How To Write The Best Film Review

How To Write The Best Film Review

by Guest Contributor

5 September, 2017

By Emefa Setranah English and Film student
creators.co

Writing a review for anything can be extremely tricky. It is sometimes difficult to have your opinions heard over the noise of online bloggers, trolls and super fans rapidly typing away their opinions online. These days everyone's a critic and this means you’ll have to work a little harder to secure a strong readership. To create content worth clicking on, it isn’t simply about stating whether a film is good or bad. Your reader may not yet have seen the film, therefore adding as much detail (without giving away spoilers) is your best bet of writing a great review.

Pre-screening:

Before you step foot into the cinema or start scrolling through your Netflix account it is vital to learn everything you can about the film. Researching the plot may ruin the element of surprise but being one step ahead will be beneficial during the screening. If you already know where the story is going then this frees you up to focus more on the visuals and sounds, rather than on the dialogue and narrative trajectory.

Knowing extra details such as the running time, the names of the actors and the year of release will all add meat to the bones of your review and help make it as informative as possible for your reader. Always try to see the film on the day of release or soon after. If you leave it too late your review will become old news and therefore less likely to be read.

During the screening:

Try to avoid taking notes during the screening, I know this sounds unusual but if you do your research beforehand then you won’t need to jot anything down.
Taking notes is a problem because as you look down to your notepad your eyes and attention are diverted away from the screen. This is counter-productive because you might be missing key visual elements. Not to mention the darkness of the auditorium will mean you won’t be able to see what you’re writing, so just sit back and enjoy the film.

During the screening, pay close attention to the stylistic elements, can you spot anything that is iconic of this director’s style? For example, if there is lots of swearing, excessive violence, and blood then we know its classic Quentin Tarantino. When judging the performance of the actors, compare their role in the film you’re watching to their previous work. Are they performing better or worse? Is this role a risk for them, and has it paid off? How is the chemistry between the lead characters? All these questions will help you scrutinise the performances in detail.

Post-screening:

Once the film has ended you should note a few things down if you need to. Try and recall all the stand out moments whether they were good or bad. Staying for the end credits may also teach you a few unexpected facts that can be added to your review to make it unique. Sometimes films have a blooper reel or hint towards the next sequel.

Writing your review:

Before writing anything decide what your opinion is and stick to it, nothing is more confusing for a reader than when a writer sits on the fence and tries to be diplomatic. You might find it easiest to begin by deciding how many stars you’d give the film out of five. Reading other people’s reviews can also be helpful when writing your own, however, be careful not to be influenced by someone else’s opinions.

Once you’ve written your piece have a friend or relative proofread your review. Writers tend to get too close to their work and become blind to its errors.
You may need to edit it several times before you’re happy, but that’s all part of the process. Once your review is ready and polished posting it on social media can be one of the most effective ways to get your work read.
If you have social medias that have a bio section then sharing a link to your blog or previous work can also be a great way of self-promotion.

Practice makes perfect so the more films you review the better you’ll become. However, going to the cinema for every new release can really put a strain on the purse strings. You could look into getting a membership card at your local cinema or ask for vouchers as gifts from family and friends. And who knows, one day the right person may read your reviews and offer to pay for your services.


How to write a killer business blog in four easy steps

How to write a killer business blog in four easy steps

by Xenia Kingsley

24 August, 2017

"Don’t get too hung up on crafting a piece of art, just make sure your message is right."

You are the kind of person who works really hard and gets the job done. But between keeping your clients satisfied and staying on top of all of your other daily tasks, it often feels like there isn’t a lot of time to do much else. And then comes the time to write a blog…

You know that blogs are important because they fuel SEO to your website, give your company a voice, fuel your PR efforts and show off your expertise, but figuring out where to start is another kettle of fish and time is precious. So, it’s important that you follow a process when writing blogs, not only to make the most of your time, but to get the most strategic value from your hard work.

Follow these four tips, and you’ll be a blogger extraordinaire in no time.

Choose a topic

Someone may suggest a topic to you, or perhaps you’ve already had an idea, but before you get drafting, be sure to run it through the handy Blog Idea flow-chart below to see if it fits the criteria of a good business blog.

This includes making sure your content isn’t contentious or offensive, linking it back to your premium content or core proposition and of course, being original.

If your idea meets these criteria (go you!), skip right ahead to point two.

If not, or if you’re starting from scratch and looking for an idea, here are a few places where inspiration might strike:

• At events or networking sessions
• Articles you’ve read
• Trends in the industry
• TV shows and movies you’ve seen
• Trends in popular culture or society
• Conversations you’ve had with clients or colleagues

If none of these spark ideas, you could try entering a keyword that is relevant to your business into this blog title generator and seeing what comes up: www.portent.com

And if you’re looking for a topical hook, Google Trends is a great place to start.

Just be sure to run the idea through the flow-chart before you get started to see if it’s viable.

Style

STRUCTURE: Before you start drafting, have you thought about the structure of your blog? A great structure to follow is the SCQA model; situation, complication, question, answer. At the very least, ensure your blog has a strong beginning, middle and end with a conclusion that includes a strong call to action.

And if your blog topic is quite complicated, you could try the US Army communications model: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”

Remember, very few writers will strike on a fantastic piece of content in their first draft. As Stephen King says, “Write with the door closed, edit with the door open” – in other words, exorcise your ideas in an expansive ‘brain dump’ (great mental image, right?) before you start refining and polishing.

TONE: Write personally, with a distinctive tone of voice, as people will care more about what they’re reading if you do. Be bold. Share your knowledge. Show off your expertise. But don’t waffle! Verbosity is a massive turn-off for readers. Check your blog with the Unsuck It App to remove jargon and the Hemingway App to make sure you’re getting to the point! Don’t get too hung up on crafting a piece of art, just make sure your message is right.

TITLES: ‘5 Ways to…’ and ‘Why X should do Y’ type blogs perform particularly well (again, if you’re stuck the Title Maker tool can be helpful). If you’re doing a ‘10 top tips’ style piece, try to avoid multiples of five or ten as people tend to assume there are filler points if it’s a round number! Your title needs to explain the story (unlike with print where the page informs the reader whether to read) and draw the reader in. Using song titles, movie names or popular phrases is good, but ensure that it relates to your content.

Sign-off process

Once you’ve run through the flow-chart, drafted your blog and edited it, it’s really important to ask someone else to proof-read it. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a colleague, but it is useful to run it past someone familiar with the subject matter to sense check your argument and watch out for typos and mistakes. We tend to miss our own mistakes and errors can be very off-putting to readers.

When you’re happy that your blog is as polished as it can be, reads well and is free from typos, post it!

Making the most of your blog

Once your blog is posted, don’t forget to share it via your social media channels and ask your colleagues to do the same to really get the most out of your content. If you use Wordpress of a similar CMS, don’t forget to include your SEO keywords to really optimise your post.

Happy blogging!

 

A version of this blog originally appeared on www.manbitesdog.com


How to…write like an expert on almost anything

How to…write like an expert on almost anything

by Guest Contributor

18 August, 2017

by Julia Burns, founder of LightningBug
www.lightningbug.co.uk

I write on everything from augmented reality to zombies. Life jackets? Laws? Lobworms? Love? All in a week’s work. How can I possibly be so knowledgeable on such varied and often complex topics? It’s simple really: I’m not. But I can fake it pretty well with six tricks. So how can you too become an overnight expert in pretty much anything?

Find out everything you can  

Don’t write a jot until you have read as much about the topic as you can possibly find. Spend hours on it. You’ll want to get started straight away but there’s no point. You’ll just be staring at a blank screen.

Start specific. Make sure you understand the definitions of all the keywords associated with the topic.

Then go much much wider. Google it again and again. Read blogs, reports, infographics. Use tools like Feedly to see what’s been said recently in the news. Watch films and documentaries that are in any way related.

All this will help you understand how people talk about the topic and give you more creative ammunition.

Talk to the experts  

If you can pick the brains of actual authorities, you can find out so much more than from reading anything online.

Find out who to talk to by researching who speaks on these topics online and at events. Contact them through companies, through LinkedIn, guess their email addresses. Think “what would Lois Lane do?”. Interview two or three experts over the phone or email them a set of questions if they’d find that easier.

It will take time but it will be worth it. You’ll understand the topic beyond anything you could have hoped. Oh, and you can use quotes from the interviews in your article making you sound informed and networked. Interviews = amazing.

Make it small  

It is easier and often more effective to write on a narrow area within a topic. Try to cover too much and you’ll get lost.

Rather than writing on the poems of Emily Dickinson, write on the bees in three of her poems. Rather than writing on why to code, write on the top reasons people think they are too old code.

Hit on something interesting to you

Now you’ve got all that in the bag, identify a nugget you find really interesting. What would you enjoy writing on most? This will ensure you can add personality, which is how you really show you know your stuff.

Structure it

You might be the best creative writer since Mark Twain. But I’m not. So before I start an article, a review, a white paper or whatever I’m writing, I make sure I know the argument that will run through it. I set it up clearly in the opening and I know exactly what I’m going to cover in each paragraph to get to the final point.

There are different layouts you can use which make this faster and simpler. Q&As, short blogs, myth-busting, likening to superheroes/filmstars and so on. Decide what would work best for your piece based on all your decisions to date. Oh, and don’t use lists. That’s just lazy.

Sleep on it

By now, you can actually write it! So go on, get on with it. But remember, what you write today will look awful when you read it back. And then you’ll keep reading it back and editing it, blind to what works and what still needs work.

Come back to it fresh and you’ll be able to see more clearly if you’ve written a well-structured piece of writing that makes a succinct point.

So I guess it’s time for me to take a nap.


How to…write (comic) poetry

How to…write (comic) poetry

by Guest Contributor

5 August, 2017

by Daniel Searle, Poet Aureate
www.facebook.com/danielsearlepoet

 

I’ve been writing comic poetry and songs pretty much all my life, in one form or another. In the last couple of years I’ve started performing them at poetry and comedy nights in Brighton and London.

I also write serious poetry, although that’s usually for my own benefit rather than for performance. However, points 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 are all relevant to writing any form of poetry, I would say.

1. Don’t start with the first line.

In fact, don’t start anywhere in the poem. You can jot down phrases that you might use, but the place to start is to think about the points you want to cover. It’s very easy when writing anything – poetry, prose, an email – to hit a brick wall mid-way through writing because you simply don’t yet know what you want to convey. Once you’ve worked out the main points you want to make, and given them some thought without any concern about how to manifest them as poetry, then you can proceed to point 2, which is…

2. No, still don’t start writing yet.

Another cause for hitting a brick wall midway through writing a poem is not having the necessary line ready at that given point. Maybe you have a brilliant ending planned in the back of your mind, maybe you have all the jokes and bits of flair for verses three and four all pretty much written – but you’re still halfway through verse two and can’t work out where to go with it. It’s not Game of Thrones and you’re not trying to avoid spoilers – skip to the end, skip to whichever verse you want to write. Come back later to the bit you’re stuck on. Maybe you’ll realise that actually, you don’t have a satisfying ending or punchline for that troublesome verse. If so, bin it. Or keep the bits you like, change the angle, and try a different route.

3. Don’t start with the first line (again).

If you’re writing longform, you might be able to get away with a few slightly duff sentences where you’re getting up to speed. With poetry, you don’t have time to get away with that. So, once you’ve thought about the points you want to make and the topics you want to cover, don’t start writing the poem – start jotting down ideas for all the bits that will make your poem entertaining. Puns; wordplay; collections of words that roll of the tongue nicely, either due to assonance or internal rhyme; absurd metaphors and similes; unexpected breaks from poetic convention; these are all good tools to use, but it’s easier to have the material ready at your fingertips before you start writing, rather than hoping you get hit by inspiration as you write.

Bear in mind that for every Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, there was probably a Ye Olde Wastepaper Binne filled with first, second and third attempts, comparing the lucky lady to a summer’s blurst. Don’t be afraid to keep fragments of verses or lines in the margins of your notebook, and do what you want with them. Your writing is entirely your possession and no part is set in stone just because you’ve written it down; so re-jig it, play with it, try different combinations of couplets to form verses, and keep tinkering until you’re totally happy.

4. Break convention by following convention.

One of the main advantages comic poetry has over straight stand-up or other forms of comic writing is that many people have certain expectations of poetry – namely, that it will be serious, possibly to the point of being po-faced. Therefore, when it’s funny, it’s additionally funny because it seems like it’s not meant to be – you get the same effect with comic songs. So, make it seem serious. Start with at least one of a rhyme scheme and a relatively strict syllabic structure, and preferably both. Have the same number of lines in each verse. In short, write it like it’s a deadly serious, possibly pompous poem. Use flowery language. Then, undermine the pomposity with humour. I believe the technical word is ‘bathos’, if we’re being BA English Literature about it.

Similarly, comic poetry often works well when the tone is dry and sardonic, rather than cheerfully humorous. The more gravitas and apparent sincerity you can muster, the funnier the jokes will seem.

5. Then break convention even further.

Once you’ve set up a rhyme scheme and regular metre, feel free to ruin it. Don’t do it too often or people will just think you’re bad at writing poetry. But the occasional over-long line, deliberately truncated line, a sudden and ill-fitting change of tone, a reference to Grange Hill – they can all make things more chaotic and amusing.

6. Assonance and half-rhymes are your friends; perfect rhyme is a long-standing enemy of your family due to a blood feud that began in time immemorial yet which is still honoured with sanguinary tragedy generation after generation.

The single worst thing in poetry*, comic or otherwise, is a word shoehorned in to make a line rhyme. The kind where everyone in the room can see it coming as soon as its rhyming partner is uttered, and arrives with the same unwelcome, disheartening thunk as a jellyfish falling through the boughs of a tree and onto a picnic rug. What’s even worse is when the grammar of the line is mangled to position the rhyming word at the end. If you’ve made yourself sound as limited as an Oasis lyric or as garbled as a Yoda quote, it needs changing.

An example of the Yoda effect:

Tiptoeing through the house of Ken Dodd
Quietly through his boudoir I trod.

Nobody other than Yoda would phrase those lines that way. So don’t. It sounds weird and will detract from your otherwise hilarious poem about burgling Ken Dodd.

An example of the Oasis effect:

I tiptoed gently through Ken Dodd’s house
Sneaking as quietly as a mouse
Scuttling scurrilously as a louse
Trying to steal his wrought-iron grouse.

Once you’ve set yourself up to only use perfect rhymes, you’re limiting yourself, and you’ll often find that the rhymes dictate the narrative, rather than the other way round. In other words, you’ll sound like Oasis. Or Des’ree. Which nobody wants. Ken Dodd doesn’t even own a wrought-iron grouse.

Instead, try assonance and half-rhymes. ‘House’ can quite happily be rhymed with how or now or cow, or frown or drown, or fowl or cowl or towel, or mount, or mouth or south – any word that has the same vowel sound and corresponding hard or soft final consonant. So to half-rhyme with ‘house’, find a word with an ‘ow’ sound in its final syllable, and which finishes on a soft consonant sound, to match the ‘se’ in ‘house’.

In this example, using a hard final consonant (such as ‘loud’ or ‘grout’, in this example) would be an option, but less preferable – however, if you do, it helps if you start the next line with a vowel, so you can run the line on and make the hard consonant sound like the first consonant of the next line. That way, the line sounds like it ends of an open ‘ow’ sound, making an acceptable half-rhyme with ‘house’.

So, back to burgling Ken Dodd:

I sneaked discretely through Ken Dodd’s house
Trying not to be too loud
And watching for the whereabouts
Of his gilded wrought-iron grouse.

After consulting Wikipedia, it turns out that Ken Dodd does own a wrought-iron grouse statuette, and I plan to steal it. Anyway, you can see from this that avoiding perfect rhyme lets you take the story where you want to go, rather than the other way round. It also might throw a few new ideas your way – maybe Ken owns a crown as well, and a ceramic ounce (the big cat, not the measurement of weight), and maybe you could describe yourself as a roustabout for nicking his stuff.

Note also how when you read lines two and three, you can run ‘loud’ and ‘and’ together – dropping the ‘d’ sound in ‘loud’ onto the start of line three, so that the resultant ‘lou-‘ half-rhymes with ‘house’.

As an additional benefit of using assonance and half-rhyme, you can add extra punch and comic effect to the pay-off to a joke within the poem by using a glorious full rhyme. It adds an additional level of austerity to the line – which is instantly undermined because it’s about something comical, thereby making it more amusing. For example:

I sneaked discretely through Ken Dodd’s house
Trying not to be too loud
And watching for the whereabouts
Of his gilded wrought-iron grouse.

My blood ran cold; my pulse ran quick
When I espied his tickling stick.

7. Read the dictionary.

Not joking. Read it all the way through, and underline all the words you like or find interesting. Or at least, research the thing you’re writing about. If you’re penning a paean to your amazing shoes, have a quick search online so you know what the various technical terms are, like ferrule and aglet. If you’re writing about a drinks can, find out what the chime is. You might find that you can chime in with aglet-tering piece of wordplay that o-ferrules your original idea. Although, preferably something better than that.

* And yes, I do mean that it’s even worse than when poets realise that human beings are made of the same atoms as stars. Although that is firmly ensconced in second place.