equity media entertainment & arts alliance
Meet the masters
Advice from world-famous acting coaches
Casting a wider net Equityâ€™s new Diversity Committee
Ten top tips
Casting directors talk audition dos and donts
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Equity Magazine editor Lizzie Franks Ph: +61 2 9333 0961 email@example.com Equity Foundation program manager Alex Jones Ph: +61 9333 0911 firstname.lastname@example.org Equity Foundation program manager, NZ Phil Darkins Ph: +64 4 476 7720 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 The 100% Equity cast of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Left to right: Tim Overton, Damian Callinan and Nic English. The State Theatre Co of South Australia production is touring for 12 weeks in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland
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: Simon Burke, Patricia Amphlett, Robyn Arthur, Kerith Atkinson, Roy Billing, Amanda Bishop, Carol Burns, Tina Bursill, Mitchell Butel, Chloe Dallimore, Helen Dallimore, Matt Day, Alan Fletcher, Patrick Frost, Corinne Grant, Stuart Halusz, Elizabeth Hay, Glenn Hazeldine, Abbe Holmes, Verity Hunt-Ballard, Robert Jago, Jason Klarwein, Bert LaBonte, Lorna Lesley, Monica Main, Liam McIlwain, Jonathan Mill, Geoff Morrell, Gus Murray, Fiona Press, Eamon Farren (permanent alternate) Members of your New Zealand Board: Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Alastair Browning, Peter Elliott, Bruce Hopkins, Robyn Malcolm, Charlie McDermott, Jeff Szusterman, Cameron Rhodes, Todd Rippon, Richard Thompson, Tandi Wright
AUCKLAND 195 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby AUCKLAND 1011 Ph: +64 9 360 1980 MEDIA SUPER GPO Box 4303 Melbourne VIC 3001 Ph 1800 640 886 Fax 1800 246 707 www.mediasuper.com.au
President’s Message Simon Burke
NZ president’s message Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Jill Perryman and Kevan Johnston win Lifetime Achievement Award. NZ establishes Actors Benevolent Fund
Equity farewells Penne HackforthJones, Amanda Shillabeer and Susan Elizabeth Dwyer
contents Acting like a business
All in the mix
US talent scout Jason Siner on what it takes to make it in la la land
How SAG-AFTRA is tackling the lack of diversity on US screens
Playing to win
Postcard from the edge
Acting coach Ivana Chubbuck tells Lizzie Franks why her famed method gets results
NZ actor Fleur Saville is pursuing her acting dreams in LA and learning a lot along the way
Studying the craft
Larry Moss, Howard Fine and Susan Batson on why an actor’s work is never done
A juggling act
How do performers pursue a career without having to forego family life? asks Victoria Houston
On the cover
The dos and don’ts
Casting directors share their 10 top tips
The rising star of contemporary dance
Mark your diary
Elizabeth Shingleton profiles Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap
Casting off the clichés
Members of Equity’s new Diversity Committee share their stories
Exciting events from the Equity Foundation
Still proud to be union
Distinguished New Zealand actor Ken Blackburn speaks with Anna Majavu
Actor Menik Gooneratne , a member of Equity’s Diversity Committee
ultural and arts policy – as has been widely observed – barely got a mention during the federal election campaign. So what can the performing arts and the screen industries expect from the incoming government? Senator Brandis has emphasised “excellence”, support the arts for their own sake and a greater emphasis on the regions. While he signalled that any cuts to the arts would be modest, we are undoubtedly moving to an era of budget austerity where new money will be hard to secure and cuts may well be the order of the day. In the lead up to the election Equity teamed up with other peak bodies, including the major performing arts companies and the arts centres, and thrashed out a series of priorities we could agree on for the performing arts/live entertainment sector. These will now be presented to the incoming government. Top of the list is retaining the additional funding given to the Australia Council under the Creative Australia cultural policy statement. Other priorities are indexation of arts funding and increased funds for local and international touring. Given the diversity of the performing arts sector, having a single voice was a promising development. Live Performance Australia (LPA) raised a few eyebrows by issuing its own statement with many of the same points along with a jarring note complaining about MEAA pursuing collective agreements for live theatre crew. We live in hope that the live performance sector will come to recognise, as the screen sector has, that there is more that unites us than divides us. A major concern for the screen production sector will be the vulnerability of the ABC to cuts when its current funding agreement runs out in 2015. Equity led the charge for the additional drama funding provided to the ABC in recent years and I am sure will lead the
charge to defend it should that be needed. Of course while funding is crucial to both the screen and performing arts sectors, other policy settings are just as important. Copyright protection, Australian content regulations and international trade agreements are several topical areas that spring to mind. In July the Copyright Law Reform Commission (ALRC) took final submissions on its discussion paper Copyright and the Digital Economy. Copyright is one issue that affects all sections of the union from journalists to performers and crew. The ALRC discussion paper was a disgrace that pandered entirely to copyright “user”
We live in hope that the live performance sector will come to recognise, as the screen sector has, that there is more that unites us than divides us
groups (the likes of Google, Optus and the universities who all want premium content on the cheap) and paid scant regard to the creative community and people whose livelihoods are affected. The ALRC recommended the introduction of a US style “fair use” system, which stands to undermine investment and job creation and would favour those with the resources to pursue expensive court action. We were encouraged by Senator Brandis’s statement that he did not agree with calls to relax copyright and was on the side of the artists, copyright owners and providers. Equity is all for adapting copyright law to suit the digital environment however we
believe we need the law needs strengthening to deal with piracy rather than relaxation. We will be looking for action from the incoming government on performers’ copyright. At last count only one country (curiously Syria) had ratified the Beijing Treaty on performers’ copyright. The treaty will come into force once thirty countries ratify it and we want to make sure Australia is at the head of the pack. In the trade policy area we have been keeping a watching brief on the negotiations around the Trans Pacific Partnership – a proposed trade agreement between a dozen Pacific Rim countries including the US, Japan, Singapore, Chile and Canada. Recent bilateral agreements involving Australia have all had cultural carve outs which preserve the right to regulate for Australian content. The formal negotiations have concluded but the US is keen to do a deal before the end of the year. The risk now is that culture could be traded off behind closed doors for gains in other areas. We may need to mobilise to have the text made public before it is signed. On the Australian content front we have no effective incentives in place to encourage Australian drama on the digital channels but thanks to the campaigning efforts of performers and other filmmakers we did get an agreement to hold a review in twelve months, so we will be pushing to re-open that debate. For all these campaigns we need your engagement and active participation so please keep in touch through the weekly E-Bulletin, Facebook and Twitter. Sue McCreadie Equity director
media entertainment & arts alliance
equity Editor: Lizzie Franks firstname.lastname@example.org Subeditor: Kerrie Lee Design: Louise Summerton, Magnesium Media
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of Equity or the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.
Equity Thanks: Susan Batson Chris Betts Ken Blackburn Anne Britton Hannah Charlton Ivana Chubbuck Sue Cowden Emma Dockery Howard Fine
Bonnie Gillespie Menik Gooneratne Kate Hood Kelly Hoskin Alexis Johns Claudia Karvan Caroline Kennison Nathan Lloyd Barbara Lowing
Allison Meadows Tom McSweeney Kim Moarefi Adam Moore Larry Moss Jane Norris Anna Lise Phillips Ann Robinson Fleur Saville
Jason Siner Matt Skrobalak Veronica Taylor Danielle Tigas Annette Shun Wah Charmene Yap Matt Young Anousha Zarkesh
s I write it’s election eve and I’m at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith about to give the first performance of the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2013 Wharf Revue. It’s my first time with the Revue team but they’re being gentle with me. After all, what self-confessed political junkie could pass up an opportunity to share the stage with Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and (fellow NPC member) Amanda Bishop in this the most bizarre of election years? As I put the finishing touches to, amongst others, my Bronwyn Bishop, my Alan Jones, my Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz, and a little person called Tim Munchkin, I find it very potent to contemplate that I will be onstage playing Tony Abbott probably right at the very moment that he becomes our new Prime Minister. And certainly when I was cast as Marius in the original Australian company of Les Miserables way back in 1987, I never suspected that all these years later I’d reprise Empty Chairs at Empty Tables as a song of desolation for Bill Shorten as he looks around the chamber of the House of Representatives lamenting the loss of all his colleagues who are now no longer MPs. I took time out from these crazy rehearsals a couple of weeks earlier to give the opening address to 92 graduating performers from nine acting schools at our NSW Graduates Day. I also chaired the first session of the day, titled “A Year in the Life of Yesterday’s Graduate”. For this session, along with performer Tess Haubrich, I decided to invite three young actors whom I
recently worked with on my mini-series Devil’s Playground; James Fraser, Matt Levett and Ben Hall (pictured). All proud members of Equity. As executive producer of the project, I had also played a part in the casting of these guys and it was fascinating for the graduates to hear how three different young actors fared on the same set. It was Ben’s first job, having just graduated from the music theatre course at WAAPA, Matt had graduated from the acting course there a couple of years earlier, while James, who played my son in Devils, like his screen dad has been hanging round film sets since the age of 10. Here’s some of what we shared on Graduates Day: Wherever we work we are surrounded by fellow Equity members, enjoying the benefits of Equity contracts and collective agreements. But it’s important to remember that Equity works just as hard for the thousands of members not currently working – or working in less traditional ways. Equity has a full-time policy officer that lobbies government to improve cultural and economic conditions. The Equity Trust spends countless hours tracking down performers and distributing residual payments that we collect for the reuse of your work. In the last quarter we distributed more than $650,000. We fight every day to protect jobs for Australian performers by pursuing and maintaining industry-wide agreements that govern the use of imported artists in film, television and live performance.
And every year the Equity Foundation runs more than 100 workshops and master classes across the country. Free of charge to all members. If you haven’t been to one, as Molly Meldrum used to say, do yourself a favour. As some of the world’s top acting coaches point out in this issue; acting is our craft not our hobby – and a craft must be practiced and perfected. The Equity Foundation also honours our finest. Most recently National Performers Committee selected Jill Perryman and Kevan Johnston as the joint recipients of the 2013 Equity Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Foxtel. Jill and Kevan have sung, danced, acted, inspired, taught and mentored for 60 years. In an industry like ours surely that’s worth celebrating! As is the fact that out of 92 graduates attending our NSW Graduates Day we had 100 per cent sign-up and by days end 92 more proud members of Equity. Good on you guys – and welcome to our industry! Thanks for reading. Simon Burke Equity president
Message from the NZ president
s I write this editorial we have just concluded negotiations for our first recommended agreement for screen productions and we have officially established an Actors Benevolent Fund. These are two huge achievements that I am immensely proud of. The recommended agreement is not only a step forward for performers’ rights; it is a step forward for the industry as a whole. Negotiated between Equity and SPADA over more than two years, this is the first successful collaborative effort between Equity and an employers’ body in many years. We consulted widely with you about what you wanted to see in the agreement and your Performers Committee believes we have achieved some real wins that will improve the working lives of actors in this country. The agreement will be put a vote at members’ meetings this month. The road to our first agreement has been long and, at times, challenging. Without the strength of the Equity membership getting a good result simply wouldn’t have been possible. The establishment of the NZ Actors Benevolent Fund is another shining example of why we as an organisation are able to achieve so much with so little. I am one of the very proud trustees and it
heartens me that so many performers and others within the arts community have been only too willing to also get involved, get this fund off the ground and commit to being a part of it as it grows and assists performers in need. Special mention must go to our patrons Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Sam Neill as well as my fellow trustees Pamela Fauvel, Richard Thompson, Jeff Szusterman, and Tandi Wright and the fundraising committee, which includes Equity members Jess Sayer, Richard Knowles, Laura Hill, Romy Hooper, Jodie Hillock, Alison Quigan, Natalie Beran and Jordan Selwyn. A Wellington fundraising committee is also being established. The Fund is a non-for profit charity that will provide assistance to professional performers, both young and old, who are unable to work, either temporarily or in some cases for the rest of their lives because of an injury, illness or disability. Supported by the Fundraising Committee and trustees, the Fund will provide both financial and practical assistance to those in need. Before that can happen we need to get fundraising. If you have any fundraising ideas please let us know! You can find our more by visiting the Fund’s new website www.nzabf.org.nz or Facebook page www.facebook.com/Actors-Benevolent-Fund-
New-Zealand As you will see on pages 6-7 of this issue, more and more often we are seeing theatre casts that are 100 per cent Equity. Apart from the day to day security and support Equity provides for members we also have a number of initiatives that aim to help you build a strong, sustainable career here and abroad. I’m really pleased to announce that in November the hugely popular Casting Hothouse will return to Auckland. Applications will be open to all financial members of NZ Equity from October 1 (www.equityfoundation.org.au) so make sure you throw your hat in the ring! This event is made possible with the generous support of our friends at the New Zealand Film Commission. Keep your eye on the E-Bulletin for the latest announcements about this exciting event and details about the progress of the recommended agreement. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou Jennifer Ward-Lealand NZ Equity president
Simon Burke with James Fraser, Matt Levett and Ben Hall at NSW Graduates’ Day
Message from the Equity president
New deal for TV drama actors
Australian Equity members have voted overwhelmingly in support of the new Actors TV Programs Agreement (ATPA), which Equity has been negotiating with the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) for the last two years. The agreement provides for an 11% increase of in minimum rates over the life of the agreement with the first 3.5% to be effective immediately and two further increases to follow before the end of 2013. In addition to the 11% wage increase, the agreement includes a “diversity in casting” clause that encourages the inclusion of performers from diverse ethnic backgrounds or with a disability, and improvements in provisions relating to pay for stunt rehearsals, options, nudity, medical appointments and greenroom facilities. Wardrobe and rehearsal allowances will also increase by 11% and expense allowances will continue to increase annually in line with CPI. Employer superannuation contributions will remain 1% above the superannuation guarantee legislation. For further information visit www.alliance.org.au or call Equity on 1300 65 65 12.
A sense of benevolence
Equity is proud to announce that the New Zealand Actors Benevolent Fund (NZABF) is now up and running. World-renowned soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and New Zealand screen legend Sam Neill are to be patrons of the fund. Dame Kanawa said: “The Actors Benevolent Fund is a time honoured nonprofit charity. It provides assistance to performers who are unable to work due to illness or injury.
Jill Perryman and Kevan Johnston in the 1995 production of Hello Dolly
Many of these performers are household names who have devoted their lives to the entertainment of others. This is our chance to give back to them, and to honour those who have contributed so much to our cultural landscape. It is benevolence in the true sense of the word. Charities like this are commonplace overseas. It’s time New Zealand had one too.” Neill said: “The performing arts can be immensely rewarding and often just as cruel. Inevitably there are many casualties when sadly, later in life, many actors are left in poverty and distress. In this fragile industry the Actors’ Benevolent Fund is a way to redress the balance and give back to those in need. The generosity of performers is legendary – very often they donate their skills and work for free. This is a mark of us growing up as an industry: performers looking after performers.” The NZABF will be supported by a board of trustees – including NZ Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand – and a fundraising committee. Further details at www.nzabf.org.nz
An iPad for your thoughts…
The agreement that sets minimum terms and conditions for performers working in theatre expires at the end of the year. What would you like to see in the next Performers Collective Agreement (PCA)? Equity has prepared a survey so that Australian performers can tell us what you want us to push for at the negotiating table with Live Performance Australia (LPA). Your responses will remain confidential and everyone that completes the survey goes in the running to win an iPad mini. Visit www.alliance.org.au
Equity fights excess opera imports
Equity has met with Opera Australia’s principal artists as well as management about the company’s planned use of overseas artists next year. Equity believes the current import excesses are denying sustainable careers to local singers. Equity and Opera Australia will meet again in the coming weeks to continue talks about the importation of singers in
2014 and to discuss a revised agreement for future years. Equity will continue to argue that imports should only occur when there is a clear rationale (e.g. the artist is internationally renowned or demonstrably no one in Australia can sing a role) and that there needs to be a definite cap.
Know your rights
Recording a rehearsal or performance of a live production is not legal under the Performers Collective Agreement or the Live Performance Award (unless it is for publicity purposes or for an archival recording). You should never allow yourself to be recorded unless a proper agreement is in place that covers use of the recording. If you have questions contact Equity on 1300 65 65 12.
Jill and Kevan honoured by Equity
Jill Perryman and Kevan Johnston are the joint recipients of the 2013 Equity Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Foxtel. Actors Equity president Simon Burke said: “Together
Jill and Kevan have sung, danced and acted their way into our hearts for six decades. They receive this prestigious award not only because of their remarkable careers in the Australian entertainment industry but for being inspiring friends, teachers and mentors to countless performers within our community.” Todd McKenney was among the many Australian performers who nominated Kevan and Jill for the award. “Both Jill and Kevan have not only inspired millions of theatre goers in Australia due to their brilliant performances in a vast number of shows but more importantly they have continued to encourage young theatrical stars of the future to follow their dreams. On a personal note, Kevan taught me to ‘dance like a bloke’ and Jill amazed me every time I watched her perform on TV, stage or in concert. Working opposite Jill in The Boy From Oz will always be one of the most wonderful memories for me.” Jill and Kevan were selected from many nominees by Equity’s National Performers Committee and will be honoured at celebrations in Perth and Melbourne next month.
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The world at her feet Elizabeth Shingleton speaks with a rising star of contemporary dance, Charmene Yap
Photo by Wendell Teodoro
s 2013 recipient of Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer at the Australian Dance Awards, held recently in Canberra, Charmene Yap is thrilled by the honour and what it represents – an eclectic career embracing many years of dedication and personal growth. A committed Equity member who is currently with Sydney Dance Company (SDC), her enthusiasm epitomises the thriving industry we now have in Australia. Sydney born and bred, Charmene started dancing around the age of seven. “When I was younger, I used to skip around a lot, so my mum put me in gymnastics and then dance classes,” she says. She studied under Helen Taylor at Northbridge Performing Arts Centre (now Northbridge Dance Studios) until Year 12. As well as being a talented dancer, Charmene was academically gifted. By the end of school, she was “geared towards architecture” at Sydney University – her father is an architect and her mother is also in the building industry. But, as her dance teacher said, “If I wanted to do architecture, I could always come back to it, but if I wanted to dance, it might not be possible later on.” So she auditioned for WAAPA and was accepted. “I thought I’d try it out for a year, and a year became three, and I completed my Bachelor of Arts in 2006, majoring in dance.” In her second year, Charmene spent a semester on exchange at Purchase College in New York, where she worked with renowned choreographer Karole Armitage. Then, in her final year at WAAPA, she was awarded a scholarship to attend the TaipeIDEA Intensive in Taiwan – a three-week course at the prestigious Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA). It was in Taiwan that she had what was to become one of her most influential meetings – with German-born choreographer and dancer Tanja Liedtke who, Charmene says, “opened up a different side of dance: dance theatre. It was a real eye-opener for me.” After graduation, Charmene travelled to Adelaide to spend time with Liedtke as she
created what was to be her last work, construct, before her untimely death in 2007. Later, in 2009, Charmene joined Paul White and Kristina Chan to dance construct in Israel and Canada. “It was a huge deal for me, getting to know her,” she says. Soon after university, Charmene received an Australia Council Skills and Arts Development Grant for young and emerging artists. For about three years, she worked in a freelance capacity with
independent choreographers, including Lucy Guerin, and with different companies. After a private audition with Rafael Bonachela, she joined the SDC in January 2010. “It was a good time, a new beginning for Sydney Dance Company and a new beginning for me,” she says. Bonachela was finishing up with his eponymous dance company in London, to take up his fulltime directorship with SDC. Charmene has received a host of accolades, including a Helpmann Award for Best Female Dancer for her performance in
Bonachela’s 2 One Another in 2012. “Over the years, every experience I’ve had has been really different – it has kept me growing,” says Charmene. She embraces each and every choreographer for their individual style and approach. From Bonachela’s “dynamic quality and use of classical lines” to the beautifully conceptual work of artists such as Gideon Obarzanek who employs “another totally different movement quality and aesthetic”. And she is quick to thank those who have encouraged her along the way, in particular, head of dance at WAAPA, Nanette Hassall. Charmene’s recent involvement in Les Illuminations in the Sydney Opera House Studio was especially exhilarating. Choreographed by Bonachela to the music of Benjamin Britten, it saw eight dancers perform on a catwalk to create “a really intimate experience ... very raw and exposing”. Her holistic philosophy means that, for Charmene, contemporary dance’s boundaries remain undefined. “My first dance teacher opened my eyes up to possibilities; there are a lot of great things happening out there,” she says. “As an artist in Australia today, you can study full-time contemporary dance and make a living.” Elizabeth Shingleton is a Victorian-based performer and writer
Casting off the clichés
Our new Diversity Committee is made up of volunteers from across Australia who want to see an entertainment industry that better reflects the world we live in. Here, three actor members from diverse backgrounds share their stories
Photo by Zan Wimberly
ANNETTE SHUN WAH
It’s a little unnerving for me to admit it’s 27 years since I got my first regular TV gig, fronting the SBS rock-music show, The Noise. Around the same time, two other young women from Asian backgrounds debuted on the small screen: one as a reporter on the ABC’s The Edge of The Wedge, and the other on the children’s show off the dish. I thought it was the dawning of a new age of cultural diversity on Australian TV. The trouble was, everyone kept mistaking me for one or other of my fellow presenters. Here we were, beacons of cultural diversity, but no one could tell us apart. Have things changed? There seems to be a greater mix of faces on our screens and stages, as well as occasional appearances of actors with disabilities, but they are certainly not in any way representative of the Australian population. It makes our claims of being an inclusive multicultural society ring hollow. For me, it’s not just about scoring high in the game of ‘spot the ethnic’. Creating meaningful roles and richer storylines are crucial to helping us understand and appreciate the evolving diversity of the connected world in which we live. Recently, I’ve been producing shows for Performance 4a, in which Australians
The cast of Stories Then & Now, including Annette Shun Wah (far left)
It’s not just about scoring high in the game of ‘spot the ethnic’… Creating meaningful roles and richer storylines are crucial of Asian background tell compelling stories linking their families’ pasts with modern-day Australia. The shows have been revelatory for audience members, who suddenly realise that the lives of neighbours and workmates, seemingly so ordinary on the surface, hide fascinating and surprising twists and turns, equally as enthralling as much of the scripted drama on offer. For those in the audience who share similar backgrounds and personal experiences, the effect of hearing those stories is incredibly empowering. Why do we persist with formulaic, predictable plots and characters, when we are surrounded by such rich stories? Isn’t it time we truly embraced the drama, wisdom and beauty that diversity offers? Perhaps, then, we’ll be able to tell each other apart.
I have had the privilege of working as an actor since 1977, and have been a member of Actors Equity since that time. I have performed in theatre, musical theatre, television, film and radio, and have written and directed. In 2002, I was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disease, HSP (hereditary spastic paraplegia). Over a decade, I have gone from walking unsteadily to being a full-time wheelchair user. My experience of being disabled and an actor is that there is a blank space around me – I am largely invisible in my everyday life and also, unfortunately, within my chosen profession. The stories that are told on our screens and stages rarely include people with disability. And because the stories are not being written, there is no need to include actors with disability in the auditioning processes of theatre companies, castings for film or auditions for television. It is a misconception that, if a person is disabled, they have less intelligence, talent or desire to participate meaningfully in the acting profession. Talent and dedication do not discriminate. But Australia is at a turning point. At last, there is a conversation happening about disability in the arts, with the formation of Equity’s Diversity Committee. And, in the case of Back to Back Theatre and The Other Film Festival, the achievements within the Australian disability/arts community are being acclaimed internationally. Given that 20 per cent of Australians have some form of disability, it seems logical that we should be represented 20 per cent of the time. I also think it is a given that actors with disability should play themselves. I look forward to the day when disability is seen as nothing more than human variation – and I’ll be auditioning for roles alongside my able-bodied colleagues.
Kate Hood performs at the Words in Winter Festival
So where are you from? Hawthorn. No, before that? I grew up in Mount Waverley. No, where were you born? England. No, where are you really from … originally? Where am I from before I was born? Well, my parents were born in Sri Lanka. Ah, so you’re Sri Lankan! Actually, I’m Australian. Your English is pretty good. I should hope so – it’s the only language I can speak. Even after decades of fielding these types of questions, I am not fully used to it. No matter how well-meaning the asker, ultimately it’s a frustratingly constant reminder that, because of the hue of my skin, in their eyes I am not a ‘genuine’ Australian. I am ‘different’. Here’s the truth. I am not exotic or mysterious. I don’t speak in broken English. I didn’t dramatically escape a war-torn country to resettle here. I don’t wear saris to the supermarket. I can’t cook curry to save myself. I don’t have a medical degree. And yet, until very recently, characters with these traits were the only ones our industry felt someone of my hue could play.
I am the friend. I am the wife or partner. I am the girl next door. And after spending the better part of a decade trying to convince the industry that I could believably play this type of ‘everyday’ character, I finally got the chance. Two years ago, I had the immense pleasure of joining the main cast of Neighbours. But instead of being a time to celebrate this progressive step, the announcement of my casting and the subsequent months led to a barrage of racial abuse and outrage that brown people were ‘invading’ Ramsay Street and ‘stealing jobs’ from hardworking Australians. Unfortunately, no amount of telling myself this was just a vocal minority made their comments any less hurtful. For me, the push for diversity on our screens goes a lot further than just opening doors for a host of exceptionally talented Australian actors. Our industry has a social and moral responsibility to help break the stereotypes and fear-mongering that are contributing to the community’s increased hostility towards anyone who appears ‘different’. Racial intolerance stems from a fear of the unknown, so reflecting Australian society on our screens for what it really is, especially on commercial TV, will go a long way towards eliminating this ugly us-versusthem mentality.
EQUITY EQUALS DIVERSITY In Australia, Actors Equity is working hard to bring the issues associated with casting diversity to the forefront. It’s a long road ahead, writes Drew MacRae
creen and stage representation remains an issue of concern for Equity members and Australian and New Zealand audiences. While there have been some improvements in recent times, there has long been an awareness amongst performers that, at least anecdotally, the presence on stages and screens of performers from under-represented groups has been far from ideal. Australian Actors Equity has made a number of positive moves over the last few years in raising the issue of casting diversity with producers and working together to improve the situation. Clauses have been introduced into our collective agreements with the screen producers and with live performance producers that commit producers to non-discrimination and flexible, imaginative casting policies. Screen producers have, for example, agreed to attach a “diverse casting” statement to contracts with directors and casting consultants. The ABC has also introduced a “Diversity in Casting” policy which includes a self-assessment
framework that will help build a statistical picture of onscreen representation on the ABC. These are significant steps in ensuring greater diversity and representation on our screens and our stages. However, there remains much to be done to counter actual and perceived failures with respect to diversity casting. To this end the National Performers Committee established the Equity Diversity Committee earlier this year to promote, advocate and realise the principles of diverse casting and address issues of diversity more broadly. The Committee has met twice now and will develop recommendations with respect to a series of areas where Equity could seek to enact positive change. This will include developing communications and industrial strategies to promote diversity casting, looking into data collection and potential research, and working on establishing workshops with producers and casting directors. The Australian committee has over
My casting …led to a barrage of racial abuse and outrage that brown people were ‘invading’ Ramsay Street and ‘stealing jobs’ from hardworking Australians
The Australian Equity Casting Diversity Committee Amanda Bishop Andy Minh Trieu Annette Shun Wah Bali Padda Barbara Harvey Candy Bowers Curtis Fernandez Doris Younane Eddie Tang Eileen Camilleri Elena Carapetis Emma J Hawkins Greg Dias Jason Klarwein Jay Laga’Aia Jonathan Chan Jonathan Christian La Fontaine
Jonathan Mill Joy Hopwood Kasia Kaczmarek Kate Hood Maria Papas Maureen Andrew Menik Gooneratne Ming-Zhu Hii Nicholas Brown Pearl Tan Quentin Yung Robert Jago Sachin Joab Serhat Caradee Yalin Ozucelik
30 members now, all passionate about the issues and keen get moving. If you too are keen drop us a line and get involved: email@example.com Drew MacRae is the federal policy officer of Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
Diversity today: the trans-Pacific view In the United States, SAG-AFTRA’s Equal Employment Opportunities & Diversity Department works tirelessly to advocate on behalf of its members who, because they don’t fit in the mainstream box, are often ‘invisible’ when it comes to casting. The union’s Adam Moore reports
espite the remarkable and often revolutionary history of entertainment and media, much of the global population is still missing from our screens and airwaves. In the United States, the historically underrepresented stories and experiences of our ‘diverse communities’— people of colour, seniors, women, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals — are often invisible in the very media that have served as the most valuable and far-reaching record of our culture. These projects should accurately reflect the world around us, depicating all of our communities in authentic and meaningful ways. However, these specific groups and their stories are missing from our media landscape. Since their inceptions in the 1930s, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), now SAG-AFTRA, have recognised this lack of employment opportunity and have sought to remedy it by instituting formal policies of nondiscrimination in the hiring and treatment of covered workers in these fields, as well as implementing industry-wide advocacy efforts to complement the formal policies. As the spectrum and definition of diversity continues to broaden and encompass more and more of the population, SAG-AFTRA has intensified our commitment to diversifying the entertainment and media industries. To this end, our Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) & Diversity Department was established to focus on three core areas to directly influence attitudes and hiring practices: inclusion, access and protection.
Diverse stories = diverse hiring In June the Sag Foundation hosted a panel discussion in New York entitled The American Scene On-Screen: Diversifying Our Stories
As anyone who consumes entertainment and media can tell you, much of the time, only a fraction of our many stories are being told. As a result, only a fraction of our diverse membership is employed to tell those stories.
By working with industry professionals who make or influence hiring decisions, we take advantage of every opportunity to convince them of the inherent value in creating projects that include traditionally underrepresented communities and their stories. Recognising that this business, like most businesses, is often focused on minimising risk — both real and perceived — we emphasise productions that have successfully tapped into previously marginalised experiences and realities. One of the ways we shine a spotlight on these projects is through awards that
It is.. up to each and every one of us to demand more inclusive content by deciding where we will spend our time and our money in this everchanging entertainment and media landscape recognise diverse casting. The SAG-AFTRA American Scene Awards are bestowed on union productions that most intelligently and progressively employ the talents of people of colour, people with disabilities, women, seniors, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, and other misrepresented or underrepresented groups to realistically portray our society — what we call the American Scene. Additionally, the SAGAFTRA-sponsored Media Access Awards are given to union members and advocates in the area of disability. SAG-AFTRA also offers a real financial inducement to independent filmmakers through the Diversity-in-Casting Incentive, by allowing those productions that meet certain hiring criteria to utilise union talent for a reduced rate, thus encouraging producers to hire a more diverse cast. For more information, please visit www.sagaftra.org/ content/for-producers
Panellists at a Sag event in New York discuss casting diversity. From left: SAG-AFTRA’s Adam Moore, casting directors John Ort and Marci Phillips, manager Annette Alvarez and filmmaker/actor Rashaad Ernesto Green
It’s not who you are, it’s what you can play
Although there are United States laws and regulations, as well as provisions within SAG-AFTRA agreements, to ensure a level playing field, not everyone has access to all jobs for which they are qualified. So whether it is a breakdown that indicates a performer ‘must be’ of a particular ethnic background or a report from the front lines that employers are asking people to prove their age or tribal affiliation, we are constantly working to ensure genuinely equal access for everyone. This allows performers to do what they do best — perform — and gives them a chance to demonstrate their skills and bring all of their training and expertise to bear in a fair and unbiased environment. It is often something as simple as re-wording a breakdown to include “must have the ability to portray” some specific character type, as opposed to insisting that someone must actually be the same age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality and so on of the character.
We also offer classes, clinics and seminars designed to improve professional skills and knowledge of the industry, so that when we work with productions that are actively seeking out people from underserved communities, members have the best chance of landing that job and, ultimately, making a life and career in this business. In the EEO & Diversity Department, we provide individual and customised consultations for producers and their agents, as they craft their job descriptions and endeavour to find qualified talent.
Everyone should be able to work in a safe environment
Sadly, despite incredible progress over many decades, our workplaces aren’t always free of discrimination or harassment. Whether in the audition room or on the job, not everyone feels as if they are protected from inexcusable and unprofessional behaviour. Additionally, we are still informed of instances where people with disabilities are not provided with the reasonable accommodations that they are 12
guaranteed under federal and state law. From the moment a casting notice is posted until the job has wrapped, SAG-AFTRA is committed to protecting its members and anyone who is employed under its contracts from unlawful discrimination and harassment. A 24-hour Discrimination/Harassment/ Accessibility Hotline allows members to report on-set situations, no matter what the time. We also provide resources and advice to employers, as well as SAG-AFTRA members and their representatives, on issues of diversity, equal employment and non-discrimination.
WORKING FOR CHANGE
While there are many obstacles to achieving higher levels of inclusion, access and protection, there are hopeful signs. In addition to the areas already mentioned, the SAG-AFTRA EEO & Diversity Department provides support and guidance to the union’s diversity-related committees, including the Asian Pacific American Media Committee; Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Annette E Alvarez, founder of New York’s Multi-Ethnic Talent Management
Award-winning filmmaker Rashaad Ernesto Green
In the United States, the historically underrepresented stories and experiences of our ‘diverse communities’– people of colour, seniors, women, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals – are often invisible in the very media that have served as the most valuable and far-reaching record of our culture Transgender Committee; Native Americans Committee; Performers with Disabilities Committee; Seniors Committee; and Women’s Committee. Each of these is comprised of member leaders who volunteer their time and energy to advocate for increased inclusion of historically marginalised groups. With the support of the entire union, these committees initiate programming that includes industry experts and decision-makers participating in forums to candidly discuss these topics. As well, we facilitate practical workshops and seminars that give all members the opportunity to learn from, and engage with, each other. These events also provide the chance for members to interact with casting
directors, agents, writers, directors and producers outside the pressure-filled jobseeking process. We do whatever we can to highlight union projects that exemplify the philosophy of inclusion by hosting screenings, and networking and informational gatherings for members and content producers. We gather, analyse and share relevant information on the diversity landscape in media, and examine the data in historical context. You can find all of our research to date on our website. Visit www.sagaftra.org/content/ studies-and-reports The progress we’ve made would not have been possible without similar efforts on the part of individual advocacy and civil-rights
organisations, other unions and the general public. The future of diversity in entertainment and media is dependent on all of these forces. Our strategy is to work collaboratively where initiatives and interests coincide and to build relationships that foster our initiatives and successes. We seek to continue empowering our membership and increasing our influence with industry professionals by devising creative and supportive ways to deliver our message of a diverse and accurate reflection of the American Scene. Certainly, direct responsibility for increasing the level of diversity rests squarely on the shoulders of writers, producers and other industry executives, who are creating the stories and deciding which ones will be funded. It is, however, also up to each and every one of us to demand more inclusive content by deciding where we will spend our time and our money in this ever-changing entertainment and media landscape. Adam Moore is the national director of Equal Opportunity and Diversity at SAG-AFTRA
Lessons for life With a stellar reputation across the globe, acting coach Ivana Chubbuck tells Lizzie Franks about her famous method and why it gets results
ould you go to a doctor who decided after university that they weren’t going to keep learning about the latest advances? No. You go to the person who keeps educating themselves. Education is the key to evolving as a human being.” Ivana Chubbuck, one of the most sought-after acting coaches in the world, is understandably passionate about actors continuing to study their craft long after they have left drama school or landed their first gig. “The people who continue to study continue to work. The people who stop, don’t,” she says. “I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s that simple.” Chubbuck founded the Ivana Chubbuck Studios in Los Angeles more than 20 years ago and is author of Los Angeles Times bestseller The Power of the Actor. She travels the world teaching the Chubbuck Technique and provides private coaching to the likes of Halle Berry and Brad Pitt. When I arrive to interview Chubbuck at her home in West Hollywood, she is
wrapping up a coaching session with Australian actor Travis Fimmel. Once best-known for a high-profile Calvin Klein advertising campaign, he is now the lead in critically acclaimed television drama Vikings, which has been renewed for a second season. “I credit all of my success to Ivana,” says Fimmel, who has known Chubbuck for 13 years. “I came to her because I wanted to work with the best, and everyone I respected told me she was the best.” One of the most important aspects of Chubbuck’s 12-step acting technique involves ‘accessing your personal pain’. “No one wants to do that but, as an actor, you’ve got to,” says Fimmel. “There’s a lot of shit you have to dig up and Ivana makes that as easy as possible.” Chubbuck, who studied cultural anthropology, behavioural science and psychology at university, says her method isn’t just a way to act – it’s a way to live life. “I recently had a woman in one of my classes who was Harvard-educated,” she says. “After studying with me, she said my book should be a must-read for all psychology students. It’s not just about acting. It’s about human nature, and understanding that we don’t use 14
Ivana teaching a workshop
the bad stuff to have a pity party – we use it to learn and grow and be better. It’s all about taking the pain of your life and, instead of self-destructing with it, using it to overcome obstacles and to win.” When Chubbuck talks about “winning”, she says she means “the idea that you are not going to allow losing to be part of your mentality. No matter what your boyfriend says or your mother did. You make a conscious decision: I am going to attempt to win in spite of that.” Chubbuck says the method isn’t “intense” but rather “cathartic”. “Most people take pain and self-destruct with it. Leaders, people who accomplish great things in the world, are the people who take the same pain and use it to impassion and fuel their ability to overcome and accomplish. “A lot of teachers say, bring up your pain just to make it truthful – but what do you then do with all that pain? It sticks like glue. Actors are sometimes told the more pain they explore and stick on their bodies, hearts and souls, the better they’ll be. But that just gets depressing.” Lyndelle Green, an Australian acting
Ivana’s best-selling book has been published in several languages
coach accredited to teach the Chubbuck Technique, says the method is “a quick way in for actors to get to the core of a character and understand the meaning of a script”. Green, who has hosted a number of oversubscribed Chubbuck workshops for the Equity Foundation, says she loves to teach the technique because “it is such a privilege to watch actors work through the process and come up with powerful performances”. She spent six months studying at the Chubbuck studio in 2010. “This one technique stuck with me because I saw actors really quickly connect to the need of the character. It gives actors very practical skills that are easy to understand and put into place immediately.” Chubbuck says because her technique “makes logical sense”, every student improves in some way. “There’s a process that involves exploring who you are via the character on the page. As you are trying to figure out the character, you are having revelations about yourself. That gives you revelations about the character which gives you more revelations about yourself. And this keeps growing.”
I credit all of my success to Ivana Travis Fimmel
One of Chubbuck’s best-known students, Halle Berry, thanked her publicly for her Academy Award-winning performance in Monster’s Ball. “Her philosophy transcends what we once knew about the art and forces actors through their own catharsis to discover authentic ways of bringing the complexity of life to the screen and stage,” Berry said. “Under Ivana’s tutelage, the course of my career and depth of my work have changed dramatically.” “I was really proud of Halle,” Chubbuck says. “She called me the next day and said, ‘It’s our Oscar because it’s your ideas on the screen.’ That’s the humbleness of some of the people I work with.” Kim Krejus, artistic director of the 16th Street Actors Studio in Melbourne, describes Chubbuck as “one of the greatest acting teachers of our time”. Krejus is an accredited
teacher of the Chubbuck Technique and has brought her to Australia to host a series of masterclasses. Next year, she is planning to bring Chubbuck back to Australia. “She has a profound ability to understand what drives human beings and, because of this, can lead actors into revealing what lies beneath the surface of human behaviour,” says Krejus. “I believe she offers Australian and New Zealand actors the opportunity to be fearless, dynamic and insightful in the choices they make to reveal a character’s fundamental need.” In spite of the endless praise she receives from her students and the fact that she consistently works with award-winning actors, Chubbuck says she is no guru. “Hollywood guru. I mean, come on! Too many people in my industry who are acting coaches want to be a guru and I think that’s the very reason that are not – because they are making it about their ego, and education has to be selfless. If I make it about me, I am not going to make it about you.” Lizzie Franks is editor of The Equity Magazine
Continuing education â€“ why it pays dividends Lizzie Franks speaks with three of the best coaches in the business about why actors at all levels of the profession should never stop honing their craft
Founder of the Howard Fine Acting Studio in Hollywood and author of Fine on Acting: A Vision of the Craft, Fine has been coaching actors for more than 30 years, as well as directing numerous successful theatre productions. In 2011, he opened a studio in Melbourne Lizzie Franks: What have been your impressions since opening your first Australian studio? Howard Fine: Very excited to come to Australia. The level of talent here, the commitment, and the level of appreciation for the training is really infectious. As a culture, I find the Australians humble. I think it has to do with the philosophy of the tallest poppy getting chopped down. I think that is a beautiful thing because there is a humility, and a level of gratitude and appreciation that is incredibly welcoming. LF: Why do you think professional training is so important? HF: Very rarely do actors get to fully stretch out in the jobs they do. For example, I have this student who was a regular on Chuck for the entire run of the series. That was a great pay cheque but he wasn’t getting to do the serious work that he really loved, so class was his sanity during that time. I love that. Actors are saying, okay, it’s not just about getting a pay cheque; I want to keep working on my craft, I want to never stop growing. That truly is the artistic spirit – the real artist is never satisfied; they’re always looking to improve. LF: Can you tell us a bit about your background? HF: I started in New York, where I was head of the acting department at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. I was made chairman of the department when I was 24. It was an amazing thing to happen. Then I went out to Los Angeles in 1985 and started simply coaching actors in my living room, and that built into what became the studio. It wasn’t really all a plan and my work is very derivative of Uta Hagen. I’ve taken that and made it work for today’s actors, especially in television and film. LF: There are so many methods and coaches and drama schools out there … what sets the Howard Fine Studio apart? HF: I never really think about what others are doing. If I had any skill in my own life, it would be my ability to recognise truth from BS. I do the same thing as a teacher and I teach actors to do it, as well – never to worry about what others are doing, but think about what is authentically you. I try not to be the guru. I don’t encourage neurotic dependency on me as the teacher. I do classes, not therapy. I’m there as a colleague to challenge them, to push
them, to help them grow. Never do I give every note. I give a few specific things, so the actors can struggle with it and solve it themselves, so that when they have a breakthrough, it’s their breakthrough, not mine. LF: Have you found any differences between working with people at your Los Angeles studio and here in Australia? HF: Yes. When I first started coming here, a lot of the actors were approaching everything externally, coming up with a plan for cleverness to make the scene interesting, to make it work. Laurence Olivier once said, “Don’t ask who I’ve become to play the character. Ask who the character becomes because I play it.” My entire approach is to get actors to realise that if they try to be unique, they’re going to be everybody else. You can’t try to be special. If they draw from their real selves, their own sources, their own lives, their own beings, they’re already unique and they will be special. LF: The auditing process is something you’ve really introduced into our culture. What do actors get out of it? HF: First of all, they are encouraged to watch a certain way, to watch colleagues and learn from them. As they are watching the critiques, they’re getting the lessons that everybody else who’s participating would be getting. At the end of each day, I open up to questions and answers, so the auditors get to interact with me and I am teaching them, as well. LF: What are some of the most common questions you get from auditors? HF: This is not a rational career choice – nobody in their right mind would do it! – you have to do it because you’re driven to do it, and you have to do it because you love the craft itself. I always say, when the Olympics are on, those athletes are at the top of their sports and yet they’ve got their coaches right with them, and the coaches are still pushing them. We respect athletes because we know the amount of time and practice they put in. If we want respect for our own craft, we have to demand the same standards. The difference is that great acting looks effortless, but isn’t. We don’t watch any of the great Olympic events thinking we could ski down that giant slalom: gee, that looks easy, I think I’ll do that. But with great acting, you can’t see the technique, you shouldn’t see the technique; it should look effortless. That’s why everybody thinks that because it looks easy, it is easy, and that’s wrong. LF: You’ve spent so much time with actors, what would you say about the impact that the competitiveness can have on a person? HF: It can be very devastating because you have to know how to cope with rejection, which happens more often than not. And on every level. I’ve worked with very famous
actors who are being offered roles but sometimes have to audition for the very special roles they really want, so rejection is always part of this. I think people have to make a good daily life. You can’t postpone happiness until you get the next thing. You can lead a life that makes you happy every day, so that when you walk into a room, you’re not desperate, you’re not angry. The worst thing is to get a chip on your shoulder and start creating this adversarial relationship with the industry. When my students start complaining about casting directors or agents, I say, don’t generalise. You have a right to say this individual was rude to you, but don’t start generalising, because to me that’s the root of all prejudice. We categorise, rather than taking people on an individual basis. There’s no great conspiracy going on to keep you down. Actors have got to be able to walk into rooms and not need anything from anybody. To do the work for the joy of doing it, not to get you something, because that will make you tight and angry, and cause you to be artificial in your work.
Founder of The Larry Moss Studio in Los Angeles, Moss is one of the most soughtafter acting coaches in the world. In 2004, he published The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor. He is also the director of numerous stage and screen productions. Among many others, Moss coached Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby, Tobey Maguire in Seabiscuit and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator, The Departed, Blood Diamond, Inception and J. Edgar Lizzie Franks: You have been to Australia several times in recent years. What were your impressions during the events you held? Larry Moss: I was brought over by the 16th Street Studio. My experience was exhilarating and educational because the spirit of the actors was so positive. They were so open to my love for playwrights and hungry to meet new ones. I am a big believer in an actor being a conduit for the writer, and not being caught up in the narcissism and egocentricity of being an actor – making it all about them and being famous. First and foremost I ask, do you even understand the craft of acting and what it entails? To become a good actor means being emotionally available, vocally powerful, physically powerful and with an intellect to be able to break down an individual playwright. What I find travelling the world and teaching this class is that people say, this is what I have been waiting for … I have been waiting for the playwright … to be excited to
bring the playwright’s world to life. I felt in Australia they were primed for that. Much to my amazement, there were almost 300 people auditing the class, plus the 32 participating, and the positivity and support towards every actor in that workshop was infectious. The talent pool in Australia astonished me and every time I’ve gone there – three times and I think I’ll make the fourth time in January – I have been astounded by the talent. LF: Why is continuous study important? LM: As you live your life, you grow emotionally, psychologically and philosophically, and you want to be able to have a voice that stays strong. Laurence Olivier took voice classes until two years before he died. Most people who know the theatre know that, when he played Othello, he took a year of vocal work to drop his voice an entire octave. To say I am not going to study and read plays, work on my voice, work on different accents and find out who my ancestors were, what countries I come from, what is my blood memory … there is so much to learn that helps you become a better and better acting artist. To say, I’ve gone to theatre school and I’m done is an atrocity. You never stop learning. LF: You have a great love of the theatre, don’t you? LM: A lot of young actors say, I don’t want to do theatre; I want to do television and film. The thing is, you can grow old in the theatre. Parts you couldn’t play in your 20s you can play in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Youth is not a prerequisite, as it is in movies and television. You have to earn the right to grow old on film but you have the inherent right to grow old in the theatre. LF: Has the cult of celebrity eroded performers’ interest in theatre because there’s not so much chance of achieving huge celebrity status? LM: I think we live in an enormously narcissistic time, where we are looking at reality shows where someone becomes a celebrity simply for being a fake actor – it tricks the minds of young people into believing looks and personality are more important than being able to play different characters. In Hollywood, a lot of agents and managers will say, well, you’re an attractive person, you have a nice personality, don’t change yourself, don’t become theatrical, don’t become ‘acty’; we can sell you, we can get you in a series. I have seen many people who are attractive and talented be on a series for 10 years. Who am I to say that is a bad thing? They become wealthy and world-renowned. But I have seen so many sad cases. They are no longer young and they haven’t worked on their voice, they haven’t worked on different kinds of characters, and yet they’re famous. That to me is a very tragic situation. I think we are hurting our young actors
Larry with actors Mark Diaco and Dan Hamill at a workshop in Australia
I am a big believer in an actor being a conduit for the writer, and not being caught up in the narcissism and egocentricity of being an actor
by having a fetish for celebrity, instead of an interest in them becoming excellent actors who can do what the best of the English actors do, which is to go from television to film to theatre, back and forth, and not get stuck in one. Theatre actors should do film and TV, and a lot of the great ones do. Look at Judi Dench. Daniel Day-Lewis played Hamlet when he was 23. Meryl Streep did 40 plays before she ever came to the movies. There will always be a place for Daniel Day-Lewis and for Meryl Streep. But they have an enormous passion to bring characters to life and an enormous work ethic. Meryl has said, “I don’t give a character less respect than I give my own life. I want to bring a flesh-and-blood person to life on the screen and on the stage.” And she does. LF: Discussion of your work tends to focus on your famous clients. Does this give the wrong impression of what you are about? LM: I am fully aware that because I work with some film stars, I have more cache as a teacher. Some actors will say, because he works with this person and that person, maybe if I work with him I’ll become famous, too. Well, nobody can know who is going to become a successful actor but one thing I do know is that, if you want to, you can grow and learn the craft of acting. And if you have discipline and consistency and dedication, you can get better and better. There’s the celebrity that stems from excellence, as opposed to the idea of reality shows like the Kardashians. Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep are famous because of how good they are – not because of how they look or because of their personalities, but because they are fine, serious artists. That’s what people come to me to learn and if they don’t come for that, I won’t work with them. LF: Is it true that there is a two-year waiting list to attend your New York classes? LM: There’s, gratefully, an overflow of actors who want to take my workshops and I can’t take everybody. I try to work with as many people as I can but don’t teach constantly. I have been travelling the world doing workshops. I 18
am directing two new plays and I am doing a film. I taught with full classes for 30 years four or five times a week, and when those classes were operating, yes, there was an almosttwo-year wait list. People want to work with teachers who have taught successful actors, and well they should. This teacher has this student and this student, and they won Tony Awards and Emmys, so they must know what they are talking about. They may come because I worked with some celebrity clients, but they stay to fall in love with playwrights. LF: What do you mean when you say “great actors are not acting. They’re living”? LM: Each person you play … they don’t talk like you talk, they don’t walk like you walk. You can’t play Richard III the way you would play Stanley Kowalski or Juliet the way you would play Blanche DuBois. Each character a playwright has written comes from an entire life and you have to create that entire life. There are some people who say you are always yourself. Well, I say, you use yourself – your imagination and personal life – to bring a human being to life rhythmically, physically, emotionally, psychologically. If you watch 10 people pick up a cup of coffee, they all do it slightly differently. That’s what is interesting about acting. The behaviour of an individual that’s different to any other human. It’s about behaviour. And every character that a good writer creates, thinks, feels and behaves differently. And that’s the job of acting. You begin to find the life of that character – their background, their backstory. Some people say to actors, you are always yourself. I say, it’s destructive to tell actors that there are no characters. Talk to Othello. Talk to Blanche DuBois. Talk to King Lear. You use yourself but you live understanding the characters – their minds, their hearts, how they would pick up a cup of coffee. That’s the joy of acting – how does that person behave, or live? Go see Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County, Sophie’s Choice or Death Becomes Her and see all these different women who come
leaping out of her. That’s called living the life of the character that the writer created. LF: What do you mean when you say “the hard work of preparation pays off”? LM: You find the walk, you find the rhythms, you find the tempos, you find the way the body protects itself when it expresses joy or humour or sensuality. They do it through the writer’s imagination and it’s open to interpretation. There are many actors who play Hamlet and they bring their interpretation to life. I remember when Ralph Fiennes played Hamlet on Broadway, he did the “to be or not to be” soliloquy as ‘thought’ and thought is much faster than speech. So he did something that had not been done before: spoke as fast as thought. You were on the edge of your seat. That was the choice he brought. Some people liked it. Some people hated it. But it was an interpretation that was not counter to the play. It was just different to how people had done it before. LF: Is there such a thing as natural talent? LM: There are people I call ‘expressives’. They are not inhibited about laughing or crying, or being silly or sexy. They see it as a way of expressing themselves and when they find a writer they have an aptitude for ‘playing’. Remember, it’s called the ‘play’. They are open and playful. To me, that’s what talent is. But
then you’ve got to learn what character work is. The behaviour of a certain person at a certain time. That takes practice, but natural talent is the desire, the ability and the joy in makebelieve. The job of acting is making believe; it’s not really happening. Making the audience believe it is – that’s the art. What do you mean when you say an actor is talented? It means they understand the play or film they are in, and they bring liveliness to it that makes you forget them and draws you in.
Artistic director of the Susan Batson Studio, LLC, in New York, Batson is a producer, actress, author, acting coach and life member of the Actors Studio. She trained with Harold Clurman, Uta Hagen, Herbert Berghof and Lee Strasberg, and has been described as “a technician of the spirit” by The New Yorker. She works with such actresses as Nicole Kidman and Juliette Binoche, and is considered one of the most significant coaches in the world Lizzie Franks: Could you please tell us a bit about your style of coaching and why it’s so successful? Susan Batson: I think it comes from the tremendous need the actor has in this industry,
right now, to be able to do the work they would like. I’ve been working with Juliette Binoche for the past couple of weeks and she’s getting ready to do a low-budget with no time for rehearsal, and it’s all in English, so she’s got to get her tongue around the language and she’s got to get herself into two characters … it’s an enormous amount of work. Everyone is so different. Even Strasberg said, there’s no such thing as the method; there is a method, but the method belongs to the actor. I worked differently with Nicole Kidman than with Juliette, differently with Juliette than with Jamie Foxx. It’s a whole universe of methods and processes that you can work with so, in truth, I think it’s a need and in a way I’m sorry that it has to be so expensive. It’s one of the reasons I keep the studio and teach, because at least I can give really cheap [lessons] to young actors coming up, who have to get prepared to go out into the real world. LF: You’re an actor, producer and writer. Why do you spend so much of your time now being a coach? SB: I recognise there’s a demand, and I have this tremendous need to be needed [laughs]. I think that’s why it attracts me so much. I feel that keeping the studio alive keeps me honest and immediate, because when you go off with the A-list people, they don’t deal with a lot of
Congratulations to the recipients of the
Equity Lifetime Achievement Award Presented by Foxtel
Jill Perryman & Kevan Johnston
Carnival, private collection of Jill Perryman & Kevan Johnston
10/09/13 5:13 PM
stuff these young people are dealing with – they deal with larger issues. They’ve got their style, they’ve got their thing, they know their way around. They have a process which they have worked out already. It’s fun to work with the talent who are reaching and grabbing for everything, and I feel very needed there, too LF: When someone like Nicole thanks you personally for her Oscar, what does that do for business? SB: It helps a lot. I remember the first one who did that was Tom [Cruise] for his Golden Globe for Magnolia. It was so generous on his part – I think I was the second name mentioned and I was like, what? I swear to you, the next day, Oprah mentioned it and then the phone rang and rang. LF: Because of the cult of celebrity, how many of your students want to be great actors rather than stars? SB: I think it’s very, very fortunate that you cannot just want to be a star in this studio – the work is too hard, too demanding. If you came in thinking that was what it was about, you’d get the message around the first or second class and you’d leave. I never have to kick anybody out; they just disappear and I don’t ever see them again. The industry people who come here say they’ve never seen a group of actors who are so passionate about the work and, for me, that is the biggest compliment I could possibly get – to know we’re keeping alive the art form and we’re about the art form. People walk in the door and say it’s very, very different from [other] places. I’m sure they all want to be stars, I’m sure they all practise their Academy Award speeches in private, but I know that they also have a tremendous respect for this art form. They wouldn’t be able to stay here, that’s the God’s honest truth. LF: There’ll be people reading this article who want to come to your studio in New York. How do they go about it? SB: We try to accommodate them because we have a lot of foreign students – I’d say almost 50 per cent but maybe that’s an exaggeration. We have a program that we can set up for somebody for three months; we don’t usually do less. It doesn’t necessarily give them the work but it gives them a taste of the work. There may be somebody in town who has worked with us before and has come back and said, can I work for two weeks? We’ll say, of course, because they’ve had the background. LF: Do you personally take a lot of the classes? SB: I try to take as many as I can. At the moment, I’m doing three, sometimes four, and then if I know I’m going to be around for a set period of time, I will even teach all of them. LF: Your mother Ruth was a noted civil-rights activist. Did that influence what you are doing today? SB: When I started to do very serious acting, I
I think it’s very, very fortunate that you cannot just want to be a star in this studio – the work is too hard, too demanding found out there was a process that allowed you to open up and show people what was going on inside, and helped people to understand what hurts them. All of a sudden, I thought that my artform was parallel enough to what she [Ruth] was doing, because she was changing the world. I felt like she’d respect the work if she understood that acting mirrors society, so that society learns from what’s being mirrored. But I always was very careful not to play stereotypes. Like I never played a maid and I only played prostitutes who had names, not just prostitutes on the street – a name and a life. LF: Tell us about your trip to Australia last year. SB: It was fascinating and I must have screamed from morning to night. LF: At the actors? SB: At the actors. I think from morning to night I must have screamed. Focus. Discipline. Where’s your discipline? Where’s your focus? You don’t care. Yelling, I mean yelling. I was a little shocked at the level of commitment [of the actors]. You know, for 15 years I’d been hanging out with Nicole Kidman who is beyond totally committed, so maybe I thought all Australians would have that commitment. I saw there was, like, a casualising of the work. I’m not saying that all of them are sitting there just wanting to be stars and waiting, but there’s, I think, an energy. I tell you I was screaming a lot. It was not like they were not gifted. We talked about process and how they were using my book and stuff like that to get the work and to develop it. But the application – the execution – of it takes work. While they were in this workshop, they might have lost two or three hours of sleep a night if they were having problems with it, but why wouldn’t they be willing to lose the sleep? I mean, if you’ve paid your money – and it’s not cheap, and money’s not easy to get – why wouldn’t you make every effort? There was no way you could do the workshop without putting the work in. LF: Do you think people can work alone on the things you talk about or do they really need a professional coach to guide them? 20
SB: I think, initially, you can work on all of it alone, I really do. I was thinking about this kid who was in hospital and he had cystic fibrosis. He was all of 14 years old. His mother called me and said, “This is an insane request. My son wants to act and he Googled and found out that you coached Tom Cruise. Will you coach him in the hospital?” How can you say no? You can’t. So here I am over the phone with Travis, and I wish I could show you because he just graduated NYU drama school. Finally, they were able to find a way to stabilise him. He’s still in a little trouble, but he graduated and he did most of the work by himself – just to answer your question – with a little coaching from me. Isn’t that incredible? So, yes, you can work at it by yourself. It’s not easy, of course. You want a third eye and I wasn’t even a third eye [for Travis]; I was like a third voice. You can get the book and you can do the exercises and you can try to inform yourself about it. But the key to acting is that you need an audience to really get the truth. You can be doing it in your room by yourself and think you’re wonderful, but how are you in front of an audience? How are you able to maintain that intimacy and that privacy ? Or you’re going to have to do it in front of a camera, with crew all around and everything like that. I use the private moment a lot. I think I use it more than Larry [Moss], more than Ivana [Chubbuck]. Maybe because I came from musical theatre, I was so presentational that it was ridiculous and I had to really learn how to be representational. I was out there selling all the time and the ‘private moment’ became the exercise that taught me about this intimacy and the power of the responsibility, as an actor, to let people in and let them understand that there’s a need and stuff going on in us that we’re not even aware of. We’re carrying around all this stuff and we cover it. I think the whole of society would be better if we could talk about our needs, but nobody will let us, so we all have little routines that we do to cover it. That’s when I started to understand the intimacy and the privacy and the stuff we carry, and I really thought, now I see.
Proud to be Equity Performers across Australia and New Zealand celebrate being part of their union
Left: At the Equity Foundation’s recent Graduates’ Day in NSW every single student enjoyed their union. Welcome to our 92 new members!
Above: This is the 100% Equity cast of Gwen in Purgatory at the Auckland Performing Arts Centre. From left back row: Michele Hine, Bruce Phillips and Katherine McRae (director and also an Equity member). From left front row: Ryan Richards, Elizabeth McRae and Tawanda Manyimo
Above: Cast members from the Ensemble Theatre’s production of Seminar celebrate 100% Equity membership. From left: Equity organiser Camilla Ah Kin with Equity members William Zappa, Felix Gentle and Matilda Ridgway
Above: The cast of F.O.B were 100% NZ Equity. They are all founding members of the PAT Theatre Company, which was formed with the aim of bringing more Asian stories to the New Zealand stage. From left: Chye-Ling Huang, James Roque and Benjamin Teh
Left: This is the 100% Equity cast of The Pitchfork Disney with their card and cake on their set. From left: Michelle Blundell, Todd Emerson, and Leon Wadham. Absent: Sam Snedden
Let them eat cake
Is everyone in your cast an Equity member? Don’t forget that when your cast hits 100% membership Equity brings along a cake to your next cast meeting. Strong, unionised casts have the best chance of protecting their rights at work! To organise a cast visit contact MEAA Membership Central and ask to speak to your local organiser 1300 65 65 12.
Right: The 100% Equity cast of the Basement’s F*ck Love. From left: Ema Barton, Jacqui Nauman, Anoushka Klaus, Sarah Graham EQUITY
Playing dual roles For performers, the ideal of ‘having it all’ – brilliant career and perfect family – can be more problematic than for workers in many other industries. But positive steps are being taken towards making it achievable, writes Victoria Houston
Photo by Janine Barrett. Thanks Fairfax Photos
e’re so used to photos of local and international celebs out and about with their young families that at times it seems babies are the new black. No doubt in the background of these glamorous shots is an army of nannies, not to mention a stylist or two. But what about for actors, dancers or singers who can’t afford the luxury of a nanny – or don’t want one – and have to juggle the complicated jobs of being a performer and raising children? There may not be paparazzi lurking but the pressure is still on, and in a more intense way than for most people because of the unique nature of life as a performer. Australia has come a long way in recent times, with the introduction of paid parental leave and job security for parents. New familyfriendly measures were introduced into the Fair Work Act and took effect on July 1 this year. There are better concurrent parental-leave provisions and the taking of unpaid special maternity leave will not reduce entitlements to unpaid parental leave. The right to be transferred to a safe job while pregnant has been extended to employees with less than 12 months’ service. If no safe job exists, the employee is entitled to unpaid leave. These amendments to the act are certainly a step in the right direction, and the safe-job provisions in particular should be of interest to performers. For performers, however, the other safeguards are often meaningless. Performers don’t have much in common with the nine-tofivers at whom these protections are aimed. While office workers, for example, are able to return to the same job after a year off, as well as often being given paid leave by their employer over and above the government-funded 18 weeks, performers get few of these benefits. Those who work for Opera Australia, the Sydney Dance Company, The Australian Ballet or on long-running series like Home and Away or Neighbours are about the only performers in Australia who can rely on the support that people outside our industry take for granted. So how do performers pursue a career without having to forego family life? This has been a hot topic lately, especially after The Atlantic magazine’s July/August cover story, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, written
Claudia Karvan with Love my Way co-star Alex Cook, who played her daughter on the show
Since having children, I’ve made sure the lion’s share of my work has been in Sydney Claudia Karvan
by Anne-Marie Slaughter, went viral. The former Washington State Department official and mother of two asks how one can hold down a demanding, high-stress job while raising a family. Slaughter had previously been a dean at Princeton, a demanding job but one that allowed her to choose her own hours. She found that Washington was a different story because she had to work to someone else’s schedule (her boss Hilary Clinton’s), so she quit. As with performing, the ‘show’ that is Washington goes on, with little care for whether there’s a family drama or a babysitter has cancelled. Social media ran hot after the magazine hit newsstands, with many women feeling Slaughter was betraying the sisterhood by questioning the ability of women to have it all. For performers, the question isn’t so much 22
whether women (and men,) can have it all – it is whether performers can have it all. Those who work in theatre would be lucky to be home for bedtime one night a week. They may not be stalking the corridors of power, except in a costume, but they are subject to unsociable hours and inflexible workplaces, for, in most cases, far less money than those in other industries. And the option of ‘taking time off to spend time with the family’ might not be viable – not only for financial reasons, but also because when your job is your vocation, it isn’t a good idea to be away from it for too long. Putting careers on hold for several years in order to be at home while children are growing up is a luxury that most performers can’t afford. In a profession where networking and making connections is essential to remaining relevant, being out of the industry for an extended period can make returning to work very difficult. Stay-at-home mums and dads who used to be lawyers or accountants routinely field judgemental questions about why they are ‘wasting’ their qualifications. But for a performer, the question of wasted talent is even more acute, because performing is a vocation. One only has to look at the number of ‘theatre families’ to see that acting and dancing are in the blood. For a parent not to keep doing what they were born to do often simply isn’t an option. As well, a parent who is passionate about what they do is a magnificent role model for any child. All that aside, the practicalities of juggling performing with parenting are complex, but many give it their best shot. The same parent who used to drive you to drama or ballet class is now drafted to perform babysitting duties at a moment’s notice, or even accompany their son or daughter on tour to look after the kids. Actors have to be on call, whether it is for an audition, rehearsal or shoot. If you aren’t available, you don’t get the gig. For musical-theatre performers, Australiawide touring is unavoidable and it takes flexible thinking to do that with children. Matt Young, who has been parent to two boys since 2007, had to rethink what jobs he could consider. “I stopped auditioning for musicals that would tour, having been in The Producers, which was a run-of-play contract for Melbourne … that was probably one of the last such contracts in which you were only obliged to sign on for one city,” he says. “Most of the shows now are designed as tours, and you have to be prepared to sign on for
a run-of-play Australia.” Kelly Hoskin, who has been performing since the age of 10 and starred in both the original and 10th anniversary tour of Les Miserables, returned to the stage after having children with roles in Moonshadow in Melbourne last year and The Addams Family earlier this year. “Childcare is by far the most challenging area to juggle, ensuring we have care for our children during working hours that enables them to grow, develop and is a positive experience for them” she says. For dancers, even more than actors, having a child is a big decision. A dancer’s body has usually had enough of the rigours of professional performing by the mid to late 30s. A pregnant dancer generally stops performing within, or soon after, the first trimester. Even with many hours of Pilates and dance classes, they generally don’t return to the stage until at least six months after the birth. This means a year or more away from performing, often in their late 20s or early 30s, when they are at their peak. Dancers in companies attend classes at least five times a week and then rehearse, so being able to balance the needs of a young baby (breastfeeding, early mornings) with the demands of professional dance is tricky, though not impossible. At The Australian Ballet, where a huge amount of support is provided, a number of dancers have had children in recent years and have continued dancing. From an artistic perspective, life experiences such as having children can allow performers to deliver even more compelling performances. The reality is that, post-children, most performers, male or female, tend to reassess their careers and make some difficult choices about what sort of work they can consider. Many who spend their 20s living in different cities and travelling interstate or overseas for jobs at the drop of a hat simply can’t continue that way. They tend to stay in one city more and put down roots. Claudia Karvan, who has had an extremely successful television career, says, “Since having children, I’ve made sure the lion’s share of my work has been in Sydney. I travel a lot less. Travel is too disruptive.” Some areas of the industry seem to be more family-friendly than others. “When I told [the producer] I was pregnant on the first series of Secret Life of Us, he was absolutely thrilled for me [and] said that having a television career with a family works very well – and he was right,” says Karvan. “I think being an actor is one of the perfect careers to match with parenting. Your kids can be on set with you; your hours, although unpredictable, are certainly not rigid; and you get months off between jobs to have the luxury of being a fulltime parent.” For Matt Young, a role on The Pacific was similarly manageable compared with musicaltheatre work. “The production office was
Top: Matt Young with his sons Above: Kelly Hoskin with her children happy to book my kids on the same flights to Queensland if I paid for them,” he says. “And they could stay in my room with me, though I had to find vacation care and/or a relative in Queensland for them to stay with while I was filming.” It may be that ‘having it all’ shouldn’t be narrowly defined and compromise can work. One thing is certain: life will change for a performer with children and their career may go in a different direction. But with greater support from government, producers, colleagues and Equity, more performers can look forward to enjoying a rewarding family life and a successful career. “Yes, performers can [have it all] but, like everything, you have to remember to enjoy it,” says Karvan. At Equity we are really excited that this discussion has started and look forward to working with members to make real progress in coming months so that performers can indeed have it all and enjoy it! Victoria Houston is Equity’s national live performance industrial officer EQUITY
Equity held the first meeting of performer parents in the Sydney office in June. Performers from all areas of the industry attended to share their experiences. The National Performers Committee has since endorsed a variety of activities for Equity to focus on, from a formalised parents’ committee to investigating assisting parents with childcare to developing a pledge that producers can sign on to which encourages family-friendly workplace practices. The City of Sydney has begun developing the first cultural policy for the city, and one of the ideas in their recently released discussion paper was out-of-hours childcare to allow parents to attend theatre and cultural events. The council sent a representative to Equity’s June meeting, a positive sign that the initiative could be extended to provide better options for the parents appearing in these cultural events, as well as for those attending them. At the Equity meeting, performers discussed the possibility that producers could provide on-site childcare and flexible rehearsal hours, help parents fly home to see their children on days off and assist parents with suitable accommodation which enables them to take children on tour. These initiatives would contribute greatly to helping performer parents to ‘have it all’. In exchange, producers would benefit from the experience and skill of performers who are at the point in their careers where the roles they choose are the ones they really want to be doing, precisely because they can no longer drop everything and take whatever comes their way.
Taking it from the top It’s a perennial question for actors: how do I prepare for an audition? Lizzie Franks asked leading casting directors from Australia and the United States to give their 10 top tips to help you understand the process and maximise your chances of success
MULLINARS With offices in Sydney and Melbourne, Mullinars have cast more than 4,000 television commercials, 45 Australian series and more than 70 feature films. These tips were compiled by the Mullinars team, including casting director and CEO Ann Robinson; casting directors Allison Meadows, Jane Norris, Nathan Lloyd and Veronica Taylor; and casting associates Alexis Johns, Danielle Tigas, Emma Dockery and Hannah Charlton
Be prepared. Regardless of how it works in the US, Australian directors and producers expect actors to learn their lines for an audition. Not having to worry about your lines gives you the opportunity to be flexible and open to direction. Before you walk into the room, ask yourself the important questions about the character, such as, “Who am I and
what do I want?” Present yourself in the best possible light. Arrive with enough time to feel confident and as relaxed as possible. Dress to suggest an understanding of the character but not in a ‘costume’. For example, if you are testing for the role of a barrister and you come dressed in boardshorts and thongs, it could make it harder for the decision-makers to see you in the role. On the other hand, you don’t need to come in wig and gown – that’s going too far. In this instance, smart professional clothes would be perfect. Stay flexible. In the audition room, be ready to let go of everything you have rehearsed and try something new. Often, we’ll ask you to vary the scene simply to ensure you are a flexible actor, not because your initial interpretation was wrong. Brush up on your accents. If you’ve been asked to screentest using an accent,
practise beforehand. You want to be able to concentrate on your performance and stay in character, rather than spending the whole test listening to yourself. Be genuine. Directors are deciding if they want to work with you, just as much as they are deciding if you are right for a role. Let them see the real you. Do your research. Find out all you can about the storyline, your character, the period, the style of the work, the director and so on. If it’s an existing series, watch some episodes so you can judge where to pitch your audition. If there are no details available, don’t be afraid to ask questions in the room if you feel it will help your audition. If there is a full script to read, come in and read it. Listen, listen, listen – and keep going. If the director or casting director gives you notes, listen carefully and be sure to use them in your next take. If there is a reader in the
Photo by Annette Widitz
Actors workshop a scene at the Equity Foundation Casting Hothouse last year
Get your tools in order. There is no excuse for having an unprofessional resumé, candid headshots, a sloppy website or a slapdash demo reel
than two takes of a scene or any stuff-ups. Keep your online profile up to date. Your Showcast, Casting Networks or similar profile should always be accurate, ideally with a showreel link (yes, we do watch them, and yes, we do send them to producers and directors when we’re recommending you for a role). Enjoy every audition. Remember, if you have been asked to screentest, we believe you are potentially right for the role and want you to do well. A good screentest is never wasted, as good work is always remembered by the decision-makers.
ANOUSHA ZARKESH Anousha has been working as a casting director on films, TV shows and commercials for more than 20 years. Among the features she has cast are Tomorrow When the War Began, Beautiful Kate, The Reef, Unfinished Sky, Accidents Happen, Suburban Mayhem, The Children of the Silk Road and Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger. Her eclectic TV credits include Rake Series 1, 2 and 3, Redfern Now Series 1 and 2, Mabo, Wild Boys, Mary Bryant, First Australians and Never Tear Us Apart (INXS telemovie)
room, respond and engage with them; they are there to support you. If you encounter a lessthan-ideal reader, do your best, and remember that everyone is testing with that reader; it’s a level playing field. Don’t stop mid-audition because you forgot your lines or you’re not feeling ‘it’ – keep ploughing through. Nine times out of 10, the stumble is worth it if you get to the end, as there might have been some really terrific moments before you lost it. We can edit screentests to ensure only your best work is presented. Submit a self-test. If you can’t make it to the casting session and you have been invited to submit a self-test, keep it clear and simple. Lighting should be gentle but not atmospheric (fluoro is often too severe, while candlelight is not sufficient); audio quality must be clear, without too many other sounds; your backdrop should be neutral so as not to distract from your test. Place yourself closer to the microphone than your reader. If the reader is operating the camera, try and lock off the frame in a medium close-up and then move the reader further back so their voice won’t dominate. The advice to ‘keep going’ does not apply to self-tests. We don’t want to see more
Believe in yourself and trust that the casting director has brought you in because they like your work. Be confident that the CD wants you to succeed. Do your homework. Who are the director, producer and writer, and what have they done before? Look at style of work, type of performance, tone of performance. Read the script if it’s available and learn your lines well, so you are prepared to take direction in the studio. Dress for the role; this is expected of you. Be imaginative and make bold choices in your audition. You can always tone it down in later tests, but don’t be bland. Don’t play it safe. Get proactive – send self-tests if you feel you are right for a role. CDs can’t test everyone, but we do watch all self-tests to find little gems we may have missed. Be flexible. If you’ve made choices about the character, be prepared to radically change your performance on the spot and show you can take direction readily. Don’t sweat on your mistakes; it’s not the end of the world. Trust that the CD is on your side.
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Take your time to ‘own’ the room. You only have 10 to 20 minutes to make your mark, but if you are prepared, you can be confident in your performance and know you made the most of it. Remember, if you don’t get the role, it may not be because of your performance. Other factors could be at play, such as colour of hair, height and type of look. If your performance was good, CDs will remember you and bring you back for future auditions.
TOM McSWEENEY As one of Australia’s most reputable casting directors, Tom has worked on more than 200 feature-film, miniseries and telemovie projects, as well as 500-plus hours of episodic television production for the US, UK, Canadian and Australian markets
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Be excited at having the opportunity to do the thing that makes you happy – act! Remember that by being selected for an audition, you have already won, so there’s nothing to lose. Don’t forget to breathe. Show up 10 minutes early and get focused. Own the material: break down the entire scene and identify the writer’s intent. Listen to the reader; don’t just hear your cue line. Don’t bring props.
If wanting to sit or stand, ask if it would work for the casting director if you did so. Know where the camera is and make sure it can always see you clearly. At the end of the audition, thank them for their time, wish them good luck with the project and then leave immediately.
BONNIE GILLESPIE As a producer and casting director in Los Angeles, Bonnie specialises in indie darlings. Her weekly column, The Actors Voice, is available at Actors Access. Her most popular book is Self-Management for Actors, on which her teaching is based. Visit BonnieGillespie.com
Book the room, not the job. Sure, you want work (duh), but if you build fans out of the buyers, you’ve done something far more valuable long term.
Casting directors share their advice for actors at the Equity Foundation’s Casting Confidential event in LA in June
Focus on your bullseye. Yes, you’re an actor. You have range. You can hit anything on the dartboard. But this industry rewards specialists. Become very clear on the niche you master – that’s your bullseye – and research the buyers who actively populate projects of that niche. Your intersection with those folk will be more meaningful because you solve a creative problem they commonly have. Get your tools in order. There is no excuse for having an unprofessional resumé, candid headshots, a sloppy website or a slapdash demo reel. As a creative entrepreneur, you are running a small business, and it is your responsibility to get your materials up to their on-brand best, so the buyers are not distracted from your talent. Get down with the pursuit. You’re going to be pursuing work a lot more than actually doing it, so fall in love with the hustle, the researching, the building of your craft. If you hate the game, you can’t possibly win at it. Pursue the work, not the people. Yes, this is a relationship business and you’ll need a community of storytellers to help you reach your goals. But there is so much work you can get before you have an agent, before the top casting offices are inviting you in …
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and you need to build to the point where those folk are excited to meet you. Eliminate poison playmates from your life. There are some well-meaning folk (we’re usually related to them) who do not help us realise our dreams. They focus on the negative, telling us how it can’t be done and complaining about what’s not working. This negativity permeates everything and leads to actor bitterness – a wholly uncastable quality. Discover your confidence. It’s there. There is only one you and you are not trying to beat any other actor for a role. It’s either yours or it isn’t. Don’t engage in waiting-room games. Pop in your ear-buds and focus on your prep work. Make strong choices about the material you’ve been given. Don’t rewrite the script. If you’re told you may improvise, do so, but realise that the words on the page have been put there by someone who has already been hired. You have not yet been hired, so respect those words. Show what you can do to bring the existing text to life within the parameters the casting director has given you. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing; that’s their road, not yours. There are no industry rules; there is no one recipe for success. This is a creative journey
filled with mystery and fun. When choosing training, marketing tactics or even use of social networking to cement your brand, check your gut for what’s best for you. Have fun, don’t suck. We only want you to be awesome, so please come in and have a blast, be great and then let it all go. You’ll have so many auditions over the course of your life. Learn how to love ’em, and move on!
MATT SKROBALAK As vice president of talent and casting at CBS Television Studios, Matt currently oversees casting on numerous TV series and pilots, including CSI, The Good Wife, Hawaii 5-0, Blue Bloods, Under the Dome and Reign. He has been coming to Australia and New Zealand to scout for talent since 2005. Here Matt shares his advice for actors thinking of heading to LA
Take stock of your goals and be honest with yourself. Review your professional progress as objectively as possible but also realise it takes time to develop a consistent and satisfying career. Don’t be in a rush to get over here [LA]. Timing is everything and you want to be sure you are at a point in your life and career
Remember, if you have been asked to screentest, we believe you are potentially right for the role and want you to do well. A good screentest is never wasted – good work is always remembered by the decision-makers that it makes sense for you to be here. You can pursue work opportunities via self-taping until the time is right. Try before you buy. Before any move, come visit LA and see what it’s like – if it’s somewhere you could see yourself living. Part and parcel of that is making sure you have the savings to support yourself. Your focus should be on acting, not your bank balance. Train and maintain a flawless American accent. Most roles you will be auditioning for are going to be American, so if that accent isn’t in great shape, you will not get any traction. Make sure you have the support of your Aussie representative – you need them to agree and be on board with your decision, to enhance your chances of success. They will be a big part of helping you secure LA representation before moving here permanently or even semi-permanently. It’s an absolute necessity to have an LA-based representative if you want to work here. Meet with an immigration attorney. Understand the options and costs of securing work papers. Watch American-produced content. It’s crucial to interpreting tone and audition material, and has the side benefit of exposing you to the American accent. Research the business. There are numerous online sites you can read to keep up with who the major players, studios, directors, producers and writers are. Know them! Make yourself available for opportunity. Many international actors spend too much time with others from the same part of the world when they get to LA. While you can find support, comfort and commonality with people who share a similar experience, you also isolate yourself from making new connections.
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Never stop learning and growing. While you wait for opportunities, stay active and engaged. Get into a class, selfproduce, write -… don’t fall into the trap of sitting around and talking about acting. Do something!
KIM MOAREFI As a casting/production consultant with Cypress Films and finance administrator for New York Theatre Workshop, Kim’s casting work includes Bernard and Doris and Grey Gardens for HBO Films; radio plays for BBC and WNYC; New York theatre (Artios Awardwinning The Exonerated); regional theatre (Palm Beach Dramaworks and Everyman Theatre Baltimore); associate producer, film (Milwaukee, Minnesota, Bed of Roses, Side Streets, Julian Po, Cherry). Kim has been nominated twice for Artios awards
Relax! Try and practise a bit of meditation before you work. Remember, your whole body is your instrument, so stay connected both physically and emotionally. Keep your focus. When you’re called, take a breath to centre yourself before you walk in the door. You need to keep your focus and appear calm, cool and well-prepared. Dress to suggest the role, to help you get in the proper frame of mind. For example, if auditioning for a police officer, don’t wear flipflops, even if it is hot. If you are auditioning for a corporate lawyer, wear something slightly business (maybe just a blazer). This goes for theatre, film and television. It will help you get into the role and also make you seem well prepared but not over-the-top crazy and literal. Learn to read the audition room. This starts from the vibe you get while waiting. Is the monitor/casting director who is bringing people in and out tense? When you walk in, introduce yourself but don’t shake hands with
the creative team unless they put out their hands first. I have found proffering a hand can make certain folk uncomfortable. Try not to ask too many questions. If you must ask something, be direct and to the point. Too many questions can be a red flag for ‘needy’ – generally a big turnoff for directors and producers. We are looking for actors with imagination and intelligence, who are as autonomous as possible. Prepare the material as well as you can – even with a cold read, you need to be able to make full choices on the spot – then as soon as you walk in the room, throw it all away. If you have made strong, honest choices, even if they are not what the director wants in the scene, you will stay in the moment. If you start off feeling uncentred, ask to start over. Listen and respond to the reader. If they suck and do not give you anything, use your imagination and create the person you need them to be for the scene to work. If it’s a big audition, try not to over-invest. Bookend it with meeting a friend (hopefully, an accountant or a stockbroker, not someone in the business with whom you can obsess over the audition). Release the audition as soon as you walk out the door. For on-camera work, keep your eyeline simple and clean. In a legit on-camera audition, never look at the camera unless you are told to. In a theatrical audition, if you are doing a monologue, never use the folk you are auditioning for as your point of focus. Look slightly up and left or right of them. Take your space with confidence and pride. This is your time and we want to be able to cast you and stop having to hold auditions. It may be the only time you get to act for a while, so enjoy it. Bring a sense of play to the audition, no matter what type of material. People like hiring actors with a sense of humour, however it manifests itself.
THE CASTING HOTHOUSE IS BACK IN 2013! Featuring leading casting directors from the US, Australia and NZ NOVEMBER 22-24 SYDNEY / NOVEMBER 26-28 AUCKLAND APPLICATIONS OPEN OCTOBER 1 Visit www.equityfoundation.org.au and read your weekly Equity E-bulletin for latest Hothouse updates
Equity Foundation Calendar of Events WORKSHOPS 2-3 HOURS
Voice and Breath with Melissa Agnew, Brisbane Financial Planning with Karen Strain (Media Super) Adelaide Screen Techniques with Lynn Hegarty Sydney US Accents with Paige Walker, Sydney Screen Techniques with Alison Bell, Melbourne
US Accent Workshop with Simon Stollery, Adelaide 14 Acting with the US accent Paige Walker, Sydney TBC Screen Techniques, Sydney 28 Screen Techniques with Dana Reid, Melbourne
Chekhov Masterclass with Adam Cook, Sydney Auditioning Techniques with Helen Dallimore, Sydney Casting Day with Allison Meadows - Masterclass, Sydney Directors Masterclass with Lynn Hegarty, Sydney
Comedy Acting with Darren Gilshenan, Sydney
Victorian Graduate Day, Melbourne
Showing Up followed by discussion, Wellington
4 9 16 23
MASTERCLASSES FULL DAY
14 18 28 29
12 14 26 26
Casting for Children with Alison Telford, Melbourne Casting Day with Allison Meadows, Sydney Casting Day with Anousha Zarkesh, Sydney Comedy Acting with Darren Gilshenan, Melbourne Coaching with Brita McVeigh, Auckland
QLD Graduates Day, Brisbane
Lifetime Achievement Award, Melbourne Lifetime Achievement Award Special Presentation, Perth
Showing Up followed by discussion, Auckland Showing Up followed by discussion, Sydney
Screen Techniques with Dana Reid, Melbourne TBC Screen Techniques, Sydney 4 US Accent 101 with Melissa Agnew, Brisbane 12 Media Super Finance Workshop, Perth
22-24 Casting Hothouse, Sydney 26 In Conversation with Casting Directors, Auckland 26-28 NZ Casting Hothouse, Auckland
Watch out for your Equity E-bulletin every Monday.
www.facebook.com/ AusActorsEquity www.facebook.com/ NZActorsEquity
To subscribe email firstname.lastname@example.org
Equity Magazine Summer issue out December 16
equity media entertainment & arts alliance
Meet the masters
Advice from world-famous acting coaches
Casting a wider net Equity’s new Diversity Committee
Ten top tips
Casting directors talk audition dos and donts
The Equity Foundation was established by Equity in 2002 to oversee Equity’s publications, awards and extensive professional development program. The mission of the Equity Foundation is to assist, educate and inspire performers. For more information visit www.equityfoundation.org.au 28
13/09/13 10:44 AM
Ken in his latest role in award-winning play Motel
Still proud to be union After 55 years as a committed trade unionist, distinguished New Zealand actor Ken Blackburn speaks with Anna Majavu about why membership of Equity matters more than ever
he recent Auckland season of award-winning New Zealand play Motel, written by April Phillips, featured a 100 per cent Equity cast. Equity’s NZ vice-president Todd Rippon directed the play at The Basement in August. The cast was made up of Ken Blackburn, Lorae Parry, Peter Hayden, Renee Sheridan, Ruth Dudding and Equity board member Cameron Rhodes, and Equity National Performers Committee members Coen Falke and Liesha Ward Knox. The longest-standing unionist in the cast was Ken Blackburn, who has been a member of actors’ unions in the United Kingdom and New Zealand for 55 years, joining UK Equity in 1958 at the age of 23. He helped to form NZ Actors’ Equity in 1972. Blackburn started his acting life at the tender age of three, when he joined the Mousehole Players in Bristol. He subsequently worked with Liverpool Repertory under Sam Wanamaker. He is still landing plum roles, having appeared in the Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Anne Boleyn earlier this year before joining the cast of Motel. As a major contributor to the creative industries in New Zealand and beyond,
The 100% Equity cast of Motel. Front row from left: Peter Hayden, Ken Blackburn, Todd Rippon, Lorae Parry, Coen Falke. Back row from left: Renee Sheridan, Cameron Rhodes and Liesha Ward-Knox
among his many achievements Blackburn was NZ’s first actors’ agent, has been awarded the Amicus Polonia for fostering cultural relations between Poland and other countries, was named a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005, and won Best Actor at the Las Vegas Short Film Festival Awards in 2011 for Antonio’s Secret. His CV being littered with feature-film, TV, short-film and theatrical lead roles, you might think Blackburn no longer needs to belong to a union. Yet he is still organising cast visits for Equity and believes the need for
a union is greater now than ever before. “In 1972 in New Zealand, actors had plenty of work,” he says. “We were rushing from studio to theatre from about 7 o’clock in the morning until almost midnight. There were full-time theatre companies in Auckland, Wellington, Wanganui and Tauranga. These have all disappeared. Now we have government attempts to change the laws governing actors overnight and a real shortage of work.” Blackburn points out there are British actors who are still reaping the benefits of residuals from work done four decades ago, while New Zealand actors are not getting paid for the re-use of their work. “Residuals should be an ongoing battle that we continually take up cudgels for, in order to get that level of respect,” he says. He urges all young actors to join the union to build a strong voice. “We formed the union in 1972 to give ourselves an identity as committed, professional actors,” Blackburn says. “[Membership] is a badge of honour. It is imperative that actors join Equity and build the strength of the union, so that we have a voice to ensure our future.” Anna Majavu is an Equity NZ industrial organiser
Getting down to business If you’re thinking of taking a crack at Hollywood, LA-based talent scout Jason Siner has a few words of advice: accept that you’re a product and market yourself accordingly
ext year, hundreds of Australian actors will travel to Los Angeles to join more than 200,000 other hopefuls attempting to pursue an on-camera career in Hollywood. Most will fail. All too many times, this failure comes about through lack of preparation, faulty information, or simply because the actor doesn’t take charge of their own career. To be fair, the odds are stacked against any actor making a full-time career out of their craft. The SAG-AFTRA actors’ union in LA notes that only 2½ per cent of its members make enough money from acting to put them above the poverty level. However, if you are an actor with all the qualities necessary for success – talent plus looks, personality and intelligence – you can indeed have a very decent chance of success, if you take charge of your own career and treat it like the business it is. Yes, that’s right, you are a business. Acting is a freelance job by nature and, what’s more, it is a freelance sales job. You are the product. The better you are at selling yourself, the better your chance of succeeding. I can hear the indignation: “Hold on, I’m no salesperson. I’m a performing artist!” Well,
then, go and do theatre. Write your own show. Do stand-up. Perform for tourists around Circular Quay. Therein lies the art. However, if your choice is to be a part of the Hollywood system, to make a go of it on-camera in the US market, then you are a product. If you accept this thinking, you will be much better able to prepare yourself for the transition. In thinking about yourself as a product in a business-first industry, you will see the importance of marketing yourself effectively. That’s where all this talk of ‘types’ and ‘branding’ comes in. The better your marketing tools (headshots, CV and reel), the better chance you have of success. Another way of looking at it is that, at a certain level, you are a ‘yes’, and at anything below that you are a ‘no’. There is no prize (or role) for second best. If you put off making a solid reel until you have work, you may never get any work – or even decent representation. If you have worked a lot in Australia and figure it’s fine to just throw a bunch of your Home and Away clips together, you’re being lazy. It’s self-defeating to put off the necessary groundwork until you see if there’s any interest in you – you need to do all the work upfront. The reward comes when you get paid 30
to play make-believe. You can’t take any of this lightly. There are just too many other actors in LA fighting for some attention. It’s not even about whether they’re better than you or not. It’s just that they are already there, taking up the space and time that need to be yours. You can’t expect others to fight to get you seen either. It’s not your agent’s job to market you. In fact, anyone who represents a full client list won’t have the time to be fully invested in your career. Yes, you will most likely build a team around yourself and in Los Angeles, especially, the most prominent and important member of this team will be your talent manager. However, in the end, it is you who will make the decisions. You must run your own business, determine the direction of your career and successfully sell your product on the world stage. Jason Siner is a Los Angeles-based talent scout for US managers and agents. He gives lectures about pursuing an acting career in the US and offers one-to-one consultations to help actors market themselves effectively. For more information, visit www.proactmarketing.com or email email@example.com
Photo by Alex Vaughan
Jason Siner hosts an Equity Foundation seminar in Sydney.
The city of angels
New Zealand actress Fleur Saville charts the ups and downs of trying to carve out a career in LA
os Angeles is a place where you can be dancing with the actual Richard Simmons in Beverly Hills for $12 ( my personal dream) and then, the next day, you could be questioning why the hell you gave up everything to be waitressing some unappreciative Orange County housewife who can’t even feel the coffee cup on her recently Botoxed lips. LA is never dull. It will make you feel like you have all the opportunity right there within your reach, and then that other chick who has a better agent will slide in at the last second and take the part you were born to play. Hours later, you’ll find yourself drinking your sorrows in a bar next to some NYU graduate who ends up casting you in the best independent film this year, and winning at Sundance. The thing I love most about LA is the constant action – the making of new shows, films, web series and sketches, the business deals, red carpets, premieres and travelling art shows… And one day, with luck and tenacity, you may land something and you’ll suddenly be that ‘new chick’ everyone is talking about. If you decide to move to LA, you absolutely must have working papers; agents will not meet you unless you do. A common misconception is that you can come over for pilot season, find a representative, book a job – probably from one your first three auditions – and the studio will sort out the paperwork for you. Now imagine 10,000 people all doing that at the same time – some with experience and a little buzz behind them, most without. The best advice I ever got was to think about how long it takes to build a business – be it a lollipop shop or a karaoke bar – to the point where you, as the boss, can come and go as you please. It is the same with being an actor. I was lucky enough to be able to build my ‘business’ in NZ for the past 15 years, and people there will audition me because they know my work. We Kiwis and Aussies are so lucky to have come from a part of the world where our work stands for something, and it’s not just because our dad is the producer. I naively thought that would
Fleur working in Los Angeles
The best advice I ever got was to think about how long it takes to build a business ... It is the same with being an actor automatically translate to Hollywood but, of course, the industry here is 50 times larger (actual fact). I didn’t know any of the key players here and they didn’t know me. It’s easy to look at this whole ordeal as truly overwhelming and not ‘do-able’, but my motto in life is, “If you don’t try, you’ll never know.” Once you realise that you are basically starting again in a much, much bigger pool, you have the opportunity to decide what kind of performer you are and what kind of artist you want to be. And once you get all your ducks in a row, you will be supported by the wonderful American mentality of yes, you can! You could, of course, also know someone who knows someone who gets you with one
of the top five agents, you book your first audition and then the whole of Hollywood starts throwing scripts at you, begging you to do their next big studio film. If that happens, don’t forget to introduce me. I’m really funny and can act. Promise. I love living in LA, where I’ve been lucky enough to be producing, and have had the most fantastic experiences working with ridiculously talented folk doing something that inspires me. I’ve been up mountains with bears, in the middle of the desert in a sandstorm, and nearly driven a production car off a mountain in the snow. My day-to-day vehicle in Beverly Hills is a decommissioned police car. Hollywood is fun! To anyone deciding to give it a try, I salute you and say, go for it! Fleur Saville is a New Zealand actress who lives in Los Angeles. She began her career in the hit TV comedy series Being Eve, in which she played the title role. Fleur has lead roles in seven prime-time television series and three feature films under her belt. Follow her @fleursaville on VINE and Twitter
Shining talent, generous spirit
SUE DWYER October 6, 1956 – May 17, 2013 Well-known Brisbane actor Susan Elizabeth Dwyer, whose career spanned 30 years, died of lung cancer in the Princess Alexandra Hospital, aged 56 years. Sue studied drama at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba. Her talent, intelligence and bravery as an actor shone out and, soon after graduation, she joined the Roadworks team, QTC’s then youth theatre company. Subsequently, Sue took her place with the QTC, as well as many other vibrant Queensland and Australian theatre companies, including La Boite, Fractal, TN, New Moon and La Mama, performing in almost 50 plays, including Macbeth, Matilda Women, The Mayne Inheritance, Road to the She-Devil’s Salon, Away, Milo’s Wake and The Crucible. Screen work included Neighbours and Blue Heelers, and the feature film The Proposition – one of her favourite experiences. Sharing a few drinks in the spa with Ray Winstone at their Winton motel was a source of great delight. But Sue’s true love was theatre. It was her playground, her inspiration, her frustration and her life’s joy. New and established playwrights wanted to work with her because of her talent, knowledge, honesty and insight. Directors wanted to work with her because of her grounding intelligence, questioning nature and
wonderful, overwhelming and generous humour. The late Alan Edwards, founding artistic director of QTC, considered Sue one of Australia’s great actors. Actors wanted to work with her because she brought out the best in us, because of who she was, as both an actor and a person. She made any play she was in a thousand times better. It was in the QTC’s 2006 production of Away that Sue became deeply imbedded in our hearts as a mentor, true friend and wonderful co-adventurer. She was awarded Best Supporting Actress at the Queensland
Sue’s true love was theatre. It was her playground, her inspiration, her frustration and her life’s joy Actors Equity Awards for the role of Vic. Sue took her position as senior artist on this production, and others, very seriously. She knew her example to the younger actors was important, and she was the perfect person to take on that responsibility. Those younger actors have never forgotten her strength and honesty. Sue was a fierce advocate for the rights of all who worked in the performing arts, always speaking out if she felt that wrong was being done. She was generous with her time and worked tirelessly as treasurer of the Actors and Entertainers Benevolent Fund Qld. Just before last Christmas, Sue moved in
with Caroline Kennison and Chris Betts. Their glorious four months together were filled with laughter, calm mornings on the deck, bottles of wine, and bitching about her wheely-walker. One morning, she plonked herself down in the thing and said, “Hey, Bettsy, does my bum look big in this?” and there was more laughter. Sue’s energy was palpable. She gave us great strength and courage and knowledge, as she did with every theatre company with whom she worked. Her favourite saying was, “Wow, what a ride”, and that’s how she saw her life. We were blessed, as were many, to have been able to spend time with Sue during her last few months. We laughed until we wiped tears from our eyes. We talked about theatre and acting, life and its curve balls. We asked her advice, and she gave it to us with wisdom, love and honesty. While her final illness came much too soon, it was mercifully brief. The fourth of five children, Sue is survived by her mother Joie Dwyer, and siblings Tim, Judith, Gillian and Linda. “How blessed were we all to know you and have you in our lives? Truly, wonderfully, inspiringly, divinely. Thank you, dearest friend.” Tribute by the Dwyer family, Chris Betts, Caroline Kennison and Barbara Lowing
A magnanimous presence
AMANDA SHILLABEER 1974 – 2013 In July, the beautiful and talented Amanda Shillabeer (Paussa Larsen) lost her year and half battle with cancer, aged 39. Amanda was raised by her horse-racing grandparents in the hills of Adelaide. In 1994, she enrolled at NIDA, where she revelled in the nickname Montage Cleavage for her buxom beauty. She played leading roles in The Maids, The Cherry Orchard and The Mill on the Floss. After graduation, she was snatched up to perform Private Lives with the New England Theatre Company and went on to play Lucy in Dracula at Marian Street Theatre. Then, in 1998, Amanda was cast as Lady Basildon in The Peter Hall Company’s Australian tour of An Ideal Husband. She also starred in such productions as The Private Visions of Gottfried Kellner at the Stables Theatre, She Stoops to Conquer with STC, Seven Stories with Ensemble Theatre and Bailegangaire with O’Punsky’s Theatre. TV credits included All Saints, Above the Law and Murder Call. In 2001, Amanda followed her dream to live in London where, among other gigs, she reunited with Peter Hall on the West End to play Lady Agatha in Lady Windermere’s Fan and Sophie in Where There’s a Will. Periods of acting drought led her into other ventures, such as becoming the ‘can’t live without her’ PA of a well-connected industrial builder in Holland Park. Her
duties included organising trips to Burning Man festival with aging pop stars, and other surreal adventures. From the UK, Amanda moved to LA where she met Chris Larsen, who would soon become her adoring husband. In 2011, she returned to Adelaide for a visit and ended up giving a remarkable performance as Lady Macbeth for the Theatre Guild. And just as the offers started to flow back in, she was diagnosed with cancer, after being misdiagnosed for at least six months. After her first round of treatment it was hoped she was in remission, and Chris
In 2011, she returned to Adelaide for a visit and ended up giving a remarkable performance as Lady Macbeth for the Theatre Guild and Amanda tied the knot. But the cancer came back aggressively. With the help of her former employer, she and Chris flew to a clinic in Irvine, California, and began radical treatment, but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t working. Always eager to laugh and share in the real stories of life, Amanda spent her last days with family and friends in a lovely hospice in Santa Barbara. Right until the end, her concern and compassion for the wellbeing of others remained apparent. Her big, beautiful eyes, her honeyed voice and her magnanimous presence will be sorely missed. Anna Lise Phillips
Mainstay of the Australian screen
PENNE HACKFORTHJONES August 5, 1949 – May 17, 2013 One of Australia’s most enduring and distinguished actors, Penne HackforthJones, died in May at the age of 63. After a childhood in the US, England and Germany, Penne returned with her family to Australia in her late teens, enrolling in NIDA in 1966. Her career began with the Western Australian Theatre Company in Perth, but her acting life was largely focused on film and television. With Sydney as a base, she travelled extensively for work and moved to Melbourne a few years ago to care for her parents. Penne’s first screen role was in Riptide in 1969, with Ty Hardin, star of 1950s US Western TV series Bronco. During the 1970s and 1980s, she appeared in some of Australia’s most popular and successful shows, including Matlock Police, Homicide, Division 4, Number 96, Bellbird and Cash and Company, for which she won two Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Actress. During the 1990s, she continued to work in TV, including in A Country Practice and All Saints, where her performances earned her another AFI Award. Film work rolled in, as well, and her part as the bridal saleswoman in Muriel’s Wedding underscored her brilliant grasp of comedy. In 1997, she featured in Paradise Road and would go on to work with Bruce Beresford again in Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)
as the American ballet mistress, a role she absolutely adored, not least because it gave her access to a fabulous wardrobe! Most recently, Penne had a leading role in We’ve All Been There which won this year’s Tropfest and the ABC’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Her incredible versatility as an actress, which also included a long career in radio drama, reflected an inquiring intellect, a wonderful sense of the ridiculous and great courage. She was also a distinguished writer, penning the biography of her greatgrandmother Barbara Baynton, novelist and short story writer, whom she believed had been neglected in the male-dominated narrative of Australian nationalist literature of the late 19th and early 20th century. Throughout her long career, Penne remained deeply committed to her craft and to her fellow actors. After joining Equity in 1970, she remained at the forefront of campaigns for decent wages and importedartists regulations. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Penne was active in campaigns designed to secure a place for Australian
Throughout her long career, Penne remained deeply committed to her craft and to her fellow actors. After joining Equity in 1970, she remained at the forefront of campaigns for decent wages and imported-artists regulations stories on our screens and a place for Australian actors in those stories. She joined many delegations to Canberra, where her charm, fine mind and mischievous sense of humour were put to good use. Politicians were left in awe, as the otherwise quiet and shy Penne masterfully put the case for Australian content and imported-artist regulation. She devoted many hours to the behind-the-scenes work these campaigns devoured and kept our spirits buoyed. She was a wonderful friend, whose beautiful voice, sartorial style, elegance and eccentric wit will be sorely missed. Sue Cowden and Anne Britton Sue was Equity’s Imported Artists officer from 1987 to 1992. Anne was Equity’s Federal Secretary (to 1990) and MEAA Joint Federal Secretary (to 1999).
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