Rhianna Dhillon enjoys being pampered like a celebrity.
April has been a strange month. It marks exactly 10 years of my career being a film critic – my first appearance was on Radio 1 on April Fools’ Day. My mum, who recorded it (old-school, on a cassette), plays it back to me down the phone and I sound so nervous as I chat to Greg James about why Jake Gyllenhaal’s Source Code was a pretty great film and why Sucker Punch, starring Vanessa Hudgens... was not.
I was still a student at Reading University but had been thrust into one of the most exciting jobs I could think of.
It was never my plan to be a critic – that job seemed so out of reach – but Radio 1 was scouting for a new film person and decided it wanted a “listener on air” approach, rather than a seasoned expert.
They auditioned us without us realising (as film students, we thought we were just taking part in a film debate) and, after several more informal interviews, they offered me the job (although it took about a year to be convinced that the whole thing wasn’t a giant April Fools’ prank) and I find new things to love about it even now.
On Monday mornings, I have my regular slot on BBC Radio 6 Music with Lauren Laverne, which is genuinely one of the best ways to kickstart my week.
For several years at Radio 1, I have reviewed whichever films are out at cinemas and quite enjoyed laying into the truly terrible ones. But, with Lauren, the point is that I talk about my top recommendations across cinema, streaming and TV.
For a critic, finding three to critique and not be critical of is more of a challenge. Lauren is so engaged and knowledgeable about film that it makes the job easy and enjoyable.
Critics are used to interviewing celebrities but not necessarily to being treated like one. I’ve been given my own dressing room in the bowels of the Royal Albert Hall for this year’s Bafta Craft Awards.
I have had my hair and make-up done by some of the best in the business (I am eternally grateful to anyone who makes me look good for TV).
I scribble last-minute notes while downing a glass of Champagne, trying not to smear my lipstick and taking selfies for posterity – because, let’s be honest, this isn’t going to be a frequent occurrence and I am going to milk it as much as possible.
It has been a very important and memorable year for film – which has seen a much higher level of representation, in terms of diverse and female film-makers being nominated – so it really is a pleasure to be part of a programme dedicated to awards that don’t often get their time in the spotlight.
My job is to pull out interesting facts about all the crafts and movies but I also love hearing co-host Joanna Scanlan’s anecdotes about being on set. And I am in awe of Clara Amfo’s brilliant hosting skills (and her incredibly white teeth).
I’ve heard people say that it has not been a great year for film, given the pandemic, but I disagree. I feel more hopeful about the industry’s future than I have been in a long while. There seem to have been more discussions, debates and arguments about films, perhaps because more people have had time to watch them.
Preferring to wait out the pandemic, huge films have made way for smaller ones, so indie films have found bigger audiences. I’m dreading an influx of movies about the pandemic (nobody wants this) but I’m excited to see how the past year will shape cinema in the coming years. After a rough period, the arts always step up and I don’t think this time will be any different.
Rhianna Dhillon is a broadcaster and film and TV critic.