I’m getting off track, but what I’m hopefully getting across is that I want The Curb to be a place that actively encourages open criticism – both positive and negative – of art. I want it to be a place that allows for open discussions about the world of cinema. I want to actively disrupt the landscape of modern film discourse (as in, the unceasing discussion about superhero films and everything Disney) and to try and help realign the focus on Australian film and remind people of its value.
At many of the after party meet ups at Cinefest Oz, I found myself endlessly perplexed about the path that many of the discussions was going down. This is a festival that is all about Australian film, and yet, I found discussions continually straying back to talking about Marvel films, or DC films. Sure, some of the discussions were about how great it is that the next Thor film will be made in Australia, but that doesn’t make it an Australian film. It’s still a Marvel movie through and through.
When I was asked about what my favourite film of the year was, and I’d mention that it was a small documentary called It All Started with a Stale Sandwich, eyes would glaze over. Look, admittedly, as a introvert in public spaces, I’m pretty shit at explaining myself properly, so there is a fair chance that the people I was talking to were simply bored by my trying to explain a film about public art, but, I’m also certain that if I said, ‘well, that Captain Marvel film was pretty darn great’ that the discussion would have taken care of itself. We talk endlessly about supporting small films, but then it all fades away in common discourse. We’re inevitably dragged back to a discussion that swarms social media like a plague.
As Rachel Ward said, she wouldn’t want to be part of an industry that doesn’t value her, and if any of us who write about Australian film had any sanity left, we’d also not want to write for an industry that doesn’t value us.
We’re either underpaid or not paid at all. When a film comes out, our reviews are rarely shared by the production companies or cinemas, and it’s even worse when it comes to Australian films. So often you’ll see an Australian film be released, and instead of quotes from Australian critics, you’ll find Vanity Fair or The Hollywood Reporter or Indiewire. And while it’s nice to see Australian cinema validated by international audiences, why is it that the celebration doesn’t start at home instead? When it comes to Rotten Tomatoes, our reviews are rarely put up, which in turn actively harms Australian films that are on that site, leading to a dearth of relevant reviews, making Australian cinema either appear irrelevant by having erroneous ‘rotten’ ratings, or no rating at all.
Am I overthinking this? Likely. Am I being precious? Oh, most certainly.
But, this is what I do. It’s why I keep this website going. It’s part of the core ethos of what The Curb is. I hope that when people talk about this website – if they ever do -, they do so with the recognition that this is a website that’s run on honesty and with a passion. It’s a website that’s built on the foundations of love and respect for Australian culture and art. It’s a website that I’ve built after looking at my peers and wondering how I can add to the conversation in the most positive, helpful manner.
Look, I’ll be purely honest and open – I go through periods of wondering what the fuck the point is of having this website is. I sit here and think, there’s no point in putting these words out into the world when there’s nobody paying attention. And sure, a lot of this is just your run of the mill depression fuelling self doubt and anxiety, but it’s also plain reality. I don’t have a degree in film, I failed at making cinema, and I work a full time job that is far from the realm of what I do on this website, but I enjoy writing, I enjoy talking about film, I love and live for Australian cinema, and I hope that my eagerness for it rubs off on someone else.
I’ll leave you with a call to action. If you enjoy my writing, then please, go and support my patreon. It doesn’t even need to be my patreon, but find a critic that you like, and financially support them. And to the artists and filmmakers out there, I put a request to you, if you appreciate our work, and if you’ve benefited from the coverage that us writers have put out there, then please, financially support us. I know you’re strapped for cash, as everyone is, a minimum of $1 a month is enough to keep us going. The Curb’s Facebook page has 668 likes on it at time of writing. If every single person who liked the page put forward $1 a month – $12 a year – towards the site, I could actually pay the writers for their work.
Yes, I’m focusing on myself here, but I’ll also shout out the 1250 people who like Travis Johnson’s Celluloid and Whiskey page and say, if every one of you put $1 a month behind his work, then he’d be less reliant on the ever diminishing magazine figureheads in Australia. And, if it’s not Travis, and it’s not The Curb, then find whatever critic or writer that you love and respect and support them financially. If they don’t have a patreon, then message them and find out how you can.
Yeah, I know that there are charities out there, and I know that there is a world in need, but to be that guy and pull that line, for the cost of two cups of coffee a year, you can actively support a film critic.
And, if you can’t do that, then that’s fine – just make sure to share the reviews of the writers you appreciate, and when a small film (Australian or otherwise) lands in your local cinema, go and see it and recommend it to your friends and family. The opening weekend is the biggest impact time for Australian films, so make sure to put your dollars where they’ll work best. You won’t miss anything by not seeing the latest superhero flick on the opening weekend.
If the industry doesn’t value us, and if the industry doesn’t value filmmakers like Rachel Ward, then it’s up to everyone else to show that we are valuable. It’s up to everyone else to show us that we are important and necessary. I certainly know that we’re valuable and important, and I’ll keep doing this regardless of whether there is the support or not, just many of us out there, but gosh, we all really need everyone else to step up and show us that we’re valued.
Maybe this is me being too precious, and maybe this is me being too insecure, but that’s one of the benefits of running my own website – I can put up pieces like this, or pieces about why Run Amuk has the best hotdogs in the world, or why I don’t want kids.
I think at the end of this all, I now know exactly what The Curb is all about. Yes, it’s Culture. And it’s definitely about Unity. There’s a healthy dose of Reviews, and a smattering of Banter. It’s all of those things, but most importantly it’s a site that’s about supporting the culture of Australia.