FilmTok Creators At Sundance Aren’t Stealing Critics’ Jobs

Sundance film festival sign over influencer with headphones and graphic design background
PureRadiancePhoto/Shutterstock Stock-Asso/Shutterstock Ribkhan/Shutterstock Remix by Linzi Silverman

In a past life (last year), I was an entertainment journalist. The job had plenty of perks, but perhaps the most glamorous part of it was the screenings. I always thought that premieres involved A-listers and the key cast and crew, and then you just had the movies rolled out in theaters. But in the UK, at least, there’s some kind of middle ground. These screenings involved a lot of journalists, a lot of booze (especially if the film is bad), and to many journalists’ chagrin… FilmTok creators.

For me, these screenings soon turned into a “Where’s Waldo?” of some of the biggest TikTok comedians and POV actors. I suspect at least some of the time, they were there to try and build hype for the screenings, with their managers telling them it would be good exposure. Other times, they readily admitted that they were paid by distributors to post about the movie — but the thing that struck me the most was the sheer vitriol other journalists had for these influencers.

As the Sundance Film Festival week drew to a close this Sunday, so did another year of #FilmTok making its mark on the industry. Sundance 2024 will go down in history as the first year creators descended to the film festival in droves, with leading ‘FilmTokers’ like Joe Aragon, Maddi Koch, and The Nobodys all in attendance after being invited by the Tok itself.

Cumulatively, these creators — whose content ranges from reviews to theories to analyses — have tens of millions of followers. Many of them also took part in interview junkets or hosted red carpet interviews with A-Listers. But despite their pretty critical role in modern movie marketing (The Hollywood Reporter, for example, cites “Anyone But You” as a prime example of TikTok driving box office success), there’s still a lot of hostility.

Countless journalists have argued that influencers are ‘taking’ their jobs, and to an extent, it’s understandable why they’d feel that way. But it’s also short-sighted and elitist to immediately disparage FilmTokers’ contribution to the film industry on account of the medium they choose to share their views on. Is it shady for influencers to pretend they’re impartial when they’re getting paid to promote a movie? Obviously. But if they’re transparent about it — and they are a good 99% of the time — then it really isn’t a problem. 

No one’s job is being stolen because, most of the time, FilmTok creators aren’t there to be an impartial film critic or interviewer — they’re there to drive up enthusiasm and share their love of movies to an audience who might not typically engage with films. All forms of art should be accessible, and if FilmTok makes movies that little more accessible to Gen-Zers, then I’m all for it.

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