A Short Guide to Writing About Film – Book Review


If you have ever wanted to write a movie review, a theoretical essay, or a critical essay about film, Timothy Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing About Film (Longman, 1998) should be on your bookshelf.

Corrigan’s book was originally written for college classrooms, but with the advent of widespread blogs has opened up writing about films to anyone with Internet access. A Short Guide to Writing About Film offers practical advice as well as writing samples to help would-be critics do a great job with whatever media they choose for publication.

Corrigan begins his book by quoting French film critic Charles Metz, who remarked about film reviewing: “We all understand the movies, but how do we explain them?” (p. 1) Corrigan then sets forth the strategy for explaining films.

He emphasizes that you must always have your audience in mind when writing; “The purposes that become part or central to you writing will sometimes depend entirely on your audience.” (p.6) Corrigan writes that the movie review aims at a general audience with little or no film knowledge. The objective of the film review is to recommend or not recommend a film based on facts that you back up by evidence in the film.

The theoretical essay, on the other hand, has for its objective “to explain some of the larger and more complex structures of the cinema and how we understand them.” (p.9) The audience for a theoretical essay has much more technical and historical knowledge of film. The critical essay “…falls between the theoretical essay and the movie review.” (p.10) The audience for a critical essay is usually a film class and the instructor. Corrigan teaches how to write for each essay and its associated audience in A Short Guide to Writing About Film.

One of the most important insider secrets to writing about film is how to take notes especially in how to develop shorthand for describing scenes. His discussion of movie themes shows how they “become the foundation for an analysis.” (p.35) His discussion of how to write about foreign national cinemas is sage: he counsels viewing foreign films and American films with a similar subject matter to see how they are similar and how they differ.

Whatever kind of film you choose to write about, Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing About Film will help you write reviews that will enhance your appreciation of a film and share that appreciation with others.

(Podcasts of the Film Book Round Up Featuring Foreign Cinema on the Culture with Ruth Paget program are available on iTunes and http://www.blogtalkradio.com. Look for the Asnycnow Radio 3 channel.)

This blog originally appeared on Ruth Paget blog Belle Vie Reviews and More at http://belleviereviews.blogspot.com