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Open Right

Jake Wilson

Curriculum Specialist, Education Consultant, Journalist

Jake Wilson is a freelance writer whose film reviews appear weekly in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and other Fairfax Media publications.  His book Mad Dog Morgan, a critical study of the film of the same name, was published in 2015 as part of the Australian Screen Classics series.

Where were you born?

I was born in London, to an Australian mother and a Kiwi father who met and married there. But I can’t remember living anywhere except Melbourne.

What other jobs have you had?

Besides being a writer, I’ve been an editor, a curator, an archivist, a typist, and, briefly, a “lollipop man” (more accurately, a level crossing supervisor—I didn’t get a sign).

What themes are recurring in your work?

In my critical writing, I’m usually trying to make sense of the relationship between style and meaning.  Australian film and experimental film are two subjects I’ve written about a lot.  I’m always interested in the way that thinking about cinema leads you back to everything outside the cinema—personal memories, historical events, political or philosophical ideas.

What have been the highlights of your career?

In the early 2000s, I spent a couple of years as an editor of Senses of Cinema, one of the first serious film magazines to appear online (and one which is still going strong today).  In 2006 I started writing regularly for The Age, and in 2010 I had the honour of working closely with two of Australia’s greatest filmmakers, Arthur and Corinne Cantrill, as curator of a retrospective covering fifty years of their work. In 2015 I published my first book, Mad Dog Morgan, a study of the extraordinary 1976 Australian film of the same name starring Dennis Hopper.  This was a fascinating challenge to research, given the many wild stories that have circulated about what happened behind the scenes—and about the bushranger Dan Morgan who started it all.

Where have your works been published?

My reviews and articles appear most regularly in the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, but I’ve written for many other print and online publications including Australian Book Review, RealTime, Kill Your Darlings and Bright Lights Film JournalMad Dog Morgan is published by Currency Press in Sydney, in association with the National Film and Sound Archive.

What are you passionate about?

Freedom. The arts, especially literature and cinema. Trying to overcome my own ignorance and prejudice. The need for humanity to find ways of living that don’t inflict so much damage, above all on the non-human world.

Haven’t I seen you before?

Maybe at the movies—my job involves seeing films on the big screen most days of the week.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Like most journalists, I hope to publish a novel one day!  I’ve also dabbled in Super-8 filmmaking and comedy writing among other things.


Jake was an excellent speaker. He took a little while to ‘warm up’ due to the inclement weather on his arrival, but once he started speaking, his knowledge of the work of Hitchcock, particularly Rear Window was wonderful. Students were engaged and very quiet for the whole lecture, and staff commented on the immense value of the presentation. It would have been nice to listen to his thoughts for even longer if we had the opportunity at some stage.
I would highly recommend Jake as a speaker to any other school. His reading of the film was insightful.

—David Mason, Caulfield Grammar School, November 2017

Jake was absolutely brilliant.  He was able to engage the whole group and they all went back to their respective classes inspired, with plenty of discussion topics and ready to tackle the task ahead.  The girls had plenty of questions for Jake and he was able to competently and confidently address them all.  His delivery was highly academic – more university / lecture style.  But this was great for our senior students to experience.  We were very happy with the session and will be more than happy to use Jake again for this talk or similar.  Thanks for recommending him.
Note: Lecture session was for year 11 students, on Bladerunner

—K. Todd, Mount St Joseph Girls' College, May 2016

Jake Wilson has been part of several film panels I established at ACMI on behalf of the Australian Film Critics Association. He offers erudite and incisive questions and comments to filmmakers, and is an eloquent speaker on film issues, and text and subtext in the cinema. He also discusses his best films of the year regularly on my radio show: Movie Metropolis, and his film choices are presented with insight and wit. His knowledge of cinema is exemplary.

—Peter Krausz - 
Film critic, film journalist, former Chair of AFCA and member of FIPRESCI.

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