• Search Keywords

  • Year

  • Production Status

  • Genre

  • Co-production

  • SA Supported

  • First Nations Creative

  • Length

  • Technique

Podcast – Marc Fennell: The School That Tried to End Racism

Journalist and presenter Marc Fennell on navigating a constantly changing industry and the personal impact of the ABC series The School That Tried to End Racism.

Picture of Marc Fennell in a school playground.

Marc Fennell

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

Two calls, 18 years apart, led Marc Fennell to his first job on Australian TV as well as his latest work on our screens, hosting ABC documentary series The School That Tried to End Racism.

The first followed a coffee meeting with producer Deborah Spinocchia, who Fennell had yet to realise was producing the rebooted The Movie Show for SBS, following David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz’ departure for the ABC. Fennell was movie reviewing on FBi radio at the time and Spinocchia suggested he audition for Stratton’s chair. He did, and got the job.

“There's two funny things about that story,” Fennell says on the latest episode of the Screen Australia Podcast. “One, when they signed me, they didn't realise I was 18 years old, and so the day we were unveiled to the press was my 19th birthday. But that producer that I met who kind of sparked me. I would never work with her again until I got a call from her a couple of months ago saying she was EP'ing this new show called The School That Tried to End Racism. And she is how I got involved in this show.”

The three-part series The School That Tried to End Racism, which is airing on ABC on Tuesday nights and streaming on ABC iview and produced by Screentime, follows a primary school class of 11-to-12-year old’s in south western Sydney as they take part in a ground-breaking pilot programme. Over the course of a few weeks, they are led through exercises and games to help give them the tools to talk about topics adults struggle to speak about – things like bias and discrimination.

“If you can give kids a tool kit to talk about it, to navigate it now, you can stop it before it sets in and do it in a way that actually kind of solves it before it can even start,” Fennell says. “And I think that's the real power of it.”

Fennell was surprised at how much hosting this series impacted him. He’s no stranger to presenting or documentary-making, as host of The Feed and Mastermind on SBS, and creator of the podcast documentaries It Burns and Nut Jobs on Audible, and Stuff the British Stole on ABC. But this was different.

“It's probably the first time I've done a documentary where I am a little bit a part of the subject as well as being the host,” he says. “To be honest, I just didn't realise how much it would affect me…

“I thought as a mixed race kid, I’d sort of escaped [racism] and it was doing this process and really thinking about the stuff that was said and the stuff that I heard growing up that I suddenly realised, 'oh, there was a lot of things that happened that were not OK', and I think what got to me [was] if I had had what these kids had, if the kids around me growing up had what these kids had, there's just so much pain that me and kids like me could have avoided.”

Throughout the episode of the podcast, Fennell also talks more broadly about his career to date, including interviewing techniques, his approach to research, why he always likes to have at least two jobs on the go, and how he’s navigated a constantly changing media and screen landscape.

Watch The School That Tried To End Racism on Tuesdays on ABC at 8.30pm, or catch up on ABC iview.

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

Audio Transcript

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast, I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication, Screen News. On this episode of the podcast, we are joined by journalist, author, documentary-maker and presenter Marc Fennell. Some of you may know him as the host of The Feed or Mastermind on SBS or maybe the creator of podcast documentaries like It Burns and Nut Jobs on Audible and Stuff the British Stole on ABC. But his latest work is perhaps some of his most personal as well. Marc is the presenter on the new documentary series, The School That Tried to End Racism, which is airing on ABC and is available for catch up on ABC iview. Based on a UK format, the three-part series, The School That Tried To End Racism follows a primary school class of 11 to 12 year olds in south western Sydney. They take part in a groundbreaking pilot programme to help recognise and provide the tools to talk about loaded topics that many adults struggle with - things like bias, discrimination and privilege. Throughout the episode, Marc talks about being both a presenter and a participant in this documentary and not realising just how much the series would impact him. He also talks more broadly about his career to date, including interviewing techniques, his approach to research, why he always likes to hve at least two jobs on the go, and how he's navigated a constantly changing media and screen landscape. For every new episode of the Screen Australia Podcast subscribe through places like Spotify or iTunes. If you have any questions or feedback send us an email through [email protected] . And if you'd like all the latest news, funding announcements and videos delivered straight to your inbox once a fortnight, subscribe to Screen Australia's e-newsletter. Now, without further ado, here's Marc Fennell. 

[00:01:57] Caris Bizzaca So what's your background in the industry and some of the projects that you've worked across? 

[00:02:03] Marc Fennell I have an unusual pathway into journalism. I started off as some people woudl know, I was a film critic. I was a film critic for 15 years on FBi and then Triple J in Sydney. And I fell into making journalism actually through The Feed, I still do for SBS. And in time I've sort of moved into doing documentaries and podcasts. So I do long form podcasts for Audible in the US. I do a podcast series for the ABC called Stuff the British Stole and I make documentaries for the SBS and the ABC. So I've done a bunch for Dateline. We've got another one coming out around Christmas time. But this is actually the first time I've done an ABC documentary in a while. Actually now I think about it, it's actually my first time. Because I have a long relationship with the ABC. It's kind of nice to be back on ABC TV. It's been quite a while. 

[00:02:53] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, great. And how did you actually get your start in the industry? 

[00:02:57] Marc Fennell Oh, okay. Good question, so (laughs)- 

[00:03:01] Caris Bizzaca Think back. 

[00:03:02] Marc Fennell So when I was in high school, the AFI ran a young film critics competition and I would have been about 17 years old and I was very bored and I entered three times. And it turns out I won and I got this kind of email back saying, 'hey, you have an award from the AFI'. And I was like, 'great, can I say I have an AFI award?' And they're like, 'no, don't say that. That's not true'. But what it did mean was that I could go around to this fledgling community radio station, go, hey, I can do graphic design and I can do movie reviewing. And I did some graphic design and I went, 'that's terrible. Let's try the movie reviewing thing'. And they taught me radio and broadcasting from scratch. And then after a year of that I got a call from a producer who was working on The Movie Show at SBS and I went to have this coffee with her and we chatted for three hours and I didn't know why we had this coffee. And then the next day, David and Margaret announced they were leaving SBS to go to the ABC to set up At the Movies. And I ran into that same producer and she said, 'you know what, you should send in an audition tape'. And I was like, 'why?' 'Well, are they're going to recast The Movie Show with new people and they need to get it up in six weeks.' And I was like 'but who's going to watch the movie show without David and Margaret?' By the way, I was right on that point, but I did send in an application and I went in and I did a screen test and I sat in David Stratton's chair and I read a three minute review in about 30 seconds flat because I was so nervous, my first time reading autocue. And they cast me to do a segment on cult DVDs. Now, there's two funny things about that story. One, when they signed me, they didn't realise I was 18 years old. And so the day we were unveiled to the press was my 19th birthday, but that producer that I met who kind of sparked me. I would never work with her again until I got a call from her a couple of months ago saying she was EP'ing this new show called The School That Tried to End Racism. And she is how I got involved in this show. So there's a little bit of circuitousness with that. But yeah, The Movie Show was interesting because  it is literally like I was plucked from nowhere and put on national TV at the age of 18. And I remember vividly that for the first two or three years of my working career, my first time ceased to be Marc. My first name was nineteen year old. Marc became my middle name - 19-year-old Marc Fennell. And my dad and my mum did all these, you know, newspaper clippings. And it was just like there was uniform complexity that until at least I was twenty one, my first name was still 19-year-old. But you know, The Movie Show lasted two years and it was a really interesting experience, sort of being plugged into, you know, a very well known, long running show. By the time it ended, sort of Triple J had come along, I'd started doing segments for them. And I think for a lot of people, I probably became best known as That Movie Guy on Triple J for for a really long time. And I think the weird thing with that is I had no career plan beyond being That Movie Guy for Triple J. And after a couple of years, I was like '... I probably need to do other things, too'. And there was a callout and I voiced the promo for it on Triple J for something called Project Next, and they were looking for like young people to make a TV show for the ABC. I was like, cool, I'm going to apply for that. And I did. And that is what eventually became Hungry Beast based, which was a really sort of innovative, weird, strange maligned and slash-loved show that picked nineteen young people from around Australia to make a show in a stunningly high-profile slot right after Spicks and Specks on Wednesday nights. And I was part of that experiment. And I think that was kind of the beginning of me sort of finding a career outside of being a movie reviewer. And I still love movies, but like you can't live off being a film critic in Australia like those jobs are few and far between, as you well know, because you and I used to go see movies together, right. So I guess my approach to career has been chuck a lot of stuff at the wall and then work really hard to justify the things that come off. So I sort of try a lot of different things and then just see what fits. And I've been lucky in the sense that I like to go from movie stuff to, you know, producing documentaries and presenting news programmes and stuff like that. I've been lucky that some of it has definitely stuck, but it's really just trying lots of different things and seeing what works. 

[00:07:27] Caris Bizzaca Is it also that idea of like, you know, the screen, audio, media industries like since you have gotten into the industry as an 18 year old, are constantly shifting and changing, is it also a matter of, you know, throwing stuff at the wall because you're adapting to those changes? 

[00:07:45] Marc Fennell Yeah, definitely. I mean, it's hard because I've got complete imposter syndrome, right? Because I don't have any qualifications and I've never had any qualifications to do anything that I do. So I feel like when opportunities do come up and often they're like strange opportunities that you don't expect, I'm mostly just intrigued to see if it can be done. Like, I think curiosity probably propels more than anything. So when The Feed came up, so The Feed is a show I've been doing for like eight or nine years now for SBS and it's changed so much over the years. But the way it came about was they wanted to set up like a nightly news programme for what was then SBS2, what eventually became SBS Viceland, because they wanted some returnable content every night. And I basically, they were like, we need somebody that can read autocue for starters. But also it was going to be a mixture of news and popular culture. And it was something that I didn't know I could do. Like I just I didn't know I could do. And I kind of went in and went, well, this is my skill set. This is my random mixture of things, and I've really, you know, for the first couple of years on The Feed, I think I was probably better known for doing one on one interviews with actors and movie stars. And I really kind of made that my job where I would just focus in on doing really great one on one interviews. And I really loved that job. In some ways, that part of that job is over because famous people aren't coming here and we're not going anywhere else. And I think that period of that show might be over. But I do love being able to sit in front of a person, whether they're in the public eye or not, and create a space where they feel comfortable telling a story about themselves. It's ludicrous now because I'm rambling about myself, right. But the thing where I feel most at home, whether there's a microphone or camera, is just about creating an environment where people feel comfortable to share something authentic about themselves. And you know, you and I have both done interviews in sort of big junket settings, right. And they're like inherently inauthentic experiences, right. There's a giant poster over your shoulder and stuff like that. And I like the challenge. Like I just like the challenge of seeing if you could get something genuine out of that experience. 

[00:09:49] Caris Bizzaca In eight minutes. Sometimes as short as that. 

[00:09:52] Marc Fennell Yeah. And some of them like 'oh we've cut you down to five'. And I think what was really, really good is that at the time Facebook was massively exploding, possibly with inflated video numbers. And we got huge, huge Facebook numbers on The Feed. We used to joke The Feed as a show, it's a perfectly fine TV show, but it's a bloody great Facebook feed because it's just like you were guaranteed half a million people would view any interview you did. Now, whether those are real numbers or not, I guess in retrospect remains to be seen. But I think that really felt like a really important part of my life at the time, just getting really compelling one on one interviews. And it wasn't always movie stars and musicians. Often they were ordinary, everyday Australians that just had something incredible happen to them. And I do love that part of that job. But yeah, so it's been sort of like you really do sort of try different things and just see what fits. And I've been lucky in the sense that a few of those things have sort of hit and sort of worked at the time. And then you sort of just keep looking for something new. I'm a bit career ADHD, like I constantly need to find new things. And that's just how I've, I think it's always been. I've always had two jobs. Like I remember when The Movie Show got axed, I was twenty and I remember just thinking, 'huh, cool, OK, if I'm going to survive, I need to spread my eggs out', like I need to be working on multiple different things at once because it's such an unreliable industry. And I've always, always had at least two jobs at any one time. And I think some people think that's weird and I get why they think it's weird. But I don't think I could operate with a single job. I think I'd kind of collapse. I just need to be able to know that if this thing is frustrating, I can switch over to the other thing and that will kind of reframe me. And I'll probably come back to this project A and I'll see it differently because I worked on something else. I just think there's something about that, that switching that kind of helps my brain, I think. 

[00:11:46] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, definitely. And one of the things that I just thought is kind of fascinating as well is when you're talking about interviews and so, like, obviously, you know, you've interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people throughout your career and not just like you said, you know, celebrities, but that's something that you can then take into factual stuff. And what I'm sure, like a lot of documentarians are kind of faced with is this prospect of interviewing people. And I wonder, like, what is something about interviewing that maybe people don't really think about, or is like a misconception about what an interview is like and how to achieve a great interview. 

[00:12:27] Marc Fennell I think the biggest mistake people make with certainly celebrity interviews is to treat them like they're celebrities. Like my attitude to interviewing any famous person is that fame is a part of their story. It is not the entirety of their story. And so anything you can do to normalise the space between you as quickly as possible is a good thing. So when I was doing a lot of these interviews, it was just after my kids were born. And so, you know, my kids didn't sleep. Still don't. And any person that you interviewed that had kids, like, you kind of managed to work something like that into the conversation pretty early on. And it kind of, they're instantly like, 'oh, yeah, that was terrible'. You know, like I remember like Matt Damon talking about how his kids didn't sleep. You know what I mean? Like, things like that. And this is before you properly in the interview, it just kind of says to them, hey, I'm a normal person, I'm a completely normal person. And I also- 

[00:13:19] Caris Bizzaca It's like setting that tone at the beginning, before the cameras are rolling. 

[00:13:23] Marc Fennell Exactly. And, you know, the thing with these environments, we got into a position where we didn't use the sort of the poster room anymore. We kind of set up a different space in the hotels where we did these interviews. And this was not just here. We did them in London and New York and LA and all these other places. And I think we got as a team, quite a good reputation for doing, you know, interviews with talent had a good time. They felt like they were heard. They were understood. But it was also genuinely interesting for the audience, it wasn't just like the circlejerk. And I think what really kind of made it work is I would say with interviews, it comes down to time. Right? You either have time beforehand to really research them and know everything you can to pick out that really interesting thing. Or you have time in the room to kind of fish until you find something interesting. Realistically, anybody in a public profile, you don't have time in the room. But what you do have is draw on stuff from beforehand. And I would just spend, you know, any famous person I interviewed, I would just spend hours watching every single terrible junket interview they'd ever done. And I would go back and listen to old radio interviews. If you ever want to research a famous person, go to old radio interviews because they are rarely transcribed and they tend to go for longer. And the most interesting thing you're listening for is what's not said. So when did they say half something and then they were moved on? Because you're looking for the you looking for the gap- 

[00:14:44] Caris Bizzaca Or they didn't ask the follow up. The journo didn't ask the follow-up. 

[00:14:47] Marc Fennell Exactly. And that's that's not a dig on whichever journo that is. Usually there's immense time pressures, right. But I always remember, like probably one of the most watched things we did on The Feed was a profile we did on Paul Jennings, the Australian kids writer. So, you know, certainly not, in the sort of realm of famous people is well known for kids of a certain generation in Australia. But I found this old radio interview where he kind of casually just mentioned that his dad didn't love him. I was like, 'sorry, what?' And it was just sort of left hanging out there like a sore thumb. And I you know, I sort of sat there went... I didn't plan a question around it because it seems really kind of tacky to plan a question around that. But when we were filming at his house and, you know, he lives by the ocean, he lives in an environment that looks very much like Round the Twist, which, of course, he created. And, you know, he's talking about comedy, making people laugh. And he's like, I always made my mum laugh. And I said, 'what about dad?' And he just took a beat and was like, 'no, could never make dad laugh.' And that's not about me sort of plugging him for an emotional reaction. It's about just gently creating a space and if he wants to talk about it, then he is safe to do so. If he doesn't feel safe to do so, that's fine, because this isn't... like interviews shouldn't be an extractive process. You know, they shouldn't be a thing where people feel like they spill their guts and they feel depleted at the end of it. It shouldn't you know, there's an emotional exchange for sure in emotional interviews, but it shouldn't be a thing where people feel like they gave something and they got nothing back in return. And I think that's an important thing to understand. It takes a lot, you know, it takes a lot to sit in front of a microphone or a camera especially, and sort of spill your guts. And I've been on both sides of that equation, and I'm really respectful of the sort of emotional kind of, you know, there's a lot you're giving a lot. It's a toll. And I guess I learnt to respect that. I learnt to respect that, you know, and we're talking about profile interviews here, I guess, as distinct from like accountability interviews with politicians or people in positions of power that need to be held to account. That's kind of a separate thing. And that the the dynamics of that are quite different. But this stuff, I think if you're asking people to be really honest with you about their lives, you've got to just be respectful that there will be a lot of emotion swimming around in that room. And you got to kind of ride the contours of it a bit. 

[00:17:23] Caris Bizzaca And, you know, speaking of emotions, as a bit of a segueway into what is quite an emotional documentary series to watch, but that you also also present on is The School That Tried To End Racism, which you were talking about earlier. So, yeah, you mentioned a little bit earlier, but can you tell us how you got involved with this documentary?

[00:17:43] Marc Fennell It's interesting. It all happened quite fast. I know that Deb Spinocchia, the EP and Julie Hanna at the ABC had been working on, and John Karabelas, who was the series director, they had been working on it for a very long time. And I think I came into the process quite late. And I remember I got an email saying, 'is this something you'd be interested in?' And there's been plenty of documentaries about, you know, is Australia racist and what are the problems with race? And I think there's plenty of documentaries pointing out that racism is a problem and there's nothing wrong with that. I think those films are totally worthwhile. But what struck me was this was a solvable problem and I'd never really considered it as a solvable problem before. And so there is a UK version of it that I sat and I watched. Our version's very different, I will say, from the UK version, because Australia is very different. The story of race in Australia is very different. But I remember sitting and watching the UK version and just being struck by how much the kids could help explain things that adults couldn't. And I was really like, I'm at this stage of my career where before I always had to chase things. And this is like the first time where something sort of came to me and I had to kind of make a decision about do I want to do it? I was like, 'oh', and they were deciding as well, so I'm not making it sound like this was an offer or anything like that. But I really you know, I was like: I want this. Not only do I want to make this. I want this thing to exist in the world. And we were into it really fast. It was a very challenging couple of months because I was shooting the quiz show I host for SBS Mastermind at the same time, and The Feed at the same time. So I would do-

[00:19:26] Caris Bizzaca You did say you like to have more than one job-

[00:19:28] Marc Fennell Yeah, I probably hit a limit this time. So Mondays I'd shoot five episodes of Mastermind. Tuesday I would shoot all day at the school, then I'd drive from the school to the ABC, do my radio show, go from ABC up to SBS, host The Feed at night. Wednesday, Thursday I was back at the school and then Friday I would go back and shoot five more episodes of Mastermind. 

[00:19:52] Caris Bizzaca Yeah wow. 

[00:19:52] Marc Fennell It was a lot. It was a lot. But I wouldn't change it for the world. You know, like this is, you know, I spent most of my working career trying to convince people that I can do things. And for the first time I had a situation where people were letting me do things and wanted me to do things. And I was like, I'm going to bite off more than I can chew and chew like crazy. And at the same time, we were also doing development on Stuff the British Stole, which is the podcast I do for the ABC. We were just starting to kind of line the second series of that up. So it was all sort of happening at once. But the thing is, you can do a lot more in the day than people think you can. I mean, I don't sleep a lot. Probably not as much as I should. But I also just think that if you have an opportunity where people do want you to do things, I can't say no. If those things are good, I can't say no. And I'd rather bite off more than I can chew. Then look back and go, 'oh, I should have done that.' Like I never want to look back, and go I should have done that, ever. 

[00:20:52] Caris Bizzaca And for anyone listening that maybe isn't aware of The School That Tried To End Racism, can you a in a nutshell, what is the kind of premise of it? 

[00:21:00] Marc Fennell It is a programme where over the course of three weeks, we take a class of 11 to 12 year old kids in south west Sydney through a series of programmes designed to break down racism and how it forms. And racism is like a hand grenade, right. Like adults struggle to talk about it because like my kind of take on it is that if you're an adult, you kind of fall into one of three categories. Either you've never experienced racism, in which case, that's great, I'm happy for you. Or you're aware it's a problem, but you're afraid to talk about it because you're worried you might put your foot in your mouth. And then there's the third group, which is basically people like me who have grown up experiencing it in various different forms, subtle and blatant, and don't know how to talk about it, because every time you bring it up, you feel like somebody's going to say, 'oh, you're just being too sensitive or it wasn't that big a deal'. And I feel like for all of these reasons, adults struggle to talk about it. And what was amazing is that if you give kids a tool kit to talk about what makes them different, what makes them the same so that it doesn't become the hand grenade and those patterns of behaviour, they tend to bed in adolescence. So, you know, obviously one of the things people always say when the series comes up is, 'oh, why would you talk to kids about race?' I'm like, well, firstly, from personal experience, I personally and these kids have already experienced racism before we turned 11, so don't pretend like it doesn't touch kids already. But the other thing is, if you can give kids a tool kit to talk about it, to navigate it now, you can stop it before it sets in and do it in a way that actually kind of solves it before it can even start. And I think that's the real power of it. And I think, you know, look, certainly there's uncomfortable conversations that everybody has - kids, parents, staff, me - have in the show. But the trick to uncomfortable conversations is you do it in an environment where people feel safe and safety is key, like I think it's key with  adults, but even more so with kids. You have to feel like they are safe and secure and people will only be honest and share with you if they feel like they're safe and secure. And so much care was put into that for the kids, like making sure that it was a safe, secure environment for the kids. 

[00:23:07] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, and as you just kind of touching on there, you know, it's quite personal to you and as a presenter, you know, in watching it, you're shepherding the story as well as being a participant in the story. And as a presenter, are you kind of cognisant of that fact that your reactions to situations are part of the documentary? Or are you just trying not to think about that side of things and just reacting to things as you would? 

[00:23:34] Marc Fennell It's interesting because it's probably the first time I've done a documentary where I am a little bit a part of the subject as well as being the host. So normally the sort of documentaries I make your job is ostensibly to be an avatar for the audience. You are there to guide the audience into the world. So a lot of the work I've done sort of oversees and sort of either in the US or Japan or Hong Kong - places where I've made documentaries - you're sort of a guide for the audience and you ask the questions that you would hope the audience want asked, and you kind of provide a vector into that world. This is slightly different in the sense that I am certainly that, but I'm also there as a partner with the kids. I'm there to kind of, you know, be a little bit Pied Piper-like. Sort of like 'here's this experiment and you're going to be part of it and then we're going to talk about what we learnt at the end of it'. So you have that role. And then, of course, you have to acknowledge the fact that the things that they're talking about, the things that they're navigating, are relevant to me in my life. And I will confess, I didn't realise that was going to be a part of it when I sort of signed up for it. I don't think, like, people weren't being misleading. I just didn't, to be honest, Caris, I just didn't realise how much it would affect me. I thought I had a lump of coal as a soul and I did not realise I had emotions. And I think, you know, there's this bit that is in the trailer and I think they play it like six times across the series of me on the verge of-

[00:25:00] Caris Bizzaca I know exactly what you're talking about. It's so emotional. 

[00:25:06] Marc Fennell It was the last day of filming. And I realised, you know, I'm an unusual proposition, right? I am brown, but I'm an ambiguously brown. I am mixed race, but I don't have an accent. You can't really tell where I'm from. And I thought racism was something that really, you know, overwhelmingly affects people with accents. And, you know, like those are the fault lines in Australia where you really feel it. And I thought I'd sort of as a mixed race kid, sort of escaped it and it was sort of doing the process and really thinking about the stuff that was said and the stuff that I heard growing up that I suddenly realised, 'oh, there was a lot of things that happened that were not OK', and I think what got to me, and the terrible thing is that at the time it happened, as I sort of broke down, I didn't realise. I hadn't quite put it together in my head, but it actually came down to this. It's like if I had had what these kids had had, if the kids around me growing up had what these kids had, there's just so much pain that me and kids like me could have avoided. And that's what I think it comes down to. It's like, yeah, like school and high school is traumatising for all of us for a range of different reasons, not just racism, there's a whole bunch of awful things that happen in school. But I feel like what really got to me was like these tools that these kids acquired over a relatively short period of time, it has to be said, they completely changed the way they interacted with each other. They completely changed the way they thought about their friends. And if that was something that had been rolled out in my school, I just think my life would have been a lot easier. And I think the life of a lot of other people would have been a lot easier. And I think it really yeah, it just knocked me out a little bit in a way that... it takes a lot. You know, when you grow up in front of a camera, and I literally have grown up in front of TV cameras. You get used to a degree of control. You get used to knowing how you look, how you sound, what you are and you aren't conveying. That was probably the first moment in a long time, I felt like I legitimately wasn't in control of my emotions. I wasn't in control of what was happening. I got reality TV'd. And it was good because it was honest. And I'm totally fine with it, obviously, as you can tell. But guess the point is, I've got skin in the game and I think you have to be honest about that. Slightly more honest than I expected to be in the end, if that makes sense. 

[00:27:43] Caris Bizzaca But also, you know, so you're saying that this was maybe more personal to you than you realise from the outset. But I also kind of, you know, noted your creative director of advocacy group Media Diversity Australia and Stuff the British Stole has an element to this where, you know, people are learning something when they listen to that podcast series. Is it something that you're thinking about going forward with the choices that you're making? 

[00:28:13] Marc Fennell Yeah, I mean, I always worry when you engage in a topic of race as a brown person in Australia, there's a certain kind of opinion out there that's like, 'oh, well, you're cashing in on your race'. And I'm really mindful of that, because, already I feel like a fraud - that you worry that that you're just going to be seen as the person that talks about race. And I'm very careful when I talk about it. I want to talk about it when I have something to genuinely say. And I think, you know, for the first sort of 15-20 years of my public life, I sort of just was hoping you wouldn't notice that I was brown, you know, I was sort of like 'I'm here! I'm white-adjacent. It's fine. I'm just like everyone else.' And I think the only times I ever really noticed it, was when you go to like industry events or when you're sitting in meetings. Like I've lost track of the number of times at both public broadcasters and at award shows or whatever, you know, those nice things that do pop up in the industry where I look around and go, 'oh, I'm the only brown person here'. And you don't do it and you're like I'm not going to chuck up a, you know, I'm not going to tweet about how terrible it is. I'm just I'm mindful of it. And mindful of how alone you are in that experience. It's certainly improving, like don't get me wrong. It's massively improving. And it has to be said it's improving in large part because of decisions made by organisations like Screen Australia, it has to be said that have changed that on race, on gender, on a range of other issues, that it's making a material impact. And I think that is to be commended. But at the same time, other people might know how to talk about it, I don't know how to talk about it. And, you know, part of being involved - I helped set up MDA initially was just to make sure that, know, I've got this, you know, at the moment, reasonably visible career. I'm not super famous- 

[00:30:12] Caris Bizzaca That' sorry, Media Diversity Australia?

[00:30:14] Marc Fennell Yeah. So when I helped set up MDA, I think it was just about making sure that I and the other people that helped set it up, we didn't want to be the only brown person in the room anymore because we didn't want to be the voice of all brown people, for starters. But also the bottom line is when you go walking in the streets of Australia, you see an enormous diversity of people. But then when you turn on the TV or when you try and download a podcast for the longest time, it just felt like we were invisible, you know? And I think for me, there are people out there that really define themselves as being diversity crusaders. For me, it just comes down to something really simple, which is I want Australian media to look and feel like Australia, you know what I mean? So if that means more people from a rural background, if that means more people from a First Nations background, if that means more people from a brown background, then - brown background's, not a thing, but let's imagine that it is, you know. That's all I want. I just want the stuff that we produce to look and be made by people who are representative of the country. And I really try and move it back from a conflict, I think there's some people that really thrive on the conflict of calling out racism. And I used to, like I vividly remember once a couple years ago, like I commented on the ethnic diversity of The Bachelorette. And then, like within an hour, I was a Daily Mail article about me slamming The Bachelor. And I was like 'oh shit this just doesn't solve anything'. And that's the thing. Like the reason I got involved in helping set up MDA and the reason I got involved in this show is because I don't want to be part of the like pointing out the things that are wrong. I want to be part of something that helps. And this series in particular, like it's holistic. It's not white bashing. It's really about making sure that we all can acquire a toolkit to talking about what makes us different and what makes us the same and getting better about how to navigate that, because it is complicated. You know, issues of race in this country in particular, given how it was formed. It's really, really messy. And I think, you know, actually you brought up Stuff the British Stole and Stuff the British Stole is a really interesting project that I love dearly and we're currently in the process of sort of evolving it. But if you haven't heard it before, the idea is it was a series I made for the ABC and we've got a second series coming out soon. But the idea is you take an object that was taken in the days of the British Empire that usually sits in a museum, usually in the UK, and you go back and you tell the story of how it got there. And in doing so, you actually get to tell the story of not just the British Empire, but colonialism from the ground up, from the places where it started. And it's a vector to tell the story of history. And what it taught me is this: we talk about history in two terms. We either talk about history in terms of heroism. So we make statues and we put nice plaques up to people or we just point out that everything was an atrocity and it was terrible. And the reality of the British Empire is it was both. You know, we have laws and railways and all this other stuff because of the British and also there was unbelievable atrocities happened across this country and right across the world. And those two things don't ever cancel each other out. And they definitely don't balance each other out. They simply have to coexist. And the whole point of the series is to put you in the mess. You know, like I joke that it's Indiana Jones in reverse. You know, Indiana Jones goes around the world and says 'it belongs in a museum'. And then along comes Marc Fennell and says, 'maybe not'. But really what it's about, really what it's about is about making you stand in the mess of history and go, this is a lot messier and more complex than we give it credit for. And I think what's been really encouraging is that not just Australians, but people around the world, Canada, the US, we got inundated with emails when the first series came out. It really told me that there is an appetite for people to try and grapple with our past and be comfortable with the fact that it's messy, that it cannot be sewn up into a nice neat ending. And, you know, I think in that sense, the two programmes are linked in the sense that they're both trying to grapple with something that is really messy but trusting that we as a people can be smart, can be nuanced about how we navigate those things. And I mean, if I have any kind of gambit, it's I'm investing in the idea that Australians can be smart and can be nuanced about these issues. And I hope I'm right. I really do. I hope I'm right that we are capable of having a nuanced conversation about who we are and how we got here. Ask me in a couple of weeks time whether or not the gambit paid off, I guess. 

[00:34:53] Caris Bizzaca And on that note, everyone will need to watch The School That Tried to End Racism when it airs on ABC on 21st of September. Fantastic. I feel like we could talk about this forever, but we'll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for joining us on the podcast today. Really appreciate it. 

[00:35:11] Marc Fennell No worries. Thank you. 

[00:35:13] Caris Bizzaca That was journalist, author, documentary-maker and presenter Marc Fennell. Once again, a reminder that episodes of The School That Tried To End Racism is airing weekly Tuesdays on ABC and available for catch up on ABC iview. You can catch Marc on SBS's The Feed and Mastermind and find Marc's podcast documentaries It Burns and Nut Jobs on Audible. Meanwhile, listen to Stuff the British stole on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts where you can also find all the latest episodes of the Screen Australia podcast. And lastly, remember, for all the latest news from the local screen industry, you can subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter. Thanks for listening.