There’s nothing quite like the moment after you finish watching a film and feel that you need to discuss it right now. Good cinema — and all art — often elicits an emotional response or makes us think differently about something. When this happens to me, I often turn to writing something new for my blog or pitching to a website or other publication (like Filmmakers Without Cameras) to write a film editorial. Writing an editorial, or article, is a great way to share your ideas and thoughts on what a film is about, as well as its larger message and cultural importance.
As long as your idea is original, it doesn’t matter what the film is; you’ll be able to find the perfect spot for it and share your writing with the world. This article will offer tips on how to write about films.
What is the difference between an editorial and a film review?
There are two main types of film writing: reviews and editorials/articles. Both of these types of writing have their place, and there is some overlap between them, but it’s important to recognize that they are different.
A film review is usually an overview of a recently released film that showcases the critic's thoughts on the film as a piece of art. In a film review, you’ll discuss what you liked or disliked about a film, the merits of the directing, cinematography, casting choices, etc., and whether or not you recommend the film for someone else.
In an editorial or article, you’re really taking the time to dive deep into theory, discuss the cultural resonance of a film (or set of films), and sometimes even include a personal story or connection to a film. I hesitate to use the word “academic” here, but in some ways editorials can be more academic. However, they are written for a non-academic audience. You don’t have to break out MLA form or those big fancy words and clauses. Film writing should be accessible so you can share your ideas with whoever wants to read them.
5 Tips for Writing Your First Film Editorial
Once you’ve watched the film and have an idea, it’s time to start writing.
1. Make a list of important scenes or moments
Before you start writing, it can be helpful to make a list of important scenes or moments in the film you’ll be discussing. Let yourself be detailed in this list by adding in notes about how each scene impacts the idea you’re trying to convey. Throughout the writing process, you’ll want to rely on this list again and again.
2. Do some research
Whenever you’re writing about a film, you’ll want to look at what other people are saying about the film, too. Do you agree with other critics and writers? Or disagree? Can you put yourself in conversation with them? Let your editorial or article be a conversation between yourself, the film, and other ideas about the film. This plugs your writing into the larger ecosystem of discussion around a specific film.
You might even consider looking at academic outlets, like JSTOR, for more writing or insight about the film you’re writing about.
3. Write a first draft
Never strive for perfection when you start writing. Your first draft is supposed to be messy. It might not even make sense — and that’s okay! Get that first draft out, mistakes and all. Once you’ve written the first draft, you’ll be able to work on refining your ideas and fine-tuning your language.
4. Revise your draft
Think of your first draft as your base. When you start revising, you want to take a hard look at your ideas and figure out how to make them more clear. When you’re writing a film editorial, think about how each paragraph of your draft connects to the next. Look for any loose threads that need tied up or questions that remain to be answered.
5. Edit it to perfection
Before it’s time to publish your writing, you need to make sure you edit! Self-editing is an important skill in the writing world because it allows you to polish your work so it’s ready when you send it a publication or post it on your blog.
How to Publish Your Film Writing
There are a lot of different ways to pursue publication of your film writing. Some writers opt for self-publishing options through platforms like Medium or Substack, both of which allow a writer to build audiences over time. Other writers choose a self-hosted blog or other newsletter platform, like Mailchimp, to send their work.
Many writers, though, choose to pitch articles to different outlets that publish film writing. When you’re just starting out, it’s best to start with places that create opportunities for new writers, like Film Cred, or places that may have more specific audiences, like Manor Vellum.
When you’re starting out, getting publications in smaller outlets helps you build your portfolio and then go on to writing for bigger and more widely circulated outlets.