Interview - Joe Cooper

I/V: Joe Cooper: Film Critic 7th July 2003

What's your background?

Prior to my entry into the wonderful world of film reviewing and journalism in general, I spent time down quite a few different career paths. Poultry chef, bank johnny, sales rep, debt collector, marketing director, and financier are all on the list. I even enjoyed a day as a bodyguard for an American celebrity who was a little too popular with his female fans.

As you can see, it's an orthodox journalistic background.

How did you get your break?

My big break came via my partner, Lisa, who kindly refrained from calling me a lunatic when I voiced my intention of becoming a film critic. It could have all crumbled there with a well-warranted "Pull your head in, Joe".

From there it was all milk and honey - nothing but hard work and high anxiety.

Seriously though, I never experienced a single "that's it" event that I identified as my break. I think it was more of an evolutionary process. I kept pushing and putting it out there, repeatedly, until the whole thing gained critical mass and - voila! - I had a wild new career on my hands.

What style of movies do you prefer to review, and why?

I have to admit to being slightly sadistic in this regard. There's nothing quite like sitting down at the keyboard after seeing the latest mega-budget dud. It's film critic heaven. John Malkovich's directorial debut, The Dancer Upstairs, was the last time I had the pleasure.

In all fairness to myself though, I do love discovering an obscure and underrated gem - usually an independent release showing somewhere like the Dendy Cinemas - and getting the chance to sing its praises to a public that might not otherwise hear about it. Russian Ark, which is now screening in Brisbane, is a classic example.

What are your goals?

It's funny you should ask. I actually sat down this morning to tick-off some accomplished goals, and to set some new ones. I'm a big believer in goals. To give you the concise, philosophical, short answer, my professional goal is to continue making my film reviews an honest guide to what's worth spending $13 on and to make those same reviews a source of entertainment in their own right. I have delusions of grandeur!

As far as a personal goal is concerned, I want to continue having a great time. Life's too short not to be having fun. It's also too long not to be having fun!

How has the internet affected your business?

Tremendously. Quite simply, the internet's opened up the world for Australian journalists, myself included. Without it I wouldn't be scoring gigs with publications based in such places as London, Johannesburg, and Chicago.

The internet's allowed a fantastic balance of career and lifestyle. I get to reside most of the year in Brisbane, one of the greatest cities in the world to live in, and work for some of the leading media sources in the world. You've got to be happy with that.

Where have you been published?

Off the cuff… BBC Online, eFilmcritic, Hot Ashes, Media Man Australia, Resident Advisor Magazine, South African Film, Mamba Online, and Melbourne Movies, just to name a few.

What are your current projects?

More reviews, and an interview with model/author Tara Moss. That's the week ahead.

What kind of reactions have you ignited from your

I get quite a lot of feedback from readers. The Inbox and letterbox is always full. Some of it's praise and concurrence, and some of it's outright condemnation and disagreement! Either way, I think it's fantastic. People are going out there and seeing the films and then coming back with an opinion strong enough to inspire time spent writing an email or a letter. I'm sure that anyone in any form of journalism wants to see something like that.

What else do you write about?

I do stray from film reviewing, but seldom outside of the sphere of entertainment. Yes, I'll be caught out interviewing the occasional actor, musician, model or miscellaneous celebrity, but thankfully, for all involved, my political commentaries are few and far between.

What industry perks do you have?

Aside from free movies… Travel, and all the interesting trinkets and shiny baubles the film industry can throw at me.

Who are your mentors?

Every editor I've had the pleasure to work for has been a mentor. They all have an incredible amount of industry savvy and are more than willing to share the good oil. They're good people. You just have to take the time to ask them for guidance.

Challenges faced?

Being a freelancer has its cons. There's no office footy tipping comp to be a part of, there's a twenty-foot commute every morning, and you have to make your own coffee.

But hey, there's all the freedom (creative and time) that you could wish for.

Hidden talents?

I can perform a very nifty pick-a-card-any-card trick. It's a party favourite.


Movie Reviews

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