of the best festivals for critics to hone their skills.
In an insightful 2008 essay about the film festival circuit, Cinema Scope editor (and Locarno programmer) Mark Peranson divides festivals into two categories: "Business" festivals and "audience" festivals. Locarno, a festival programmed by critics and cinephiles, pleases the latter contingency; however, with its opening "Industry Days" and developing marketplace, it also connects the dots between cinematic discovery and the process through which films can find audiences beyond the festival circuit.
For critics, this is an invaluable connection. Participants in this year's Critics' Academy will be able to explore Locarno's program and help introduce it to readers around the world.
Applicants must have completed a minimum of three years of undergraduate study and have a demonstrated interest in film criticism as well as the ability to speak and write fluently in English.
Interested? Here's what applications must include:
- CV: A basic one-page resume
- Contact information for two recommendations (professors, employers, etc.)
- Four writing samples about film. These can take the form of film reviews, scholarly papers, blog posts, college newspaper clips, or any other written work that you think demonstrates your writing skills.
- A 500-word statement of intent. Tell us about your background and why you would make an ideal candidate for the Critics Academy. Also note any particular interests you have as a critic (genres, national cinemas, etc.). Passion, strong writing skills and a deep knowledge of film history matter more than overall experience, so this is your chance to really make a case for yourself.
Please send applications in the body of an email by June 22, 2012 to SUMMERACADEMY@PARDO.CH.
Questions? Please direct them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.