Being a film critic is a fantastic job, with great perks. I get to watch numerous films and am frequently able to speak with their creators. I’ve been lucky enough to converse with some of my favourite actors, actresses and directors. I’ve also been able to watch a number of movies I never would have seen had it not been for my job at Toronto Film Scene. Of course, sitting around watching movies isn’t the only thing I do. There’s also the critic part of the job, where I need to intelligently write about said films.
To make things a little more interesting, I’m also a stay-at-home parent to two teenagers. This is the harder of the two jobs. As a film critic, I simply have to watch whatever is assigned, intelligently speak about it, submit my review on time and, if I’m lucky, get an interview to go along with it. If that happens, I’ll have to come up with some interesting questions and deal with a few hours of transcribing. As a parent, I need to make sure my kids grow up to be happy, healthy human beings, who are polite and respectful of the people around them. This is a much more challenging task.
Being a film critic isn’t the hardest job in the world—I’m leaving that to parenting—but it has its challenges. Since watching movies is a pastime for most, it’s easy to write it off as a job that takes little skill or engagement, or one that’s so enjoyable it’s not “real” work. Or because I primarily operate from home, with a virtual organization, there couldn’t possibly be any workplace issues.
The real challenge on a day-to-day basis isn’t being a film critic; it’s being a film critic while also being a parent. Hopefully a little entertainment can be found in my daily struggles and mental anguish. An average day goes a little something like this.
3:00 a.m. Wake up on couch, having fallen asleep there the evening before watching a movie for work. Realize it’s too late to actually go to bed without waking up significant other, who will be very pissed off. Accept fate. Roll over on couch. Go back to sleep.
7:00 a.m. Wake up again, but realize it’s actually time to get up. Yell for both children to get up and get ready for school. Shuffle from couch to computer and immediately start looking at work emails.
7:15 a.m. Yell at children to wake up again. Tell them they’ll be late if they don’t hurry up. Wonder whose idea it was to start school at eight in the morning. Curse random government agency I believe is at fault. Turn on kettle to boil water for coffee.
7:30 a.m. Tell first child to eat something before they leave for school, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Completely forget that I have not eaten, essentially making my claim a lie. Yell at second child to get up again. Tell first child to enjoy starving to death as they leave the house without eating breakfast. Finish reading work emails.
7:45 a.m. Repeat same breakfast argument with second offspring. This time they listen and stuff some sort of toasted food product into their mouth. They leave their plate on the table and try to leave without brushing teeth. Demand they brush teeth. Assume the running water sound from upstairs bathroom is child brushing teeth. Lie to myself that they probably have. Hope their teeth don’t fall out. Turn kettle back on after having forgotten to make coffee.
8:00 a.m. Second child leaves home for school. Finally start writing first film review of the day — for a movie I watched a week ago, but waited until now to write about. Stop after writing title to turn kettle on again. Without interruptions, coffee should actually happen this time.
8:02 a.m. Stand in front of kettle until it boils, so I don’t forget coffee again. Think about how it’s decaf and wonder if it even makes a difference. Decide life is mostly mind over matter and that as long as it tastes like coffee, it will do the job.
8:05 a.m. Back to writing. Spend ten minutes looking for image for review. Being a small Canadian indie film, it’s a bit difficult. Finally find one and spend 20 more minutes writing review. Wonder why nobody ever sees these great Canadian films; hope someone will give it a try because of my review. Start to think that I’m giving myself a little too much credit.
8:35 a.m. Head back to the couch to finish watching the film from the night before. Realize I had fallen asleep only ten minutes into two-hour movie. Decide to simply start from the beginning.
10:40 a.m. Sit down to write second review. Spend another 30 minutes writing and searching for images. This part of the day can vary wildly. If I enjoyed the film, things are easy. If the film wasn’t very good, writing an intelligent review can be a challenge. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to simply scribble, “This movie was awful.” If the film was terrible, skip ahead to 12:00 p.m. and I won’t be eating lunch this day.
11:10 a.m. One child comes home for lunch. Tell them to clean up the plate from breakfast. Load up the audio from an interview with the director of the first film I reviewed this morning. Try to begin transcribing, only to get annoyed that child home for lunch is listening to YouTube videos really loudly directly behind me. Decide it’s probably time to eat.
11:50 a.m. Finish eating and remind child they have ten minutes to get back to school. Child leaves house, and lunch plate on the table. Curse out loud that nobody picks anything up around here. Refuse to pick up the plate. Wonder how many weeks will pass before someone else would pick up the plate. Accept defeat and pick up plate.
12:00 p.m. Decide to skip transcribing interview and start watching a film that contains both graphic violence and nudity before kids get home. If I don’t watch it while they’re at school, I’ll have to wait until after ten p.m. to start, and I know that I’ll just end up falling asleep in the middle of the movie if I do that.
2:00 p.m. Finish movie and spend too much time looking at Facebook — the real enemy of working from home. When both children walk into the house at 2:45 p.m., realize I just wasted at least 40 minutes playing Angry Birds.
2:50 p.m. Finally change from pyjamas to pants. Get in car to go pick up third child I babysit after school. Think about all the work that has to get done tonight. Feel like it can actually get done, but subconsciously know it’s never going to happen. Consciously ignore this fact.
3:35 p.m. Return home from picking up third child. Don’t see other two children — obviously hiding in basement playing on their computers. Get drink for third child. Turn on WiiU for them. Try to get some work done.
3:40 p.m. Decide quiet reading while in the bathroom is better than trying to work while another child is watching YouTube at an uncomfortable sound level. Spend two minutes in bathroom before someone needs to use it. Figure that using washroom is overrated. Will wait until everybody is eating. Remember that everybody needs to eat.
3:50 p.m. Start preparing dinner. Pull random box from freezer and turn oven on. A child wanders into the kitchen to ask what’s for dinner. Tell them we’re cooking them for dinner, which will save money, since there’ll be one less mouth to feed. They are not amused. Tell them what’s really for dinner. No matter what it is, child will complain they don’t want it. Respond with, “So starve to death then.” Child grumpily walks away.
4:30 p.m. Dinner is served, but not for me. I’ll eat reheated leftovers later. Have to drop off third child at their home. Spend next hour driving around.
5:35 p.m. Reheat leftovers and stuff in face. Begin transcribing by putting on noise-cancelling headphones and pretending children don’t exist.
6:50 p.m. Work productively for over an hour, only stopping twice to tell children, “No, you can’t have a pop” and “Don’t eat all the friggin’ popcorn.” Receive call from girlfriend telling me what time to pick her up after work. Quickly try to finish the remaining bit of transcribing. Will worry about actually writing article for another day.
7:20 p.m. Leave to pick up girlfriend from GO Train station.
8:00 p.m. Return home.
8:10 p.m. Decide to try to watch something that’s not for work. Realize that there’s a large pile of DVDs that are overdue for reviews on my personal website and start with those. Accept that there’s always something to watch for work.
8:30 p.m. Pause movie to ask one child what they want, because there’s always something they want when they mysteriously show up and it’s not time to eat. Find out they want to eat. Tell them to just eat whatever they want so I can get back to watching movie.
9:00 p.m. Girlfriend informs me that I’m deaf and don’t need the TV on so loud. Respond by telling her she’s listening too hard. Lose battle. Turn on subtitles while turning down volume.
9:30 p.m. With movie almost finished, realize that children need to go to sleep soon. Tell them to get ready and then spend the next ten minutes instructing them to stop stomping around the house and that they can’t talk and brush their teeth at the same time. Once again assume that running water means teeth are being brushed. Starting to think that nobody ever brushes their teeth.
10:00 p.m. Children finally go to bed. Randomly sing strange song out loud, perhaps in the style of Randy Newman. Girlfriend sticks head out of bedroom door. Immediately recognize the look of “shut the hell up” and proceed to do just that.
10:10 p.m. Sit down to watch one more movie for work. Surround body with random assortment of snack foods. Never open any of them. Fall asleep 15 minutes into movie.
3:00 a.m. Wake up on couch. Realize I’ve done it again. Roll over and go back to sleep to start the process all over again.
This isn’t what happens every day, however. Some days include three to four hour-long trips to Toronto for screenings or interviews (because I live in a suburb of the city) and when it comes time for one of the many festivals in Toronto, the days suddenly change into “watch movie, review, repeat for 12 hours.”Luckily, festivals only roll around about three to four times a year, while interviews tend to happen about twice a month.
Even with all the strange disagreements, interrupting children, constant trips in the car and an almost daily lack of healthy sleep, I really do enjoy it. For every time a child doesn’t listen, there are two moments where they may say the funniest thing you’ve ever heard or will join me in singing Christmas carols in July in Skeletor’s voice. Parenting is worth it, at least after the first five years, when they start to become less of a pooping machine and more of a human being that’s frighteningly similar to you. I suppose you could compare it to film criticism: not every film is a good one, but when you watch that one special movie, it makes all the bad films worthwhile.