Finance Work My first job: Marc Fennell, movie critic

My first job: Marc Fennell, movie critic

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When I was at high school, I did lots of graphic design and website design jobs for varying amounts of money. That was kind of enough to get me through high school without doing a Maccas sort of job.

But when it came to an actual paid job, it turns out my first job was at SBS.

The way that came about was when I left school I kind of stuffed up my preferences for university and I decided to take a year off. I wanted to be a graphic designer by day and make films by night. I have no idea why I had the day and night separation, it was a very odd life choice.

At high school, I won a young film critics competition run by the Australian Film Institute. After high school, I did some graphic design for FBi radio station and ended up doing some movie reviews for them.

The young Marc Fennell, circa his first job at SBS. Source: Supplied.
The young Marc Fennell, circa his first job at SBS. Source: Supplied.

One day in 2004, I got a very strange phone call from a producer at SBS. We went and had a drink and talked about everything and nothing. The next day David (Stratton) and Margaret (Pomeranz) announced they were leaving SBS to go to the ABC. I ran into the producer again and she suggested I send in an application video because SBS were recasting The Movie show. I thought, “That’s a terrible idea, no one’s going to watch that show without David and Margaret”. Time would prove me correct.

I sent in a video application – I was 18 at this point. By this time, I had decided my day/night career separation wasn’t working, so I started a uni degree at UTS. I was about three weeks into it, staring at my phone at every lecture waiting for a call from SBS. Eventually they offered me this job and I signed my contract. I firmly believe to this day they had cast a whole lot of white people and thought they needed to find someone vaguely ethnic and went for me!

The day we were unveiled to the press as the team taking over from David and Margaret was my nineteenth birthday. SBS were desperate to get the show launched before David and Margaret went to air on the ABC. I remember getting my make-up done and telling people it was my birthday. You should have seen their faces when they found out how old I was. They didn’t realise they had hired a child! They thought I was 23 or 24.

I was surprised they had hired me, to be honest. I think in a way it’s driven a lot of what I’ve done since. I was very lucky that I was there at the right time.

As a result, I work a lot now to kind of justify the luck, which is why I always have three jobs. At the moment, I do The Feed on SBS, a show on Radio National and my movie reviews for triple j.

The Movie Show was the best education you could ask for in broadcasting and film history. It was the best learning ground for me. But we knew it wasn’t great and wasn’t going to survive that long.

So I started to do a couple of guest spots on triple j and after the show finished, I was doing promos for FBi and eventually triple j asked me to come on as their movie critic. Doing reviews for triple j was the only dream job I ever wanted.

In the early days I was doing a lot of work with their podcasting and social media efforts. I’ve always kept that technology thing on the side because, let’s be honest, not many people can make a living from being a film critic.

In between all the other things that I do, there is something I love about that tiny two minutes of radio that, because of triple j’s reach, ends up reaching 1.8 million people. I love the purity of a conversation with the audience about film and I love producing it as well. I still go out and do other things, like The Feed, but I think my work with triple j is going to be a constant. Well, until they fire me!

When I started doing The Circle and Hungry Beast on ABC I started to get a lot of people that connected my voice to my face. I’ve been on TV or radio since I was 18, but it’s not weird because it’s a very manageable level of fame. Once or twice a week someone says, “Oh, I saw you on that thing” or best yet is when a car drives past and someone yells, “That movie guy”.

I’m very privileged to have a job that involves watching movies and interviewing directors. I love my jobs, each one of them gives me something different.

Marc presents The Feed  on SBS 2, Download This Show on Radio National and is better known to triple j listeners as That Movie Guy.