Brodie Lancaster: Putting the spotlight on film and feminism

Australian writer, editor, and soon-to-be-published author Brodie Lancaster shares stories around the creation of her feminist zine, Filmme Fatales.

by Portia Ladrido

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© Brodie Lancaster

It took Brodie Lancaster eighty hours of internship, a part-time editor role, a full-time job as an editor in Melbourne, a job as a managing editor in New York, and a job at an advertising agency (again in Melbourne) to eventually put together a print zine about film and feminism, Filmme Fatales.

Melbourne-made and internationally acclaimed, Filmme Fatales is the embodiment of Brodie’s distinct voice as a maverick writer. If you frequent the Internet for a refreshingly witty yet cleverly insightful dialogue about pop culture and the ways in which women are perceived in this cultural space, it’d be fairly easy to find Brodie – from her bylines at Rookie mag to her onstage discussions at TEDxTalks.

Filmme Fatales has launched Issue 8 – its final issue – and we had a chat with Brodie about how it all started and where she’s headed.

INKLINE: Could you course us through what it has been like creating Filmme Fatales?

Brodie Lancaster: Because of Filmme Fatales, people sort of took notice of my work. And so I got asked to speak at writers festival and stuff here in Melbourne – that’s how I got to do my TED talk in 2015 in Sydney. After that, I got a job at a writing studio in Melbourne called The Good Copy, which became the publisher of Filmme Fatales and Tavi Gevinson saw it and asked me to write for Rookie, which was really great, because you know, Rookie was kind of the impetus for me to start it.

Through Rookie, I think, a lot of people at different websites were reading the site and wanted that kind of Rookie voice and so I got a few more opportunities because of that, but I do credit all of those opportunities back to the fact that I started Filmme Fatales kind of on my own back.

I: Where did the idea of combining women and cinema come from? 

B: I noticed there was nothing in that space and I guess I was trying to fill that space, and I really wanted to. If something like Filmme Fatales had already existed, I would have just bought it and read it because I had done a cinema major in university and I really enjoyed film but I kind of felt distanced by the academic, theoretical language. I didn’t want to pursue writing academically about cinema because I’d much rather talk about why Sex and the City is like Pretty Woman or themes in Bollywood films that translate to Hollywood films. Stuff like that; stuff that is accessible.

At the same time, I was subscribing to Bust magazine, JezebelRookie, and feminist writing. I really desperately wanted something that combined the two things. I wanted to be able to have that dialogue about feminism and female representation on screen and intersectionally diverse representations of women and I wasn’t getting that from anyone.

© Brodie Lancaster

I remember the day when Filmme Fatales Issue 1 launched, I went to a big magazine store here in Melbourne and I went to their film section. The cover of every single magazine had Thor or some other kind of blockbuster male action star except for one local film industry publication that had Rebel Wilson. I said, ‘this is the reason that this needs to exist.’

I: Where did you get the confidence to pursue this, seeing that it’s not exactly easy?

B: The fact that it was a zine made it more possible because I was actually planning to photocopy it on and staple the issues myself at the little zine stores in Melbourne where you can pay to use their photocopier – that’s how little I knew about publishing when I started the first run. I definitely deal with self-doubt and impostor syndrome and I do wish I had more blind confidence to go out and do what I dream about doing, but I also think that being very critical of myself and my work makes me do it to a higher standard.

But I didn’t do it entirely alone. I designed and edited it all by myself, but I was making it on nights and weekends when I was working on advertising where you know I could roll over to someone’s desk and say, ‘hey you’re a designer how do I fix this problem in InDesign?’ or I could say to someone, ‘what kind of paper stock do you think should I use? You know more about this than I do.’ And so I really filled in the gaps with my own knowledge by relying on the people around me and playing to their strengths.

© Brodie Lancaster

I: The zine from the onset is a feminism and film magazine. But what do you think is the recurring ethos of Filmme Fatales

B: There’s some criticism. It’s very light. I have a mix of interviews, criticism, and funny editorial around films. For example, in Issue 8, which is the last issue, there’s a fun set of diagrams and graphs and visualisations about the new Ghost Busters film.

On the next page is this reading of Grandma starring Lily Tomlin, which is all about representations of different stages of feminism on film. And there’s a personal story about the film Baghdad Cafe and the author of Crumb and Flavour, Ruby Tandoh, who was also on the Great British Bake-off. She wrote this piece about watching this film and seeing this representation of friendship, and really relating to that.

If there’s one ethos, I wanna make the idea of reading and relating to film something fun and something possible for young women. I think a lot of times we’re expected to watch stories about men directed by men and we’re supposed to see those as universal, human stories whereas the idea of a film about a woman directed by a woman is labelled like a niche, women’s interest film. I like the idea that Filmme Fatales celebrates women onscreen in a way that makes it seem like that’s the norm.

I: Right, that’s brilliant. We heard you have a book coming up? Could you share what it’s about?

B: It’s a pop culture memoir so it’s kind of telling a story of my life but also how it is to grow up as a young woman surrounded by images of young women stories and just people stories on screen and in books and in music. It’s kind of just collecting all the little fragments of pop culture that have existed in my life and weaving them together and trying to hopefully make something that people enjoy and can relate to in some way.

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I: What’s the most satisfying thing about being a writer and being able to create all these things?

B: When I was young, I remember spending all of my nights and weekends on Myspace and MSN just trying to make friends. I grew up in a small town and I sought out the Internet as a place to connect to people; to find people who have stuff in common with me because I didn’t find that at school.

And so it is most satisfying when I get feedback on my work that is from people who feel represented or seen or understood because I’ve said something that they’ve thought about or I’ve said something that they could never articulate or just that they can relate in some way. It is really the most exciting thing when someone reads your work and says ‘oh I feel the same way and I didn’t realise until now’ – that’s really the nicest thing. I just really hope my book does that.

Brodie Lancaster’s book No Way, Okay Fine will be out on July 2017. 

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