Melbourne certainly is big on film culture. With places such as ACMI and the Astor showcasing old films and the MIFF and St Kilda Film Festival always being packed, it’s clear we live in a city that adores cinema. However, there are many aspiring filmmakers here in Australia who are trying to find an audience for their films. But thanks to the ReelGood Film Festival, those filmmakers have found a place to showcase their films to like-minded movie buffs. Milk Bar Magazine spoke with the festival’s founder John Roebuck on the festival and his passion for cinema.
What inspired you to create the ReelGood Film Festival?
It was all a bit of an accident that snowballed. It’s still snowballing. I started ReelGood.com.au with a friend over a series of beer and table tennis sessions. It began to attract an audience and so we thought we’d have a one off festival-type fundraiser to get a bit more awareness around the site, as well as to get a bit of coin behind us to help us build ReelGood. We didn’t have enough films for a whole bunch of sessions, like the way they exhibit short films at festivals like MIFF or St Kilda Film Festival, so we decided to show twenty minutes of short films, on the hour, every hour, with forty minutes of drinking, food and music in between. That format ended up being the thing that generated the most positive feedback.
And then we did it all again the next year, only this time we ramped it up a heap, made it a lot more pro, and it started to resemble something more along the lines of a festival than a fundraiser. And that’s how we got to where we are now, our third year. And we’re trying to ramp it up again. We want every year to be better than the last. That’s half of our motivation and inspiration.
The other half is to showcase the work of some of the most talented filmmakers out there. It’s a scary thing, going out on a limb and trying to make it in the Australian film industry. There’s an enormous gap between the people who have “made it” and the people who haven’t. That’s in terms of awareness and financial success, but not in terms of talent. Even if a film of yours gets into a festival, there’s still such a space between that festival and the filmmaker. One of the main goals of RGFF is to be a festival for the filmmakers as much as for the audience. We’re still figuring out what the hell that even means, but I feel as though we’re on the right track. It’s a festival that’s improved through feedback. And we’re still improving.
What are your favourite movies?
That’s a tough question. Okay, in no particular order: Adaptation (my favourite film), For A Few Dollars More, The Bicycle Thief, Ashes and Diamonds, Dumb & Dumber, Beauty and the Beast, Days of Being Wild, Barry Lyndon, Vertigo, The Return (the Andrey Zvyagintsev flick, not that Sarah Michelle Gellar horror movie) and The Sandlot Kids. I think favourite is different to best and best is harder to gauge. The best films ever made are the 40+ flicks playing at RGFF this year!
Actually, this year, for the first time, we’re having a launch party. It’s the night before the main day. Party probably isn’t the right word for it, but that’s what we’re calling it. We’re screening a film called Fell, which was directed by Kasimir Burgess and written by Natasha Pincus. I went along to see it at ACMI when it was playing there a while back. It blew me away. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen in a very long time. Not just one of the best Australian movies, but one of the best movies period. We’re very lucky to be playing Fell and having a Q&A with Kasimir and Natasha at our launch party. People need to check this flick out. It’s going to be a hard act for us to follow next year! If we’re talking favourite movies, Fell would be up there.
Have you made any films yourself? Can you tell me a bit about your own filmmaking journey?
I’m an awful filmmaker, but I have made a couple of micro-budget short films. I made an Australian Western called ‘Death Has More Bullets’ as well as a sci-fi set in Melbourne in the year 2084 or something like that, which, upon reflection, was just a rip off of Blade Runner.
I don’t enjoy making films all that much, but making the few I have has made me appreciate what hard work it is. That’s been one of the driving forces behind ReelGood, both the site and the festival, from the start; to support these guys who have gone out on a limb and decided to follow a difficult career path. And these are enormously talented people. So much energy and cash is invested in even a short film. ReelGood wants to help celebrate that effort.
What made you choose the Schoolhouse Studio in Collingwood to hold the festival?
We held the first RGFF at the Patterson Building on Smith Street, but they started gutting that place out about a month later, so we needed to look for a new venue for our second year. After a lot of searching and a lot of unanswered emails from a lot of different places, we found Schoolhouse and they’ve been tremendous. The folk who run Schoolhouse are champs and the venue is so unique for a film festival that it’s really pushed us to embrace the things that make us different from other film festivals. I think Schoolhouse has been as important in shaping RGFF as anything. There are so many film festivals already out there, there would have been no point emulating what they do. But there’s just such a wonderful and relaxed atmosphere at Schoolhouse. I’d struggle to think of another place that would fit the ReelGood Film Festival better.
This year’s festival has some installations for people to watch short films and music videos in between films. How did the inclusion of these come about?
It’ll be interesting to see how the installations pan out. We came up with the idea for them because of the naturally roaming nature of the festival as well as the fun layout of Schoolhouse Studios. It’s not the sort of festival that binds you to a seat. You can come in and out as you like. The installations give people films and music videos to check out outside of the main two cinemas. They’re going to be tucked away, so it will hopefully feel like a bit of a victory to stumble across them. You know silent discos? Our installations are like the movie watching versions of those. And the films that are playing on them are just as fantastic as the ones on the main screens.
What can people expect from this year’s festival and the films being screened?
Every year, we feel so lucky to have such an awesome array of flicks. It’s not so important to us when the film was made or whether it’s screened before. I can understand that mentality for other film festivals but it wouldn’t work for us. It would be restricting. We just want to show the best films possible.
Self-promotion isn’t something that comes naturally and when we first started RGFF I felt very thankful to everyone who came along to check it out. I still do but now I’m also confident that anyone who comes along is going to have a blast. The films are great, the atmosphere is great, the music is great and the food is great. And once the awards ceremony is done and dusted, the whole thing turns into a bit of a party. It’s probably the only film festival in the world where you could not see a single film and still have a good time. But it’s way better if you do!
Originally published here at milkbarmag.com on Thursday 10 March 2016