Directed by: Paul Goldman
Written by: Paul Goldman, Sara Edwards, Bethany Jones
Released: August 31, 2023
Grade: B+

Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story

He was just a film student at the Swinburne Institute of Technology when Paul Goldman first met iconic Australian music producer Michael Gudinski in 1979.  As part of a first-year university assignment, Goldman had helped make a music video for the Nick Cave helmed band The Boys Next Door.  Gudinski was impressed by the video, had Goldman spruce it up with a bit more money, and it was soon being played on national television.

Goldman has since forced a successful directorial career which includes over 200 music videos (he won an ARIA Award in 2007) and a handful of feature films including Australian Rules and Suburban Mayhem.  Now in his mid-60s, there’s something poetic about Goldman making a documentary about Michael Gudinski given he kick started his career over four decades ago.  This was intended to be a detailed TV mini-series but following Gudinski’s unexpected death in 2021, a more concise 2-hour feature length documentary became the approach.

If you’re new to the subject matter, Gudinski was a “larger than life” personality within the Australian music industry who founded a record company, Mushroom Records, when just 20 years of age (incredible!).  He was inspired by the lack of local music on Aussie radio and wanted to provide budding artists with more creative control and opportunities to fill that gap.  There were a lot of financial ups and downs in the early years but bands which kept the company afloat included Skyhooks and Spitz Enz.

The film covers many angles to Gudinski’s life including the fractured relationship with his father (who disapproved of his career choice), his diversification into tour promotion for singers like Frank Sinatra, the sale of Mushroom Records to Rupert Murdoch, and the career/style pivots required to remain an industry heavyweight.  Goldman pulls from an array of current and archival interviews to generate a fast-paced narrative.  Those we hear from include Jimmy Barnes, Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran, Sting, and Kylie Minogue.

As someone not hugely familiar with the intricacies of Gudinski’s life, this is a fun, enlightening documentary.  He had his fingers in a lot of pies!  It doesn’t shy away from Gudinski’s flaws (he admits them himself in old interviews), but it also celebrates his incredible contribution to the Australian music scene and the number of people who benefited.  There are many terrific behind-the-scenes stories including the way he helped lure certain artists, and his realisation that big theatrical concerts could generate more revenue than CD sales.

For anyone with an interest in the music industry, Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story is interesting from start to finish.