Under the Radar with Jane Crowther
When the Group Editor-in-Chief of Total Film and SFX prepares for work, she has to make sure she's green screen ready – and when she's not in the office, you'll find her in the "spa in the sky"...
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
I’ve always been a film nerd and consumed movie magazines – as a kid I couldn’t believe that reporting on-set was a job a person could do and I became obsessed with one day being a journalist watching a movie being made on location. The day I found myself watching Daniel Craig shoot guns in Istanbul while filming Skyfall was when I knew my 13-year-old self would be chuffed!
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
As a 14-year-old, I got work experience with Just Seventeen and that only whet my appetite for journalism, so I applied for work experience at The Yorkshire Post. I was so tenacious/precocious that I ended up freelancing for them on their ‘Youth Style’ page though my teens – writing reviews, interviews with celebs of the day (Phillip Schofield, Jakki Brambles [now known as Jackie Brambles], Spandau Ballet) and think pieces.
I was the Film Editor on my student paper and then completed a diploma in Periodical Journalism at City, University of London. During my time there I propped up my student loan with shifts on The Sunday Times newsdesk, and after graduation, started my first salaried journalism job as Staff Writer on free film mag Flicks.
From there, I freelanced for Total Film and various other non-movie corporate and consumer outlets (working in B2B titles was a valuable learning curve) until I got the job of Features Editor on Total Film. From there, I became Acting Editor, Editor, then Editor-in-Chief. I am currently Group Editor-In-Chief of Film, looking afterTotal Film and SFX.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
Anything that doesn’t have mad patterns and isn’t green, so that if I’m asked to do a TV chat I’m green screen ready!
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
Our team spends a lot of time in the States, particularly LA, on film sets and at junkets and we’ve become very fond of American candy called Swedish Fish. It’s now mandatory for anyone going to America to bring a bag back specifically for deadline sugar lows.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
The great thing about my job is that it’s never the same each day – I’m often in odd, far-flung locations watching scenes being filmed that look really odd until the SFX, sound, score etc are added later – or interviewing actors in weird spaces.
Often the most unusual things that happen are the things I can’t really talk about without betraying confidences – the time I had to dispose of an actor’s wee in a beer bottle when he’d been caught short during an interview (there were no loos), talking to a star off the record about a hugely famous romantic bust-up, driving round LA with an actress listening to bonkers audiobooks in her car...
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
That we don’t watch films ALL day.
Walk me through your typical day.
There’s no such thing as a typical day!
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
Watching films. No matter how many we watch there’s still so many more I want to see.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
A picture of the current issue of Total Film to social because communicating with readers via Twitter and Instagram is an essential part of my job – and it’s great for star stalking before an interview!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Watching videos of Dr Pimple Popper [also known as Dr Sandra Lee] squeezing spots, boils and cysts. I don’t know why, but I love it!
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
Tiffany Haddish. No matter what she says, it’s funny. I feel like she’d be a great person to call if you’d had a bad day.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Try the tripe, it’s actually really tasty.” It was not.
What/where is your happy place?
On a transatlantic plane knowing I have 11 hours of no emails or calls, a ton of movies to watch and dinner on a tray. My team know I love it so much that they call it my ‘spa in the sky’.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
That I’ve never seen Mean Streets or The Seventh Seal.
What would be in your Room 101?
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Obviously film – but I do like TV binge-watches. I’m currently getting through Manhunt: Unabomber.
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
Coffee, but – perversely – decaf.
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
Neither, just unavoidable. Most used is probably the glass of red wine. Oh dear.