How to write movie descriptions?
March 20, 2008 2:32 PM   Subscribe

How do I write short (ca. 150 words) and engaging descriptions of movies in English without sounding too subjective (I don't want to use the first person POV)? The people reading will be average movie goers. Any tips, examples or links that you can recommend? Many thanks!
posted by Foci for Analysis to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just write about what happens in the movie, who are the director and lead actors, what makes it distinctive. Name the genre. Compare it to movies it's similar to. Help people to evaluate for themselves whether it's something they would like.

Horror: In Steven Spielberg's Jaws, a shark terrorizes a beach town. Plainspoken sheriff Roy Scheider, hippie shark researcher Richard Dreyfuss, and a squirrely boat captain set out to find the beast, but will they escape with their lives? 70's special effects, legendary score, and trademark humor set this classic apart.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:46 PM on March 20, 2008

Best answer: What are you writing these for?

I write capsules for my film society's calendar, and have always found it kind of difficult. It does get easier with practice, though.

You might take a look at the capsule reviews at the Chicago Reader if you're looking for examples.

(You can also read my society's calendar capsules here if you want some more examples - just scroll to the bottom and click on each series or week and you'll see them. Some are better than others.)
posted by bubukaba at 3:18 PM on March 20, 2008

Response by poster: bubukaba: What are you writing these for?

It's for a web site (my own personal project) that's a collection of classical must see movies within a certain genre. Thanks for the links, that's pretty much the format I'm looking for.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:41 PM on March 20, 2008

If they're must-sees, they're sort of already subjective, aren't they? You're endorsing them, after all, so don't be afraid of, you know... telling us why they're good.
posted by rokusan at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2008

Come up with a template/checklist. You can mess around with it so that it doesn't sound like a robot wrote the reviews, but basically, you want to get across these basic things. LobsterMitten provides a good example of a finished product. Note how you can shoehorn in details with adjectives.

Person or persons who are subject
Action they are doing/situation they are in
Major plot complication
Notable meta-details to clarify review -- genre, director's name, highly-acclaimed, notable firsts, etc.
posted by desuetude at 6:44 AM on March 21, 2008

Response by poster: desuetude, check lists are the kind of crutches that I need until I actually get good enough at writing capsules (<- learned new term, yay) so that it feels natural. Guess I just need to get started instead of obsessing over my ability to write.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:31 AM on March 21, 2008

Guess I just need to get started instead of obsessing over my ability to write.

Totally. Give yourself a starting point. Plug in your variables like it's a game of MadLibs. Let yourself add an extra sentence of description beyond the above. Do this for a chunk of the movies that you'll be reviewing.

Go make a cup of tea and take a break. Come back and edit, edit, edit, edit until you're concise yet descriptive. The nice thing about working on a batch at a time is that you'll come up with a writing-logic solution for one movie that helps you figure out how to tackle another.
posted by desuetude at 11:24 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: Radio Times has a large archive of reviews in the format you desire.
posted by Dr.Pill at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2008

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