What I Know – Tim Hayes (Film Writer)

Photo: Kulla Laas

Photo: Kulla Laas

This morning (Tuesday) eight bright eyed young film journalists (us) were made privy to the unorthodox career path of freelance film writer Tim Hayes. We asked Tim to explain how he got where he is today, writing for publications such as Little White Lies, Critic’s Notebook and The Film Talk; “I cheated” he said.

Having cut his teeth as a multi-disciplinary copywriter, Hayes made a transition to film critic over time, though he has continued to write in other areas to subsidise his passion. He assures us that a background in film theory is not a prerequisite for a film critic and laments that these days in the amalgam of competing film writers “merely good writing is a strong point of difference”.

He also waves aside the proposition that a unique style or voice could be central to building a career as a critic, contending that the priority after solid technical ability is to write in the style that your employer desires. The ability to adapt one’s style for different clients is an essential faculty as a freelance film writer.

Long before the ubiquity of the online blog dismantled the film criticism industry from the inside out, Hayes was writing for publications that demanded a quality of content that he believes is far scarcer (or at least harder to find) in the modern era. A phenomenon, according to Hayes, partly induced by the big budget dross piped into large cinema chains around the country.

Having watched the barriers to entry for film writing gradually dissipate – with the proliferation of the blog the broadsheet’s wieldy influence over box office success is weakened – Hayes tells us the industry has never been more open and egalitarian for new writers. The other side of the coin is the financial outlook of a somewhat disparate industry; as Hayes put it “the engine of money has dropped out the bottom of the industry” making it more difficult to earn a living as a jobbing film writer.

Disdainful of the drudgery of big budget film criticism, Hayes becomes animated as conversation turns to Encounters. “Film festivals” he tells us “are far less cynical and much more fun, people are here because they love it.” Certainly Hayes has exercised his passion for short independent film early this year, having dutifully served on the pre-selection team for live action shorts at Encounters, watching upwards of 300 films over three months. Watch out for his coverage of Encounters via his website (http://timhayes.eu/).