Please welcome my special guest today, Travis Johnson! Travis is one of Australia’s foremost film critics and screen culture journalists. He has written thousands of reviews, interviews, features and news articles, hosted dozens of public Q&As, interviews and panels, and appeared on numerous radio programs and podcasts. His work has appeared in or on FilmInk, X-Press Magazine, The West Australian, ReelTime, io9/Gizmodo, SBS, AccessReel, Beat, Brag, and more. Prior to focusing on film, he was the Arts & Music Editor at X-Press Magazine, where he covered local music, art, theatre, comedy, food, culture, technology, film, and television.
So, Travis, what were your favourite films growing up? What kick-started your love for the medium?
I got given a copy of Kurosawa’s the Seven Samurai on VHS when I was six and that pretty much rewired my brain on s fundamental level. That same year I saw Star Wars, The Dark Crystal, and ET, and the damage was well and truly done.
How did you come to be a film critic? Was it always something you were interested in or did you fall into it?
Well, step one is to fail at being a filmmaker…
I actually studied film but spent a lot of time outside of the industry for a variety of reasons that would take too long to detail here and had a string of fairly miserable office jobs. About a decade back I decided I was going to put all my chips on freelance writing as a fulltime career, and it seems to have worked out about as well as one might expect.
What’s the best thing about being a film critic?
You are simply drenched in cinema, and given the opportunity to see as much as you can, and to push the boundaries of your understanding of the form every single day.
What’s the worst thing?
Emotionally stunted chuds who think liking superhero movies is an adequate substitute for an actual personality.
What has been the highlight of your career to date? Any special screenings or celeb meetings?
I’ve gotten to travel a fair bit and visit a few filming locations. Interviewing Peter Jackson on the set of Mortal Engines was pretty fantastic. Spending a week in Paris interviewing some 40 French directors and actors was great. I managed to scam 10 minutes on the phone with John Carpenter last year, which was one for the bucket list.
Which film bombed at the box office that you thought deserved more glory?
Lord, there are so many. Let’s go for Blade Runner 2049 in recent years.
Which film received a lot of glory that you thought was overrated?
I think in a few years we’ll look back on Avengers: Endgame in much the same way we look at Avatar now.
If you weren’t a film critic, what would your dream job be?
I’d be a scuba instructor on some tropical island.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when starting your career? What do you know now, that you wished you knew then?
No one can actually stop you from writing about film. The bar to entry is incredibly low, but the bar to excellence is incredibly high.
If you could only take one film to a deserted island, which film would it be?
I seem to never get sick of Big trouble in Little China, which may seem a little lowbrow for a Very Serious Critic, but here we are.
Thanks for being my guest today, Travis!
Readers, if you’d like to find out more about Travis, you can do so here: