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Home & Away celebrates its silver anniversary!
Contact Directory Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance www.alliance.org.au www.equityfoundation.org.au www.actorsequity.org.nz Equity federal president Simon Burke Federal secretary Christopher Warren Equity director Sue McCreadie NZ Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand Alliance Membership Centre 1300 656 513 (Australia only) Alliance Inquiry Desk 1300 656 512 (Australia only) Equity Foundation director Mary Cotter Ph: +61 2 9333 0922 email@example.com
Equity Magazine editor Lizzie Franks Ph: +61 2 9333 0961 firstname.lastname@example.org Equity Foundation program manager Alex Jones Ph: +61 9333 0911 email@example.com SYDNEY 245 Chalmers Street REDFERN NSW 2016 PO BOX 723 STRAWBERRY HILLS NSW 2012 Ph: +61 2 9333 0999 MELBOURNE Level 3, 365 Queen Street MELBOURNE VIC 3000 Ph: +61 3 9691 7100
“This year’s anniversary is a rare milestone in the cut-throat world of prime-time television”. Read the full story on pages 16-17
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The Equity Foundation and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance thank the following organisations for their generous support.
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Members of your Australian Performers Committee: Patricia Amphlett, Kerith Atkinson, Roy Billing, Simon Burke, Carol
Burns, Tina Bursill, Mitchell Butel, Caroline Craig, Chloe Dallimore, Helen Dallimore, Jack Finsterer, Patrick Frost, Corrine Grant, Stuart Halusz, Kevin Harrington, Alan Fletcher, Abbe Holmes, Lorna Lesley, Monica Main, Jonathan Mill, Gus Murray, Chrissie Page, Eddie Perfect, Anna Lise Phillips, Matthew Zeremes, Kerry Walker, Genevieve Hegney, Glenn Hazeldine, Geoff Morrell
Members of your New Zealand Performers Committee: Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Jeff Szusterman, Tandi Wright, Phil Darkins, Todd Rippon, Fasitua Amosa, Robyn Malcolm, Richard Thompson, Kate Harcourt, Rodney Bane, Cameron Rhodes, Natalie Beran, Russell Pickering, Glen Pickering, Charlie McDermott, Sam Snedden, Liesha Ward-Knox, Bruce Hopkins, Peter Elliott, Jacque Drew, Pete Coates, Rachael Blampied
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President’s message Simon Burke
NZ president’s message Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Gatsby to open Cannes
NZ’s first standard contract nears
Save Your Legs!
Brendan Cowell and Damon Gameau talk to Karol Foyle about making their cricket comedy
Home is where the art is
Stephany Avila describes the audition process for new Australian pilot Clique
Access all areas
Our new regular feature where experts answer your burning questions
Social media masterclass
NZ screen and stage legend George Henare talks to Karol Foyle about his many years in the industry
The Project Factory’s Lauren Fenner on how to use Facebook, Twitter and their ilk to your advantage
Postcard from the Edge
An extract from Keith Bain’s definitive book on movement for performance
Myles Pollard reflects on producing his first multi-million dollar feature film
Dressing Room Review
Katrina Retallick takes us behind-the-scenes of The Addams Family musical
The endless summer
New local content regulations for TV are not as they first appear. Drew MacRae reports
Tricks of the trade
Leader of the Clique
A photo album looking back at 25 years of Home & Away
Home & Away has been a constant source of training and employment, reports Lizzie Franks
Preparing for an auditioning is a lot like an athlete preparing for a big race, writes Gemma Kaye
An extract from Dian Greentree’s upcoming novel about the work of “Actors for Refugees”
Crowdfunding will become the norm in 2013, according to Pozible’s Matthew Benetti
Speaking from the heart
Features What was it like to be followed by a film crew during US pilot season ?
Victoria Houston analyses the responses to Equity’s comprehensive casting survey
Next Stop Hollywood
Casting about for a better deal
We pay tribute to Kathleen McCormack, Edgar Metcalfe, Bille Brown and Patricia Kennedy
Smoke and mirrors
On the cover Samara Weaving and Luke Mitchell on the set of Home & Away. Photo courtesy of Seven Network
t’s been a long wait but Creative Australia – the first national announced $20 million games fund. cultural policy for nearly 20 years – has finally landed. After In an ideal world we would have liked months of dire warnings that the cupboard was bare, the sizeable more funding to support Australian contingent of film and performing arts reps that trekked down television drama, perhaps through an to the National Press Club for the launch in March was pleasantly increased offset for high-end drama, surprised to find a very respectable $235 million package on offer. especially in light of the government’s The latest census data shows that the number of Australians in failure to introduce effective local “creative” employment now stands at over half a million, outnumbering content for the multi-channels. Like mining sector employees by three-to-one, and agriculture fishing and the ghost of Skippy we waited in vain forestry by two-to-one. Creative industries employment is also now for answers from Senator Conroy more than half that of manufacturing. It’s a useful comparison given about why he delivered such a dud policy. that last month the government announced a $1 billion plan to keep Yet whatever the frustrations on that issue with the Labor manufacturing jobs in Australia. That puts the cultural policy’s modest government, the Coalition is offering no relief on the local content front $235 million in context. and Brandis has threatened (perhaps in a rash moment) to trash Labor’s So what’s in it for performers? Well, for a cultural policy if elected. He has since moderated his stance to concern start we at last have a policy. And it’s a policy about the abolition of the separate art form that recognises and celebrates artists and boards. excellence. At its centerpiece, and particularly Coincidentally I attended Keating’s launch welcome, is the $75 million top up for the in Canberra of Creative Nation during my first The release of Creative Australia Council. stint with Equity back in 1994. It involved a bit Australia ensures there The Australia Council review had caused more money and a lot more razzmatazz. The will be some debate some concern that our flagship companies centrepiece was the Commercial Television could be subject to peer review and be Production Fund, which provided funds for about arts and culture scrambling year to year for contestable the networks to commission drama that was in the lead up to the funds, a scenario favoured by ‘anti-elitist’ additional to quota. Some great television September election. commentators, but likely to bring any drama series flowed – Good Guys Bad Guys and And that can only be a ensemble company to its knees. Instead, six State Coroner among them – but the Howard good thing of the majors (Belvoir, Bangarra, Black Swan, government, keen to distance itself from a Malthouse, WA Ballet and Circus Oz) received Labor initiative, unceremoniously dumped the a boost of $9.3 million between them. fund three years later. The new Australia Council money includes The Howard government did admittedly go $60 million for “unfunded excellence”, which is likely to most benefit on to introduce some major initiatives such as small to medium companies and be spread over a number of art forms the Producer Offset and more funds for small to medium performing including theatre, dance and music. Elite training bodies including arts companies. Yet Coalition state governments are currently slashing NIDA and the Australian Ballet School also get a boost of $21 million. film and arts funding and our colleagues in UK Equity have been And of course there’s money for the screen industry. An additional marching in the streets against the austerity policies of the Cameron $20 million fund to attract international production (presented as government. Would an Abbott-led government be in a similar mould? a precursor to an increase in the Location Offset to 30 per cent if Or would the creative sector find champions in the ranks of the the dollar remains high) will allow for one or perhaps two more Coalition? international productions. Our crew members have campaigned It’s been a while since we have seen any focus in an election on arts relentlessly for increased incentives. Equity has been supportive. policy, let alone on a fully-fledged cultural policy. The release of Creative Although on offshore productions leading roles and some major Australia at least ensures there will be some debate about arts and supporting roles invariably go to overseas performers, Australian culture in the lead up to the September election. And that can only be a performers generally welcome the chance to work on a large-scale good thing. production, earning international credits and SAG residuals. On the domestic production front, an additional $10 million for Sue McCreadie Screen Australia for multi-platform projects augments the already Equity director
media entertainment & arts alliance
equity Editor: Lizzie Franks email@example.com Subeditor: Kerrie Lee Design: Louise Summerton Production management: Magnesium Media Disclaimer: The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.
Contributors Rosemary Barr Michael Campbell Michael Clarke-Tokely Charlie Clausen Dennis Coard Brendan Cowell Kimberley Crossman Paul Dellit Lauren Fenner Damon Gameau
Darren Gray Diana Greentree George Henare Bernard Hennessey Debra Lawrance HaiHa Le Robert van Mackelenberg Lynne McGranger Ray Meagher
Luke Mitchell Myles Pollard Katrina Retallick Malcolm Robertson Frank Van Straten Ariette Taylor Jay Walsh Lincoln Younes
Message from the president
Simon Burke in Sydney Theatre Company’s Mrs Warren’s Profession Photo by Brett Boardman. Courtesy of STC
t never ceases to amaze me how the public perception of our profession has so little to do with the day-to-day reality most of us experience. Sure the highs in our game are probably comparable to none but do they ever make up for the frequent rejection, financial insecurity, constant fear of unemployment and the public-ness of every failure, as well as every success? While we have plenty of anecdotal evidence about individuals in our performing community suffering breakdowns, severe stress, depression, alcoholism and drug addiction, we don’t have the comprehensive research we need to understand the issues and the best ways to address them. That’s why the Equity Foundation has teamed up with the University of Sydney to conduct a health study of Australian actors. The survey is available now at www.equityfoundation.org.au and I urge each of you to give it your serious attention. You will be absolutely anonymous. Once all the data is collected through the online survey tool, researchers at the university will collate it and outline the findings for Equity members. These findings will cover actors’ physical and psychological wellbeing, looking for any potential patterns between health and training, diverse acting work environments and nonacting work, preparation and debriefing practices and perception and management of stress. Several scholarly documents will also be produced to advocate for further research into this area, where little has been done to monitor the wellbeing of actors. The initial document will also identify the areas where further analysis may be conducted to prepare for the second phase of the study, involving interviews and focus groups. I’m personally very excited about this venture and so proud that it’s being generated by our Equity Foundation. It sends a strong message that the foundation doesn’t just exist to put on free workshops and masterclasses and glitzy awards ceremonies. Of course, professional development and honouring outstanding practitioners of our craft is important, but it’s always useful to remember that the Equity Foundation’s charter is to assist, educate and inspire our members. I’m sure that this health study will be yet another way for us to enhance the lives of professional performers. Putting in place a research project of this size is no small task – it’s been
more than a year in the making. Special thanks must go to one of our NPC stalwarts Lorna Lesley, whose input and assistance has been invaluable. Lorna is one of the many actors who generously give their time, talent and expertise to our National Performers Committee (NPC). Selected by you, members of Equity, NPC represents you on the issues affecting your industry. At regular meetings the committee considers the most pressing industrial and professional challenges and decides on the best course of action to take to play our part in maintaining and building a strong and vibrant entertainment industry. Elections for NPC and other positions within our union have just taken place and I would like to thank each of you who took the time to vote – having your say is so important and is what makes our union a democratic and fair one. Now before you go off and forget about completing the health survey, let me leave you with Lorna’s wise words on why this study is so important: “Is physical, emotional and mental damage the price which must be paid for the privilege of being a performing artist or are there things that can be done to address these issues?” Let’s all help Lorna find out... I write this editorial from our extremely good-humoured communal dressing room in Wharf 1 at the Sydney Theatre Company where I’m currently appearing as Mr Praed in Mrs Warren’s Profession. The day before opening night I ran into my hero Peter Carroll and was very heartened to hear that he was the last person to play Praddy in Sydney at the Marion St Theatre back in 1994. “Any tips?” I asked him hopefully. (He is a Jedi after all – well that’s what actor Robert Menzies calls him which I guess is a bit like the pot calling the kettle inspirational) He paused, gave me that infamous Peter Carroll I’m-choosing-my-wordsimmaculately-look and simply said “Socks. Sandals. And say the lines very quickly.” Thank you sir. I’m good to go! Simon Burke Equity president
Message from the NZ president
he work of New Zealand Actors Equity is off to a terrific start in 2013 – our professional development program continues with gusto, our first-ever standard contract is close to being finalised, our membership is on the rise and our members are more involved with their union than ever…just take a look at Natalie Beran and Grae Burton’s Actorvator videos on YouTube for a shining example of what I mean! Last month acclaimed director Jessica Hobbs flew over from Australia to host two masterclasses for members in Wellington and Auckland. At these all-day events actors got the chance to work closely with Jessica, who has directed award-winning productions such as Spirited, Tangle, Love My Way and Rake. The night after Jessica’s Auckland masterclass she also took part in a q and a with Robyn Malcolm. Jessica and Robyn worked together on the latest series of Rake so the evening was a great opportunity to get an insight into Jessica’s career and her work in television. These kinds of events are put on by the Equity Foundation at no cost to our members. I’d like to thank the NZ Film Commission for making that possible. Robyn is one of our members who had a role in Jane Campion’s new miniseries Top of the Lake. Jay Ryan, Edwin Wright, Tammy Davis, Pete Coates, Kip Chapman, Sarah Valentine and Stephen Lovatt also
worked on the production. For those of you who didn’t catch it on UKTV when it premiered on March 25, it is no surprise that it has been met with rave reviews (it was screened in its six-hour entirety at Sundance). The performances by New Zealand actors on this world-class production are a testament to the level of talent we have in this country. And professional performers should be treated as such. On Top of the Lake Equity secured a residuals agreement, which ensures NZ actors are compensated for the re-use of Top of the Lake in other markets. Equity is now very close to finalising our first standard contract for screen productions. We have improved many of the conditions set out in the Pink Book and a “back-end” payment system has been setup that will compensate performers for the re-use of their work, as with Top of the Lake. New Zealand is one of the only countries in the English-speaking world without any standard contract for actors and where actors don’t get paid when their work is re-used… 2013 is the year we are going to change that. Jennifer Ward-Lealand NZ Equity president
INDU STRY NEWS
Tropfest just keeps growing Victorian filmmaker Nicholas Clifford’s drama about a pregnant waitress took out the top prize at this year’s Tropfest Film Festival. We’ve All Been There, starring Penne Hackforth-Jones, Ditch Davey and Laura Wheelwright, was awarded the coveted fruit-bowl trophy by a judging panel that included Sam Worthington, Richard Roxburgh, Magda Szubanski, Rebecca Gibney, Gyton Grantley and Wayne Blair. Performance prizes went to Nick Hamilton, the child star of Time for Best Male Actor, while Laura Wheelwright in We’ve All Been There took home Best Actress. Tropfest has come a long way from its humble roots. In 1993, it was held at the Tropicana café in Darlinghurst in front of 200 people. This year, more than 90,000 attended what is now the world’s largest short-film festival in Sydney’s Domain. Now it has, in turn, outgrown the Domain. Future festivals will be held in Sydney’s Centennial Park in December instead of February.
AACTA winners announced The most popular Australian film of 2012 was the big winner at the second annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA) in January. The Sapphires took home six AACTAs, including Best Film, Best Director (Wayne Blair), Best Lead Actress (Deborah Mailman), Best Lead Actor (Chris O’Dowd), Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Mauboy) and Best Adapted Screenplay for Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs, whose mother and three aunts inspired the play on which the film was based. “I am so deeply proud of what this film has achieved and I am so bloody proud to be a part of it,” a thrilled Mailman told the glamorous crowd who gathered at The Star to honour the best of Australian film and television. Redfern Now’s Leah Purcell was awarded Best Lead Actress in a TV drama and
Next time you’re at the movies, give some thought to buying a ticket to an Australian film Mandy McElhinney won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Nine’s Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War. Richard Roxburgh won Best Actor for ABC TV’s Rake, with Aaron Jeffery taking home the Best Supporting Actor award for his part in Nine’s Underbelly Badness. Ten’s Puberty Blues was named Best Television Drama Series and ABC’s Indigenous drama Redfern Now won Best TV Screenplay (Steven McGregor). Celebrating the year’s best achievements in Australian film and television, host Russell Crowe took the opportunity of a national broadcast to appeal to all Australians to support local films: “Next time you’re at the movies, give some thought to buying a ticket to an Australian film. There’s nothing like hearing one of our own stories and being inspired by the hearts and minds of our own artists.” Hear, hear! For the full list of winners, visit www.aacta.org/the-awards.aspx
Hobbit caught in web of lies
Documents released by the New Zealand Government in February, under the country’s freedom of information laws, have revealed that Equity’s attempts to secure fair wages and conditions for New Zealand performers working on The Hobbit didn’t place the production of the film in jeopardy. Further it proved beyond a doubt that drastic changes to employment law that disadvantage NZ actors weren’t necessary. In an email to the government on October 18, 2010, Peter Jackson wrote: “There is no connection between the blacklist (and its eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit.” The series of emails reveal that the producers and the government chose not to disclose the fact that the international boycott had been lifted. Instead,
the producers arranged protests against Equity, which resulted in the government offering large financial concessions to Warner Bros and introducing new legislation that undermines workers’ rights. “The government and others lied to the people of New Zealand in an effort to retain the perception of a crisis, in order to gain legitimacy for its actions,” wrote NZCTU president Helen Kelly in The Standard at the time of the documents’ release. “It was a shameful moment in New Zealand’s political history.” “Two of New Zealand’s most treasured actors – Jennifer WardLealand and Robyn Malcolm – were subject to death threats and harassment as a consequence of government and producer actions,” said a NZ Equity statement on February 26. The documents confirm that the NZ employment laws were changed in haste and against internal government advice. Equity has called for these changes to be reversed at the earliest opportunity.
We dips our lid The 16th annual Hats Off! concert, presented by Oz Showbiz Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, smashed all box-office records by raising nearly $49,000. The concert, which traditionally kicks off the Sydney Mardi Gras season, was held on February 11 at the Seymour Theatre in Sydney. This year’s theme was a celebration of all things classic: ballet, opera and Broadway show tunes. Hosted by NSW Equity and OSC/EFA vice president Chloë Dallimore and the wonderful
Joshua Horner, Hats Off! was the result of hard work by more than 120 volunteers on stage, backstage and front of house. All monies raised will go to HIV/AIDS education programs in Sydney.
Gatsby opens Cannes Baz Luhrmann’s eagerly awaited film adaption of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has been given the prestigious honour of opening the Cannes Film Festival next month. “I just think it’s a celebration of all the Australian cast and crew who worked on this film,” Luhrmann told ABC Radio. “One of America’s most highly revered novels has been made entirely in Australia and such a large portion of the cast is Australia.” said Luhrmann. The Great Gatsby was shot in Sydney and stars Australian performers such as Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Callan McAuliffe, Adelaide Clemens, Vince Colosimo and Jack Thompson. It is scheduled to open in the US on May 10 and in Australia on May 30.
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Do I need to be on Showcast?
“If you want to be seen by a busy casting director who needs to look at actors in the fastest and most efficient way possible, then it is very important to be on Showcast and regularly update your resume and profile. It is always the first place we go” CHRISTINE KING, CHRISTINE KING CASTING Do you have an acting question you need answered? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to get it answered in the next issue!
Addressing agent issues Equity is working with the NSW Department of Industrial Relations to address the failure of some agents to meet their legal obligations under the Entertainment Industry Act, such as passing money on to clients within 14 days.
Equity residuals for NBC’s Camp Equity has reached an agreement with the producers of Camp, a TV series about teens and their parents at a lake-side summer camp that will air on US network NBC . The Equity agreement features strong repeats and residuals terms which will ensure the Australian cast are compensated for the re-use of their work in other markets. Camp is currently shooting in NSW.
A new theatre agreement The Performers Collective Agreement (PCA) – which sets wages and conditions for all Australian performers working on live productions – is up for renewal later this year. Equity will meet with performers across the country and conduct an online survey to find out what performers would like raised during negotiations with producer body Live Performance Australia.
NZ’s first standard contract Equity has finalised a draft of New Zealand’s first standard contract for performers. Following lengthy
negotiations with the Screen Production and Development Association, the contract improves many conditions for performers working on screen productions. Equity will meet with performers across New Zealand in the coming months to explain the terms of the new contract and answer any questions performers may have. Areas where we have made improvements include back-end payment arrangements, merchandising, cancellation fees, producer obligations, make-up, green room and changing room facilities, turnaround, nudity provisions and health and safety provisions. For information about the upcoming member meetings read your weekly NZ Equity E-Bulletin.
Deferred payment contracts Equity is reviewing the deferred payment contract for Australian low-budget feature films. Rapid changes to the marketplace as a result of the digital environment mean we need to keep looking at how actors are remunerated for their work.
Welcome Stunt Committee members The new National Stunt Committee has been endorsed. The National Stunt Committee is made up of stunt actors, safety consultants, safety supervisors and stunt co-ordinators that administer the grading procedure and consider matters affecting stunts and related issues in the film and television industries. Members of the new Stunt Committee are: Ingrid Kleinig, Igor
performers over 70 and new provisions for animation voice over artists.
Seven agreement nears There is a now a draft agreement that will set wages and conditions for the performers working on Seven’s in- house productions such as Home & Away and Winners & Losers. We will be organising cast meetings in the near future to discuss the offer.
Lobbying for local content A scene from Bell Shakespeare’s Henry 4 at the Canberra Theatre in February. Photo by Rohan Thomson. Thanks Fairfax Photos
Breakenback, Jade Amantea, Haydn Dalton, Andrew Clarke, Kyle Gardiner, Darko Tuskan, Bradd Buckley and Michael J. Hodge. The first stunt grading meeting for 2013 is scheduled for Saturday, April 20.
Arts in the spotlight In March Equity welcomed Australia’s first national cultural policy in 19 years, which included $235 million worth of funding for arts organisations and the screen industry. Equity director Sue McCreadie, who attended the official launch of the policy at the National Press Club in Canberra, says many of the announcements, such as $75.3 million injection of funds for the Australian council, are music to the ears of Australia’s creative workers. “The announcement of our first national
cultural policy in nearly two decades comes at a time when the creative industries are under immense pressure as a result of technological and economic change.” Read more about the cultural policy in Sue’s editorial on page 4 of this issue.
Actors Television Programs Agreement Equity is close to finalising the new Actors Television Programs Agreement. Members will soon be asked to vote on the terms of the new agreement, which includes improved facilities, a requirement for members consent before footage containing nudity is used for promotional purposes, wage increases, required payment for attending medical calls, improved superannuation provisions for
Equity director Sue McCreadie and policy officer Drew MacRae appeared before a Senate Standing Committee in March to press the union’s concerns about the proposed changes to Australian rules and called for a review of the legislation within 12 months. The new legislation, part of the controversial media reform bills package, sets minimum standards for Australian content on the commercial multi-channels in exchange for license fee rebates. It also allows the networks to fulfil their drama and documentary and children’s drama obligations on the multi-channels, without the 50 per cent increase in the sub quotas recommenced by the Convergence review. A big thanks to all members who signed the Australian content petition or sent the Ghost of Skippy postcard to their local MP. The government’s commitment to an early review is a welcome concession though it does not bind the Coalition. The campaign continues….
f you ever get the feeling you are being watched, it might be because veteran New Zealand actor George Henare is studying your every move, looking for ways to portray his next character on stage. “I learn a lot from people in the street, just watching how they react to various situations,” Henare says. He has just spent the day rehearsing You Can Always Hand Them Back with Lynda Milligan at Wellington’s Circa Theatre. “I tell young actors to be observant all the time, watch how people react to situations.” It’s advice that Henare uses to remind himself not to overthink and to enjoy the subtleties of acting. He remembers when he was on the set of Rapa Nui on Easter Island in 1994 and director Kevin Reynolds said, “That’s lovely, George, but now I want to see it all through your eyes.” “I thought, ooh, this is good, I like this, let the camera do all the work, it’s all through the eyes,” Henare says. “And when I see it back on film, I see what he meant.” Born in Gisborne, third youngest of 10 children, 68-year-old Henare has never stopped looking for new ways to explore his characters. “I did not receive any formal training, as there were no schools around when I started acting,” he says. “I started working with the New Zealand Opera Company as a chorus member but they hauled me out of the chorus because I wanted to act. They started giving me character roles, which I did for a while, and then I was offered some theatre roles. “It was the first time other actors asked me [questions like], ‘What’s the history of your character?’ or ‘What does he eat?’ They told me, ‘Work out a backstory for your character, where you come from’ and this fascinated me and I knew it really was what I wanted to do for a living.” Henare is no stranger to the screen, having starred in some of New Zealand’s best-known television series (Xena: Warrior Princess, The Lost World, Outrageous Fortune and Shortland Street) and movies (Once Were Warriors, The Silent One and Crooked Earth), but the stage is where he prefers to be. “The stage is my first love because of the immediacy of the audience’s response and because you are in control, you’re the boss; nobody can put you on the cutting-room floor. In film and television, you have no say in the final product.”
The stage is my first love ... you’re the boss; nobody can put you on the cutting-room floor
George Henare in You Can Always Hand Them Back at Wellington’s Circa Theatre
Photo by Stephen A’Court
Despite his many successes on the screen, the stage is where George Henare prefers to be. The veteran actor speaks with Karol Foyle about his career and why he believes union membership is as important as ever For Henare, there is no better challenge than turning an uninterested audience into a thoroughly captivated one. “On the stage, it’s the most wonderful sensation when you can feel the audience are with you or if you are boring them,” he says. “An audience of kids, especially when schools make them come and watch Shakespeare, is the test, because if they are bored, they really let you know. You have to find ways to catch their attention and it’s a real challenge but I love that, I love working with schools. It’s really exciting when the audience is so silent you can hear a pin drop and I know I’ve got them. It’s a fantastic feeling.” As a founding member of NZ Equity, Henare has seen many changes to working conditions and believes membership is still as important as ever. “I was a member way back when it started. We sort of felt that something had to be done as we did not know who was earning the money. I remember one of our first strikes at the Mercury Theatre [Auckland] and, of course, all the threats came out and that sort of business but we stood our ground and got what we wanted. We made a statement that we, as actors, are also in this business, and we need to be compensated for certain things, and I think this is ongoing. Equity is necessary as there are some shifty people around who will try and get you for nothing.” Over the years, as the accolades have rolled in, including two royal honours – a CNZM (Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit) and an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) – so too have the offers to relocate overseas, but Henare has always been happy to stay in New Zealand. “I have been asked to go to LA at times for the pilot season but I have never had any desire to go. It’s a personal thing and I would rather stay on this side of the world. I have also had people try and get me to the Globe Theatre in London but I said no. I am one of those fortunate people who get regular work here, so I have no interest in going anywhere.” Henare’s final advice for young actors sums up his own approach to his craft: “Anything is possible. Don’t stick to one way of doing something; explore all the possibilities.” Karol Foyle is a journalist with The Equity Magazine
POSTCARD Sam Worthington and Myles Pollard on the set of Drift in WA
Diving in with both feet With more bravado than experience, actor Myles Pollard embarked on an ambitious multi-million-dollar project to produce his first feature film
aving worked as an actor for about 15 years, with only a few short-filmproducing credits under my belt, the decision to produce a feature film was not made lightly. Necessity is said to be the mother of invention so, during a lean acting spell, I decided to shake the tree. I was in New York and met up with fellow surfing fanatic, producer and West Aussie Tim Duffy, who showed me a very early draft of Drift. I somehow convinced him that I had the business acumen to produce an $11.4 million film with him, based on the script. In retrospect, having never produced anything of significance before probably worked in my favour. The combination of pure idealism and absolute naivety replaced a fear of failure that might have accompanied any real experience. Having another West Aussie, Sam Worthington, agree to join the cast was the icing on the cake. The concept of Drift resonated immediately with me when I read the first draft. In the 1970s, two brothers in south-west WA start a surflifestyle company in their backyard shed and in the process lay the groundwork for the modern surf industry. A couple of knockabout larrikins, determined to make something of their lives, take hold of the reins and fulfill their destiny. Who doesn’t love an underdog! South-west WA has always been my spiritual home. I have fond memories of camping and
surfing in the region, and have gone through many rites of passage there. The prospect of heading ‘home’ to work was very appealing. Producing a feature film and casting myself in one of the lead roles had its own mix of anxiety, self-doubt and moments of heightened sensitivity, but taking control of my own professional destiny was empowering. Finding a balance between these disparate jobs was probably the biggest challenge I faced, and I made two decisions in this regard that I think helped support the film. Firstly, I didn’t watch any of the rushes, leaving the rest of the creative team to deliberate honestly; and secondly, I took off my producer’s hat while we were shooting my scenes, helping me remain impartial in the eyes of the crew and other cast, and leaving me to my most important responsibility: my role as lead actor. The shoot was intense. Financial constraints meant we had to cut back the planned 38 days to 32. We had to decide between ripping out pages of the script to reduce the schedule or shoot faster. The latter won out. We had winter to contend with, as well, which was very stressful. For the entire pre-production we endured a deluge of biblical proportions, which miraculously eased for the first day of shoot. For his first day on set, Sam Worthington was required to float in the deep, cold Indian Ocean a kilometre off the coast in shark-infested waters.
He did it without question and lived to complete the rest of the shoot but, tragically, a local surfer was killed by a shark where I had been surfing and being filmed the afternoon before. WA experienced four more shark-attack deaths over the next six months. My heart goes out to all the families of the victims. After spending six years of my life producing Drift and experiencing the many ups and downs, I had two strong defining moments when principal photography finally arrived. The first was when I was standing in the catering line on my first day and suddenly realised, wow, this is real; we’re now being fed. This little ‘hobby’ of mine has morphed into a beast. It exists independent of me, supports many and is actually happening. The second was in the Indian Ocean, being towed into towering waves by a jet ski with a full camera crew in place filming me doing the two things I love more than anything: acting and surfing. Here I was in the middle of one of the most beautiful wildernesses in the world on my ultimate centre stage, supported by experts to practise my craft in order to hopefully create a little bit of history. Now all I had to do was survive the process. But, hey, I’ll leave that for the reviewers. Myles Pollard plays Andy Kelly in Drift, which is due for general release in Australian cinemas on May 2
Photo courtesy of Myles Pollard
Anytime, Anywhere, Any Platform 10am-12noon Sunday May 26 The Forum, Level 6, MCA Vivid Sydney and Actors Equity are collaborating to present Anytime, Anywhere, Any Platform.
Featuring (above left to right) • Mike Cowap, Investment Manager, Screen Australia • Sohail Dahdal, Transmedia creator • Jennifer Wilson, Director, The Project Factory • Marcus Gillezeau, Filmmaker • Moderated by Claire Hooper
Join our panel of experts as we explore the opportunities and challenges that exist for performers in today’s no-limits, everchanging media landscape.
This event is free of charge for Equity members and $15 for non-members. Registration essential. Visit www.vividsydney.com/ideas
Below centre: Vivid Sydney 2012 Artwork by UrbanScreen, image used with permission Sydney Opera House Trust 2013. Photo: Daniel Boud
Hollywood confidential ABC TV’s documentary series Next Stop Hollywood showcased six young hopefuls as they rode the pilot-season rollercoaster. Now that their feet are back on the ground, Lizzie Franks asks two of the participants about the experience
Left to right: Craig Anderson, Penelope Mitchell, Michael Clarke-Tokely, Alycia Debnam Carey, Luke Pegler and HaiHa Le
What was the biggest challenge about being part of the documentary? Being referred to as a ‘character’ was a little odd as it is obviously my life. Then you start to think about yourself as a character in a show and how you will be perceived by an audience, but it is completely out of your hands how your life will play out. It felt like emotional ‘gladiators’ at times, we were so vulnerable and exposed for someone else’s entertainment... A lot of people I know found it difficult to see me be so raw, but I’ve actually had a positive response to my ‘character’ in the series. I can’t watch it at present … maybe in a few years. If only I wasn’t in it, I would think it was very good television. You went to LA in the hope of finding more culturally diverse roles. What are some of your frustrations with the Australian industry, in terms of lack of cultural diversity? With all due respect, in Australia I find it equally frustrating to be constantly asked about my frustrations with the ‘lack of cultural diversity’! I just think our industry is so small, there’s little work for anyone, but I really do feel that we’re heading slowly but surely towards ‘diversity’. The change starts with writers, then producers and casting directors who are willing to take a risk and tell universal stories with universal faces. I’m now at a point where I’m confident enough to say no to roles that perpetuate a certain stereotype, whereas I used to think I was missing out if I didn’t say yes to every job. Are you friends with any of the other actors who appeared on Next Stop Hollywood? I got along with all of the cast and I knew Michael Clarke-Tokely beforehand. Craig [Anderson] and I loved going to In-N-Out Burger for a midnight snack, but I think he’s a rawfoodist now. We all bonded pretty quickly and were genuinely supportive of each other. What advice would you give Australian actors who haven’t been in LA during pilot season? Everyone is going to have a different journey and you just have to keep your eyes set on your own, and be unwavering and tenacious. LA is so much fun and then again so vacuous, I guess you just
Photo courtesy of ABC TV
It felt like emotional ‘gladiators’ at times. We were so vulnerable and exposed for someone else’s entertainment need to decide what you want to take from that city, go and get it, and don’t get distracted. Where are you based at the moment and what have you been working on since Next Stop aired? I’m based in Melbourne, where I run a service called Actors Caravan and we do self-tape/pilot auditions for actors. I’m also doing a show at Red Stitch Actors Theatre called 4000 Miles with the formidable Julia Blake, Tim Ross and Ngaire Dawn Fair. After that I will be playing the title role in a Brecht play called The Good Person of Szechwan. I plan to return to LA later in the year.
At the end of the show, you were coming home to finish university. Did you decide to return to LA and, if so, how has it been going? It has been going really well. I finished my degree and am now in LA hitting pilot season once more. I decided to go back this time as I have fewer distractions and feel better equipped to tackle it again. After all, it’s only round two. Plenty more dues to be paid. Do you think you were prepared for how tough pilot season is? What was the biggest challenge you faced? I don’t think anyone can be completely prepared for what pilot season throws at you, as every actor has a slightly different skill set and approach. This time around, I’m far more relaxed and comfortable in the room. I think I’ve come to this mindset via a more candid approach to auditioning, coupled with a more acute process in general. It can be tough to hone your auditioning technique, as it’s
not always feasible (or polite) for casting directors to share their true feelings. I suppose it is kind of like playing Marco Polo by yourself. Were you happy with the way you were portrayed on Next Stop Hollywood? What was it like to have your experiences, which seemed really tough at times, filmed by a camera crew? My feeling is that it trod the line between observational documentary and reality TV. Like all productions, there is the bottom line to consider. The crew, however, managed to make it a pretty enjoyable experience. I did nonetheless pretend my auditions were an hour earlier so that I could get my head back in the game, but don’t tell them that. What’s the biggest misconception about the life of an actor? I suppose that we are not all performers in our day to day life. The camera captures everything that its controlled environment will allow, sure. However, it’s a story – hopefully a truthful and catalytic one, but nonetheless a story. I guess what I’m getting at is that we can be just as imperfect, arrogant, ‘normal’ or insecure as everyone else, if not more so. Do you think Next Stop dispelled the myth that there is such a thing as an ‘overnight success story’? I don’t necessarily think it’s a myth to begin with. Some actors do find their niche very quickly and can land some cracker roles in no time. That said, my money would be on the dogs. It takes patience and a willingness to learn, like most pursuits, I guess.
Promoting your ‘brand’ Through necessity, musicians were early adopters of social media. Now, writes Lauren Fenner, actors are increasingly recognising the self-promotion opportunities afforded by Facebook, Twitter and their ilk
e know that social media is intrinsic to any film or television promotional campaign, as broadcasters and production companies recognise the power and magic it brings. It not only raises awareness of the show, creates buzz around transmission, highlights commercial activity and creates a conversation with fans – it also says: “We’re listening to you. Your views are important to us.” Social media is predominantly about increasing awareness and interest, personified by Facebook and Twitter. While broadcasters and production companies are embracing social media, so are individuals. Adam Sandler and Will Smith are good examples. Idris Elba, a less well-known actor and director, has 900,000-plus fans on Facebook and posts quirky, personal items while also updating fans on his latest projects. Through social media, 900,000plus people are aware of what’s going on with him and, in some instances, he can convert this interest into sales (not work – that’s what agents are for!). As a matter of necessity, the music industry took up social media early. It was severely disrupted several years ago by the increase in illegal downloads and with record sales moving from the physical to digital. Bands and musicians were forced to use social media to connect directly with their fans, as a way to push record and ticket sales, linking through to the product where fans could ‘buy now’. Even industry heavyweights realised it was about so much more than just record sales. Having an online presence opened them up to finding easily accessible new fans. Drop ‘media’ from the term and you’re left with ‘social’, which is more what it’s about … networking. But what does this mean for the less wellknown actor, someone who is just starting out or who appeals to a small but engaged niche? Social media lets them build a profile, engage with fans and create a following. Actors can control the information they release, but still talk directly to their fans. “I’ve always relied on my agent and contacts for work,” says Nathan Mellows, a London-based actor. “However, I’d certainly
be up for Twitter and Facebook to selfpromote. And I know that it is becoming far more common for actors to use social sites for this. I believe for any aspiring/young actor it is a great way to show your face.” Social media creates presence. Some argue that actors are not engaged as much as they should be with social media. Industry players should be using it as actively as small and large businesses, brands, retailers and the music industry – to build awareness, and to create and service a dedicated fan base. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest all showcase an actor: fans can show how much they ‘like’ you, and those numbers are powerful. They demonstrate to casting agents, directors and producers that you bring an audience with you, that you are a brand they want to be associated with. A good social presence is measurement of worth. People trust what others say in social media, and numbers on Facebook and Twitter act similarly to reviews. At The Project Factory, we work with cast and presenters on shows like Downton Abbey, Summer Daze and The Great British Property Scandal. Most of the time, they don’t have their own Facebook pages, but they are more likely to have Twitter accounts. Through Twitter, fans can converse with cast, link to them and have them link back to us. This creates a hub for fans to follow
conversations between the show and their favourite characters. It means that those who follow a show follow the talent – we call this crosspollination. Comedian Inel Tomlinson, who co-stars with Johnny Cochrane in The Johnny and Inel Show on CBBC, says Facebook and Twitter (@inel) are useful for different reasons. “I’ve had a few Twitter followers turn up at comedy gigs I’ve tweeted about, so it definitely helps,” he says. “I often get snapped while on stage and see the picture in a tweet afterwards. But I’ve also found on Twitter there is a fine line with self-promotion. Too much and it can drive followers away. So it’s good to mix it up with personal tweets.” Facebook is very ad hoc, with people choosing carefully what they share, but Twitter tends to attract more frequent, casual use. People can also retweet what you say to their own followers, who more than likely share their interest and therefore begin to follow you. Some followers may like comedy, see a tweet about the show I’m at and begin to follow the show’s handle (yippee! @kineticcomedyhas just gained a new follower!). Twitter also allows you to showcase your ‘circles’. Who do you mix with? Who do you work with? Who is influential in your sphere? Not only does this put you in good stead; it also showcases your popularity and gives you ‘clout’ – a measure of social-media popularity or power. Given that the music industry led the way on social, it’s always good to look at what they’re doing: watch how they are promoting themselves and find a way to translate that to acting. Also, look at television shows and films with socialmedia campaigns and ask yourself how you could fit into that if you were online. Remember, your fans are already on social media, making connections, ‘liking’ brands and talking about their favourite things. If they’re all online, the question is: why aren’t you? Get in there and start to build a presence – it may make a difference one day. Lauren Fenner is a social media producer at The Project Factory (UK), working across such brands as Downton Abbey, The Spirit of ’45 and Baggage. Email email@example.com
Master of movement
The late Keith Bain – actor, choreographer and champion dancer – was the first in Australia to create a comprehensive discipline in the study of movement for performance. Here is an extract from his definitive book
Photo courtesy of Currency House
e all move, so what is the big deal? We move when we want to. Get where we need to go without thinking much about it. So why get into a state about it? We are constantly speaking a movement language – the language of our own life – that is transparently readable. Movement is both how you move and what moves you. Movement is the look in your eyes, the tensions and the tone in your muscles, your thinking, your longings and your fears. Movement Studies has equal concern for the inner and the outer aspects, with each clarifying the other, enriching the connections and, like all knowledge, extending the imaginative and artistic horizons. There is a clear twofold division in the full scope of movement activities. Skills and Practices include whatever humans, over time and within their special circumstances, have invented and developed. They include all dance forms, circus skills, the many types of sport, yoga and the martial arts. These skills require focus, coordination, timing, strength and agility, often stamina and endurance. They are consciously performed actions and require practice to become proficient and can reach unbelievably high standards of complexity, artificiality and sophistication. The second category, Survival Movement, has to do with the basics, and refinements, of all the natural and practical movement that evolution has deemed necessary for survival. It includes obvious things like walking, running, grasping, climbing, pulling and so on, but also communicating with others, satisfying our needs and pleasures, and adapting to the varying conditions of existence. It is a treasure trove. The word ‘movement’ immediately indicates its concern with doing. Doing anything – from the subtlest involvement of the small muscle groups to the most violent and extravagant response to a situation. Even the most ordinary activities, such as how you sit, stand, walk, gesture, eat, scratch, fix your hair, turn the page, smile, chew your fingernail, wear your clothes, are movements telling the moment-bymoment story of your nature and your life. The angles of your body, your distance from your partner, how often you blink, are all revealing details. More significant is how these activities change and adjust to each new inner impulse and outer change of circumstance. A big
Even the most ordinary activities … are movements telling the moment-by-moment story of your nature and your life implication here for the actor is how you might modify and refine movement to better effect. Reconstructing, in a performing situation, the inner and outer truth of even the leastcomplicated sequence of natural activity is fiendishly difficult. If, as an actor, all we
ever performed was a character exactly like ourselves, it would still be difficult to present that character with naturalness and honesty in front of an audience or camera. It would mean being free of all our inhibitions and secure in our awareness of our personal reactions, mannerisms, and the physical manifestations of our emotional and psychological states. To reproduce it in all its honesty we need the capacity to analyse what we do. ‘Truth’ is not necessarily best expressed by naturalistic means. The stage, often more so than film or television, can make its strongest and most telling statements by departures from the natural and the literal into degrees of stylisation, enlargement, distortion, symbolism and abstraction that can enrich immeasurably the presentation of character and narrative, and the depiction of powerful atmospheres. The simply personal can be made universal, but only when actors are capable of heightening the truth of their inner states in the playing of them. Moving deeper into an abstracted or stylised state should be entering deeper into the essence of that truth, intensifying it as they go. We cannot see a thought, but movement can give evidence not only of the process of thinking but also of the nature of the thought. We cannot directly see an emotion or such physical states as pain and hunger, or such characteristics as greed or shyness, but we can recognise, through the evidence of movement, precise and precious detail of all these experiences, as well as the changing degrees of their intensity. It is movement, perhaps as discreet as a pause in one’s breathing or an introverted focus of the eye, that makes clear all these states. Three points in this regard are of great importance: • The constant change of thought and feeling as we succeed or fail to achieve what we want. • The very moments of change from one degree of feeling to another, and from one state of thinking to another. • The degree to which we either reveal or conceal our motives and their accompanying emotional states. All of these involve some of the subtlest aspects of movement for the actor. The capacity to manifest them in performance is the mark of our finest actors. Edited extract from Keith Bain on Movement, edited by Michael Campbell, published by Currency House, RRP $64.95
Padded up for a long innings
Brendan Cowell and Damon Gameau, co-stars of cricketing comedy Save Your Legs!, speak with Karol Foyle about scriptwriting, performing and their eye-opening encounters with the life of the sub-continent
t has been a long day for the cast of Save Your Legs!. Since dawn, writer/actor Brendan Cowell and his co-star Damon Gameau have had rolling interviews with countless breakfast DJs, other radio presenters, television crews and journalists to talk about the cricketthemed comedy that premiered in Sydney the night before. It’s all part of the movie’s promotional tour that has already seen premieres in India and Melbourne, which will be repeated in most of Australia’s capital cities. Production wrapped up in India 12 months ago and it has been more than six years since Cowell began writing the script. He says there was a period when, as he churned out multiple drafts, he wondered if the film would ever get made. “It’s really satisfying to be here,” he says, leaning back on the couch in his hotel room. “People ask what’s my favourite part of the movie and [I tell them] it’s rolling up and seeing that it exists. “Films in Australia are financed through governing bodies and we don’t have a studio system, so there are a lot of projects asking for little amounts of the pie. You feel very lucky to get
the opportunity to be able to make a film and get it released, and you try and make it really worth your while. “For so long – four or five years – I didn’t know if they were going to make this thing, so seeing the opening credits is really satisfying.” Based on a 2001 documentary of the same name, Save your Legs! was a labour of love for Cowell and Boyd Hicklin, director of both documentary and film. At first glance, it is primarily a cricketing film, but more fundamentally it is about a coming of (middle) age road trip. Despite any doubts he had during the five years of writing, Cowell kept up his momentum as he ultimately believed there was a story to be told. “I was pretty good with motivation,” he says. “I was writing a book and dropped that when the script’s draft was due. I always prioritised this project and stayed loyal to it. “I believed in it and did what I was told [by Hicklin]. When you are writing for a film, as opposed to television or theatre, you are more of a facilitator than a writer because the director is king.” 14
Cowell’s ability to see a project through is a trait that Damon Gameau both admires and draws inspiration from. “Brendan’s work ethic is amazing,” Gameau says. “I think a lot of people have his ability but where they fall down is in procrastination. They have self-doubt or they don’t push through, whereas Brendan is a terrific example of someone who just does it and doesn’t worry straight away about how it’s going to look. He gets the writing done, doesn’t look back and learns the lessons along the way.” Gameau has had his own tribulations as a filmmaker. In 2011, his short film Animal Beatbox was the overall winner at Tropfest, but the win was controversial, with a UK filmmaker claiming it was a “rip off”. The resultant backlash from some quarters almost crippled his creative drive. “It can be really hard to know that when you create something, you are going to cop flak,” Gameau says. “In a small way, that happened to me with Tropfest because my idea was so simple and quickly done but the flak I got was incredible. Now I realise it was actually the best thing that could have happened because it was so
© 2012 Save Your Legs Pty Ltd, Screen Australia, Film Victoria, A.P. Facilities Pty Ltd and Filmfest Ltd. All rights reserved.
The cast of Save your Legs!
strengthening. If you can get past it and push on, it can be the most liberating thing in any creative field. “No matter what you do, not everyone is going to like it, and I learnt to push through that, to keep going, and just go, ‘Oh well, that’s their opinion; I will just march on’.” Gameau and Cowell previously worked together on Chanel Nine’s cricket drama Howzat! but this time Cowell’s dual role as scriptwriter and co-star meant that any variations to the script made during rehearsals would be done right under his nose. It could have been a difficult situation; however, Gameau is full of praise for Cowell, who let the story continue to evolve, even after he had finished writing. “It was funny,” says Gameau. “I remember the first read we ever had, I chucked in a few lines and at the end of it Brendan said, in jest, ‘Righto, are we all just taking liberties? I spent five years honing this thing and you guys just waltz in and do what you like!’ But he’s terrific like that. I guess he is about the story first. “Brendan understands that the more time you spend with a character, the better you are going to understand him. “We have all known each other for so many years that we trust each other’s abilities; it’s almost like a handing-over process. Brendan was up with the ‘play’ and keeping it fresh; if we could contribute something that might enhance it, then great!” Having built an impressive resumé with more serious portrayals in films such as The Tracker and Balibo, Gameau is not renowned for his comedic ability, so it came as a surprise to both him and Cowell when he was offered the role of alpha male, Stavros. “Damon’s big revelation is that he has the most angelic comic timing,” Cowell says. “I always knew he had a great sense of humour but it was Robyn Kershaw [the film’s producer] who said we had to see Damon for this role, as I couldn’t really imagine it. “He is a seriously funny man on screen and he kind of managed to do something that people who may not understand acting or directing might not see, but what he did is very hard – to be an absolute egotistical, monomaniacal bastard, but be so likeable and effortless.” Despite his apparent natural comedic ability, Gameau insists he had to put in a great deal of effort to make it look so easy. “It’s very new to me,” he says. “My experience has been more serious, dramatic stuff but I had a ball in the film. “I learnt a lot about the subtleties of difference when you are doing a comedy, compared to
something straight – the need to be more real, more naturalistic. In order to get the laugh, you have to be believable and that’s quite a challenge; you can’t over-dramatise something. You need to find a way to make it light, fresh and playful. “Especially with comedy, you really need to thrash it out and look for things that might not necessarily be there, to try and go, ‘What’s making this guy tick? He is not just a knob, there is something going on there. There is a heart underneath, a family and you try and make it a bit juicer.” Gameau may have been searching for subtleties but filming in India (Varanasi, Kolkata and Mumbai) might not have been the best time
Brendan Cowell on set in India
When you are writing for a film, as opposed to television or theatre, you are more of a facilitator than a writer because the director is king to explore the subtleties of acting. Bollywood films are adored worldwide for being larger than life, and the contrast between them and Australian movies became apparent as soon as filming began. “It’s very different to Australia,” says Gameau. “Even the acting has such a heightened element. What they deem naturalistic, compared with what we do, is laughable. The [Indian] crew were amazed at how ‘natural’ we were. They are used to slightly forced performance. They all thought we were Marlon Brandos, and they loved it. “Some of the Bollywood films are hilarious to us, as Australians, but when you look at Indians
watching the same film, they are in tears. I saw our film at a screening in Mumbai, with about 1500 Indians, and it was so amazing to see their reaction compared with Australians. They just could not believe how naturalistic we were, and said it was like watching a documentary.” Cowell was not only intrigued by the contrast in acting style but also by the differences in filmset cultures. “I think it was interesting for them to work with us, and for us to work with them,” he says. “They appreciated that we didn’t over-act and they found a way to come down to our naturalistic style. I also appreciated the number of people on set – almost 300 – because if Ravi gets a job as a grip, he shares it with seven brothers-in-law, two cousins and his uncle, so there are 11 blokes looking after the sunglasses that you wear in the day scenes, but sometimes they can’t find them because there are 11 people looking after your sunglasses.” Working within India’s caste system, where position in society is pre-determined and classes don’t mix, was another eye-opener for the Australians. “Bollywood actors are treated like kings and they all have their own assistants,” Gameau says. “Their treatment of some of the crew was really confronting for us as we are just not used to it. Even within the crew, we had some boys, chai wallahs, the bottom rung of the crew, they came around and just poured tea for the actors. The Indian actors would never give them the time of day, so they were shocked that we would engage with them. They almost weren’t allowed to talk to us and we would say, no, talk to us. By the end of filming, they were hugging us and became really great friends.” Gameau felt humbled by such experiences, as he compared the life in India to that of an actor in Australia. “On the last day of filming, we found out that two of the chai wallahs ran an orphanage for 400 homeless kids,” he says. “I thought, ‘Oh, here are the guys pouring tea, being treated like dirt by the other actors and crew.’ We didn’t know quite what to do, so Stephen [Curry] and I went out and bought a whole lot of cricket bats. Of course, it meant nothing to us but to them it was the biggest gift in the world. “They sent us this beautiful photo a week later of all these little kids with the cricket bats. Simple things that we take for granted. It was great to do a film in a country like that and I think for all the actors it was pretty special.” Karol Foyle is a journalist with The Equity Magazine
HOME & AWAY
Right at Home
As Home & Away celebrates its silver anniversary, there will be many alumni who will look back fondly on their time with the show and the doors it opened for them. Lizzie Franks reports
uring what has been a particularly fruitful US pilot season for Australians, three former Home & Away actors landed lead roles in the space of two weeks. In February, Luke Mitchell, who plays Romeo Smith, a role for which he won the most popular new talent Logie in 2009, was cast as the lead in the US remake of British science-fiction series The Tomorrow People for US network The CW. He was joined by Home & Away alumni Chris Egan, who was cast in ABC’s mosthyped pilot, Gothica, and Bob Morley in The CW’s new science-fiction series, The Hundred. For the last 25 years, Home & Away hasn’t just been a remarkable training ground for young Australian actors, churning out the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Kwanten and Isla Fisher – it has also been a constant source of employment in an industry where work can be thin on the ground.
This year’s anniversary is a rare milestone in the cut-throat world of primetime television. “It’s a great feeling to be part of a show that is so ingrained in Australian culture and society,” says Mitchell. “After 25 years, it still pulls in the viewers. It’s really impressive that it has been able to maintain such popularity over such an extended period and I think part of that is due to its ability to evolve over time. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount as a person and as an actor through working with such a wide variety of professionals who work on both sides of the camera. It really is a very special environment.” Set in the fictional seaside town of Summer Bay (Sydney’s Palm Beach), the hit TV show was the brainchild of Seven’s then head of drama, Alan Bateman. The story goes that while Bateman was on a family holiday at Kangaroo Point in NSW, he got to talking to the locals who were up
in arms about the construction of a foster home. Witnessing the drama that “an influx of parentless children could have on a tight-knit community” gave Bateman the idea for the show. The first episode aired in 1988. More than 5000 episodes later, Home & Away still delivers a nightly audience of more than a million during its prime-time slot, week nights on the Seven Network, and is sold to 109 countries. Lynne McGranger, who plays Irene Roberts, says: “I could never have foreseen back in the early ’90s that I would be in constant work 20 years down the track in a great Aussie export that continues to go from strength to strength. In this profession, it is almost unheard of. To have worked with such an incredible array of talented people – actors, writers, directors – makes it all the more remarkable. “It goes without saying that I love my job, the people I work with, and I am so
Cast and crew shoot Home & Away, which has now aired more than 5,000 episodes
HOME & AWAY
Photo by Penny Stephens. Thanks Fairfax Photos
Above: The cast of Home & Away on the red carpet at the 50th Annual TV Week Logie Awards Left: Home & Away alumni includes Naomi Watts, Chris Hemsworth and Ryan Kwanten
grateful for the opportunities and the security ‘Irene’ has given me. May the sun continue to shine on Summer Bay for another 25 years.” Debra Lawrance and Dennis Coard, who met and married while working on the show 21 years ago, say they never mind being recognised as their characters, Pippa and Michael. “Apart from meeting and marrying during the show, we are also very happy to have had the financial security that such longterm work provides,” says Lawrence. “The real estate is paid off, and the public profile we have means we are offered other work – from pantos in the UK to satisfying roles in theatre productions touring Australia. “How fabulous that our soaps have become the constant source of employment that they are today. The security of this continuity in television is a real blessing for actors, and it’s also been wonderful to watch the blossoming careers of our ‘kids’ over the years. Particularly amusing is the saying in LA that there are two drama schools in Australia: NIDA and Home & Away. Apocryphal? Maybe, but it has a nice ring to it.”
Particularly amusing is the saying in LA that there are two drama schools in Australia: NIDA and Home & Away Charlie Clausen, who plays Zac MacGuire, says one of the obvious benefits of working on the show is that “it provides great exposure, both locally and internationally”. He says it’s also “a regular pay cheque, which can be rare for an actor… and it gives you a chance to hone your skills with some very talented actors and directors. “But what has surprised me the most is the collaborative spirit evident within every department. As an actor, your input is not only valued but actively encouraged, making you really feel like you are part of the creative process.” Lincoln Younes plays Casey Braxton, the youngest of the troublesome Braxton brothers. He says working on the show is “the best EQUITY
opportunity an actor, early in their career, could hope for. The crew are hard-working and professional, the cast are friendly and lots of fun, and the producers, directors and production staff are among the best you’ll find in Australia. I feel very privileged to be part of such a long-running show, which entertains millions daily. Here’s to the next 25 years!” Reflecting on the show’s longevity, Shane Withington, who plays John Palmer, says: “Home & Away survives because it is about us. The characters can be found walking through any beachside suburb in Australia. It will last another 25 years.” But perhaps the best person to comment on the show’s anniversary is Ray Meagher, who has been playing the oft-quoted Alf Stewart since episode one. “Home & Away has been a wonderful show over the last 25 years and has provided so much work for so many actors. It’s been a privilege to be part of it. I look forward to another 25 years… well, maybe!” Lizzie Franks is editor of The Equity Magazine
HOME & AWAY
Lincoln Yo unes, Steve Peacocke and Dan E wing
Luke Mitchell and Samara Weaving
J odi Gordon and Ray Meagher
Ryan Kwanten and Ada Nicodemou
The endless summer For a quarter of a century Australian performers have bought tears, laughter and Summer Bay dramas to our screens
J osh Quong Tart and Kate Ritchie
The security of this continuity in television is a real blessing for actors
I could never have foreseen back in the early â€™90s that I would be in constant work 20 years down the track
DEBRA LAWRANCE (PIPPA)
LYNNE MCGRANGER (IRENE)
HOME & AWAY
Kate Ritchie and Heath Ledger
aomi Watts and N Bruce Roberts
It’s the best opportunity an actor, early in their career, could hope for
It’s been a privilege to be part of it
I’ve learned a tremendous amount as a person and as an actor
LINCOLN YOUNES (CASEY)
RAY MEAGHER (ALF)
LUKE MITCHELL (ROMEO)
One big happy family
Katrina Retallick admits that when she auditioned for the role of Alice Beineke in The Addams Family musical, she didn’t know much about the show. Now she’s living and loving it every day
’m downstairs in the Capitol Theatre in my comfy, bright pink dressing room (thanks, Lucy Durack/Glinda, for the legacy) that I share with the wonderful Meredith O’Reilly. This is our first tech day of The Addams Family musical and our gothic comic/love story is taking shape upstairs. We have around two weeks to get the show running smoothly before our first preview audience take their seats in this gorgeous theatre. The experience so far has been brilliant. An Australian premiere of a silly, funny and surprisingly touching piece of theatre, an amazing cast and creative team, including a king of Broadway as our director, the wonderful Jerry Zaks. I couldn’t ask for anything more! Oh, and a really fun role to play. Auditions began back in November 2011. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the show, but a couple of friends told me I’d be perfect for the role of Alice Beineke. She’s excitable, neurotic, can spin a fine rhyme under pressure and has an epiphany in the play in the form of a cracking, huge song at the dinner table. Yep, that’s pretty much me, so I thought I’d give it a shot. The first couple of auditions were held with the Australian team – Lynne Ruthven, casting, and Luke Hunter, musical director – and for the final callback in January 2012, the Americans came to town. I met Jerry then and he was terrific – loud, energised, up on his feet and working with me as if I was already playing the role (good sign). I then ran the song with the very man who wrote it, Andrew Lippa. He, too, was working with me in detail. A good audition. When I got the offer later that month, I was thrilled. It’s been a while since I have done a huge job with all the bells and whistles. When I first started working after college, I went straight into quite a few big shows – David Atkins’s Little Shop of Horrors, Paul Dainty’s The New Rocky Horror Show, Grease – the tent tour – and thought that’s how my career would play out, from one big show to the next. Instead, it’s been a mixed bag, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’ve played a countess at the Opera House and done co-ops at the Darlo; I’ve toured to Hong Kong and Korea; and I’ve gaffa-taped floors in Tamworth and Armidale. Loved all of it.
Addams cast members Tim Maddren (Lucas Beineke), Teagan Wouters (Wednesday), Katrina Retallick (Alice Beineke) and Tony Harvey (Mal Beineke) Photo by Matt Watson
It’s been a joy to watch these characters we know so well come to life in the rehearsal room
Addams is special again. It’s the first time I’ve been part of a new(ish) show that is opening around the world as we speak. It’s had quite a few incarnations (Broadway had some teething problems) and the producers are pretty certain they’ve got it right with this one. John Waters as Gomez and Chloë Dallimore as Morticia are leading our company with heart and soul, a lot of laughs, and talent that is completely staggering. It’s been a joy to watch these characters we know so well come to life in the rehearsal room. Wednesday is all grown up now (Teagan Wouters is so perfect, you pinch yourself), there’s Pugsley Addams (played by a talented bunch of young performers), Grandma is ridiculously funny (Meredith O’Reilly completely disappears), Ben Hudson as Lurch is a commanding zombie butler and, finally, Uncle Fester played by Russell Dykstra has an extraspecial number that we’re all falling in love with. I guess that’s what it’s all about really: love, love and more love. The story for the musical is based on the young, racy, Broadway pop-fuelled love that Wednesday has for a young man named Lucas Beineke. Tim Maddren plays Lucas with preppy panache, I play his ‘mom’, Alice, and I have the fabulous Tony Harvey, as my husband Mal, bossing me around, mocking or ignoring me. That’s before Gomez and Morticia show us how sexy a marriage can be! And now I have to tell you about the Ancestors. Our ensemble cast are going to give you split jumps, tango, tap, flamenco, puppetry, all while singing top B flats and with so much precision and energy it makes your head spin. Amazing! I didn’t intend this postcard to be a love letter to the cast but I couldn’t help it. They’re so good and they’re my new family. The creative team have emphasised family from day one and I am a very happy actor/ singer to be related. Katrina Retallick is a Sydney-based singer, actress and musician, who is currently appearing in The Addams Family musical at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney
Casting about for a better deal Auditioning for theatre can be tough, as our comprehensive survey of members has revealed. Victoria Houston reports on how Equity is addressing the issue
he casting of roles in theatre has been a hot topic at Equity over the last year, with Live Performance Australia’s decision to terminate the foreign-artist agreement heightening existing concerns about the perceived lack of opportunities for many performers. We thought it was time to find out what our members really thought about casting in theatre – the process and the outcome – so we have been running a survey of members since last November. More than 500 Equity members filled out the survey, which has now closed, and the results are enlightening. While auditions here aren’t quite like they are on Broadway, where well-known casting director Daryl Eisenberg was criticised for tweeting ill-advised comments during auditions – “If we wanted to hear it a different way, don’t worry, we’ll ask” and “If you are going to sing about getting on your knees, might as well do it and crawl towards us ... right?” – it is clear performers in Australia feel that at times auditioning is tough. Many respondents complained that they had to prepare vast amounts of material for auditions, particularly in musical theatre, only to be stopped after a few bars or a page or two of script. While some casting directors were praised for taking time and providing constructive feedback, on the whole performers felt they gave a lot in preparation time and on the day of an audition, and got very little back … especially in the way of roles. The perception that theatre is a ‘closed shop’ is clearly widespread. The lack of variety in casting is obviously frustrating for those who aren’t fortunate enough to be on the ‘it list’. Many performers who had attended schools like NIDA and WAAPA reported that this didn’t seem to stand for anything if you weren’t an established favourite. The frustration is particularly acute for those who are musicaltheatre-oriented because there are fewer casting directors working in this area. Lack of diversity in casting came up time and time again in relation to Indigenous, Asian, Middle Eastern and other performers from minority groups – or, rather, the lack of casting of these performers. Those from minority groups reported that they are only ever called to audition for ‘the young Asian guy’ or ‘the Indigenous mum’. Equity has been pushing this issue in recent years, and in the last Performers’ Collective Agreement, a new clause was accepted by producers, aimed at improving casting diversity. The issue is not specific to Australia, with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK coming
A Chorus Line famously depicts the challenges of theatre auditions. Photo by James Morgan
under fire recently for staging The Orphan of Zhao, known as ‘the Chinese Hamlet’, with only three of 17 actors being of Asian descent. Clearly, there is more work to do in this area and Equity will be setting up a committee of members in the coming months to address the issue in a more focused and constructive way. Problematic for musical-theatre performers is that they are often actively prevented from auditioning for upcoming shows if they are appearing in a current show, because of the possibility of date clashes. A performer then misses the chance to audition, only to have the show they are in close early, leaving them unemployed and with nothing lined up. Surely, deciding to audition for a show if a performer is clearly up to standard should be their choice, not anyone else’s. Of course, the news isn’t all bad. Many respondents said they felt positive that fortune would smile on them eventually. Performers reported receiving really useful feedback after some auditions, which enabled them to make positive changes to their technique. In subsidised theatre, in particular, there was the sense that, if you were one of those who got the chance to be seen, you left the audition room feeling you had had the casting director’s full attention. Unlike in TVC castings, which were cited as examples of having to wait hours to be seen, performers reported that theatre auditions EQUITY
were generally conducted at the appointed time, except in some instances where musical-theatre auditions could take a full day. While anecdotal evidence suggested that having a prior injury could make it difficult to get a role, particularly in musical theatre, the survey results indicated that, in fact, injury-related barriers to auditioning were rare. Respondents acknowledged that the number of people being seen for some roles, especially in the musical-theatre area, could give auditions a ‘cattlecall’ feeling, but most people seemed to think this was probably unavoidable. As with anything, when 500 people are asked for their views, there were a lot of diverging opinions. What some respondents saw as major issues, others failed to mention. The difference between musical theatre and the subsidised sector was, unsurprisingly, very marked. Equity will continue to review the data collected and will be seeking meetings with theatre companies and casting directors to talk about how we can all work to improve things. In terms of the big picture, Equity will continue to lobby government to increase funding for the live performance area, as well as working to resolve the overseas-artists issue, which in turn will mean more auditions for our members. Victoria Houston is Equity’s live performance industrial officer
Equity Foundation Calendar of Events WORKSHOPS 2-3 HOURS
4 Voiceover with Abbe Holmes (Melbourne)
8 V oiceover with Abbe Holmes (Melbourne)
11 Voiceover with Julia Moody (Perth)
18 US Accents with Natasha McNamara (Sydney)
8 L A Experience with Jason Siner (Sydney)
13 US Accents with Natasha McNamara (Sydney)
27 Voiceover with Andrea Moor (Brisbane)
MASTERCLASSES FULL DAY
15 Jessica Hobbs (Wellington) 19 Jessica Hobbs (Auckland) 22 Text Skills with Anna McCrossin-Owen (Melbourne) 25 Casting Day with Anousha Zarkesh (Sydney)
18 Jessica Hobbs and Robyn Malcolm (Auckland)
4 Nicholas Hope (Sydney) 6 Chubbuck Method Lyndelle Green (Melbourne) 6 Casting Day Allison Telford (Perth) 7 Screen by Skype Miranda Harcourt (Sydney) 13 Casting Day Alison Meadows (Brisbane) 20 Screen by Skype Miranda Harcourt (Melbourne) 22 Voiceover Abbe Holmes (Adelaide) TBC Jean Pierre Mignon (Auckland)
26 Vivid Ideas Anytime, Anywhere, Any Platform (Sydney) Visit www.vividsydney.com for further details
21 Underground – The Julian Assange Story screening and Q&A (Melbourne)
25 Equity Awards nominations close
5-19 F inalists voting open
The Equity Magazine out April 8
www.facebook.com/ AusActorsEquity www.facebook.com/ NZActorsEquity
20 Equity Awards ceremony
26 Equity Award winners announced
29 Finalists announced
2 Jean Pierre Mignon (Brisbane) 11 Casting Day Alison Meadows (Sydney) 18 Shakespeare with Glenda Linscott (Melbourne)
Watch out for your Equity E-bulletin every Monday. To subscribe email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Equity Foundation – the professional development arm of Actors Equity – was established in 2002 to oversee Equity’s publications, awards and extensive professional program. The mission of the Equity Foundation is to assist, educate and inspire performers. Our professional program, which connects with performers in Australia and New Zealand through an extensive masterclass and workshop program, is developed in close collaboration with performers. We recently conducted an extensive survey of members to find out what you want in 2013 and our program has been developed with your responses in mind. For more information about the Equity Foundation visit www.equityfoundation.org.au and watch your weekly Equity E-Bulletin for all our events and giveaways. 22
Accentuating the positive Kimberley Crossman divides her time between Los Angeles and New Zealand. In between performing, she is a successful blogger and recently published her first book. Equity caught up with her for a Q&A session What was it like to write your first book? The entire experience has been challenging and rewarding. It was definitely a bigger project than I initially thought but that was because a lot of the process was unknown, and the amount of work and time it took to get things perfect. For me, the whole process has been insightful. I have learnt so much about myself and others, and feel that it has also inspired others, and that was my goal from the beginning.
I do and the legacy I want to pass on. That is why I am always very vocal about what I want to achieve and how I am going about doing it. I want to be a good role model and also share my journey, to inspire others to do the same, to dream big and really sit in the driver’s seat of their lives. Social media and my website are ways to really give a backstage pass to all I am doing, and an extension of my beliefs and morals. How did you build up your audience on the website? I am very blessed to have such a great following and community of people who support all I do. It is not a strategy or a numbers game. I am doing what I am doing, and my followers are a reflection of the messages we are sending and the information we are sharing. It is encouraging to see our audience growing; it is a great indication of predominantly females who are like-minded, inspired and motivated. That is a great thing to see in our future leaders and influencers in New Zealand and globally.
What are the differences and similarities between acting and writing? I think the similarities come from personal experience. I always search for my truth in scenes with acting and had to do the same with writing. However, they are two very different platforms of storytelling. The book is about positivity. How important is that for a performer? So important! You have to be positive in life, I believe. It’s far more fun to be an optimist and so much better for your soul. As a performer, you are constantly putting yourself out there and exposing your talent, which can be scary, especially if things don’t go how you plan. Remaining positive and learning from each experience, and treating every audition and meeting as a good investment of your time, is the best way to look at the process. Did you have any particularly difficult audition/acting experiences where you came up with some of the ideas behind the book? I share a lot of experiences in the book where I have been in situations that I have really struggled with or let my naivety get me into some not-so-great situations, especially when I first arrived in LA and had to learn lots of lessons very quickly. This definitely inspired me to share some stories, as I wanted others to take on board the lessons I had learned, so they didn’t make similar mistakes and have their safety compromised.
Social media and my website are ways to give a backstage pass to all I am doing What’s the hardest thing about the audition process? The entire audition process is a challenge but not one that I feel you can make your enemy. You will not be in a good place if you hate auditioning, so I have learnt to enjoy the experience and see it as an opportunity to showcase my talent, and have fun with great and interesting material. The challenge is to be so well-prepared that no matter what happens, you are able to give your best performance. Preparation is the key. The success of your website and social media profile will be of interest to other performers. How much time to do you put into this side of things and why? I want to encourage others to live authentically and pursue their hopes and dreams. That is the reason behind all of what EQUITY
How many people now work on your website? Including me, we have a team of 10 contributors. Everyone has different levels of input and specific roles. How important is your brand to securing work as a performer? Having a brand means when I am part of a project, I can bring a captive audience and I believe that is invaluable. On the other side, when I am working on a project, it is great to be able to share with our audience what I am doing and learning. I don’t imagine I am cast for having a brand; I work really hard on my talents and am constantly upskilling to make sure I am never stagnant as a performer. I am incredibly ambitious and love working hard. Interview by Lizzie Franks Kimberley Crossman played Sophie McKay on the primetime NZ soap, Shortland Street, for six years. To read her blog, visit www.kimberleycrossman.com Love You: Be Your Best & Live Your Dreams, published by Penguin, is available in bookstores and at fishpond.com.au, RRP $19.99
All smoke and mirrors
Equity’s policy officer Drew MacRae explains why the new local content regulations for television are not as they first appear
or the first time in more than a decade, the screen industry joined forces for a common cause: to ensure our television screens weren’t swamped by American shows and reality programming. The industry presented a united front to oppose new localcontent regulations for the digital multichannels. The campaign, ‘Australian Screens, Australian Stories’, was officially launched in February and was supported by Equity and seven other organisations: the Australian Directors Guild, Screen Producers Association of Australia, Australian Writers’ Guild, Australian Cinematographers Society, Australian Production Design Guild, Australian Screen Sound Guild and the Australian Screen Editors Guild. Some people might wonder why the screen production industry protested against the introduction of local-content rules on multichannels like GO!, 7mate and Eleven, where previously there were no regulations. At first blush, it looks great. We do want rules to ensure that new Australian documentaries and dramas reach our television screens. Indeed, Minister for Broadband, Communications and
Local content will continue to be lost in the deluge of Geordie Shore marathons
Artwork by Andrew Marlton
the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, crowed loudly that he was acting to “ensure quality Australian content stays on television” and that given “Australian stories told on TV is vital in reflecting and maintaining our Australian identity, character and diversity”, he wanted to “make sure that we keep being able to watch Australian content”. But once you look at the detail, you realise that Conroy’s announcement is all smoke and mirrors. The new requirement of between 730 and 1460 hours a year is less than half what they screen now voluntarily, so they could screen the same amount and claim they are serving Australians by showing double the required number of hours. What’s worse is that the rules can be met by continuing to air the same old repeat reality-show series, sport, news and games shows that they currently screen. And for anybody who has watched any multichannel in the last couple of years, the rules will mean that the 16 per cent local content will continue to be lost in the deluge of Geordie Shore marathons, American Idol and repeats of Glee. Rather than keeping Australian content on television, this is ensuring it is hidden from view. Do we really want our children to grow up watching the same episodes of Gilligan’s Island and 24
This petition was signed by 6,000 people
Bewitched that we saw? But that’s not even half of it. The drama and documentary quotas meant for the main channel will now be able to be spread over all their channels. Greater flexibility for the networks equals disaster for Australian content. The reason: local content will no longer be the primary focus of the higher-rating main channel. This could lead to lower expenditure on Australian shows because they just won’t be getting the same ratings on the multichannels as they do on the main channel. And for all of this the commercial networks will receive a permanent licence-fee rebate worth $142 million a year and won’t face any new competition from a fourth free-to-air broadcaster. It is unlikely that the rebate will be fed back into Australian content. There is no doubt that the commercial networks will be finding the market tougher in the coming years, with competition from the internet. They are commercial entities and their shareholders don’t like the idea of spending more than they have to on the riskier forms of Australian programming. But commercial free-to-air businesses are strong. There are only three of them, they have combined annual revenue of between $3.5 and $4 billion and they earned $2 billion from advertising in the second half of last year. The free-to-air multichannels are raking in new dollars, as well – in their launch year, an additional $110 million. Unlike in most other countries, they didn’t have to pay for the spectrum they are using. The broadcasters also have first dibs at sports rights to make profitable Australian sport content, courtesy of regulation. So is it really too much to ask that effective rules be introduced to require minimal increased investment in content that is a little riskier than sport? Senator Conroy is casting himself as the saviour of the Australian production industry. Unfortunately, though, he’s more Pat the Rat than Mick Dundee. Drew MacRae is Equity’s federal policy officer. For further details about the ‘Australian Screens, Australian Stories’ campaign, visit www.facebook.com/ AusScreensAusStories
On March 19 the Government and Opposition united to pass legislation that means broadcasters can satisfy their obligation to screen a minimum amount of Australian-made first-release drama, children’s and documentary programming by showing it on the digital multichannels, where it will be watched by far smaller audiences. Equity director Sue McCreadie and policy officer Drew MacRae appeared before a Senate Standing Committee to press the union’s concerns about this legislation and successfully lobbied for a review of the impact of the new rules with 12 months.
To: All Federal Members of Parliament
We, the undersigned, wish to express our opposition to the Government’s initial response to the Convergence Review announced by the Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy, on November 30th, 2012. Senator Stephen Conroy commissioned an independent review to check how effective our current media and communications laws are in a world of ever evolving technology. Recommendation 18 was the first to be considered, it insisted on a 50 per cent increase in levels of Australian drama, documentaries and children’s television. Recommendation 18 is the first to be ignored. Senator Conroy says one thing: “Free-to-air television plays an important part in our lives, and seeing Australian stories told on TV is vital in reflecting and maintaining our Australian identity, character and diversity… To make sure that we keep being able to watch Australian content, we are taking a number of steps to enable commercial television broadcasters to continue to invest in and broadcast Australian content.”. Senator Conroy then goes and does another: Senator Conroy has slashed the fees channels 7, 9 and 10 pay the Government to broadcast “free-to-air” by 50% without cabinet approval, handing them savings of approximately $142 million per year, with absolutely no requirement for investment in Australian stories. Australian “content” does not mean Australian stories. The proposed requirement for each multi-channel to broadcast minimum hours of Australian content per year, can and will be met by airing news, sport, reality programs and endless repeats of aged sitcoms. Most alarmingly, the networks have been offered even “greater flexibility” for the existing Australian children’s, drama and documentary television sub-quotas. They will now be able to use their most watched and highest revenue raising main-stations for the sole purpose of
STORIES “Keeping Australian stories on TV is vital”, Keeping Conroy to his word is the battle. showcasing top rating international TV programs, and still meet their minimum requirements by airing Australian stories in the multichannel ghetto. The networks will invest less money in Australian drama and documentary when they shift them to the likes of 7mate, Gem and Eleven. If these changes are passed by Parliament and become law, they will lead to a severe downturn in the Australian TV drama industry at the cost of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to the Australian economy. Of greatest concern are the immeasurable cultural consequences as Australians grow up and grow old seeing less of their stories and hearing less of their voices on our screens. Worldwide studies show that local television stories bring a wide range of historical events, contemporary issues, and ideas about the future to life. These programs allow local audiences to celebrate their experiences, share their stories, and identify with their fellow citizens in a way that imported drama programs cannot. We are now calling on all Federal Members of Parliament to: • Oppose Senator Conroy’s proposed reforms to the commercial television broadcasters licence conditions; • Urge the Government for meaningful implementation of Recommendation 18 of its own independent Convergence Review; and • Protect our access to quality Australian stories.
Photo by Angela Wylie. Thanks Fairfax Photos
Speaking from the heart
Diana Greentree’s novel The Camros Bird is a love story which also exposes the dark side of Australia’s treatment of refugees. Here is an edited extract
mir and I had a month before leaving on our Tasmania adventure and I crammed in as many gigs with Actors for Refugees as possible. The group had begun touring around the country and when I was invited to go along, I found it hard to break the news to Amir. “You going away again?” he said, watching me pack a small bag. “You should come with us, Amir. You could tell your own story to the audience. It’d be very powerful to hear it from someone like you who’s lived it.” As though a wind had blown away a dark cloud, Amir’s face now shone. “Yes, I will come. I will make a good speech. I will tell about the treatment in detention. I will tell them our reasons for we left our countries. I will ask them to stop insulting us by calling us ‘queue jumpers’, ‘illegals’ or ‘terrorists’. I will tell about refugees going crazy, how they are suffering because they are shut away for so long time. Yes, I will come.” The next day, we began writing Amir’s story, sitting at the big dining table with piles of recycled paper and a pot of coffee beside us. While writing his extraordinary tale, he’d been able to remain detached enough not to succumb to tears or rage. It was as though all this had happened to someone else. It helped him to unburden himself in this way, and I thought that if he was able to repeat this in performance, it would continue to heal him. A week later, Amir was ready for his theatrical debut. The next performance was in a country town several hours north of Melbourne. I drove most of the way, stopping sometimes on a quiet road to change seats and give Amir some driving practice, ready for the licence test that was some weeks away. Though such a courageous man, the very thought of this test set him aquiver. “You know in Iran, they have road rules but no one obeys them.”
I cast a glance at him, surprised. “Really? This country where you’re put in prison for losing your hijab in a high wind.” “Aaah, yes, religious laws must be obeyed, but the others … pfft, nobody
cares.” Although this was a small town, people seemed to come from everywhere to swell the audience. I peeped through a hole in the backstage curtain at them and called Amir over to see the crowd filling the hall. He put his eye to the hole, then backed away. “I don’t think so I can do this,” he said. “Amir! You can’t chicken out now. The people here will really want to hear what you have to say.” “I am not actor. I am refugee, not actor.” “You have an important story to tell, Amir. Do it for your friends. Think of all those people still in detention who’re depending on you.” He hung his head a moment. “You are right. I will make you proud of me,” he said, taking a deep breath. “I will be actor, not chicken.” It was a good audience, very quiet and respectful. Poor Amir had to wait until right near the end to tell his story. The cast was seated in a semicircle and each actor stood and moved downstage to begin reading. Now and again, I looked across at the quaking Amir and thought he might quietly sidle off the stage at any moment. I wondered if it was just too soon to add this stress to his already-heavy burden. When it was his turn, he gave me a quick glance and I sent encouraging vibes to him. He stood at the microphone, his script shaking so much it was hard for him to read. Then some power took hold of him. The need to tell his story fed him and bolstered his courage. He took another deep breath and steadied himself. He remembered to speak slowly and clearly and, above all, to speak from the heart. The rest of us on stage were very still and the wave of silent support from us to him was like an 26
A view of the Nauru detention centre in 2012, where Amnesty International says 387 refugees are packed into leaky tents in hot, cramped conditions
Actors for Refugees The group was founded in 2001 by Alice Garner and Kate Atkinson and disbanded around six years later when, worn out, we wrongly assumed that refugees would be more fairly treated under an ALP government. Our aim was to bring the true stories of asylum seekers and refugees to the Australian public. Many performers freely gave their time to present stories and songs for schools and community groups, in cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart, and much of rural Victoria. Any money raised went directly to supporting refugee causes, such as a heart operation in Iran for the daughter of a detainee, assistance for two young children in Indonesia whose mother was killed in a bombing and whose father was in Baxter detention centre, airfares for family reunion and financial support for advocacy organisations.
electric charge. The voice that now poured from him was rich and strong, from the depths of his soul. There was not a sound in the hall until he finished. He looked towards me and I could see his eyes were glistening with the thrill of performance, the magic sensation of connecting with an audience. He had every reason to be proud. “That was wonderful,” I said. “How do you feel now, Amir?” “I feel like something has come off my shoulder,” he said. “I felt like I was flying. I am free.” Diana Greentree was vice president of Actors for Refugees. Her novel The Camros Bird will be released later this year by Horizon Publishing Group. Visit www.horizonpg.net
Actors’ Well-Being Study The Equity Foundation is collaborating with the University of Sydney on a world-first research project
o be an actor is to be open to ideas, to be an adventurer and a risk taker. But is physical, emotional and mental damage the price to be paid for the privilege of being a performing artist or are there things that can be done to address these issues? While there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence about the effects of the stress and strains of actors’ lives, there is precious little ‘hard data’. All Equity members are invited to participate in the Actors’ Well-Being Study, a world-first research project being conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney in collaboration with the Equity Foundation. This study will collect data to determine whether the anecdotes are mere chatter, or that these pressures are, in fact, as widespread as suggested.
Equity would like to be able to support the profession to ensure the complete wellbeing of actors in terms of your personal health, as well as the professional and academic side of your lives. If you are interested in contributing to this study, you will find the survey at: www.equityfoundation.org.au You will be absolutely anonymous. For more information, please feel free to contact the research team: Associate Professor Ian Maxwell Ian.Maxwell@sydney.edu.au Dr Mark Seton Mark.email@example.com Dr Marianna Szabó Marianna.firstname.lastname@example.org
People power 2012 was the year crowdfunding made its mark in Australia. 2013 is the year it is set to become part of the mainstream
s most artists are now well aware, crowdfunding is a way of generating financial support for inspired projects by raising finance from community networks. Ideas are presented to a worldwide audience on an online platform and, if people like the idea, they can support by pledging money. In return for that support, project creators offer different rewards depending on the amount promised. The rate at which crowdfunding has caught on in Australia over the past 12 months is both impressive and exciting. On the Pozible platform alone $5.8 million was pledged in 2012, more than triple the $1.8 million in 2011. With funds from 89 countries, 1903 projects were created and 56 per cent of those reached their set targets. But the sense at Pozible is that Australia has only just scratched the surface. Here are five factors that will play a role in seeing crowdfunding fulfil its potential in 2013:
Matched Funding Programs
Pozible broke new ground in 2012 by partnering with Screen West to present the world’s first Matched Funding initiative on a crowdfunding platform, giving 27 WA filmmakers the chance to receive $3 for every $1 they raised through their campaigns. Over $100,000 was pledged by the public in less than 24 hours, and seven film projects received matched funding from the available pool of $250,000. The speed at which such a significant portion of funds was raised was surprising even to Pozible staff. It suggested the program was extremely effective in encouraging project creators to put every resource in to promoting their campaigns and in garnering pledgers who were more compelled to support projects knowing their money would be quadrupled. With the support of corporates, government, grant and peak bodies, it is Pozible’s intention to see this program replicated in the film and other creative industries around the country in 2013; thereby directing significantly more money into the arts.
Communicating the advantages beyond money
The relatively early stage crowdfunding is at in its Australian lifecycle means many creatives are not fully aware of the associated benefits. Obviously it is potentially a great way to raise significant funds. In Australia in 2012, 56 per cent of projects reached their set targets (significantly higher than most international
platforms) and the largest campaign surpassed $243,000. Beyond the money though, there are many other benefits that go along with running a crowdfunding campaign: • It is a way to raise money up front, rather than incurring debt and attempting to recoup costs. • It enables creatives to engage with existing networks in entirely new ways, offering audiences greater participation in the creative process. • It is an opportunity to tap into and build new audiences before the project even happens. • You can generate publicity. It’s a chance to attract media attention to a project well in advance of its completion. • It is a mechanism to exhibit existing audiences and support for a project, opening up the possibility of attracting additional funding or investment. • It can be used as an online point of sale for creatives to pre-sell tickets, merchandise or digital downloads of music and film. • It can facilitate retention of intellectual property rights over creative works.
Dispelling the perceived risk of fraud
There is some concern amongst those new to crowdfunding that there is a significant risk of fraud. This is not the case. There has not been a single case reported in Australia and those on international platforms are almost negligible. In Australia, Pozible has the following protections in place: • All projects must go through a submission process and be vetted by our staff before being made live on the website. • Project Creators must enter in to an agreement with Pozible that says they will deliver on all promised rewards. Project Creators are subject to Consumer Protection Law should they fail to deliver. • Project Creators are required to provide contact details and photographic ID before their project will be made live, meaning they can be tracked down should there be any problems. • All project pages feature a ‘Report‘ button, where the public may report any improper conduct or content. • A majority of support for projects comes from people associated with the project (family, friends, workmates etc). It is highly unlikely a project creator will reach their target without 28
the support of those networks, or will take advantage of such networks.
Encouraging new industries
To date it has largely been progressive filmmakers, musicians and artists that have embraced the Pozible platform. In 2012, 68.1 per cent of the funds pledged went to projects in these categories. Compare that to the major US crowdfunding platform Kickstarter where only 32.2 per cent of pledged funds went to filmmakers, musicians and artists. Gaming, technology, design and publishing however made up only 9.88 per cent of the total funds pledged on Pozible in 2012, compared to 55.4 per cent on Kickstarter in the US. The statistics indicate there are a number of industries in Australia yet to utilise and embrace crowdfunding. On the back of new partnerships and programs, it is anticipated this will change significantly in 2013.
Campaigns by well-known artists
Artists with broad appeal have tremendous potential to raise significant funds through crowdfunding. They come with a very well established network of fans and supporters who believe in and will pledge towards their art. The benefit for the artist is the retention of intellectual property rights, the opportunity to offer unique experiences for fans (such as exclusive performances and advance copies of albums) and the assurance of having raised the funds up front rather than trying to recoup costs. While it won’t completely revolutionise the way funds are raised by acclaimed artists, we certainly anticipate more and more will choose the crowdfunding path in 2013 as Amanda Palmer in the US and Eskimo Joe in Australia have done. Matthew Benetti is marketing and partnerships manager at Pozible, the crowdfunding platform and community for creative projects. Visit www. pozible.com This article was originally published by Arts Hub, where you can now advertise your crowdfunding project . Visit www.au.artshub.com/au/
Sporting chance Gemma Kaye believes an actor auditioning for a role has a lot in common with an athlete preparing for a big race. Both have to get into ‘the zone’ – and, in each case, there is only one winner Photo: Gemma Kaye
or most actors, auditions happen so rarely – you might have one a week, one a month or a few per year – that it’s understandably difficult to become skillful at them. But if you’re serious about an acting career, this is what you must do In other industries, someone can study, get passable results, and walk into a job paying $40,000 a year or more, simply by virtue of passing, by being average. This is not the case for actors. Rule of thumb: about 90 to 98 per cent unemployment, which means ‘average’ doesn’t cut it. Only the top 10 per cent get any work at all. Only the top two per cent are working regularly and making a living. Only 0.05 per cent – or one in 2000 – make a decent amount of money. And perhaps 50 people in the entire world have what most actors dream of: stardom. I’m grateful to say I have got myself into the two per cent. I’m not famous, but I’m a successful working actor. And I got there through the principles of sports psychology. If you think about it, an audition is like running in the finals of the 100 metres at the Olympics. For a runner, competitions are not every day; they happen a few times a year, much like auditions. When a runner gets to the finals, they have a very short space of time to perform at their peak, there are lots of people running alongside them, there is only one winner and there is little room for error – again, much like an audition. So if you want to ‘win gold’ and be cast – let alone be cast regularly and make a living – you need to be able to perform at your peak, reliably and on demand; you need to be elite in your field. You need to be able to get ‘into the zone’. Acting requires the ability to be fully present in, and responsive to, an imaginary circumstance, without self-consciousness – to respond fully with heart, mind and body to an imagined reality, without censoring yourself on any level. To be creative or inventive in the intuitive space, rather than the analytical one. To be imaginative, creative, unselfconscious. These are complex psychological skills beyond the scope of this article, but I can suggest some simple strategies to optimise your performance, no matter what your level of skill, whether beginner, working actor or star. My formula for getting ‘into the zone’: confidence + presence + clarity.
You need to be able to perform at your peak, reliably and on demand; you need to be elite in your field
Confidence (there is no secret!). • Set small goals and achieve them. • Practise your craft regularly.
Being present in the moment (again, no secret!). • Meditation – the art of being present. I do 50 minutes twice a day or 10 minutes three times a day (Hugh Jackman has been quoted as saying he does 30 minutes twice a day).
Clarity of mind – no thoughts or feelings rolling around in your head about your life, problems, past or future, just the thoughts and feelings stimulated by the imaginary circumstance. For this, I use a technique from sports psychology. • For 15 minutes before every audition, rehearsal or job, I listen to a song that makes me feel spontaneous and free. While listening, I sit with my eyes closed and visualise a large, white piece of paper
in front of me. If my thoughts wander, I gently bring them back to the paper. I consciously forget who I am. I leave ‘me’ behind. I let go of any thoughts or feelings about me and my life. I am a clear vessel for the imaginative, creative impulse. • After I leave every audition, scene or job, I listen to a song that makes me feel calm, relaxed and like myself again. I breathe deeply and reconnect to my sense of ‘me’. I think of the things I like about myself. I forget the character. I let the audition go. These strategies do not replace good training, but if you implement them, you will enhance your performance. Gemma Kaye is an actor from Sydney, who has worked extensively in film, TV, TVC, presenting and voiceover, and a former counsellor (B.Psych.Hons). To join her mailing list, visit www.getthexfactor.com or connect with her on Twitter @getthexfactor
Leader of the Clique
The cast of Clique
Clique, a pilot being pitched to Channels 9 and 10, ABC and SBS, is a raw and real portrayal of what most teenagers experience on a daily basis. The script touches on sexuality, substance abuse, body image, dysfunctional relationships, mental illness and death. Amanda Duckworth is the creator of this confronting television teen drama.
Mackenzie ‘Mack’ Rodriguez is the most popular girl at her school but she has no interest in being loved or admired by everyone. She is rebellious, mysterious and comes across as carefree. This could be the reason teen girls want to be her and teen boys want to be with her. Mackenzie comes from a broken home: her Latino father left her at a very young age and she despises her workaholic Australian mother for the lack of love and support. Mackenzie is angry and broken, and finds comfort in being disconnected and alone.
The audition process
Auditions were conducted over a couple of weeks. For the first, I had to prepare four basic two-hander scripts a day in advance.
The creator and producer of the pilot were present at the first audition, and it was great to interact with them and ask questions about the narrative. Two days after the first audition, I was asked to come in for a screen test for the lead character of Mackenzie Rodriguez. I’d been used to waiting a long time between auditions. Because of the two-day time frame between the first and second audition I didn’t have any time to be nervous. I had to prepare the same scripts as for the first audition and another two three-hand scenes. The callback was a little more formal, with the creator, producer and director all inside for the screen test. I performed the first scenes with a reader and the last two with other potential cast members. I enjoyed the last three-hand scenes because of the energy and on-screen chemistry among the actors. Four days after the callback, I was offered the role of Mackenzie via email by Amanda Duckworth, the creator of Clique. Preparation for this role was complex, because Mackenzie’s relationship with her mother is an important one and I couldn’t relate to it. My mother, Marynes Avila, and I are very close, so it was a challenge for me. 30
I worked first with breath and voice. Broke down the script and added subtext. Tapped into past relationships I’d had that could be similar to the one Mackenzie and her mother have. Played around with actions. And the character came out from a truthful place once I let go. Fortunately, I was offered the role of Mackenzie before I had a chance to audition for any other parts. It was the first audition I’d had since being cast in the television shows Thank God You’re Here and The Elephant Princess, and feature film I Love You Too, and completing my Bachelor of Creative Arts – Drama in October 2012. I am really passionate and committed to my craft and to be reassured that I was worth casting as the lead in Clique made me feel I was doing the right thing by staying true to myself. Acting is what I am meant to be doing. Clique has been a great experience. It’s been very rewarding to lead a fresh cast of great new actors to the screen. Stephany Avila is best known for her portrayal of Eleanor ‘Scubi’ Scubinski in the Nine Network series Holly’s Heroes and for Tania next to Rose Byrne and Ronald Jacobson in the feature film I Love You Too
Photo by A. Athans
Stephany Avila describes the audition process which led to her being cast as the protagonist in a new teen pilot
‘The boy from Biloela’ Bille Brown AM (1952–2013)
Acclaimed stage, film and television actor and playwright Bille Brown passed away peacefully in Brisbane on January 13, two days after celebrating his 61st birthday with friends and a few close colleagues, including Geoffrey Rush and Bryan Nason. He had been receiving treatment for cancer for some time but refused to let on until recently just how serious his condition was. William ‘Bille’ Brown was born in Biloela, Queensland, in 1952. He studied drama at the University of Queensland, then began his career in the early 1970s at Queensland Theatre Company, working alongside actors Geoffrey Rush and Carol Burns, under artistic director, Alan Edwards. Bille’s career took him to Britain, where he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and was the first Australian commissioned to write and perform in their own play – The Swan Down Gloves. The show opened the Barbican Theatre (RSC’s London home from 1982 to 2002) and had a Royal Command Performance. He also appeared in the RSC’s premiere production of The Wizard of Oz in the gender-bending roles of The Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch. Bille performed in the West End – at the Aldwych and Haymarket Theatres – Chichester Festival Theatre, English National Opera and Dublin Theatre Festival. While on stage at Stratford, he was spotted by John Cleese, who cast him in Fierce Creatures, the sequel to A Fish Called Wanda. He became artist-in-residence at the State University of New York in 1982, and a visiting professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz. In 1985, Bille made his Broadway debut as a playwright with his adaptation of A Christmas Carol, featuring Helen Hayes and
Len Cariou. The following year he appeared in Michael Frayn’s adaptation of Wild Honey with Ian McKellen. Bille returned to live permanently in Australia in 1996. He had an outstanding stage career here, performing for many leading companies, including QTC, STC, Bell Shakespeare, Malthouse Theatre, MTC, Company B, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Marian Street Theatre and La Boite. He was also a regular with Bryan Nason’s Grin and Tonic Theatre Troupe. During his years with the QTC, he appeared in 27 productions and played many Shakespearean roles, including Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor; the title role in Henry V and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.
Bille Brown’s legacy to the arts is enormous….he will be remembered for his generosity in mentoring and nurturing younger performers from around Australia In 1996, he directed the Australian stage production of Hugh Lunn’s highly successful Over the Top with Jim for QPAC and the Brisbane Festival. He was feted as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais’s The Marriage of Figaro, with Geoffrey Rush and Robyn Nevin, which opened the new Playhouse at QPAC in September 1998. In 1999, he also had major success in Sydney and subsequently throughout Australia as Oscar Wilde in Belvoir’s production of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss. The same year, he became adjunct professor in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland, where he gave workshops and masterclasses. Bille directed John Cleese: His Life, Times and Current Medical Problems, the operas
Don Giovanni and Samson and Delilah, and various productions of Shakespeare and Molière. He wrote and performed, in 2009, in QTC’s The School of Arts, the story of the College Players who toured Shakespeare throughout the state in the late 1960s. Other writing credits included the plays Bill and Mary and Springle, and the pantomime Aladdin, which starred Ian McKellen, for The Old Vic. Last year, Bille commanded the stage as Bruscon in the Malthouse production of Thomas Bernhard’s The Histrionic, which had sell-out seasons in Melbourne and Sydney. He also appeared in numerous movies, including Fierce Creatures (1997), Oscar and Lucinda (1997), The Dish (2000), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), Killer Elite (2011) and Singularity (2012), while some of his more memorable television credits were Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Rake, Wild Boys, The Hollowmen and White Collar Blue. In 2001, Bille received the Centenary Medal “for distinguished service to the arts”. He was also honoured by QTC, when, in 2002, they named their new 300-seat theatre space the Bille Brown Studio. He received a 2009 Helpmann Award as Best Male Actor in a Musical for his role as King Arthur in Monty Python’s Spamalot and was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2011. The same year, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland. For several years, Bille had been the industry ambassador for the Actors’ & Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund of Queensland, a role he cherished. Bille Brown’s legacy to the arts is enormous, and he will be remembered not only for his talent and the variety of roles and media he conquered, but also for his generosity in mentoring and nurturing younger performers from around Australia. – Paul Dellit
Photo by Justine Walpole
A life well lived
Edgar Metcalfe AM Cit WA (1933–2012) Perth-based actor, director and writer Edgar Metcalfe was a driving force behind Australian theatre for nearly half a century. Born in Lancashire, UK, he trained with Blackpool Rep and worked in repertory around Britain before establishing himself as a promising young director in London. In 1963, on the recommendation of Sir Robert Helpmann, he became artistic director of the National Theatre Company at the Playhouse Theatre in Perth. He programmed a clever combination of classics and popular fare, including musicals and pantomimes, that put the theatre on a profitable basis. His planned two-year stay turned into three stints over more than two decades (1963-67, 197072 and 1982-84), during which he directed or acted in more than 100 productions. Among his directing highlights were exciting productions of world theatre, including Marat Sade and The Representative, plus the 1971 Australian premiere of Cabaret and a co-production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with the University of Western Australia at the Dolphin Theatre. From 1968 to 1970, Edgar was associate director with the MTC, winning Green Room Awards for his productions of The Devils and What the Butler Saw. He was artistic director of Perth’s Hole in the Wall between 1980 and 1985, successfully guiding the company through a fiscally difficult time. He also worked frequently at the Regal Theatre, where he cast such up-and-coming British actors as Tim Brooke-Taylor, Edward Woodward, Michele Dotrice and Jimmy Edwards. During the 1990s, he directed many shows at Perth’s Effie Crump Theatre, including the opening production, The Two of Us. He also directed four national tours: Doctor in Love, Night Mother, The Nerd and Corpse. Between 1974 and 2007, he appeared in a
number of film and television productions, including Ship to Shore, Minty, The Sleepover Club, Evil Angels and directed the film, The Olive Tree. He was also cast in many ABC radio dramas. In Shakespeare, he played Iago, Macbeth, Puck, Prospero, Petruchio, Caliban and Claudius. He had leading roles in many other stage productions, including Private Lives, The Caine Mutiny, Court Martial and Charley’s Aunt. He played Salieri in Amadeus, and made a delightful panto dame. In musical theatre, Edgar played Fagin in Oliver! and Daddy Warbucks in Annie. In 2005, he undertook a national tour as Reggie in Quartet for Agelink Theatre Inc. In 2007, he played the Queen Mother in Two Old Queens, which was seen in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Edgar wrote six plays, including the very successful Garden Party, Vinegar and Brown Paper and After Sunday, produced at the Hole in the Wall. He also published a collection of short stories and three books, including a novel based on his play Alleycat Alice and Friends. Edgar retired to England in 2010 – only to return to Perth, disillusioned, soon after. In May 2011, he made a spectacular comeback, playing both Queen Elizabeth I and Second Carpenter in the world premiere of John Aitken’s The Enchanters at Perth’s Heath Ledger Theatre. He followed this in July with the world premiere of David Williamson’s black comedy When Dad Married Fury. His final professional appearance was in April last year in the Black Swan production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. Edgar was WA’s 1976 Citizen of the Year and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1978. He was honoured in 2004 during the Centenary Celebrations of His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth, and in 2011 he received the Heritage Award at the WA Equity Guild Awards. A wonderful host and cook, a voracious reader with a mischievous sense of humour, the energetic Edgar Metcalfe lived life to the full. Contributions by Frank Van Straten, Jay Walsh, Robert van Mackelenberg and Rosemary Barr
Singer, actress, psychic
Kathleen McCormack (1929–2013) Australian singer and actress Kathleen McCormack died in London on February 18, aged 83, after a long battle against Picks Disease, a rare form of dementia. She was born Sonny Weston in Taree, NSW, where her father was a Methodist minister and her mother was a psychic. A natural performer, Kathleen won a nightclub singing contest and her prize, a week-long engagement at the club, was extended to five months. She was signed up by manager John Singer and was swiftly booked by Philips to cut her first record in 1956. It was titled Songs from the Emerald Isle under the name of Kathleen McCormack. The name stuck and she would use it both professionally and personally for the rest of her life. Kathleen recorded a large number of Scottish and Irish albums during this period but, with record executives believing that Australian audiences wouldn’t buy music unless it was sung by performers from those countries, she was billed on the record sleeves as being born in either Scotland or Ireland, depending on the subject matter. She released 29 albums which sold in excess of one million copies for numerous record labels, including RCA and Festival. They covered country music, folk, colonial songs and waltz numbers. She also recorded a series of children’s albums under the name of Auntie Kathy but it was for You and I: Country Style with Johnny Ashcroft that she received a Gold Award. A trip to New Zealand didn’t go as planned after a rogue booker left Kathleen stranded. Ever resourceful, she turned a bad situation to her advantage and recorded several albums over there.
Kathleen was in high demand on the club circuit and frequently toured NSW and interstate. She trained as an actress under Doris Fitton at Sydney’s legendary Independent Theatre. Her stage credits included the musical How to Succeed in Business and on the small screen she appeared in episodes of the serial Number 96. Kathleen was a long-time resident of The Rocks area of Sydney, where she lived in a terrace house under the Harbour Bridge. She was among those instrumental in saving these historic dwellings from demolition and in 1969 she teamed up with Lorrae Desmond to stage the Argyle Celebrations, which marked the history of the area. During the Vietnam War, she flew out to entertain the troops with the ABC Orchestra and Little Pattie. Kathleen was particularly proud of her Vietnam Medal and wore it with pride on Anzac Day. She did more work with the ABC Orchestra when she presented her own show on ABC Radio, singing big-band hits and telling anecdotes. In the late 1970s, Kathleen moved to London, where she became heavily involved in the expat scene. She took an active part in events organised by the Australian Film Society, which was based in the High Commission building, and regularly lectured at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies. She returned frequently to Australia and just four years ago toured the NSW club circuit. In London, as a valued member of the Concert Artists Association, Kathleen staged her own touring music-hall shows and was the headline act at the 1940s-themed Big Band Blitz in Twickenham every year. She also appeared in popular TV series such as Gems and The Bill. As well as performing, she had another string to her bow: as a sixth-generation psychic, she wrote and published several bestselling tarot books. Kathleen McCormack is survived by two sons, a daughter and her grandchildren. – Darren Gray
A 70-year career Patricia Kennedy, OBE (1917 – 2012)
Patricia Kennedy, who has died at the age of 96, contributed to film, the performing arts, television and radio in Australia and Britain over a span of 70 years. She was born in Queenscliff in 1917 and moved to Hawthorn in 1925 to attend school at the Presentation Convent, Windsor. After her graduation, she enrolled at Maie Hoban’s school of drama in East Melbourne. In the late 1930s and ‘40s, she was a leading radio actor and won many awards working with Crawford Productions, numerous commercial radio stations and the ABC in radio plays and serials. She played Portia in The Merchant of Venice (1947) to critical acclaim and the title role in Ray Lawler’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Candida for the National Theatre movement at St Peters Hall, Eastern Hill. In 1951, on a trip to Britain, she worked with Val Gielgud, a pioneer of radio drama for the BBC. In 1953, she joined the inaugural season of the Union Theatre Repertory Company (later the Melbourne Theatre Company), appearing in Diana Morgan’s After My Fashion and as the Countess in Christopher Fry’s The Dark is Light Enough in Ray Lawler’s 1955 production. Once again, travelling to Britain, Patricia played leading roles at the Bristol Old Vic Company and Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre. When she returned in 1958, she played Miss Madrigal in the J.C. Williamson production of The Chalk Garden with Dame Sybil Thorndike and Sir Lewis Casson. The noted English director Lionel Harris had cast a local actor to play a leading role in a commercial production! At this time, Australians were supporting players to imported actors. Patricia proved that we
could match the best actors from overseas. Wal Cherry, the director of a new experimental company, the Emerald Hill Theatre Company, approached her to play Linda in Death of a Salesman. In her quest for continual challenge, she accepted without hesitation. After working ‘’off Bourke Street’’, she entered one of her most creative periods as a stage actor. In 1967, she played Alice in John Sumner’s production of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance at the Russell Street Theatre. When George Ogilvie directed his production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters in 1958, Patricia lamented: ‘’Today I’m playing the 80-year-old nurse, Anfisa. When I was a young actor, there was no company in Melbourne adventurous enough to present the play, so I never had the opportunity to play one of the three sisters.’’ The innovative director Tyrone Guthrie chose her to play the Countess of Rossillion in Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well for the MTC at the Princess Theatre in 1970, a role she played to perfection. To her gallery of intelligent, considered and independent women, she added another effective portrayal in Ray Lawler’s The Man Who Shot the Albatross, which featured Leo McKern as the embattled Governor William Bligh. In 1979, Patricia joined Deborah Kerr in The Day after the Fair for a commercial tour presented by Paul Dainty. In the early 1970s, the Australia Council for the Arts asked her to serve as its theatre consultant, which she did for two years. When she returned ‘’to the boards’’, it was to play Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night with the South Australian Theatre Company for seasons in Adelaide and Melbourne. In 1977, Patricia bought a property at Tanja on the New South Wales south coast. The Australian bush had always held a fascination for her. It was a haven where she could reflect and gather inspiration, and
Patricia regarded her 25 years at Tanja as her happiest. In that time, she made numerous appearances in film and television. The films included My Brilliant Career, The Getting of Wisdom, Country Life and The Road to Nhill. She made television appearances in Return to Eden, Prisoner, Five Mile Creek, The Flying Doctors and G.P. In 1984, Patricia returned to Melbourne to appear in Medea as the Nurse, to open the Victorian Arts Centre in the Playhouse. The celebrated Australian actor Zoe Caldwell, playing Medea, the role that had won her a Tony award, said she found Patricia a far more available, warm and giving actor than Judith Anderson, who played the Nurse on Broadway. Carrillo Gantner, the artistic director of the Playbox Theatre, offered her the role of the aviatrix suffering from a stroke in Arthur Kopit’s Wings at the Playbox , followed by a visit to the Adelaide Festival Centre. Patricia continued her association with the Playbox when she appeared in The Newspaper of Claremont Street, directed by Ariette Taylor. This association between
actor and director developed and grew in importance over the next decade. Patricia next appeared in Ariette’s production of Alive and Kicking and in Disturbing the Dust, directed and written by Ariette for the Playbox and which played at the Adelaide Festival and the Merlyn Theatre in Melbourne. Soon afterwards a chosen group of actors, including Patricia, gathered at the minute Black Box within the Victorian College of the Arts to read several one-act plays by Daniel Keene. Another adventure in the theatrical process began that night and Patricia was only too eager and excited to be part of this nascent company. Eventually she appeared in Rain to great acclaim at La Mama and at the Beckett Theatre in South Melbourne. No other actor has represented the performing arts with such ideals and tenacity. Patricia embodied that strange power to silently demand from her fellow actors a commitment that passed ‘’all understanding’’. There were many times her fellow actors remained ‘’wanting’’. These momentary setbacks never dulled her
commitment to the goal of honouring each audience with a vision revealed or a human truth uncovered. Patricia never abandoned her plea for a national theatre company comprising our most accomplished senior actors and young actors performing a repertoire of Australian plays and the classics. She advised and coached many young actors in the pursuit of excellence as she regarded acting as an act of service to something greater than herself and her ego. As Hamlet stated, ‘’Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines.’’ This Shakespearean quotation could have been Patricia’s advice to her fellow Australian actors! Patricia was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1982 for services to the performing arts and was awarded the Kenneth Myer Medallion for the Performing Arts in recognition of her contribution to Australian theatre. – Malcolm Robertson
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