Creative People

Interview - Margaret Pomeranz

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
19th of August 2011
Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton at ACMI last week - Photo by Mark Gambino
David Stratton + Margaret Pomeranz at the 6th WA Film & Video Festival 1991 - image courtesy of Margaret Pomeranz

Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton talk about the Margaret and David: 25 Years Talking Movies exhibition at ACMI - video courtesy of ACMI.  (Email subscribers, please visit this post on the website to view this video!)

As you guys know, The Design Files does occasionally veer from the prescribed 'design' focus - but only when a seriously special opportunity comes up!  When I heard about ACMI's new exhibition Margaret and David: 25 Years Talking Movies, I thought I'd be cheeky and request an interview with Margaret Pomeranz.   Thanks to the ACMI marketing team, she kindly accepted!  Agh - starstruck!

Margaret Pomeranz may not be a designer, but she is surely one of Australia's most inspiring creative women.   This October she's celebrating 25 years working with David Stratton across The Movie Show (SBS) and At the Movies (ABC) - an incredible milestone, especially in the fickle TV industry!  Margaret's background is not just as a presenter, but as a writer and producer - in fact as she explains below, she originally conceived the idea for The Movie Show with no intent on presenting it!  Of course as it turned out, she was the perfect on screen companion for David, as is evidenced by their unwavering popularity still today.

In addition to her role as a celebrated film critic and TV producer, Margaret is also a passionate anti-censorship campaigner, and is a past President of Watch on Censorship.  In 2005 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for 'service to the film industry as a critic and reviewer, promoter of Australian content, and advocate for freedom of expression in film.' Hear Hear!

HUGE thanks to Margaret for her time, I hope she's not too horrified to have gone from an Order of Australia to an interview on The Design Files :)  Big thanks also to ACMI for facilitating this interview!

Margaret and David: 25 Years Talking Movies opened this week, and is on at ACMI in Melbourne until 4 Dec 2011.  The 25 year anniversary episode of At the Movies screens on ABC1 on 26 Oct. More info at

Whilst every television-viewer In Australia must surely know your name, your career in television goes back much further than your movie-reviewing partnership with David Stratton! Can you give us a little background about your career, and how you made the move from journalist to TV producer, writer and presenter?

Whilst living in Europe in my early twenties I worked as a stringer for ABC radio, and for The Bulletin occasionally.  I came back to Australia to finish my degree and then after attending the Playwrights’ Studio at NIDA and working as a screenwriter for some years, I lucked into a job producing and writing at the newly formed SBS. This was 1980. I was on a fast learning curve and I relished every opportunity thrown my way.

I was balancing job and home and kids, but at the beginning it was only part-time. That soon changed. I loved producing and I got a chance to feel my way gradually. When I was asked to produce David Stratton’s hostings we became friends and over lunch we would talk about – what else? – movies! And we had one of those ‘Wouldn’t it be great if ….’ sessions about the possibility of actually producing a review show about film. Management initially turned us down, but some time later I was asked to fill a half hour with something I didn’t believe in and suggested instead that we go back to the movie review program idea. I had only intended producing, but David was extremely difficult to please in terms of finding him an on-screen female partner. We both agreed that that male/female perspective was crucial to what we wanted to do. Finally in desperation he asked me to give it a go. Management backed him up and reluctantly I auditioned. Got the job. And here I am! A quarter of a century later.

Original Promo Shoot for The Movie Show in 1986 - image courtesy of Margaret Pomeranz

You’re celebrating 25 years of on-screen partnership with David Stratton this year – what an incredible achievement! What do you think it is about this creative partnership that has engaged Australian viewers for so many years? On-screen chemistry!? The perfect character balance? A genuine genuine affection and respect for one another’s opinion?

I think we were very lucky to have started out on SBS, we were able to make clunky mistakes without too many people noticing. And we refined the show over time. I think the male/female thing worked, the David/Margaret thing, because we are both so very different from one another. He’s a major, major film buff and I was really just representing an ordinary member of the audience. I think at times people were confronted by our disagreeing with one another (nice people didn’t do that on television!) and then audiences got used to it and started looking forward to our spats.  The fact that we were very obviously fond of one another and did respect one another was crucial. It’s like life, you often disagree with family and friends and it doesn’t mean you don’t like one another.I think we were reality TV before reality TV!

This month ACMI launches Margaret and David : 25 years Talking Movies – an exhibition celebrating your incredible years on screen with David. How did the concept for this exhibition come about, and what can we expect to see!?

The concept for the exhibition germinated at the time I went to ACMI to interview Tim Burton and the subject of 25 years on television came up. The people at ACMI were so enthusiastic and they just ran with the idea of the exhibition. We’re both extremely flattered that an organization with the stature of ACMI is actually putting this enormous effort into this celebratory exhibition.

I’m dying to see what’s been done. I know some of it but I also know that people have been ferreting around in the deep dark past - so I think there are going to be some surprises for us!   I love the idea of the interactive element where members of the public can review a film with one or the other of us as their on-screen partner.

ACMI exhibition, including Green Screen exhibit where visitors can co-host a segment with either Margaret or David! Photos by Mark Gambino.

The ACMI exhibition also showcases some more personal treasures – including your famous and much-loved earrings (which apparently have their own facebook page!). Have you ever wondered how on earth your earrings managed to garner a cult following of their own!?

I have no idea how the earrings have achieved their status and popularity. I was not originally an earring-wearer. But my close friend Margaret Kirkwood, who is one of this country’s most wonderful jewelers, suggested she make some earrings for me to wear on the first show. She’s been designing them and I’ve been wearing them ever since. I love the fact that people have responded to them so enthusiastically. I love that I can showcase her talent.

Margaret's earrings on show at ACMI!  These are designed by Margaret's friend, Margaret Kirkwood.

Your week must be full to the brim in between movie-viewing and filming for At the Movies. What does a typical day in the life of Margaret Pomeranz look like?

A typical day involves a movie at 10 am, often one at 3 pm and often one at 6 pm as well. In between there are interviews with filmmakers, writing up notes on the films I’ve seen. My days in the city are diary-driven but I have a place out of town where I do most of my writing.

Outside of film, which Australian creatives are you currently inspired by, in any field?

I am blown away by the craft talent in this country. I am a patron of Object Gallery for that very reason. Every exhibition they put on is just stunning. And their shop is the perfect place for beautiful presents. But I love our fashion designers and of course I love this country’s writers, both for screen and for print.

What are you looking forward to ?

I’m looking forward to August 17th. I’m excited about it, can’t wait to see what ACMI has done.

Sydney Questions

Your favourite neighbourhood in Sydney and why?

I love Pyrmont, it’s perched right on the edge of the city, it has a multi-cultural population, it’s right on the harbour with some lovely walks and it has some great restaurants.

Your favourite Sydney cinema and why?

My favourite Sydney cinema would have to be the Cremorne Orpheum. It’s been so beautifully restored and Paul Dravet who programs it is a genius. Every time I pass by and I see what is screening there it’s like the pick of the crop of current movies.

Where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

The last great meal I ate in Sydney was at Tomislav.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

On a typical Saturday morning I would be walking my dog up the beach to have coffee with friends.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

Sydney’s best kept secret is the Object shop!

Margaret Pomeranz 2011 - Image courtesy of ABC TV

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