Read Part 1 here
Sitting down in front of the microphone for the first time is a weird feeling. Like I said, it’s just you and the presenter in there, but on the other hand, you know there are many people listening in. I’m not sure exactly how many people listened to the first late night show I worked on, but I was told it was in the tens of thousands; Greater Manchester is a big place.
This next bit, I swear, is completely impossible to avoid; your voice changes. I don’t know if it’s nerves or it’s your brain telling you that there is an imminent need to sound as cool and professional as possible, but it happens, at least the first few times (there is a reason that people love Alan Partridge). The ability to speak slowly is also a problem, as is trying to make any sense at all of what you’re trying to say.
The latter is kind of an issue when your one and only job is to tell listeners whether a film is good or not. It’s all there in front of you: direction, performances, cinematography, dialogue, great bits, not so great bits. Normally, the presenter will have a bit of a chat with you before you begin to speak about whatever it is you’re there for. It isn’t actually something you think about really, but it certainly put me off a little. One second I’m talking about, lets say, the weather, the next it’s into the review. By which point your mind is thinking about many millimetres of rain there has been in the last 24 hours, rather than my amazing review of Son Of Rambow.
During my first few weeks as a film critic, as soon as the faders went down and the presenter played a song, I’d ask ‘how it went’. I worked with nice people, and the answer was always, “Yes it was great! Well done!”. Nice confidence booster. That is until you go home, wake up the next morning and listen to it again online on BBC iPlayer. Here, two things happen: 1) “Is that what my voice actually sounds like?” and 2) “That was terrible”. It isn’t as easy as I thought.
I quickly decided to change a few things. Firstly, relax. It’s a massive cliché, I know, but being yourself (cliché number 2) is the best way to go about things. The other change I needed to make was my notes. When I’ve listened to film critics on the radio in the past, it’s incredibly frustrating when, even at the end of the review, I still don’t know if I should go and see the film or not. Please note: I know that I’m far from perfect, but it’s still annoying.
These were the rules I kept to when writing my review notes:
- Make sure the listener knows what is good about the film.
- Make sure the listener knows what isn’t good about the film.
Simple. Writing reviews for publication is different in many ways, but a radio audience doesn’t have the time or patience to digest a one-minute monologue about film theory, at least not on this show. My slot lasted for a around five minutes, and my aim was to let people know if this film was any good. By the way, five-minutes might sound like a decent length of time on the radio, but I assure you it feels like thirty-seconds.
As the months passed, I got better at it, and I was moved up to first feature on the Monday night show. I assume they did that because they liked me, I honestly don’t know, but at least I could go to bed earlier. After a few years, we moved to the lovely MediaCity in Salford, and with it, my slot moved to Friday nights. Films are typically released on Friday’s in the UK, so now my reviews were going to be on the day of release…