Writing for WhatCulture is a Scam

Earlier today, the Internet Wrestling Community was thrown into disarray as it was announced that practically every key YouTube personality for WhatCulture Wrestling was parting ways with the company. To put this into perspective, this would be the equivalent of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Holland just walking out of Marvel all at once. Sure, the franchise could probably survive due to its strong brand identity, but it would be a shell of its former self. WhatCulture is somewhat of an anomaly in the realm of entertainment websites. Its network of YouTube channels provides high quality, entertaining content, helmed by truly talented people such as Adam Blampied, Adam Pacitti, Ross Tweddell, Sam Driver and Jack King (who are all leaving). But their website is a soulless tabloid magazine, clogged up with intrusive advertisements and clickbait top ten lists.

This dissonance has always angered me, due to the perception WhatCulture’s public presence has. On the surface, it’s all fun and games, with funny videos that present the hallowed halls of their offices as a dream environment to work in. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Flashback to 2013, as a 17 year-old me is accepted as a contributor for their website, which seemed like a major stepping stone in a potential writing career. At the time, I still had my heart set on being an actor, but I’d fallen in love with the written word after exploring the realm of screenwriting for my film studies class. I was excited to be producing articles for such a popular site, and it started out well enough. My first article, detailing unintentionally “hilarious” (hyperbole is the site’s bread and butter) moments in movies that were supposed to be emotional, garnered over 150,000 views. If you’re up for some amusement, you can even read it and gain some perspective on the kind of stuff I was expected to pump out for them (my author profile is still active, not that I’m particularly proud of what I wrote during my time there).

At this point, I didn’t quite realise that I was in for a nightmarish experience that miraculously didn’t put me off writing for good. The first red flag waved when an article I had written about Nelson Mandela’s passing possibly aiding Idris Elba’s award campaign for Long Walk to Freedom was rejected with a laughable explanation. I’d written the article within less than 24 hours of Mandela’s death, and didn’t hear back for weeks about it being published. When I’d almost forgotten about the article, one of the site’s editors contacted me, saying that it “wasn’t current enough” to publish. I assumed this was their polite way of saying they didn’t think it was all that good, until I published it on my old blog and a professional freelancer who had previously written for The Guardian shared it on his Facebook. Clearly, thought-provoking content wasn’t on the site’s MO, so I played ball.

What followed was a dreary experience, as every pitch and idea that was thrown at me was another top ten list. The main issue, however, was communication. There was no clear structure or hierarchy, and different articles would be sent to seemingly random editors, meaning there was no consistency in what was published. Feedback for rejected articles was minimal, and at no point was I told how to improve as a writer. One such article, which I shan’t link to, as it was so heavily edited that I refuse to call it my own, was fully taken over by an editor. Upon submission, rather than receive a rejection with instructions on what could better it, the article went up with entire paragraphs altered from what I’d written. There were references in there to TV shows I hadn’t even seen, jokes that weren’t mine and even entire ideas that I hadn’t implemented. My work had been completely bastardised, but my name was still attached to it as if it were my own.

This is where my main point of contention with WhatCulture lies, the man behind the curtain, as it were, Matt Holmes. Holmes is the editor-in-chief of WhatCulture, and his is a ghostly spectre that looms over the site like some kind of elusive alien overlord. Twitter user @Crowtagonist unleashed a spectacular rant on the big boss in response to today’s events, which you can find in the replies to WhatCulture’s announcement of the mass departure. I can’t do the rant justice, but every word of it rings true. The head honcho is impossible to get into contact with, unless he’s rejecting your articles without explanation. He runs his site like some kind of cartel, enticing would-be writers to churn out lowest common denominator work for a fraction of the industry standard wage. There are promises of a career path, but no such path exists as their system relies on writers at the bottom rung kicking up content with no actual chance of a salary or true employment. It’s a glorified pyramid scheme. Earlier this year, I met the former deputy editor of The Big Issue at my old college, who responded to my explanation of WhatCulture’s payment system with horror, appalled at the pennies they offer for the thousands of views generated.

I joined WhatCulture thinking that they could help me on my path to writing for a living, but in truth, unless you want to make your living writing utter drivel, that’s unlikely to happen. They’ve unceremoniously removed me as a contributor on two separate occasions for mistakes made on their end. My favourite example being me missing a deadline after a glitch on my writer’s profile not allowing me to open my projects. Despite multiple emails being sent to their support address and their editing staff, I never received a response and had my account frozen not long after. So, I implore any budding writers reading this: Don’t fall into WhatCulture’s web. They are scammers who take advantage of young, tenacious people and pimp out their words while taking the lion’s share of the revenue. Their YouTube channel may seem like they offer the greatest job in the world, but what lurks beneath is far more sinister.

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The Public Perception of Film Critics is Ridiculous

Earlier this week, I found myself browsing the comments section of the link to the RottenTomatoes score of the new Baywatch movie and instantly regretted my decision. It still shocks me that despite RottenTomatoes existing since 1998, people still don’t understand how the site works. It is merely a collection of critical reviews that are then tallied into “Fresh” and “Rotten” scores, which provides an aggregate of what percentage of critics enjoyed the film. The 18% score for Baywatch did nothing but draw the ire of moviegoers, who lambasted the entire profession of film criticism. The usual barbs of film critics being “out of touch” and “only liking pretentious dramas” finally got to me, as I went on a mad tirade explaining how idiotic such assertions sounded. If the movie scores an 18%, then that means 18% of the critics that reviewed the film would recommend it (23 critics in total, in this case). So, if all film critics are such stuck up snobs, why is it that almost one fifth of them liked Baywatch? It’s almost as if they’re human beings with opinions of their own, perish the thought.

While there is just an element of failing to grasp the concept of RottenTomatoes at play here, the way in which general audiences choose to treat film critics demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of two things: 1. What purpose they serve and  2. Why they have to be as analytical as they are. First, I’d like to dispel the myth that film critics are magical gatekeepers to the fountain of film knowledge. They’re not old sages that hold some secret formula to understanding film on a level so deep that your brain will explode just thinking about it. A film critic is nothing more than another person with an opinion, an opinion that they are entitled to just like everybody else. The “Us Vs. Them” mentality that so many have towards film critics is problematic in that you’re essentially throwing an entire profession under the bus; a profession that has inspired many to look a little deeper into the films they enjoy and engage with them on a whole new level. The likes of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert weren’t elitists that dictated their opinions to the masses as if their word were gospel. They were national treasures who were beloved by millions, with a TV show that truly helped people to make a decision on what they wanted to see at the movies that week.

The hostility towards critics may very well stem from a form of bitterness. Many reviewers will have attended film school and engaged with the medium at an academic level, which will grant them with at least a slightly more informed opinion than your average film fan, like it or not. This doesn’t mean they’re better than you and it doesn’t stop you from enjoying the movies you like. Film critics can certainly enjoy a dumb blockbuster, if you don’t believe me, then look at the RottenTomatoes scores for Fast Five or Jurassic World. Most critics merely have a mentality of assessing what a film is trying to accomplish and whether or not it achieves that goal in a satisfying way. While film is completely subjective, if one has studied the language of film and is familiar with strong plot structure, writing, direction and the like, then I’m far more likely to listen to them over someone who just owns a lot of Blu-Rays.

This brings me onto the purpose a film critic serves, as apparently it’s a useless practice according to the people whose favourite films were savaged by someone that watches movies for a living. The fact of the matter is that for every one person that doesn’t listen to a film critic, there are multiple people who do. Just think about this logically, if nobody cared about what critics had to say, then the job wouldn’t exist. They provide a service to people who don’t consider themselves to be film savvy enough to research a movie for themselves. I work in a cinema and meet people every day who ask me what kind of reviews the film they’re going to see has received. The answer I give them often allows me to gauge what kind of expectations they then set for the film. In this exchange, I effectively become a middle man, offloading the product of a critical evaluation to a consumer, who is now more aware of what kind of a film they’re going to be watching. This is the kind of importance that a film critic serves.

But the most important thing to remember about how a critic’s opinion is formed is simple: It’s their job. A lot of people seem to forget that they have the freedom to see a movie and then say whatever they like about it without fear of repercussions. A film critic doesn’t have such a luxury. Their job is on the line every time they review a new release, they’re assessed by a superior just like everybody else. If a review is shoddily written or doesn’t provide an in-depth analysis, a critic surrenders themselves to the wrath of their editor. If a critic has established that a certain level of quality is to be expected from their work, then they stand to lose readers from a following that they have spent years of their life building up. These are people who have worked their way up the cutthroat world of journalism to get to where they are. They’ve most likely written for free on many occasions, or worked for peanuts as an unknown freelancer. Now, they find themselves in a position where their opinion is valued by thousands, if they screw up, they could be out of a job. If you don’t perform your job to an acceptable standard, then you know there’s a chance of being fired, a film critic is no different. Whether you agree with a review or not, insulting somebody’s craft is nothing short of plain disrespectful. They’re only trying to put food on the table, same as all of us, so please try to have a little perspective.

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