Critics Resources

Tips for Freelancers From IndieWire Executive Editor Eric Kohn

With experience as an editor and IndieWire's Chief Critic, Eric Kohn says pitching early and following up are important.

by | January 22, 2019 | Comments

Rotten Tomatoes recently held its first Rotten Tomatoes Critics Workshop, designed to help freelance critics and journalists navigate festivals, develop industry contacts, and get their stories placed. We asked the industry professionals who spoke at our workshops to provide their top tips for freelancers; the below come from IndieWire Executive Editor and Chief Critic, and founder of the Critics Academy initiative, Eric Kohn.


1. Do Your Homework

Get familiar with every section of the festival. Make sure you’re aware of the major filmmakers in the lineup and learn more about their work if you haven’t been exposed to it. Look for the connective tissue in the lineup: Common themes, actors appearing in multiple projects, notable backgrounds. Read the trades to get familiar with the bigger industry trends that could dominate conversations around the festival and inform some of the developments in store. Think in expansive terms: Writing reviews for a film-specific outlet is important, but interviews, features, and other stories may interest publications even more. 


2. Pitch As Early As Possible

Most publications secure their plans weeks in advance. Consider practical ways to get on a publication’s radar that could yield more opportunities. Send your best pitch around, and if it gets accepted, follow up by offering more coverage. Start with publications that have covered Sundance before, but look for others that haven’t covered the festival to see if your pitch might break new ground. Explain the timeline. If a movie could play big over the first weekend, you need to make sure you’re including that information in your pitch, as it signals to an editor that the idea is time-sensitive and needs to be prioritized. 


3. Remember: Everything Is A Story

Whether or not you went to journalism school, you must think like a disciplined journalist. Even when you’re not watching movies, you’re at work. Every conversation at a party or in line for a screening could lead to a valuable connection. Print your own business cards and exchange contact information. It’s fun to make new friends who share your interests, but even friendly encounters have a pragmatic function. Editors and fellow writers might help you find new gigs, but don’t just focus on them. Look for distributors, programmers, sales agents, and publicists – all of whom wield enormous influence in the industry, but also depend on journalists to cover it. They’re always a resource for you.


4. Think Long-Term As Well As Short-Term

Most of the world isn’t at Sundance and many media outlets don’t pay much attention to the insular film festival community. However, a lot of these movies will come out later. Stay on top of their release dates. Maybe you scored an early interview with a breakout performer that you can hold for that occasion. Or maybe you saw several movies that deal with a single potent theme, and can pitch that angle as a thinkpiece if they all come out around the same time. 


5. Follow Up!

This is one of the most important aspects of all freelancing that many writers don’t understand. Editors are often buried under a sea of pitches and other emails as they get through every busy day. Even brilliant pitches sometimes get lost in the shuffle. When you pitch an editor, make a note on your calendar to follow up in the near future – but not too soon. Wait at least 3-4 days before checking in. If you still don’t hear back after that, just move on. However, it’s unwise to assume that radio silence is equivalent to disinterest, and if you don’t make the effort to get an answer on your best pitches, it may never happen. 


Eric Kohn is the New York-based Executive Editor & Chief Critic at IndieWire, where he has worked since 2007. Kohn travels to film festivals around the globe, interviews filmmakers, and managed IndieWire’s network for professional film critics, the Criticwire Network. He also launched the Critics Academy initiative, a series of educational workshops for aspiring entertainment journalists, and teaches film criticism at NYU. He is the editor of “Harmony Korine: Interviews,” published by the University of Mississippi Press in 2014. He is the 2018-19 chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle and served as a member of the jury for Critics Week at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Follow Eric on Twitter @erickohn.

Tag Cloud

RT History zombies space sports festivals Cannes dceu teaser serial killer El Rey Pirates Pet Sematary mutant psycho USA Network Horror The Witch zero dark thirty witnail Schedule DC Universe crime DC Comics doctor who GIFs true crime TCM YouTube Premium Kids & Family E! ABC Superheroes NYCC Women's History Month Anna Paquin MCU 2016 Winter TV miniseries ratings binge President Disney Channel Dark Horse Comics Sundance green book based on movie Music CW Seed CBS Fantasy TCA 2017 Reality Competition Reality historical drama Biopics IFC Films MTV Box Office Adult Swim TNT Star Trek Elton John Holidays travel TCA Acorn TV cinemax cooking ITV Captain marvel sequel DC streaming service Opinion Thanksgiving crossover Apple Chilling Adventures of Sabrina technology Epix Brie Larson WGN Winners Musical social media supernatural Drama robots strong female leads dramedy Awards Lionsgate SXSW First Look National Geographic Comedy Central Masterpiece Writers Guild of America diversity Fall TV golden globes unscripted ESPN New York Comic Con Shondaland Logo Nominations Comics on TV Black Mirror The Arrangement Super Bowl ABC Family zombie E3 Country streaming psychological thriller TBS Tomatazos Extras disaster Syfy period drama Creative Arts Emmys Valentine's Day Stephen King docudrama Mary poppins FXX PaleyFest anime Mudbound Pop FOX Universal TruTV animated Marvel OWN Shudder Awards Tour VH1 Comic Book Pixar MSNBC Warner Bros. Starz Sci-Fi politics DGA 007 Food Network TV Polls and Games political drama Netflix Rocketman Spring TV Martial Arts TV Land Comedy romance elevated horror PBS 2019 thriller Trophy Talk Calendar CMT adventure Lifetime BBC theme song Trailer what to watch Interview IFC cops sitcom Mary Tyler Moore SDCC Sundance Now HBO American Society of Cinematographers Esquire 2015 Freeform Character Guide dc Paramount AMC 2018 Certified Fresh Action Pride Month Amazon USA Podcast medical drama Premiere Dates Musicals Animation talk show Ovation 21st Century Fox transformers X-Men Showtime Disney Chernobyl BBC America 24 frames Video Games A&E History YouTube Red Oscars Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Western vampires Film Festival VICE television mockumentary The CW boxoffice composers Year in Review finale Set visit crime drama comiccon Song of Ice and Fire discovery Paramount Network Mystery richard e. Grant cats Britbox award winner Nat Geo Spike cults natural history Emmys 20th Century Fox Ghostbusters Marathons biography NBC Mary Poppins Returns Trivia YA blaxploitation war Amazon Prime Superheroe SundanceTV Tumblr Toys nature Mindy Kaling Photos Sony Pictures police drama Hulu Fox News spy thriller San Diego Comic-Con Star Wars GLAAD justice league crime thriller Crackle Sneak Peek Infographic anthology RT21 adaptation Vudu Countdown Quiz TIFF DirecTV CBS All Access game show jamie lee curtis GoT Bravo Heroines Grammys science fiction comic Election FX TLC Cartoon Network dragons Lucasfilm toy story singing competition aliens Watching Series APB Walt Disney Pictures Spectrum Originals 2017 facebook Cosplay CNN harry potter Rocky spinoff Rock See It Skip It hist Nickelodeon casting Ellie Kemper Rom-Com Teen 45 Best and Worst spider-man BET LGBTQ Christmas Summer Red Carpet Tarantino Columbia Pictures