13-Year-Old Movie Reviewer: ‘I knew what I was meant to do’

Q: Hi, Robert. I’m excited to announce that you’ll be one of A News Cafe.com’s newest contributors. You will have a regular movie review column, complete with your videos, based upon your existing reviews. But before we begin your column, I know readers want to know more about you, and so do I. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, please?

Robert Burke Clever Critic

Thirteen-year-old Robert Burke has been reviewing movies since he was 9 years old.

Hello Doni! Thank you for having me. I am a 13- (14 on February 6) year-old boy who currently attends Sequoia Middle School (this will change in less than a year when I go to high school). My family consists of my father, Michael Burke, my mother Roxanne Burke, my two sisters, Kelsey and Annelise Green-Burke, and me. I am the youngest in the family. Other than film, I love to act, and have been in many plays such as “A Christmas Story” where I played Ralphie Parker, Shasta College’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” where I played Dill and I was just cast as Ellard In Shasta College’s “The Foreigner”.

Q: I’ve seen you act up close when you and I were in “To Kill a Mockingbird” a few months ago. You did an awesome job playing Dill. I apologize that my character, Mrs. Dubose, yelled at you.

But seriously, your dad and I worked together what seems a million years ago at the newspaper. In fact, I remember when you were born. I know, you probably hate to hear that. But your dad is who first told me about your reviews, which I finally checked out recently. I was blown away at how well-produced your videos are, and the details and information and knowledge that comes through in your videos. You obviously really know your stuff. Tell us about your reviews, and how you started.

I started reviewing films from a very young age, around 9 or 10, on a separate YouTube channel for quite a while. Upon moving to San Diego for 7th grade, I met my co-founder and friend, Connor, and together, we started The Clever Critics. Connor and I posted reviews together on the channel until I moved back to Redding during the summer.

Conner and Robert

Friends Conner and Robert created the Clever Critics.

Both of us wanted to continue to review, so we started our own separate reviews on our channel, Connor’s Critiques and Robert’s Reviews. My inspiration comes from another YouTube channel called Collider Movie Talk (was called AMC Movie Talk at the time). I’d been passionate about film my entire life, but I didn’t quite know how to express it, but after seeing someone else critique film in video format, I knew what I was meant to do.

Q: I don’t know if you realize how rare it is for a person to say those words: I knew what I was meant to do. I know adults who haven’t figured that out yet. It’s really something that you already have such a clear idea of what you want to do. I’m curious about your first review. Do you remember what it was?

Yes, my very first review was for “The Lego Movie”.

Q: I notice you have a comments section below your reviews, and there was one snarky comment. Many adults can’t handle public criticism, let alone a kid having to deal with it. I’ve experienced this myself over my career, and know that it can sting. Especially after you put so much work into your reviews, and put yourself out there, how do you do you handle it when you get critical, or even mean comments?

I will admit, I had a hard time at first with taking negative feedback in the comment section. For the most part, I simply ignore the negative talk. It’s usually someone who can’t understand that I have my own opinion that may be different from theirs. However, I’m completely open to constructive criticism; if someone mentions that I do something they don’t like, but back it up with meaningful points and examples, then I will take it and try to implement it into my videos. If someone comes on saying that my opinion is “wrong,” I just ignore them. Responding to it fuels their rage, and deleting it lets them know that they’ve won, while ignoring it helps them to calm down and maybe see something in a new light.

Q: That’s an extremely mature outlook, Robert. I think you’re handling the negative stuff just right, and more important, you’re not taking it personally, which is difficult for even the most seasoned writers and reviewers.

So, back to the movies. Can you give a short list of your favorite movies? And while we’re at it, how about some of your least favorite?

My favorites change constantly, and movies move up and down on my list. As of right now, though, my list would consist of (in no particular order):

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975, dir. Miloš Forman)
“The Decalogue” (1989, dir. Krzysztof Kie?lowski)
“The Conversation” (1974, dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
“12 Angry Men” (1956, dir. Sidney Lumet)
“Bicycle Thieves” (1948, dir. Vittorio De Sica)
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
“The Lord of the Rings Trilogy” (2001-2003, dir. Peter Jackson)
“Diabolique” (1965, dir. Henri-Georges Clozout)
“The Graduate” (1966, dir. Mike Nichols)
“The Breakfast Club” (1985, dir. John Hughes)
“Sunset Boulevard” (1950, dir. Billy Wilder)
“It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946, dir. Frank Capra)
“Rear Window” (1954 dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (1966, dir. Sergio Leone)
“Seven Samurai” (1954, dir. Akira Kurosawa)
“High and Low” (1963, dir. Akira Kurosawa)
“8 1/2” (1963, dir. Federico Fellini)
“The King of Comedy” (1982, dir. Martin Scorsese)

I also did a Top 10 Best Films of 2016, which you can watch here.

I haven’t seen too many films that are considered “the worst films ever made,” but as far as the ones I’ve seen, my least favorite would be:

“The Last Airbender” (2009, dir. M. Night Shyamalan)
“Gods of Egypt” (2016, dir. Alex Proyas)
“Fred: The Movie” (2010, dir. Clay Weiner)
“Norm of the North” (2016, dir. Trevor Wall)
“The Star Wars Holiday Special” (1978, dir. Steve Binder)

I also did a Top 10 Worst Films of 2016, which you can watch here:

Q: So, how does it work with you reviewing movies that are rated R? I mean, do you watch R-rated movies?

I will watch some R-rated movies, but that usually depends on my mother researching the movie and then she says if I can see it or not. She looks at the themes, positive/negative messages, and thematic content in films to decide if I can see it or not. You typically should not rely on me for R-rated movie reviews, but my partner, Connor, does review a lot of them, so you’ll be able to find them there.

Q: OK, good to know. Actually, I just watched your latest review of “The Founder”.

I was impressed with your ability to add video to your review. Can you walk us through a review, and the editing process?

On average, it takes me an hour to an hour and a half to shoot, edit, and upload a review. First, depending on if it’s day or night, I will set up photo lights in my room. If it’s daytime, I will use a lamp and light from outside. Then, I will set up the microphone and the camera, and prepare the notes that I take while watching the film on the tripod the camera is set up on. After that, I sit in my chair, and shoot the review, trying to develop my opinions as best as possible.

Thirteen-year-old Robert Burke produces his video movie reviews from his bedroom/recording studio. Photo by Michael Burke.

Thirteen-year-old Robert Burke produces his video movie reviews from his bedroom/recording studio. Photo by Michael Burke.

Once the shooting is done, I take out the SD card, and import it onto my computer, where I drag it into iMovie and begin editing. I’ll use clips from a certain website and take images on Google Images. When I’m done with that, I’ll upload them to YouTube, and press publish.

Q: Good grief! That’s really cool, Robert! I’m not kidding when I say that if you taught a class on how to shoot and edit video, I’d be the first in line to be a student.

Subject change: Dare I ask what kind of career you have in mind when you’re an adult?

No surprise here but I would love to be a film director/screenwriter.

Q: No surprise at all, and I have no doubt that’s exactly what you’ll do. I’m so glad you’re sharing your talent with us here on A News Cafe.com so we can follow your success. I’m really excited about your column.

Thanks, Robert. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, thank you so much for this opportunity Doni, and thank you to all of your followers who’ll watch my reviews.Robert Burke Clever Critic

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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15 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    Impressive!!

  2. A. Jacoby says:

    You mean the world ISN’T going to hell in a hand basket and there ARE members of a future generation that can actually think? Well, and not only think but even ARTICULATE those thoughts? Impressive is a bit of an understatement, I think.

    Looking forward to your input into my life, Robert. I can hardly wait to say, “I knew him when!”

  3. Darcie says:

    WOW Robert, I am  really excited to have  you  as a  resource for movie reviews!    I love when talented young people get a chance to  shine  – as you do already.

  4. Dan kupsky says:

    Great article.. What an articulate young man.. There is hope for the future.. A wonderful boy with fantastic parents… Thanks for giving him the stage..

  5. gmonteri says:

    This young man is clever and sophisticated far beyond his years.  His lists compare favorably with best critics working today.  I will be watching his critiques and I know he should have a real future in media criticism and whatever endeavors he chooses.  As far as future generations are concerned, I’m optimistic that intelligent young people will succeed unless old dimwits stifle their creativity.  Unfortunately, stupidity is on rise and threatens the future of the creative, young and old alike.

  6. Dodie says:

    What an articulate young man. I thoroughly enjoyed your ten best and ten worst movies of 2016. I will certainly be looking forward to seeing you in “The Foreigner” at Shasta College and your future reviews on A News Cafe.

  7. Carrie Dokter says:

    Flabbergasted! I am a big fan!!

  8. Barbara Stone says:

    Welcome, Robert…I look forward to reading your column!

  9. Kathleen says:

    Anxious for your first installment, Robert.

  10. cheyenne says:

    You go to Sequoia so I would assume you will go to Shasta High.  When I worked at Shasta the school paper had a movie critic section and there were movies reviewed by the Shasta critics that I watched, some I never heard of from other countries.  I always felt the Shasta student newspaper was better than the local fish wrap.  The Shasta reviewers introduced me to Bollywood and also that a lot of movies coming out of China were not Kung Fu related and quite good.  Good luck to you.

  11. Judy Smith says:

    Wow!  You have discovered a real talent, Doni!  Robert, you are brilliant beyond your years.

  12. OK – I’m six minutes in and I love this kid. I am compiling a list of films to watch — THANK YOU!

  13. Richard DuPertuis says:

    What a delightful young man! Sharp and well-spoken. As a lifelong movie lover more than 7 times your age, I am eagerly looking forward to your reviews on anewscafe.com.

    Welcome aboard, Robert!

  14. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Thank you Doni and Robert for this great interview.  I grew up without TV, and only had a seen a few films by the time I graduated from high school.  I read a lot and still do.  Robert, I have the feeling that if I followed your recommendations on films I would not be disappointed.  You are tuned into the sorts of things that to me, make all the difference in a movie.  Thank you so much!

  15. Karen C says:

    What a  great young man, and  lucky to have such passion about his chosen career at his young age.  Best luck to you Robert, and keep having fun with it.

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