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Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Eliza Janssen, Assistant Editor at Flicks

15 April, 2024

Eliza Janssen is a film journalist working in Melbourne. From a background in short fiction and screenwriting, Eliza was selected to participate in Melbourne International Film Festival's (MIFF) Critics Campus program in 2018, finding freelance review work and co-founding the film writing website Rough Cut. Since 2021 she has acted as Assistant Editor at Her writing was nominated for the 2023 Young Writer of the Year Award at the Mumbrella Publish Awards, and Eliza recently took part in the 2024 Berlin Film Festival Critics program. In her spare time, Eliza makes horror movies with her brother Noah under the name Midnight Screening Productions.


Eliza JanssenFirstly, congratulations on being 1 of 8 film critics to be selected for Berlin International Film Festival’s talent development initiative! Could you tell us a bit about the program and what you’re most excited about in regards to it?

Thanks very much! I’m still reeling at being selected for the Talents Press program, where I got to experience my first ever international film fest while meeting a batch of incredibly talented peers from around the world. There were lectures, screenings, and practical hands-on writing tasks, and I have to say that this rigorous experience couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

I’ve now been working full-time as a critic for a handful of years, after freelancing part-time, and the main element of the program I was excited for is enjoying a hard reset. I always want to grow in my writing, and seeing film criticism through a hectic new lens will force me to adapt quickly. I’m most keen to be challenged :)


You’ve had experience before, with MIFF, to be part of another film critics program. What makes a good piece of (film) criticism and how does it differ from a straight film review?

A straightforward, thumbs-up-or-down film review is still criticism IMO, but it’s a pretty old-fashioned and limited form of the medium. At the Melbourne Film Fest’s Critics Campus program, we had speakers show us some abstract and experimental video essays that still had clear and challenging critical messages to impart. That’s just one example, but in short, a unique and opinionated voice can reach film fans in any medium whether in a capsule review with stars rated out of 5, or a lengthy essay.

Perhaps a review serves a more obvious social purpose—informing the reader as to whether or not they might find a film worth seeing, worth spending money on—whereas film criticism in general feeds into the conversation and culture around film. Each requires a different level of intellectual investment, I reckon, but they very much tie into one another.


As a writer working in different mediums, how do you find these different practices affecting each other?

I think my study and experience in screenwriting has given me a greater degree of empathy for the filmmakers whose work I critique! Making any movie, let alone a good one, is insanely difficult, and there are so many contextual factors that can make our criticism of those movies not only more clear-eyed but also more revealing and exciting. Not to mention just a bit kinder. 

The more I’ve worked as an editor, the better I have a grasp on what makes a unique authorial voice. A great editor can preserve and crystallise those idiosyncrasies that writers have: it’s a skill I’d love to hone, and to build the trust of writers in editing their work.


Have you always wanted to be a writer and, particularly, a film critic? Who and what films/experiences have led you to this career?

I would say that I’ve always been a writer, ever since I considered myself a reader. I used to write a lot of short fiction, and then screenplays, before my experience at Critics Campus showed me that criticism was its own valid and creative form of expression. I had an extremely encouraging mentor, Annabel Brady-Brown, who now publishes fabulous books on 2000s films under her press Fireflies. And I was lucky enough to have peers who were enthusiastic about collaboration too, leading to the creation of our criticism site Rough Cut, which was partially created as a space to give new critics a place to be heard.

Part of what makes me love this job is the fact that everybody watches movies! I can talk about my work with virtually anyone, and I’m genuinely curious to hear what anyone thinks about this popular and impactful art form. My first gateway into loving, hating, and thinking deeper about movies was a childhood obsession with “bad movies”—what makes a movie a failure? I still love to cringe at cinema, I can’t help myself! I would also say that watching The Simpsons and feeling like I was excluded from adult, pop-culture-centric movie homages urged me to seek out classic cinema hahahah.


What has been the most memorable experience of your career thus far?

For a column I undertook at Flicks, I recreated movie scenes that looked cathartic on film. We’re talking Rocky’s morning run after sculling raw eggs, making the Timpano pasta dish from Big Night, smashing up a printer a la Office Space. That was something I can’t believe I got paid for; memorable, and often extremely disgusting!

Also some of the mind-blowing celebs I’ve been lucky enough to interview including Lucy Lawless, Carrie Anne Moss, John Goodman, Baz Luhrmann, Jennifer Tilly, Roger Deakins, etc.


What advice would you give to emerging art writers and/or film critics?

I would implore them to stay curious and to be open to learning from art forms other than the one in which they specialise. It seems impossible to me to write about film without having at least a passing interest in music, fashion, art, literature, theatre, history!

While it’s nice to dive deep and focus your passions on one particular genre, filmmaker, or even film, there’s an engrossing world of creativity beyond that which will inevitably enrich your connection to cinema.


And lastly, what do you look for in content pitching?

I don’t directly accept pitches as part of my role at, but I’d say one pivotal feature of a great pitch is singular perspective. If you can Google the basic idea of your pitched article and find plenty of existing, published features with the same general idea, you need to shake things up and cut right to the core of what’s unique about what you’ll add to the discussion. What is it that you understand about your subject matter that no other writer can capture?

As an editor, I also appreciate when a contributor leaves a little room in their pitch, and can be flexible to any collaboration on an angle or making a feature more timely. For better or worse, film criticism moves extremely quickly these days: a brilliant new movie can feel forgotten just a few days after its release. So I’m always impressed by writers who can be versatile and work efficiently with publications, capturing these moments in cinema while they’re hot.

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