Cineaste Magazine Guidelines for Writers
Cineaste (subtitled “America’s Leading Magazine on the Art and Politics of the Cinema”) is a quarterly publication, founded in 1967, which offers a social, political, and aesthetic perspective on the cinema. We are interested in all areas of the cinema, including Hollywood films (old and new), American independent cinema, quality European films, and the cinema of developing nations. Familiarity with our editorial policies and publishing history is a must for authors. The most frequent reason we reject material is that the potential contributor has sent material, which, because of its length, style or subject matter, is clearly inappropriate for either our magazine or our Website (where we post some contributions we are unable to publish in the magazine as “Web Exclusives”).
STYLE: Our target audience is the intelligent general public, a public that is fairly sophisticated about both art and politics. No matter how complex the ideas or arguments advanced, we demand readability. We think it is the job of the writer to clarify his or her thoughts and not for the reader to decipher clumsy formulations. We dislike academic jargon, obtuse Marxist terminology, film-buff trivia, show-biz references, or obscure theoretical references. We do not want our writers, for example, to speak of how they have “read” or “decoded” a film, but to convey how they have viewed, analyzed, and critically interpreted a film. Discussing both the strengths and weaknesses of a film is more important to us than uncritically promoting it simply because the film’s producers or politics are agreeable.
FEATURE ARTICLES: Authors should discuss their subject (e.g., a film, a film genre, a current production trend, a career overview, an artistic or political movement, etc.) in depth. The author should examine both the sociopolitical context and artistic aspects of the topic. When appropriate, provide quotes from the filmmakers about their specific intentions with the work rather than your speculations about same. Don’t neglect the political implications of the work and its social perspective, no matter how seemingly innocuous the film, how formulaic its plot, or how conventional its generic format. Whenever possible, any bibliographic or other sources should briefly be incorporated into the text rather than detailed in a lengthy list of footnotes. When this is impractical, and depending on the nature of the submission, we will cite end notes for sources or references. Preferred length for feature articles is in the range of 3,000 to 4,000 words. Email a letter of inquiry and a detailed proposal on your feature article idea, indicating your overall critical approach and the specific themes you plan to examine. Do not phone our office to speak to an editor about such proposals. We need to see your proposal in writing.
One article format we encourage is an omnibus review of several current films, preferably those not reviewed in a previous issue. Such a topical article would focus on films that perhaps share a certain political perspective, subject matter, or generic concerns (e.g., films on suburban life, or urban violence, or revisionist Westerns). Like individual Film Reviews, these articles should incorporate a very brief synopsis or reference to the storyline for those who haven’t seen the films. The main focus, however, should be on the social issues manifested in these related films and how they may reflect something about the current political/social/aesthetic climate.
INTERVIEWS: Interviews may be with directors, performers, writers, composers, producers, distributors, technicians, or anyone else involved in the creative or business side of filmmaking. While upbeat and agreeable discussions with filmmakers whose work we admire are fine, we prefer interviews that are provocative, perhaps even hard-hitting, with challenging (but not hostile) questions posed and problematic or controversial points pursued, with the interviewer being willing to discuss both a film’s strengths and weaknesses. Our experience is that most interviewees respect a well-prepared interviewer who takes their work seriously enough to ask informed and sometimes demanding questions. “Puff” pieces that lionize and merely flatter filmmakers are inevitably either embarrassing or boring. We are interested in 1) In-depth career interviews with major personalities; 2) Medium-length interviews usually on a current production or issue; and 3) Very short interviews of a few questions, which can be used as a sidebar interview accompanying a separate review of the film.
An interview is more than a straightforward transcript of questions and answers. Transcripts of interviews must be edited, condensed, and, when necessary, rearranged to bring major themes into focus and to aid in the flow of the conversation. We wish to emphasize that the focus of the interview is the interviewee, not the interviewer. A typical sign of a poor interview is the inordinate length of the questions, which are as long, or even longer, than the answers.
Whenever possible, we prefer that the interviewee see this material for approval (or corrections, clarifications, or additions) before submission to us. It is helpful, but not absolutely necessary, to provide a brief introduction to the interview, offering some critical commentary on the film(s) under discussion and a bit of background information on the filmmaker, and a suggested title. Photos (provided as high-resolution Adobe Photoshop jpg files) of the interviewee are appreciated, but not mandatory.
FILM REVIEWS: We prefer reviews that focus on one film in current theatrical release or due to be released shortly in North America. The review should relate what is of merit and what is not in the film under discussion. It should incorporate early in the review a very brief synopsis or description of the plot (avoiding or at least flagging plot “spoilers”) for those who haven’t seen the film. Your review should not, however, be in the guise of a lengthy plot outline, interpolated with your critical commentary. We are concerned with aesthetics as well as content, with how cinematic techniques affect a film’s impact. Preferred length is about 1,500 words for feature reviews. Please provide production credits and distribution source information with your review, following the format we use in the magazine.
Please note that since we have space in each issue for only five to six “Film Reviews,” our editors engage in extensive discussions about which films we want to cover. For each issue, we try to select a mix of mainstream Hollywood films of particular political or cultural importance, quality foreign films, and American independent films, including both fiction films and documentaries. The principal reasons we decide not to make freelance Film Review assignments proposed to us, or to publish completed Film Reviews submitted to us, are 1) because our Editorial Board has decided to cover other films in a particular issue, 2) because our editors have not seen the film proposed for review, and we do not wish to assign coverage of films we have not seen for ourselves, or 3) because the film is not going to be exhibited or distributed in North America.
DVD and BLU-RAY REVIEWS: We publish in each issue five to six reviews of either new or recent films (in particular those not covered in previous issues) or vintage and classic films released on DVD and Blu-ray. Preferred length for DVD reviews of single titles is in the range of 1,000 to 1,500 words, or longer for reviews covering multiple titles or box sets. The critical approach should be the same as that recommended for Film Reviews, except that you should also include some commentary on any supplementary materials or “extras’ on the disc, and, when appropriate, some discussion of the technical quality of the transfer, especially if the title has previously been released in video format. Please provide brief production credits and distribution-source information with your review(s), following the format used in the magazine.
BOOK REVIEWS: Book reviews should deal with newly published books, although recent books as much as two years old may be covered depending on the work’s importance. Reviewers may focus on one book or several related titles. We encourage review-essays in which the discussion serves as a vehicle for a broader treatment of ideas or issues; but, to be fair to authors, their works also deserve to be treated seriously rather than merely as launching pads for general essays. Preferred length for feature reviews of individual books is 1,000 to 1,500 words. Longer review lengths for multiple-title reviews will be negotiated with our Book Review Editor. Please provide complete publication credits with your review (e.g., publisher, publication year, number of pages, illus., etc.), following the format used in the magazine.
COLUMNS: From time to time, our magazine includes an entry in one of our irregular columns, “A Second Look” or “Lost and Found. “A Second Look” article (1,000 to 1,500 words) should offer a new or revisionist interpretation of a film classic or a reevaluation of an unjustly neglected release of more recent vintage. “Lost and Found” articles (1,000 to 1,500 words) should discuss a film that may or may not be released or otherwise seen in the U.S. but which is important enough to be brought to the attention of our readers. Please note that “Communiqué” essays on film festivals, now published only on our Website, are written exclusively by members of our Editorial Board. We do not accept from freelance contributors either proposals or completed manuscripts for such articles on film festivals.
SUBMISSIONS: The editors are always glad to consider either completed manuscripts or new manuscripts written “on spec” by freelance authors through special arrangement with our editors, meaning that we have agreed to consider, but do not guarantee publication, of such “on spec” submissions. We assume that all manuscripts are not reworked versions of previously published material or manuscripts submitted simultaneously to several different periodicals (e.g., we don’t want to have our editors spend time reading and evaluating your manuscript only to learn, when we write to you to offer publication, that you have recently agreed to have it published elsewhere!) Your submission should preferably be emailed to us as a Microsoft Word document (with one pica indents, no space between paragraphs, and with top and bottom margins of 1” and left and right margins of 1.25”). Film and book titles in your manuscript should be italicized rather than underlined.
We will attempt to respond to submitted manuscripts as soon as possible, and usually no longer than one to two weeks after receipt. Unsolicited material will be given serious consideration, but it is best to query first in case the film, book, or topic has already been assigned. No reworked term papers, please! We prefer to have all proposals and submissions emailed to us at email@example.com. If you use surface mail and wish your manuscript returned, please provide a stamped, self-addressed envelope, otherwise your manuscript will be discarded.
Authors we have not previously published are advised to, whenever possible, accompany their proposals with samples of previously published material (either PDF files or links to online sources). Authors are also encouraged to provide details about particular areas of expertise (e.g., contemporary Italian cinema, French cinema of the Thirties, American cinema of the silent era, film noir, etc.) you can offer, and this information will be incorporated into out free-lance authors’ database for reference in terms of making future assignments.
ASSIGNMENTS: Authors who accept review assignments should always notify us if they feel that their own research interests, previous publications, or associations with filmmakers or book authors, could potentially create a conflict of interest, making a fair critical evaluation difficult or impossible. Authors who receive a formal assignment from us should understand that an editorial assignment in no way guarantees publication of your completed manuscript. All submissions, whether editorial assignments or written “on spec,” must be approved for publication by a majority vote of members of the Cineaste Editorial Board.
COPY DEADLINES: We expect authors with assignments to do their best to meet our official copy deadlines. Manuscripts arriving after those deadlines will not be granted the priority status of manuscripts received on or before the copy deadline—i.e., due to lack of space in the print edition or other editorial complications, late-arriving manuscripts may be held for publication in a later issue or possibly shifted to our Website as a “Web Exclusive.”
WORD LENGTH RECOMMENDATIONS: Just as we expect authors to do their best to meet our copy deadlines, we expect authors who receive assignments from us to follow the guidelines outlined above for recommended word length. If you deliver a book review, for example—which we expect to be in the range of 1,000 to 1,500 words—of 3,000 to 4,000 words, this excessive and disproportionate length creates serious complications for us and for you, leading either to rejection of the manuscript or significant rewriting and condensing.
REVISIONS: If we feel your submission needs further work, we will either 1) Return the manuscript to you with suggestions for changes, or 2) Make minor editorial changes and submit the revised manuscript for your approval. A Writer’s Agreement Form will be sent for all manuscripts accepted for publication, detailing publication terms and payment options. Before publication, all authors will be sent the final, edited version of their manuscript for approval.
PAYMENT: We currently pay $18 for “Short Take” reviews; $36 for book or DVD reviews (the author may retain the book or DVD reviewed; in the case of book or DVD reviews posted on our Website as “Web Exclusives,” no cash payment is offered); $45 for Film Reviews and short articles, columns, sidebar interviews, or essays; $90 for feature articles or feature interviews. Contributors will receive at least one complimentary copy of the issue in which their contribution is published. We hope to raise these rates, being well aware—as a nonprofit magazine published for nearly fifty years by an unpaid, all-volunteer staff—that good writing merits adequate compensation. Royalties from subsequent reprint of material originally published in our pages will be split 50/50 with the author. Our percentage will be waived if the book is a collection of the author’s work or is edited by the author.
Please do not phone the office to discuss editorial matters, since our editors are not available to phone you back to discuss them. Send your proposals or inquiries to the Editorial Board in writing at the editorial address below or, preferably, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All material submitted will be carefully read. Although we have published some of the best-known writers on film, we have also been the first place of publication for many writers. All the editors are themselves writers and are aware of the curt treatment writers so often receive from indifferent editors. The least you can expect from us is a thoughtful reading of your work, even though we may not be able to write you with detailed comments. If we are not interested in publishing your submission, we will try to offer recommendations as to other print or Web outlets you may wish to approach.
CINEASTE, 708 Third Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10017-4201, Phone (212) 209-3856
Upcoming Copy Deadlines for Cineaste Magazine
Vol. XLII, No. 1 (Winter 2016; on newsstands in December)
Copy Deadline: Saturday, October 8th
Vol. XLII, No. 2 (Spring 2017; on newsstands in March)
Copy Deadline: Saturday, January 7th
Vol. XLII, No.3 (Summer 2017, on newsstands in June)
Copy Deadline: Saturday, April 1st
Some basic guidelines for proper formatting of manuscripts for publication in Cineaste
Please submit manuscripts in Word format, not in RTF, TextSave, etc. All manuscripts should be single-spaced. Do not insert a double space between paragraphs. Paragraphs should have an indent of one pica. Your document settings should be 1” for the top and bottom and 1.25” for left and right margins. Manuscripts should be set in 12 point.
Please make sure that all the text in your manuscript is in black, not a colored text.
Use italics (for film and book titles, for example) only in the text itself. Do not use either italics or bold face in headlines or credits (we have a style sheet in QuarkXPress that takes care of this, so you are not helping me by adding either italics or bold face to the titles or credits of film or book reviews or articles or such matters as the author’s byline).
Use “smart” quotes and apostrophes, not "straight" quotes and apostrophes (you can use the “find and change” function to format these properly with one easy command).
After completing editing of the manuscript, do a “find and change” to eliminate extra spaces throughout (e.g., there should be only one space between words, not two or three or more).
The author’s name at the end of the review should be attached to the actual text with an em dash—like those surrounding this phrase—and not left floating free at bottom right-hand corner of page.
Format manuscripts if possible in Minion font, which is what we use to publish the magazine. If you are using a Macintosh computer, I can supply you with Macintosh-formatted Minion fonts. When using Minion fonts, use the Minion Italic font throughout the manuscript, and do not format italics by choosing “Italics” from the top menu of your computer. That does not produce a true Italic font that will be recognized by our publishing software.
If you are formatting “Web Exclusives,” however, you should use a sans-serif font, such as Arial, with no indents for paragraphs, and one space between paragraphs.
If you are unsure whether to use "post-war" or "postwar," or to use "western Europe" or "Western Europe," we use the Oxford English Dictionary. If you don't have the complete twenty-volume edition, or the compact one-volume edition with magnifying glass, or the two-volume shorter edition, I'd recommend the paperback edition of The Oxford American Dictionary. Our other standard editorial reference book is Words into Type, supplemented by Strunk and White's classic, The Elements of Style.