“Few people would deny that film reviewing is in crisis.” –The Guardian, 2010
“This is the golden age of film criticism.” –Roger Ebert, 2010
Film criticism has faced a dour series of prognoses in recent years, but as long as there are movies the need for film criticism persists. There has been no greater illustration of this reality than the recent outpouring of remembrances for Roger Ebert. As one of the great advocates of criticism as well as its most famous practitioner, he will not be replaced. However, with his death, the profession demands a continuation of the advocacy at which he excelled.
At Indiewire, we’ve fought hard to sustain the perception that strong criticism is more ubiquitous than ever before with a number of initiatives linked by the same cause: Our Criticwire Network, now nearly 500 critics strong, its accompanying blog run by Matt Singer, and the Critics Academy initiative, a workshop for aspiring critics that first took place last year at the Locarno International Film Festival as well as the New York Film Festival.
This summer, we’re again partnering with the Locarno Film Festival, the Swiss Association of Film Journalists and the Film Society of Lincoln Center to organize a workshop for promising critics from around the world. We’re opening the call for applications today.
Our decision to proceed with another edition of the Critics Academy is a direct result of last year’s success (read some of the feedback from the participants here). Over the course of two weeks, Critics Academy participants from six different countries met with working critics as well as other members of the industry in a deadline-driven environment in which they wrote about dozens of selections from one of world’s oldest film festivals. They emerged with a deeper awareness of the practical challenges involved in gaining a foothold in entertainment journalism while navigating the specific demands of the film world.
While the professional landscape has shifted, with fewer print outlets employing staff critics each year and more amateur writers dominating the marketplace of ideas, the prospects of strong voices to define the craft and play a key role in shaping global film culture remain vital. The Critics Academy emboldens the perception that the hurtles any critic must face aren’t necessarily insurmountable, but require a certain finesse: Just because you know your cinema and critique it well doesn’t mean you’ll automatically find a path to sustaining your career. Participants in the Critics Academy are encouraged to locate their specific goals and strategize about the best ways of obtaining them. We’re not looking to teach people how to be critics but rather to push nascent voices with major potential to stay in the game.
* Indiewire, Locarno and the Film Society will select eight 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 August 6 through August 18. Indiewire may assist 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). However, the Critics Academy’s agenda isn’t exclusively limited to Locarno. A similar workshop will be held this fall in New York during the New York Film Festival and other editions are currently in development.
* 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.
Locarno is truly a godsend for people who love to write about movies. From its detailed retrospectives section (this year dedicated to George Cukor) to the emerging world cinema talents showcased in Filmmakers of the Present, the festival stands out for its diverse programming and an eye toward pleasing the thousands of cinephiles who have flocked to the cozy vacation town each year since its inception 66 years ago. In its famous Piazza Grande, some 8,000 spectators spend each night watching a broad selection of new and classic movies under the stars. Needless to say, critics have plenty to write home about, as well as a guaranteed audience for their work.
In an insightful 2008 essay about the film festival circuit, Cinema Scope editor (and Locarno’s director of programming) 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 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 1, 2013 to SUMMERACADEMY@PARDO.CH. You must also fill out the form on the right hand side of the page at this link and send it along with your application as an attachment.
Questions? Please direct them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.