It's not news that film critics are under assault as print publishing struggles to survive. (Here's Sean Means' updated list of 60 "departed" critics since January 2006.) When faced with the harsh reality of future prospects, heavy workload or the low wages of freelance journalism, some are getting out of the profession altogether.
Here in L.A. some critics are participating in OTX market research guru Kevin Goetz's new project (dreamed up by MPRM PR man Mark Pogachefsky) which pays $100 for a critic to attend a screening and provide feedback. I was offered this opportunity (which I was not free to disclose), but felt uncomfortable with being paid by marketers for my opinions. Any movie good enough to be picked up for release would lose me as a potential champion, as I would not be able to write about it. And watching the rest of the films would probably be a waste of my time.
While I want critics to be able to practice their avocation and support themselves, being paid for market research feels like a slippery conflict of interest. Some critics also moonlight on the side writing press kits, but again, when the film comes out, they can't write about it.
For a tragic celebration of the golden era of film criticism as practiced by the likes of Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris (pictured), check out critic/filmmaker Gerald Peary's documentary For the Love of Movies: the Story of American Film Criticism, which I screened for my film criticism class at USC last year. The DVD is for sale here and for classroom and university library purchase here.