Clarisse Loughrey finding her voice in film journalism - and then on Wittertainment
We are delighted to welcome The Independent film critic and presenter of That Darn Movie Show, Clarisse Loughrey. Those of you familiar with Wittertainment will also recognise Clarisse from the Radio Five Live Film Show where she recently stood in for Mark Kermode (watch out Mark).
Hi Clarisse, many thanks for taking time out to speak to us at Exit 6. I’m a great fan of the Kermode and Mayo film show (LTL – if you’re a listener, you’ll understand) and you did a great job - how was it presenting?
Thank you so much! I’ll admit it was daunting, and a little terrifying at times. I’d never done anything on quite such a massive platform before, with the same passionate and dedicated audience. Displeasing the Church of Wittertainment seems like one of the mortal sins of the film world. I had nightmares about it! That said, the whole team - Sanjeev, Simon, and Robin especially - supported and guided me through every step with such enthusiasm, it felt so comforting to have people who believed in me like that. And I was so touched by the reaction afterward. People were so kind, it was truly incredible.
How did the opportunity come about?
Through Twitter, initially. They’d seen a few of my YouTube videos and read some of my work, so we met up to discuss the project, try out a pilot version of the show, and it basically went from there.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career so far – what brought about your love of movies?
I’ve always loved movies, really. I’m an only child and we moved around a lot when I was growing up, so films were there as a companion, and a way to fuel my imagination. I was never sure what career I wanted, though. I knew I wanted to do something with film, because that was the thing I loved. Turns out I’m terrible at acting auditions, so that went down the drain pretty fast. I’d started writing reviews for my student newspaper at university, and just kept going to have something else to do while I pursued acting. I guess it stuck!
What advice would you give to any aspiring film journalists out there?
Be patient and be yourself. I don’t want to be cynical and warn people off it, but it can be a really brutal job at times. It’s an extremely competitive industry and the demands can be insane, whether or not you’re working freelance or as a staff writer. But, I think it’s just important to keep your voice loud and consistent. Be out there, whether that’s on a blog, Twitter, or on YouTube. Think about what makes you different and what you can offer the industry, and don’t pressure yourself too much to conform to what you think’s expected of you. There’s no right way to talk about film!
Exit 6 specialises in showcasing short films, do you get chance to see many short films? If so, what do you recommend?
Unfortunately, the work I do now very rarely involves short films. Which sucks! It’s an incredible medium, especially for people just starting out and wanting to find their voice. I used to be on the judging panel for the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, and that was a huge amount of fun. It’s still going, and worth checking out. They showcase a huge range of work from all around the world.
With the recent hideous news coming out of Hollywood, is this the wake-up call that was needed and do you think we’ll finally see a film business that places females in the movie industry on the same level as men?
I think hope is all we have at the moment. As painful and devastating as every story is for us to read, these victims have had to live with that experience for their entire lives. With trauma, with ruined careers because they’ve been harassed or scared out of the industry. What I’m hopeful about, however, is that we’re starting to create the environment where people feel supported enough to speak out. With every individual who takes the brave step to tell their story, I hope someone else can take comfort in that, and believe they don’t need to feel ashamed or hide their experiences any longer. I don’t know if those being accused will actually end up facing long-term consequences, as much as I want to hope they will, but if we’re to finally achieve gender parity in film, we need to erase this oppressive environment that constantly seeks to silence women when they have something to say.
Is there a similar situation in journalism do you think?
Yes. It’s not something I can speak to with much authority, but it’s in every industry. We’re talking a lot about politics, entertainment, and journalism because they’re jobs where the power balances can be more extreme than usual, but it’s everywhere. I’ve worked in completely different industries before and experienced levels of harassment. It’s the culture that needs to change.
If there is such a thing, what does a normal week entail writing for The Independent?
It’s pretty standard. I’m on the news team, so we’re basically writing stories 8-5 during the week, but there are opportunities to write features and conduct interviews.
Any memorable interviews you can share with us?
To be honest, I’m not filled with crazy stories because everyone almost always turns out to be a nice, normal, chilled out person you can have a lovely chat with. Sam Neill handed me a toffee once, I guess? The PR outside said it was a prize for when journalists did well. I think it’s the proudest my dad has ever been.
I notice that you’ve also dabbled in stand-up – can you tell us a little bit about this?
I did! No one go looking for evidence of it, though. I loved doing it, but I guess it never came that naturally to me. It takes a lot to stand up on stage and have all this concentrated attention on you. I did some sketch comedy as well, though. That was more my style, and I did a few Fringe shows while I was living in Edinburgh. Again, no one go looking for evidence of it. I do love entertaining people, and making people feel happy, which is one of the biggest reasons why I set up a YouTube channel to post reviews. It’s a little bit more of a direct connection, and more human, than writing something and then sending it off into the ether.
What films have you watched recently that you highly recommend and what is your film of the year so far?
Oh god, I’m never good with end-of-year lists because all the movies I love instantly become my precious cinema children. The Florida Project and Call Me By Your Name are the ones to really rush to the cinema and see, however. I don’t honestly know how this year’s Oscar season will turn out, but those are two films I’d love to see included as part of the narrative; they’re films that truly capture how enriching and transportive cinema can be - Call Me By Your Name makes you giddy about first loves, The Florida Project makes you giddy about childhood’s freedoms. But both also crash you back down to earth in a way that is gentle, but no less devastating.
You can follow Clarisse on Twitter: @ClarisseLou
You can check out That Darn Movie Show on YouTube.