Ryan Hill was here just months ago for a brief interview when his debut book, The Book of Bart, was released. Well, since that first visit, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ryan and getting to know him better. We manned booths together in both Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland.
When I learned that Ryan was a movie critic, I thought that was both awesome and challenging at the same time. Do you ever sit back and just watch the films? How did you get started? So when he was scheduled to appear on my blog to celebrate the release of his new book, DEAD NEW WORLD, I asked if he would talk about his movie critic gig.
I started writing about movies as a freshman at NC State University. My second or third week on campus, I saw an advertisement to write forTechnician, the school paper. I joined, and began my crazy journey as a film critic. Fun fact: the first film I ever reviewed was the Ryan Phillippe dud54. That continued for my four years of undergrad at State. After two more years of graduate school, I even moved out to Los Angeles in the hopes of making it as a screenwriter. That hope lasted about six months, when I moved back home to North Carolina. Hint: Los Angeles is a fun place to visit, but without a lot of disposable income, it’s not the best place to live.
In 2009, I found myself living in Charlotte. A friend of mine worked for a weekly paper there, and they needed critics. I was asked to apply, and I got the job. I’ve been writing as a film critic ever since, for a variety of outlets. Currently, I write for Screen Invasion (screeninvasion.com
The best part about being a critic is the free movies. On top of being free, critics also see most films before they’re released to the public. It’sawesome. Sadly, most critics (myself included) don’t get paid, so the free screening is considered our payment. Though, it would be nice to make some actual money. But, we do what we do for the movies, not a paycheck.
A lot of people think critics hate every movie that comes out, unless it’s an obscure French film, or some independent film that’s an unwatchable mess. Those critics do exist (Armond White). They live to tear down any film they deem not worthy of their time. When I write about movies, it comes from a place of love. I love movies. Love them. I want every movie I see to be fantastic. Sadly, that’s usually not the case.
When I’m reviewing a film, I try to figure out what the filmmaker was aiming to create. Did they want it to be some kind of rumination on love, or a subtle dig at the current state of security hidden within a massive blockbuster? I then figure out how close they came to hitting the mark. But that’s only part of it. My brain works in funny ways. Having seen so many movies in my life, few things bother me more than hearing stock dialogue, like “Come on! Let’s finish this!” How hard is it to come up with something different? I also try to figure out if the story made sense, if it didn’t go off on some silly tangent that added nothing to the bigger story, and things like that. However, I also do another thing when I watch a film. I study.
More than anything, I’m a story guy. Nothing is more important in a book or movie than the plot. If the plot stinks, chances are I’m not going to care about the characters. Sometimes, there’s a convergence of the two, where a fantastic plot collides with amazing characters. Off the top of my head, the best example of this is The Big Lebowski. When I read a book or watch a film, I try to pay close attention to the story’s structure. I take mental notes. I learn from those who came before me, so I can teach myself how far I should delve into a sub-plot, or how much time should be spent with secondary characters before it takes away from the overall story. With novels, I also study the prose. Does the author go so far into detail that it slows down the story, or is it so light the book could easily float away, because there’s nothing to it? For me, too much detail reeks of an author too in love with their own voice, and too little is something wretched, like The DaVinci Code. I’m always striving for that happy medium, where there’s just enough detail to keep the story humming along, without leaving anything out.
None of this is to say I don’t read books or watch movies for entertainment. I immerse myself in so many books and movies because I love them. I just also try to learn from stories, so I can help myself become a better writer in the process. After all, isn’t learning and improving the most important thing for a writer?
and please check out Ryan’s new release YA zombie tale Dead New World.
About Dead New World
Zombies aren’t mindless anymore.
Before the world fell into chaos, zombies existed only in the imagination. Now, there’re more dead walking the earth than living. Zombies move about freely, while humans are forced behind concrete barricades to stay alive.
A man known only as the Reverend has become a threat to the rebuilding United States. The leader of a powerful cult, the Reverend somehow controls the zombies, bending them to his will. He believes zombies are God’s latest creation, making humanity obsolete, and he wants to give every man, woman, and child the chance to become one. With the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, his army composed of both humans and zombies, he may well get his wish.
Best friends Holt and Ambrose went up against the Reverend once. Holt lost a foot and a zombie bit Ambrose… though he didn’t completely turn. He survived the virus, only to become a human-zombie hybrid, reviled by the living and unwelcome among the dead. When the Reverend kidnaps the woman Holt loves, the race is on to save her from a fate worse than death.
Holt and Ambrose must sacrifice everything to take down the Reverend and survive in this dead new world. But will they lose their souls in the process?
Available at Amazon