A group of young creatives who cut their teeth on an industry magazine more than a decade ago are making waves in the world of film, writes Michael Bodey
Jen Peedom remembers the guy in the beanie who was the boyfriend of the assistant editor on Moulin Rouge! He was hanging around the Darlinghurst office of IF (Inside Film), the screen industry journal that had an office over the back fence of Baz Luhrmann’s Darlinghurst mansion, Iona, where the director was editing his 2001 musical. The production team, being good neighbours, invited the young IF crowd to their parties, and it was here that IF editor Bec Smith met the guy in the beanie, David Michod, who was whingeing about being broke and friendless after moving from Melbourne to develop a screenplay.
“But he was funny and charming and smart,” Smith says. “I said, ‘Why don’t you just shut up, come in, answer some phones and write stories’ — and the next day he did.”
As Michod joined, Peedom was busy trying to raise sponsorship and excitement for the publication’s fun annual alternative to the troubled AFI Awards, the IF Awards. “Inexplicably, Bec made him her office manager at one point,” Peedom says with a laugh. “It was chaos, total chaos and ridiculous, but it was fun. I learned so much from those guys.”
Those guys who coalesced at IF magazine in the early 2000s have since ditched journalism and event production to become high achievers in Australian film and television. And their achievements will be in sharp focus this year.
This week Peedom is in the spotlight as her credits as a producer and director peak, so to speak, with the Australian release of her multiaward-winning feature documentary Sherpa, about a tragedy on Mount Everest.
After Michod burst forth with Animal Kingdom and The Rover, War Machine, his satire starring and produced by Brad Pitt, has been bought by internet broadcasting giant Netflix. The latest film from former IF Awards producer Angie Fielder, Garth Davis’s drama Lion, starring Nicole Kidman, is in the frame for Academy Award contention after US executive producer Harvey Weinstein confirmed its late 2016 release. Fielder’s producing partner at Aquarius Films, Polly Staniford — once her IF Awards producing manager — will release Cate Shortland’s new thriller starring Teresa Palmer, Berlin Syndrome, this year.
Former IF magazine editor Smith is now the US agent of Michod and Peedom, among others, at United Talent Agency in Los Angeles, while her successor as editor, Rachael Turk, is developing projects at Essential Media and Entertainment, including her own international TV series Rote Faden (The Red Cord).
“It was the wonder years,” Turk says with a laugh. “We all definitely had a passion for film and television, which was what made IF magazine special at that time, [with] that creative energy you had in your 20s. It was a special bunch of people.”
Indeed, the 2000s was a special moment in Australian film in Sydney: the Star Wars and The Matrix epics energised Sydney’s Fox Studios, digital effects house Animal Logic was being turned into a studio, and a new generation of Sydney filmmakers emerged, including the collective that shared an upstairs office in Darlinghurst with IF: Blue-Tongue Films’ Nash and Joel Edgerton, Spencer Susser and Kieran Darcy-Smith (who have all since directed feature films) and Oscar nominee Luke Doolan.
The IF posse came together by chance. Peedom, for instance, subscribed to the magazine