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Reel Talk

Name

John Roebuck

Idea

To create a hub for international and local film discourse and to promote film events and filmmaking.

Johnno Roebuck is editor-in-chief and co-founder of ReelGood.com.au. He also writes for New York based website Portable.tv, makes short movies of his own and recently sat on the judging panel of the short films division in the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia.

John currently has his head down as there is one week to go until the second annual ReelGood Film Festival (RGFF) at the Schoolhouse Studios in Collingwood. Go if you can, as John says it is set to blow the first year out of the water – and if you’re an avid reader of his reviews, you know that he means what he says.

What do you enjoy most about working at ReelGood?

Everything. Actually that’s not true, some stuff is boring as hell. It is fun reading about other people’s opinions on film though, and being the one who gets to share those opinions with everybody else is a neat feeling.

It’s also a nice challenge keeping your own personality out of the articles you don’t write. Sometimes I’m reading an article from one of my writers and totally disagree. At the end of the day I’m just another asshole who loves film. There are plenty of us out there and my opinion is worth just as much as anybody else’s.

Can you tell me about the ReelGood festival?

The whole idea behind the festival is to shy away from the direction that a lot of urban film festivals have been pushing toward. Last year, RGFF felt a lot more like afternoon drinks and music, punctuated by great movies, and we really wanted to continue that idea with this one, but ramp it up so it’s even better. We wanted to make a film festival with top-notch short films that encouraged people who might not necessarily go to these sorts of things to come along.

The film industry and community attracts a hell of a lot of wankers and often film appreciation and film making can become a bit of a pissing contest, which is something I’ve never really understood. If you really love something it should never matter how anyone else relates to that thing you love. Our site, ReelGood.com.au, tries to keep this in mind and hopefully that idea has extended to the festival. You could honestly have a great time at RGFF even if you didn’t watch any of the films, although that’s probably not the best way to go considering what an awesome program we’ve got this year.

Any tips for any other creative start-ups wanting to run their own events?

I’m probably not the one to ask, considering I’d had zero event management experience before starting up RGFF. I’ve really had to learn on the run, so there have been things that certainly could have been done better – and will be as the festival grows. There are probably things that I still haven’t even thought about doing. Perhaps the best tip I could give for other people looking to run events with no experience is to just go for it. You might be surprised, like I was, at just how much you’re forced to learn and adapt. Nothing about the running of RGFF are things that come naturally to me, particularly selling myself and my event as well as making sure it all runs smoothly, but I just jumped and hoped that I’d be able to sort myself out on the way down.

What are you looking for in curating the festival?

I’m actually just looking for films that I enjoy personally. I’ve been to a lot of short film festivals, not to name any in particular, and been amazed at how little I’ve enjoyed a lot of the films. If I had to really pinpoint what I’m after in films for RGFF it’s that I want to recognise real talent behind the filmmaking process. I don’t want the films to be nifty ideas that could be done with technical skill. The hope is that people watch the films at RGFF and can really appreciate the talent behind what they’re watching, even if they can’t pinpoint exactly what they’re appreciating.

You also make your own short films. Does this have an impact on how you review and write about films?

You can’t approach every film in the same way – perhaps that’s how film pretention begins. I can have a grand old time with Godard, Murnau or Fellini but dammit if I didn’t also have a good time watching the first Transformers movie.

Also, film and film style is constantly evolving. Part of having a well-rounded appreciation of film, in my opinion, is being able to appreciate what different films have to offer. You wouldn’t watch a Fritz Lang film from the 1920s the same way you would the most recent Kiarostami. It’s important to appreciate each film for what it is. Having said that, I do value subtlety in film, both in content and style. I think it’s something that many films, both old and new, sorely lack.

Really? Can you give us some examples of really bad movies?

Bumazhnyy Soldat/Paper Soldiers. It’s also my least favourite film. To me, taking the quality of a foreign film for granted is one of the hallmarks of a certain form of film pretention. As soon as love of cinema becomes a pissing contest then well, it’s not really about love of cinema.

There were a lot of people who clapped at the end of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) screening of Paper Soldiers I was in. Obviously film taste is subjective and in most cases I generally don’t enjoy arguing about which films I think are the best, because ultimately it really doesn’t matter. But Paper Soldiers is an absolute piece of crap. Confessions of a Shopaholic is another film that left me down in the dumps for days.

Can you remember the first movie you ever saw?

It would have been ages ago. I do have pretty strong memories of seeing both The Lion King and Batman Forever at the cinemas as a kid. At the time, I thought Batman Forever was one of the smartest films I’d ever seen. Turns out it’s not. I also remember being about five years old and crying hysterically after seeing Gallipoli. Or that fucking adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, shown to me by an absolute nuffy of a babysitter, who screwed me right over for about 10 years nightmares-wise.

I can remember the film that really got me into flicks. I was about 13-years old and my parents dragged me to some bullshit dinner at one of their friends’ house. I was lying on the couch in the back living room, flicking through TV channels, when Goodfellas came on. I’d seen bits and pieces of it before, but it had always been a few seconds here and there before some asshole adult turned it off. I sat up, watched the whole thing, and knew what I wanted to be passionate about for the rest of my life.

I won’t ever forget that feeling. I don’t care if my work in film-related stuff ever amounts to anything. As long as I still feel like that when I watch films, success is neither here nor there.

Any favourite movies along the way?

In no particular order – Adaptation, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Bicycle Thieves, Vertigo, The Return (the Russian flick, not the bullshit Sarah Michelle Gellar horror flick), The Sandlot Kids, Barry Lyndon, Days of Being Wild. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a whole bunch. You always feel like you’re being judged when you’re asked questions like that. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is definitely one of my favourite films of the past few years. ‘Best’ is a more difficult question, and the list would be a good deal longer.

Popcorn or Choc-top?

Both. At the same time. With as much swag as possible.

Interviewed by
Alice Bradshaw

Photography by
Johnno and studio by Sebastian Avila and others courtesy of ReelGood.com.au

ReelGood
Portable.tv
ReelGood Film Festival