Film reviews — a way to shape the writing craft (Part 2)

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You’re back! Great. Thanks for returning to the second part of this mini-series on film reviews. (If you’re new here though, you might want to read Part 1 first)

Last week I stated that the act of writing film reviews can be an excellent training ground for aspiring writers to hone their writing craft for any format or genre of writing.

I presented three reasons then.

Recap why film reviews can be a writer’s training ground

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Reason #1 – What

The first was that film reviews answer the question ‘what’ plainly, almost immediately. After all, it’s what any reader would reasonably expect to get out of surrendering a few precious minutes of his/her time to read a film review right? So to not deliver on that very fundamental ‘what’ seems almost sacrilegious!

This should also be an ethic that undergirds any piece of writing (other than mystery novels). That is, if we don’t want to bore or weary today’s short-attention-span readers.

Reason #2 – Why

The second reason I gave last week was that film reviews answer the question ‘why’.

Everyone needs a reason to read something, even if it’s just to pass the time. A compelling reason is best because in this day and age, finding something other than your stuff to read or do is just a click or swipe away. A good writer has to know and appreciate this. And in doing so, take pains to make clear why the reader must stay with him/her.

How? By ‘announcing’ the ‘why’ in some form or other at least one-third way into reading the piece.

If not sooner.

Reason #3 – Which

The last reason I gave in Part 1 was that film reviews answer the question ‘which’. By which (no pun intended) I mean readers can better grasp your piece if you give them some examples, comparisons and contrasts they are familiar with.

If you don’t want to come across as merely a diarist, chronicling everything from your great-great-grandfather’s migration to what you ate for lunch yesterday, then be sure to anchor your piece with universal themes that resonate.

And to do that, you have to give your reader illustrations and analogies that help them see a bigger application into their own lives. Maybe even achieve some form of transcendence about who they are or desire to be.

Offer examples. Compare and contrast. Provide universal anecdotes. That’ll hook your readers.

So with that recap, let’s dive into the remaining reasons why I say film reviews can be a writer’s training ground, shall we?

4. Film reviews answer the question…

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The fourth reason film reviews are a great way to build writing muscles for other writing genres is that it answers the twin questions of where and when something began, and where and when it ends.

You see, “context” is everything when it comes to writing.

If we fail to furnish the reader with a background. If we fail to give the reader the setting and the timeline. And if we fail to understand the reader’s own background, setting and timeline, then we really shouldn’t expect them to have any interest at all to read further.

This is especially true in the current day and age we live in.

Bombarded from every side by endless alerts and notifications from every device we possess, it’s so easy to lose track of things if we don’t give people a time and place to latch onto in our piece of writing.

Film reviews almost always take great pains to ensure the reader knows where a scene in the film takes place, and in what time period. Without of course giving too much of the plot away (unless you’re writing for Wikipedia!)

5. Film reviews also answer the question…

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This is for me the golden rule in writing.

Anyone who attends a course on good communication skills knows the cardinal rule when it comes to being an effective communicator: Know Thy Audience!

Almost without exception, how a film review is written will be shaped BY the reviewer’s notion of who is his or her target audience or reader. Or perhaps more accurately, BY what s/he assumes this target audience or reader knows or desires to know.

It’s like having a conversation with someone. What you choose to say to that person is nearly always contingent upon what you know about him or her; or at least your notion of him or her.

So how I would, say, write a film review of the 2018 hit movie Crazy Rich Asians will change depending on who I think will read it.

To a non-Asian, I’ll likely unpack or even debunk some of the many stereotypes of Asians this film might create or (worse) reinforce in the audience. To the Asian audience, I would probably soothe some much-ruffled feathers of my fellow Asians, and assure them the movie (and the books from which it was inspired by) had more the Western market in mind when it was made.

It’s the same with writing anything. You have to focus on who you’re writing for. Place that person (or the composite of that person) front and centre before you, in a manner of speaking. Then ‘speak’ to that person as you bang out your Pulitzer!

6. And finally, film reviews answer the question…

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Finally, this to me is the ultimate for any true-blue writer out there.

When we write well, we’re ultimately revealing ourselves. Not just to our intended readers, but to our very selves. Kind of like what I did earlier when talking about that extremely stereotypical Asian film (ouch!); revealing my own innate dislike for what that movie erroneously portrays Asians like me to be!

Even as no two film reviews of the same movie will ever read exactly like each other, so too when it comes to any writing covering a common topic. For as we write, we bring our unique self, our unique voice into the piece that makes that piece ours.

In fact, good writing more often than not helps the writer almost as much (if not more) than it does the reader!

Why do I say that?

Cos it’s happened to me in almost every one of my now more than 350 blog posts here!

Each time I complete a post, I come away with greater clarity on who I am and what I stand for. Admittedly, that usually doesn’t happen when I start the piece. But boy when I come to the end, I nearly always look back and go “Ah-ha! So that’s what this is about.”

In a sense, writing helps me achieve a Eureka moment. A self-revelation. A greater understanding of who I am and who I wish to be. Of why I respond to an issue, a topic, an experience the way I did.

And if done right, good writing can even feel like self-therapy for the writer.

Now who doesn’t want more of that?!

End credits

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So now you know.


Watch a film.

Review it on paper (or more likely your keyboard).

And write.



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