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Movie Reviews for Sale — Cheap!

Movie Reviews for Sale — Cheap!

This post has been updated to correct errors.

By comparison to the $11,000 Manhattan’s Quad Cinema charges for a week-long theater rental that guarantees a review in the New York Times, the $150 “Pro Package” offered by Filmmaking Review is a steal. The site, which is apparently run by the husband and wife team of Henry and Cate Baum, offers reviews of current releases like “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” as well as an interview with “Dance of Reality” star Brontis Jodorowsky such as you can find on any reputable film site. But click on the “Get Your Movie Reviewed” tab, and things start to get fishy.

A series of packages offer filmmakers the opportunity to pay for coverage ranging from posting press-kit info to 500-word reviews; at the $59 level, they promise cross-posting to IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes on request. Here’s what the top level gets you:

Three reviews of 500+ words and trailer showcased

Still and links added to FMR

Interview articles with your stars optimized as exclusive content on FMR and all social networks

Reviews cross-posted to Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB on request

Posted on our Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Pinterest

Direct payment for coverage is, of course, a major breach of journalistic ethics, but then it’s not clear anyone involved is, or claims to be, a journalist. They certainly don’t pay their writers, although they do promise they’ll be able to “work up an impressive portfolio of website articles.” The site’s Twitter account has just over 100 followers, although its Facebook page has over 3,000 likes.

Rotten Tomatoes’ Ryan Fujitani points out that Filmmaking Review’s profile, which contains only two reviews, is a user account and not an approved part of the site’s Tomatometer ranking — in other words, no different from a profile that filmmakers could create themselves in a few spare minutes. “To be fair,” Fujitani says, “it doesn’t appear that FMR are technically claiming they are Tomatometer-approved; they’ve simply stated that they will put up a review on RT, which is true in a sense, but somewhat misleading, as evidenced by the number of people who have read those statements on their site and thought, ‘What? RT allows paid reviews?’ … We believe in the integrity of the Tomatometer, and we do our utmost to preserve that integrity. Paying to have your film reviewed presents a conflict of interest that undermines that integrity, and we could not, in good conscience, allow such a review.”

Knocking out the major feature films that are unlikely to have paid for coverage, most of the recent reviews are of short horror films, including “The Red Skirt,” whose producer, Jesse Hernandez, responded to a query from Criticwire. (Filmmaking Review and IMDb did not return emails. Update: Baum has written a response to this post on the site.) The review of “The Red Skirt,” which runs nearly twice as long as the 200 words promised for the $29 shorts package, reads, in part, “There is definitely a cultural and religious element to it, and the film’s overall feel has a local flavor.” The author is not identified.

“We did use their service,” Hernandez wrote, “and the result was not what we expected. We expected a critic, good or bad, but the fact is we believe their review was off point. As the director mentioned to me in a conversation about this, they did not go over areas we expected some detail on. For example there was really nothing on the cinematography, Direction and editing as well. I agree with him that this review lacked of many areas, good or bad…. All in all, this is a review and we respect it. We just believe there was much more to critic on and we were left with very little. If you ask me if we spent our money well with this review, I would say no.”

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Here is my two cents about Filmmaking Review…

Finding a critic to write an unbiased and competent review of an independent film is getting much harder these days because of the amount of produced films that have steadily grown. There is so much content out there that reviewers are overwhelmed by the amount of review requests they receive. This is why I paid FMR to review my movie "Assumption of Risk". I needed a honest opinion from an industry professional for the purpose of gaining attention to my movie. I did not anticipate a good or bad review and took a chance. Fortunately for me and my movie it worked out well.

FMR delivered as promised within a timely fashion. I can't say that I was happy about everything the critic wrote but there were many good points made about the movie in an articulate manner. The publicity images that I sent along with the trailer link were aesthetically placed on the review page dedicated to my film. The reviewer also let me know one day in advance when the review would be posted and also took the time to properly submit the review link to IMDb.

There are other review sites that perform a similar service in the same price range and I've used them too. Honestly, I think FMR's review and service to be on par with those sites.

I would recommend other indie-filmmakers looking for a competent and honest review to use FMR.

Mark Kochanowicz
Liberty Bell Films


So, after complaining about this hack piece, it now says "This post has been updated to correct errors." Still remaining: "They certainly don't pay their writers." Not true. There are paid and unpaid positions on the site. Paid reviews pay writers. Other content does not, as is common practice online.

Fairly amazing that a post that talks of "journalistic ethics" should be filled with so many distortions. If you want to debate the merits of paid reviewing, that's fine. But it's not on the surface unethical. It's PR for films that might not get it otherwise. You know who also charges: Filmthreat. The fact that a filmmaker was unhappy with the review suggests, actually, that the reviews are objective. It would be unethical if all we did is hand out 5-star reviews. People pay for an honest assessment, and reviewers get paid for that assessment. Pretty simple, but of course condescension and outrage are the ways to get clicks on a blog post. It's fallacious…and unethical.

The Red Skirt

Cate you talk about slander, yet here you are, doing it yourself. Your review, as it was, was posted on the Red Skirt Facebook page and was hilighted as a good review nevertheless how the production crew felt about it. It is there for you to see if you doubt this as well. So what you say about Hernandez is unfounded and is said out of anger. You were simply not objective here or on The Red Skirt Facebook page you posted on.

Cate Baum

Hi – your "story" has many inaccuracies. We have run FMR as a paid review site alongside our self-published book site for 2 years now, and have over eight years of solid review experience with our first site, Self-Publishing Review, which partners with BookBaby and BlueInk Review. Our reviewers do indeed exist, and Jordan Baker is a real person, I am sorry to disappoint you, and alive and well in LA where he works in production, most notably for a foreign rights company of some international acclaim, and was interviewed and hired by me in 2011 – I shall be asking him to have a look at this ridiculous article. We pay our reviewers half of the cost of the paid review and nobody works for free unless they wish to blog on the site. At the present time I have five reviewers and a partner site consisting of two reviewers over at DITR Production. We have NEVER claimed to be official at RT, as RT rightly say, and it's of course clear that the words "cross-posted" mean exactly that – we will simply post reviews as a reviewer on request, or on IMDB Critics, which we are a part of. We have only had a few people request the RT add. Our Twitter and G+ and Linked are all very healthy, and have many followers, @filmmakereview, which you would know if you bothered to even Google us for a second. Our names are NOT "Harold and Carol". This is laughable journalism, ill-researched and badly cited. As for Jesse Hernandez, his film was poorly made and was given a rating accordingly – I would encourage anyone including you, Sam Adams, to watch this movie and tell me truthfully whether you think our review could have said any more in 200 words – we tried to give some pointers in the said review that obviously could not be taken in an inclusive and constructive manner given that Mr Hernandez has such a high opinion of his own talents, I do doubt any even slightly critical review would have pleased him. I wonder how many people involved in writing this article actually have any experience in journalism or the film industry? Because having read this I am astonished it made it up online with so many errors. This is a real "digging for dirt" piece, and obviously your readers know this, because our traffic went up brilliantly and we got many more reviews. All publicity and all that. I should imagine that's exactly what your friend Hernandez was planning on too. Is your boss aware of your slandering legit review companies at will? I shall have to contact them.



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