Outlier talks to writer and editor Brodie Lancaster about imposter syndrome, referring back to compliments and the power of side projects.
“You’ve caught me on a very weird day because I just found out I got shortlisted for this thing about two hours ago,” the writer and editor Brodie Lancaster says in response to a line of questioning about jealousy.
Though eventually losing out on the thing—but coming away with a book deal anyway—Lancaster’s quick to add she’d be about to give a very different answer on a “more anxious day”.
“I used to be a very jealous person and I think I’m not anymore,” Lancaster admits.
In many ways, though, jealousy has been the defining feature of her flourishing career. A full-time editor at Fitzroy writing studio The Good Copy, Lancaster is a staff writer at Rookie and writes freelance for titles like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Kill Your Darlings.
She’s also the editor of the feminist film zine she founded in 2012, Filmme Fatales, to which she credits her entire career.
“Filmme Fatales has become a bit of a resume. That’s how I got everything,” Lancaster says.
Born in large part from the jealousy of seeing friend and now-boss Tavi Gevinson launch Rookie Yearbook One, Filmme Fatales has grown from a scrappy handmade zine to a professional publication bearing stories by the likes of Gevinson herself, Courtney Barnett and Parenthood’s Sarah Ramos (Haddie Braverman!).
“When the first yearbook came out I had been really bummed, just sitting at home being like, ‘Why aren’t I doing cool stuff? This is what I want, wah wah wah’,” Lancaster recalls.
“So I was kind of just like, well, fuck this! No one’s going to hand me anything—I haven’t shown anyone I can do anything.
“That was the catalyst for me to start my own thing. I thought, I’ll write about what I don’t think people are doing at the moment—that’s what Rookie was doing, filling a hole in a space that existed. I just wrote and commissioned stuff I wanted to read.”
Some hard work and now seven successful issues down, Lancaster finds herself the toast of the Melbourne literary scene despite never having formally studied writing or editing.
Her accidental foot in the door came with a university internship at web development studio Portable, which led to a job offer just two weeks in.
“They were like, ‘Oh, we need an editor. Do you want to do that?’” Lancaster says.
Soon after, the opportunity to move to New York with Portable arose; Lancaster jumped at it. But it’s an experience she describes as tough.
“You write it on paper: [age] 21, just finished uni, editing a website in New York. It’s amazing!” she says.
“But in reality I was making hardly any money ... it was really hard and not very enjoyable by that point.
“I thought I had all my shit figured out. But I was 21—I had nothing figured out.”
Returning to Melbourne ten months later (“during a sad, depressed winter, reading The Bell Jar—bad idea!”), Lancaster took a job in advertising and social media management before realising her old job of writing was “really satisfying one part of what I thought I wanted to do—I just didn’t know it at the time.”
Now, Lancaster’s side hustle to fulfil that need has led her full circle in her work at the Good Copy.
“Penny [Modra, co-owner of the Good Copy] was the first person to ever write about Filmme Fatales when she worked at Three Thousand,” Lancaster says.
“One of the reasons I moved to Melbourne was because I used to sit in my computer room in Queensland and read Three Thousand and be like, ‘I want to live in Melbourne!’
“So to have Penny write about it and then poach me from my shitty advertising job to come and work for her … it was just on the basis of [Filmme Fatales]. She could see that I could make stuff.”
Incredibly, Lancaster’s opportunity to write for Rookie came on the same day she landed her role at the Good Copy.
“I had dinner with [Tavi Gevinson] and our friend Minna [Gilligan], who illustrates for Rookie. I was like, ‘I just got offered this great job, I’m going to be doing copywriting and all this’, and Tavi was like, ‘I hope that doesn’t mean you’re too busy because I was going to ask you to join the Rookie staff’,” Lancaster says.
“Filmme Fatales made those things happen. The freelancing stuff has come from people knowing me either through Rookie or through the Good Copy or through Filmme Fatales. So it’s all this web where everything is connected in some way.”
Adding to Lancaster’s impressive body of work are her speaking engagements, having appeared at events like the Melbourne Writers Festival, Creative Mornings and TedxSydney. She also moonlights as a DJ, both solo and in a duo with friend and Good Copy colleague Sinead Stubbins, and is the managing editor of Rooftop Cinema.
But despite her undeniably prolific output, Lancaster admits she’s struggled to shake off her imposter syndrome—something she puts down largely to the unexpected way her career has unfolded.
“I fell into that internship, and they didn’t have an editor so I became the editor. Then I happened to start a thing that people liked. I knew someone who would hire me. So it always felt like these lucky chances,” Lancaster explains.
“I spent a lot of time thinking I didn’t deserve it or other people have struggled for longer.
“But now I know that I work really hard. Even though I’m young and still starting out, it’s not like I started yesterday. I didn’t rort the system or anything.”
Yet, Lancaster still deals with self-doubt. Though admitting it sucks, she says it’s comforting to know it afflicts even the best of writers.
“As I’ve made friends with more writers and talked to more people, I realised it’s not uncommon,” she says.
“In terms of being a writer and making stuff and putting it out into the world, the biggest fear always is that it’s not good enough or it’s not as good as someone else’s or I’m not making the right references or I haven’t read enough things or I haven’t done enough research…”
Lancaster says she’s now better at dealing with self-doubt, having learned confidence over her years of seeing people’s positive responses to her work.
On the back of her right wrist, the word ‘confidence’ is tattooed in capital letters—a gentle reminder yet, ironically, a kind of radical statement of self-confidence (she also has 'kindness' tattooed on her other wrist).
Lancaster also keeps a little book in which she writes down notable compliments she receives.
“I look at [it] when I feel like shit. It’s always that you remember the one nasty thing and not the 10 nice things,” Lancaster says.
“Last year, this girl stopped [me] and was like, ‘I live in London and I follow you on Instagram and I was hoping to run into you because I like your writing’. I was like, ‘This is so weird and nice!’
“Then she left and Sinead was like, ‘Write that in your book!’”
But if there’s any indication that people love her writing, it’s in the runaway success of Lancaster’s passion project. Now stocked in some of the world’s best bookshops, Filmme Fatales even has a fan in Lauren Graham—that’s Lorelai Gilmore herself.
Lancaster admits she didn’t have very high expectations when she started working on Filmme Fatales.
In fact, she admits she can be “a little cringey” about the first couple of issues.
“Some of the thoughts are a little naïve, and it generally could have looked a bit better,” she says.
“But I also like how you can see how it’s grown. I never wanted to make a really slick magazine. In a good way, it started out really scrappy and looked really DIY—there’s a very distinct growth in there.”
Virtual pep talk
“If other people are doing the things you want, I feel sometimes that can make you feel like you can’t or someone else is doing better than you or something. But I try to reinterpret that as something to aspire to. It can be a goal rather than something that makes you feel shitty about yourself. Just because someone else has got something that you haven’t got, it doesn’t mean you can’t ever get it.”