What I Know – Laurence Boyce (Film Journalist)

Laurence Boyce
Photo: Kulla Laas

The shape of film journalism is changing. Print outlets are culling their arts staff and online writing is expanding, while opportunities to make money slip between the cracks. “There’s no space to write about interesting stuff”, warns freelance film writer Laurence Boyce, who joined the Inside Encounters team for a film journalism workshop this morning. Boyce, who has written for CineEuropa, Screen International and Little White Lies (among others) says it has taken him twelve years and a sprinkling of luck to establish himself in the field. Making a career as a freelance journalist isn’t easy, but with some inside know-how, it is possible.  Boyce’s advice for those brave enough to join him?

Know your worth.
It’s fine to write for free… at first. “Even if you enjoy it, think about what the other person is getting out of it”, Boyce cautions, imploring new writers to think about who really benefits when you agree to write sans fee. Writing an article for a known publication for free might look good on your CV, but will it make a huge difference? Chances are, if you’re reading this, your CV looks pretty good already.

Know your niche.
“I know about short films… and I know lots of people don’t write about short films”. It’s a given that in order to make it as a journalist, you have to be able to write well to tight deadlines. Think about what you can offer an editor that someone else can’t.

Nail the pitch.
“Know who you’re writing for”, and adapt your writing to fit their house style. Tell them why what you have to offer is good for them, and use your portfolio to bolster this — but remember to only share relevant articles.

“Keep an eye on your contemporaries” and look at what your fellow writers are doing differently. Read the kind of outlets you want to pitch to — and read those you don’t — it all helps.

Join networks.
Networks like The London Critics Circle and FIPRESCI (The International Federation of Film Critics) exist to serve film journalists. Use them.

Explore smaller festivals.
Festivals are great opportunities for networking. However, most major outlets have festivals like Berlin, Cannes, Venice and Toronto covered. It can be easier and more productive to try and build relationships with smaller European festivals like the Transylvanian International Film Festival or Karlovy Vary. Just don’t forget to send your press cuttings to their PR team!

Add value.
As Derek Malcolm once said: “Your job is to write about films that other people don’t know about”. Only about 4% of films get distribution deals — the rest need journalists to help bolster their reputations and to create festival buzz. “You’re there to try and push film culture”, enthuses Boyce. Go forth — and change the world.

By Simran Hans