Clem Bastow, Writer
The question is, what doesn't this woman do? She's talented, prolific and completely amazing. As a writer, journalist, broadcaster, tutor and and all-around creative, Clem is making diverse and challenging work everywhere we look. We're endlessly inspired by her and very excited to share her insights today, thanks Clem!
What do you do?
A lot, but mostly I am a freelance journalist, a screenwriter, a broadcaster, and a university tutor in screenwriting and costume fabrication techniques (though not at the same time in the same subject, sadly).
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
"Never give up, never surrender." Yes, it's the catch-phrase from the fictional sci-fi TV series Galaxy Quest, and much like the hapless alien race the Thermians took said catch-phrase to heart in the film of the same name, I tattooed those words on my forearms to make sure, i.e, I never give up nor never surrender.
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
It's hard to pick just three, but some that stand out to me include deciding, at the end of 2001, to defer my Fashion Design degree and focus on my burgeoning music criticism career ("career"); moving to Los Angeles in 2012 and living there for two years while working as an entertainment reporter and trying to work out what the fuck I'm about in general; and finally, this year, after dropping out of three separate university courses during nearly two decades, getting my Masters in Screenwriting. But then there was also the time I hid in the Ivanhoe Library and secretly read Hollywood Babylon at the age of 14, sooo...
What is your dream project?
There's a particular script (not by me) that has been locked in "development hell" since 2008; if nothing else, I'd die to become successful enough to demand to yank it off the shelf and put it straight into production. In terms of my own work, I have a few wildly uncommercial concepts --a multi-protagonist historical biopic, a queer space opera-- that I want to churn out first drafts of when I get some spare time to devote to spec scripts. In other words, I look forward to working on them some time in 2034!!
What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?
I'm forever inspired by the towering presence of the Canadian-American performance artist Cassils; their work is and always has been profound and challenging, but feels especially urgent in light of the current political climate. I'm still laughing about Chewing Gum on Netflix, one of the best TV comedies in years. I follow a bunch of special effects makeup artists on Instagram, like Mike Marino, who continually blow my mind with the levels of grotesquerie they're able to dream up. My "to-read" pile is turning into the world's most educational game of Jenga, but I'm currently getting stuck into a great biography of Tove Jansson, some Mary Oliver poetry collections, a strangely inspiring self-help book by the late Hour Of Power televangelist Robert H. Schuller that I found in the op shop (pro tip: the "self-help" section in any op-shop is where all the good and unclassifiable stuff, like fringe spirituality, gender theory and psychoanalytical texts, get put!), and the 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master's Guide. I'm trying to string out my viewings of Transparent season 4 and Star Trek: Discovery because I'm enjoying them so much, and willing the Klingon course for Duolingo to come out of beta testing. I'm excited that octopus are building cities!!
What places are important to you?
- Devils Tower, Wyoming
- Jimmy Buttons' cave of wonders in Fitzroy
- Union Station, Los Angeles
- David Copperfield's private magic museum in Las Vegas
- The V&A tea-rooms
- The Writers Guild library in Los Angeles
- Being in America for Halloween
- Meditating on any and all late-Modern and Brutalist buildings (especially Earth Sciences and the Grattan Street engineering buildings at University of Melbourne)
- The Royal Melbourne Show
- The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner route from Los Angeles to San Diego
- Around the Christmas tree
- The weights room at my gym
- The bath
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
More diversity!! Screenwriting --and by extension, cinema and TV in general-- is still overwhelmingly male and very white. Research has proven that men are useless at working with other women (locally, around 40% of them never work with women), and though there's no concrete statistics, I would assume the same is true of working with people of colour, LGBTI people, and people with disabilities (though you only need to go to the movies or watch Australian TV to work that out). So let's just fuck them off and create our own diverse and supportive film industry, because honestly if I have to watch another AACTA/BAFTA/Oscar-worthy drama about white male geniuses, I'm going to stab myself with a choc top.
Who would you most like to answer these questions next?
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
Depends how you define "in your field". My mum and my sister are incredible and inspirational women, and I have some fantastically supportive female mentors and colleagues in academia, freelance writing, and screenwriting. As I move further into the latter field, however, I often think about what Lake Bell told me when I interviewed her back in 2014 after her debut as a writer/director, In A World, came out: "You know, we always say, ‘Oh, Hollywood is a boys’ club’, and it is for all intents and purposes, but there’s also a girls’ club. By the time [women] reach great success and they’re standing there, looking down at someone, it becomes an interesting dynamic where women are more competitive. So, you don’t just give a hand up to a woman just because she’s a woman." Lake didn't want that to be her legacy and neither do I. That's a responsibility we have as women moving into an industry that has been traditionally exclusionary: how can we help foster good relationships between women, trans, non-binary and gender-non-conforming people in the industry, and provide opportunities and networks, so that we can all give each other a hand? I really admire what Jill Solloway is doing on this front; the way they have stacked the Transparent writers' room and crew with a diverse range of practitioners is admirable (and of course should be the norm!). It's also one of the reasons I've been so enjoying teaching screenwriting, and hopefully inspiring students not just to believe in themselves, but also to support each other.
Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?
Seeing the second presentation of Nat Randall's durational theatre work, The Second Woman, at Dark Mofo this year was like a bolt of pure energy from the centre of the universe. (She's doing it again at Liveworks this month.) Other people have written about the feminist implications of Randall's incredible, 24-hour performance far more eloquently than I am able to, but it was a life-changing work of art. More generally, I draw most of my inspiration and creative energy from fields well outside of creative non-fiction or screenwriting/cinema (which is a slightly more elevated way of saying "I don't have time to read much"), especially fucked up performance art, body horror, Brutalist architecture, sound art, weird installations, Bay Area Thrash, outsider art and home crafts, and endless reams of funny animal videos online.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
SO MANY. I am currently working, along with my brother Atticus and our colleague KrackerJak The Mad Bastard, on the ABC First Run podcast Behind The Belt; we're halfway through the first (but hopefully not last!) season of this deep-dive podcast about pro wrestling. My feature screenplay Farewell Tour is in development at Renegade Films, and I am also developing my original TV comedy pilot Berkeley for multimedia. I co-present Superfluity on Tuesdays on 3RRR FM with Christos Tsiolkas, Casey Bennetto and Scott Edgar. I'm also trying to get better at styling wigs, but that's not so much a "project" as a "desperately optimistic pipe dream". I'm also about to start running my first Dungeons & Dragons campaign as Dungeon Master, which I'm terrified about!
What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?
Oh Christ, I think I put most of it "out there" already, but I still can't ride a bike or drive. Also I fucking hate The Big Lebowski! Feels good to get it off my chest.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
"How good is heavy weights training??" - me, to myself, after years of avoiding the gym. I just want a jacked back for summer. Also, Bette Midler's sage words: "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."
What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?
Whether James Cameron's Na'vi pronunciation during his Golden Globes acceptance speech for Best Drama was any good. Also, I hope nobody ever asks me "What's your film/book about?"
How can we find our more about your work?
I have a very dull website at clembastow.com, a much more regularly updated "official" (blue tick and everything!) Facebook Page where I post my articles as well as other things I find interesting, an embarrassingly over-updated Instagram, and I am never ever ever going back on Twitter ever again.