30 Jun 2012

Farewell Rave Magazine

The final issue of Brisbane street press Rave Magazine came out this past Tuesday. My father Colin Rankin bought the magazine in 2001 when it was on the verge of insolvency. I had only just left high school and in 2002 I was in the first semester of a BFA (Film & TV) at QUT, a degree for which the university had only selected 25 applicants. The lecturers failed to inspire me, and, much to my parents’ dismay, I dropped out after that first semester. So I left and started working at Rave in “the mail room” (a pasteup table next to the office refrigerator) where I’d send off issues and tear sheets to clients and associates. By the end of 2002 I took on the role of Production Manager, designing the covers in Corel Draw and laying out the issues in PageMaker. In those days we would need to print and proof each page on A3 paper (colour pages as CMYK separations) and, once the issue was complete on Monday night (deadline day), my dad and I would drive the pages to the printing press where they would be photographed to form the plates. The whole digital workflow of desktop publishing was still in its infancy, but soon we graduated to delivering PostScript files on a ZIP disk (with A3 paper backups), then one day I was overjoyed to find that we would be trialling uploading a single multi-page PDF to an FTP server, which meant no more driving out to the printing press. Another big change was when I shifted the cover design from Corel Draw to PhotoShop, which allowed for much more freedom and expressiveness. (A few covers I experimented with hand-drawn ink designs, scanned and overlaid on the cover photo. I’m pretty sure this shift prompted a reciprocal step-up of cover design in street press across the country.)

Being 18 years old and working at the city’s coolest street press made for pretty awesome formative years. This was just before piracy destroyed the music industry, so the labels were still relatively cashed up — I still maintain that 2003 was the best year for music ever. I have fond memories of Fucky the Frisbee, whose flight from one side of the office to the other structured our weekly meetings. The staff was small so we constructed our own AWESOM-O 4000. We had a refrigerator full of blue Pepsi. Advertising Manager Ross Kingston taught me that man should be able to cook and sing karaoke. That year Editor Eden Howard moved to India and new Editor Kate Scott delegated cinema editorial to me, so I gained the second title of Cinema Editor. In hindsight, this age is probably too young to be given absolute control over several pages of editorial — I gave myself a column, which was intended to provide coverage for films that I couldn’t cover with features or reviews, but became a ridiculous weekly rant that I’m sure will one day be used to blackmail me.

Working for my dad was not without its friction; I still lived at home, he’d drive us to and from work, and the office was open-plan. There were arguments. When Kate initiated a much-needed redesign, there were a couple of times I stormed out of the office in tears (over details such as whether the masthead should have a drop shadow, but on the other hand, reading the Steve Jobs biography largely validates my position on such “small” details).

Working for my dad also taught me how to manage a team. I left my full-time position at Rave in 2005 to travel, and after subsequently working for other managers I’ve come to see just how great my dad is at leading people — he leads without looking like it. He doesn’t dominate people, he doesn’t shout or give orders, he asks you if you’d like to do something. He doesn’t tell you “do it like this,” he asks if maybe we could try it this way? And which is better, do you think? He gets everyone to do what needs to be done while making them feel it’s what they already wanted. He understands the fundamental truth of leadership: you’ve gotta make people feel that being there is worthwhile. This is a lesson I’ve taken to my film sets, and as such I’ve always tried to make my productions to feel like a party, of which the director is host. I’ve been on other productions that feel like concentration camps, where people can’t wait to wrap. This is not how I want to work, and I’d never feel okay asking others to work that way.

It was through Rave that I found great music, great films and great friends. A lot of people say the internet makes print media irrelevant; they’re mistaken, but it will take a long time for them to realise their mistake, so it’s not really worth the argument. It’s sad that Rave is gone, and as people are wont to say, it feels like a piece of me is gone too. But mostly I’m proud of my dad; it wasn’t that he couldn’t see the writing on the wall — he saw it and chose to defy it. He knew he had a collection of great people putting their heart into something they felt was worthwhile, and so he kept it going for as long as he could.