equity media entertainment & arts alliance
What to know before you go
The art of make-believe Insiders’ tips on voiceovers and screen acting
Behind-the-scenes of ABC’s latest offering
BEST BEST of the
Australian television ensembles honoured
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
Alliance Membership Centre 1300 656 513 (Australia only) Alliance Inquiry Desk 1300 656 512 (Australia only) Equity Foundation director Mary Cotter Ph: +61 2 9333 0922 email@example.com
equity magazine editor Lizzie Franks Ph: +61 2 9333 0961 firstname.lastname@example.org
Guests at the 2012 Equity Awards, ivy penthouse
Photo by Adam Hollingworth
The Equity Foundation and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance thank the following organisations for their generous support.
Burns, Tina Bursill, Mitchell Butel, Caroline Craig, Chloe Dallimore, Helen Dallimore, Jack Finsterer, Patrick Frost, Corrine Grant, Stuart Halusz, Kevin Harrington, Alan Fletcher, Abbe Holmes, Lorna Lesley, Monica Main, Jonathan Mill, Gus Murray, Chrissie Page, Eddie Perfect, Anna Lise Phillips, Matthew Zeremes, Kerry Walker, Genevieve Hegney, Glenn Hazeldine, Geoff Morrell
Members of your New Zealand Performers Committee: Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Jeff Szusterman, Tandi Wright, Phil Darkins, Todd Rippon, Fasitua Amosa, Robyn Malcolm, Richard Thompson, Kate Harcourt, Rodney Bane, Cameron Rhodes, Natalie Beran, Russell Pickering, Glen Pickering, Charlie McDermott, Sam Snedden, Liesha Ward-Knox, Bruce Hopkins, Peter Elliott, Jacque Drew, Pete Coates, Rachael Blampied
Message from the president
SYDNEY 245 Chalmers Street REDFERN NSW 2016 PO BOX 723 STRAWBERRY HILLS NSW 2012 Ph: +61 2 9333 0999
Message from the NZ president
MELBOURNE Level 3, 365 Queen Street MELBOURNE VIC 3000 Ph: +61 3 9691 7100
ACA marks a milestone
The acting school attended by some of Australia’s best known performers turns 25
Duncan Fellows reports back on a Sydney masterclass with renowned director Ian Rickson
Boys’ own intergalactic adventure
Web-series, both here and overseas, are a growth industry, writes Tim Ferris
Tricks of the trade
Voice of experience
Abbe Holmes on how to get a foothold in the extremely competitive field of voiceover
The Sapphires sparkle at Cannes
Opera deal nears, TV talks begin
The screen actor’s craft
PERTH 123 Claisebrook St Perth WA 6000 Ph: +61 8 9227 7924
Pilot season is big business, reports Lizzie Franks
Laura Gabriel pays tribute to prolific performer, and her father, Ben Gabriel
HOBART 379 Elizabeth Street NORTH HOBART TAS 7000 PO Box 128 North Hobart TAS 7002 Ph: +61 3 6234 1622
Devil’s in the detail
The Last Word
CANBERRA 40 Brisbane Avenue Barton ACT 2604 PO Box 6065 KINGSTON ACT 2604 Ph: +61 2 6273 2528
ADELAIDE 241 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000 Ph: +61 8 8223 6055
AUCKLAND 195 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby AUCKLAND 1011 Ph: +64 9 360 1980
Members of your Australian Performers Committee: Patricia Amphlett, Kerith Atkinson, Roy Billing, Simon Burke, Carol
Equity Foundation program manager Alex Jones Ph: +61 9333 0911 email@example.com
BRISBANE Level 4, TLC Building 16 Peel Street SOUTH BRISBANE QLD 4101 LOCKED BAG 526 SPRING HILL QLD 4004 Ph: 1300 656 513
NZ Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand
MEDIA SUPER Locked Bag 1229 Wollongong NSW 2500 Ph: 1800 640 886 Fax: 1800 246 707 Email: administration@media super.com.au AUSTRALIANSUPER Locked Bag 4 HAYMARKET NSW 1236 Ph: 1300 368 118 Fax: 1300 368 881 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org super.com
Karol Foyle talks to the stars of Devil’s Dust
The Slap star Alex Dimitriades on what the future may hold
Screen veteran Jonathan Mill shares his camera-ready techniques
How to keep your finger on the digital world’s pulse
Chrissie Page’s tale of two fringes
Déjà vu all over again
The scrapping of the Live Theatre Agreement is a case of “here we go again”, writes Drew MacRae
A new book takes us behind the scenes of the Australian film industry
On the box
Simon Elchlepp gives a rundown of the Aussie TV shows still to come in 2012
Growth spurt for NZ Equity
Our NZ branch has increased by 21 per cent in six months
To big business, the spoils
The NZ Govt is bending to the will of international corporations, writes Gordon Wood
2012 Equity Award winners celebrate at ivy penthouse
Don’t mention the D-word
Lizzie Tollemache attended an inspirational masterclass in Christchurch with Miranda Harcourt
There’s a lack of opportunities for performers with disabilities, writes Victoria Houston
ON THE COVER
The cast of East West 101 were the winners of the 2012 Equity Award for an Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Clockwise from left: Renee Lim, Matt Nable, Tasneem Roc, Daniela Farinacci, Susie Porter and Taffy Hany Photo by Adam Hollingworth
Message from the president
had requested. The big-ticket item is the extension of am now in my fourth month as Equity director Australian-content requirements to all content service and I’m thrilled to be here. Any hope of a leisurely providers. This includes not only the multi-channels but, acclimatisation was abandoned in early April when over time, online providers such as Google and Telstra. Live Performance Australia (LPA) dropped the Given the low levels of drama on the multi-channels, the bombshell that it was walking away from the long-standing recommended increase in the drama sub quota as part agreement covering the use of overseas artists in theatre. of the interim arrangements was particularly welcome, From my time at Equity in the ’90s in the imports hot as was the recommendation that the offset for television seat, I know this agreement goes to the heart of what we drama be doubled. Of course, the report won’t do much are trying to achieve in live theatre: a sustainable industry if it just gathers dust, so we continue to press for it to be in which Australian performers can practise their craft implemented. and earn a living. The agreement was hard won in the early One of the biggest threats to future investment in our film ’90s following much industry disputation, including rolling and TV shows – and hence to the livelihood of Australian strikes. In the years since then, the industry has flourished performers and other film-industry workers – is illegal and enjoyed largely harmonious relations with LPA. It is file-sharing. Equity has taken an active interest in the film hard to fathom what has provoked such an extreme and industry’s case against iiNet. Although the industry lost the high-handed reaction on their part. High Court appeal, the judges recognised that legislative Arts Minister Simon Crean’s recent decision not to change was needed to protect copyright owners. The decision implement the latest version of demonstrated that Australian copyright law is outdated in the film and television foreignthe online environment and that the actor guidelines in view of strong government needs to act. stakeholder disagreement was very Performers are poised for an much appreciated. It’s a win for Our screen and live historic win in the copyright arena. the many performers who rallied, performance industries In the third week of June, the World signed petitions and endorsed Intellectual Property Organisation flourish in a spirit of potential industrial action. It’s also will meet in Beijing to negotiate an a win for the film and television collaboration. international treaty protecting the industry because it offers another rights of audiovisual performers. chance to develop broadly The treaty will underpin residuals supported guidelines and maintain and other revenue streams, and goodwill. Our screen and live performance industries protect unauthorised use of filmed flourish in a spirit of collaboration, since we all depend performances – increasingly important in the new digital on effective public-sector support to maintain artistic world of motion capture and cyber scanning. The road to excellence and premium local content. a performers’ copyright regime has been a long one, so we Equity and SPAA joined forces in March at a will be looking to government to move quickly to adopt the parliamentary lunch to lobby for additional funds for SBS, treaty and legislate. led on the Equity side by the very persuasive Julia Zimero On the industrial front, we will soon commence and Bruce Spence. Our arguments seemed to fall on negotiations with SPAA on a new television agreement, receptive ears and the budget brought a substantial funding including a revised structure for repeats and residuals. To boost, despite tight budgetary times. set the scene, we will be holding That the arguments for funding and local-content a joint day with SPAA on the regulation have to be rehearsed again and again was future of television, as well evident in the astonishing claim by Treasury – quoted as seeking performers’ input in the final report of the Convergence Review – that a through an online survey. The deregulated market would not affect Australian content challenge for Equity will be to because local programs rate better. Australian audiences do protect and enhance revenue choose quality local content when it’s available but overseas streams and other rights in an programming available to broadcasters at a fraction of environment where business its real cost will necessarily win out in a deregulated models are still rapidly evolving. environment. Thankfully, the final report of the Convergence Review Sue McCreadie brushed aside Treasury’s objections and produced Equity director recommendations largely in line with what Equity
EDITOR Lizzie Franks SUBEDITOR Kerrie Lee JOURNALIST Karol Foyle DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Gadfly Media EQUITY THANKS Martha Ansara, Alex Dimitriades, Sancha Donald, Simon Elchlepp, Tim Ferris, Duncan Fellows, Laura Gabriel, Emma J. Hawkins, Anthony Hayes, Abbe Holmes, Ewen Leslie, Jessica McNamee, Jonathan Mill, Chrissie Page, Anna Lise Phillips, Lisa Schouw, Matt Skrobalak, Kiruna Eliza Stamell, Pearl Tan, Lizzie Tollemache, Candice Wise, Gordon Wood 4
very working cast in the country has passed a resolution expressing their shock and disappointment at Live Performance Australia’s sudden decision to terminate the agreement governing the use of overseas artists in live productions (check it out at www.alliance.org.au). Among those making it clear that they will not accept a situation where there are no limits on the use of imported actors are the casts of Opera Australia’s The Magic Flute, Belvoir’s Strange Interlude, QTC’s Macbeth, STC’s Under Milk Wood, Malthouse’s The Heretic, Brink’s Land & Sea, MTC’s Australia Day and musical-theatre shows Annie, An Officer and a Gentleman, Moonshadow and my own cast of Mary Poppins, who recently celebrated being 100 per cent Equity (see page 7). The Live Theatre Agreement (LTA) that has been terminated was established in 1993 because the migration regulations in place at the time − and to this day − do not adequately protect Australian performers from being overlooked or replaced by overseas performers. The purpose of the LTA was to ensure that the Australian market was tested and local performers considered in the casting process. The agreement also stated clearly the circumstances in which a producer may import a performer for box office or ethnic or other physical requirements. Its existence over the past two decades has contributed in no small way to the vibrant live performance industry that we have today not to mention to the careers of hundreds of Australian performers who might not otherwise have had their chance to shine. Sounding like a familiar story? You’d be right. You’ll recall that last year the government proposed radical changes to the use of overseas artists in Australian film and TV productions, another announcement that came out of the blue and caught us on the back foot. We had to make it very clear very quickly that Australian performers would not accept a situation where producers could use overseas artists for any and every Australian screen production. A long and strong campaign ensued involving hundreds of performers actively engaged in prosecuting our case.
In April of this year, Minister for the Arts Simon Crean gave us the very welcome news that the proposed changes to the film and TV guidelines would not be introduced because of “strong disagreement between stakeholders”. He has asked us to go back to the drawing board, meet with industry bodies like SPAA and come up with guidelines that work for everyone. And that’s how it should be done. A spirit of collaboration and communication is far more likely to have a positive impact on our industry than ripping up long-standing industrial agreements and refusing to talk. We have so far had some very positive discussions with key producers and stakeholders in the live performance area and we remain hopeful that Live Performance Australia will come back to the table to renegotiate an industry-wide agreement. Another bumper year for Australian television production. At the second annual Equity Awards held in May, there was an embarrassment of riches in the amount of talent nominated for their work as an ensemble on an Australian television drama, comedy or miniseries. The casts of East West 101, At Home with Julia and The Slap were voted the best of the best by you, and I was honoured to present them with their awards at a ceremony in Sydney at the ivy penthouse (see photos, page 10). I hope we can continue to celebrate this industry of ours and the fine productions, both live and on screen, that wouldn’t be what they are without the Australian performers who star in them. There is such a great wealth of acting talent in this country; let’s make sure it never goes to waste.
Simon Burke Equity president
Message from the NZ president
n recent months actors from across the country have attended workshops and masterclasses, led by the best of the best, where they have brushed up on their acting skills and techniques. In May acting coach Miranda Harcourt ran masterclasses in Wellington and Christchurch for Actors Equity members. The feedback we received from the handful of lucky members – who were selected to attend by random ballot – was overwhelmingly positive. “It was a privilege to be taught and given feedback by such an incredibly talented and experienced actor and acting coach” and “Miranda’s passion for actors coming into their own showed in every comment she made and in every piece of information she gave” were just two of the glowing reviews we received from attendees. You can read Lizzie Tollemache’s excellent article about Miranda’s Christchurch masterclass on page 26 of this issue. Lizzie writes; “It would be easy in Christchurch to feel out of the loop and jaded, with the vast majority of New Zealand’s acting work occurring in the North Island. Workshops such as this, with Equity’s presence felt so strongly in the room, remind us that we are part of an international community.” Holding a masterclass with a group of enthusiastic and passionate Christchurch-based performers at the newly re-built Court Theatre was a huge honour for Equity and one of the highlights since we began our professional development program. Just last year NZ
Equity led a fundraising initiative to help the Court Theatre relocate after suffering devastating damage during the earthquake. NZ Equity and actors’ unions around the world donated more than $30,000 to help the Court Theatre get up and running again. In May we also held a physical theatre workshop with actor, director, producer and writer Grae Burton, who has had lead roles in more than 40 theatre productions. Grae’s workshop was a huge success. “Wow. That was one helluva session! Thank-you very much for the opportunity and a big thanks to Grae – what a powerhouse” said one member. Equity’s professional development program is expanding every day – we have some exciting new events coming up very soon. The secret to the growing success of our program has been you – the members of Actors Equity New Zealand – who take part in our events with such professionalism and enthusiasm. Every director, coach, actor and casting agent who has hosted one of our events has raved about the calibre of performers they got to work with, the positive-can do attitude they witnessed and the dedication to their craft New Zealand actors possess.
Jennifer Ward-Lealand NZ Equity president
Photo by Andreas Rentz. Thanks Getty Images
Hobbit information revealed
Actors Shari Sebbens, Jessica Mauboy, director Wayne Blair, actors Miranda Tapsell and Deborah Mailman attend the The Sapphires premiere during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival in May
X-Men for Oz
Slap tickles judges’ fancy
The latest instalment in the X-Men franchise, The Wolverine, will begin filming in Sydney in August, with Hugh Jackman reprising the title role. The Wolverine was secured by a combination of Federal and NSW Government incentives and is expected to generate more than 720 jobs for cast and crew, and 1,200 jobs for extras. “I couldn’t be more excited to return to Australia to film the next chapter in the Wolverine saga, thanks to the significant support from the Federal and NSW Governments,” Jackman said in a statement. “It will be great to work with the highly talented crew and to provide employment opportunities to so many people at all levels of the industry.” To attract The Wolverine to Australia, the Gillard Government granted the producers a one-off payment of $12.8 million, which effectively increased the existing Location Offset to 30 per cent for this feature film. “It is heartening that the Federal Government has responded to calls from the Alliance and other film-industry organisations for increased incentives to compensate for the high Australian dollar,” says Equity director Sue McCreadie.
ABC TV’s The Slap is continuing to gather honours, most recently being nominated for a prestigious BAFTA in the international category. The eight-part drama series was up against two Danish programs, The Killing and Borgen, and US series Modern Family. The awards were announced in London on May 27. In May the cast received the 2012 Equity Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Telemovie or Miniseries (see photos, page 10). At the Logie Awards in April, The Slap was awarded Most Outstanding Drama Series, Miniseries or Telemovie in the peer-voted category, while Melissa George’s performance won her the Silver Logie for Most Outstanding Actress. Earlier in the year, the critically acclaimed miniseries swept up five AACTAs, including Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series and Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama for Alex Dimitriades. Episode three earned three AACTAs: Best Screenplay in Television for Brendan Cowell; Best Direction in Television for Matthew Saville; and Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama for Diana Glenn.
International spotlight on STC Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving have received Helen Hayes Awards for their roles in the Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya. The awards recognise the artistic achievement of local and international productions staged in Washington, DC. Blanchett won Outstanding Lead Actress, Non-Resident Production for her performance as Yelena, while Weaving was awarded Outstanding Supporting Performer, Non-Resident Production for the role of Astrov. When Uncle Vanya was at the Kennedy Center in August last year, The Washington Post’s theatre critic Peter Marks declared it the best production of the year. More recently, Blanchett received rave reviews for her portrayal of Lotte in the STC’s touring production of Gross und Klein (Big and Little). Euan Ferguson, theatre critic for the UK’s The Observer, wrote: “Cate Blanchett is beyond terrific. Whimperingly, blisteringly terrific. She is a revelation.” Following a short, acclaimed season in Paris, the production was part of London’s cultural Olympiad, before moving on to Vienna. It wound up its European tour on June 2 at Recklinghausen in Germany. In July, the STC will take Uncle Vanya to New York.
New information has been released under the Official Information Act about the New Zealand government’s involvement in the Hobbit dispute in 2010. Labour Party MP Charles Chauvel told Radio New Zealand the information revealed that the Government misled the public over changes to labour laws, supposedly passed to facilitate the filming of The Hobbit. “As the union said at the time, there was no threat of industrial action – it had been withdrawn. And yet the Government proceeded to insist that that was not the case – even in Parliament when they were changing labour laws at the behest of corporate interests. I think this is a pretty sorry tale and reflects pretty badly on our Government.” NZ Equity president Jennifer WardLealand said the Government’s decision to undermine the immigration processes in place at the time was a serious concern. “The regulations sought to ensure that New Zealanders were considered in casting and crewing the production.” The changes to the immigrations rules included the introduction of a ‘silent approval process’; an exemption on union and guild consultation on engagements less than 14 days; and the introduction of an accreditation process for employers and production companies enabling them not to consult with unions or guilds.
One big union In the US, members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have voted overwhelmingly to merge, creating Hollywood’s largest entertainment union, SAG-AFTRA. SAG represents 125,000 US-based actors, extras and stunt performers in movies and television shows. AFTRA has about 70,000 members who are actors as well as singers, dancers, disc jockeys, sports announcers, comedians and broadcast journalists, among others. The vote among SAG members was 82 per cent in favour and among AFTRA members it was 86 per cent, far exceeding the 60 per cent approval required by each union. “With this historic vote, members of both unions have affirmed one of the most basic principles of unionism: together we are stronger,” SAG-AFTRA national copresident Ken Howard said. “This merger, the result of months – really years – of planning, brings together the best
elements of both unions and positions us well to thrive in the changing 21stcentury media landscape.”
Turning to the screen A film adaption of Tim Winton’s book of 17 short stories, The Turning, has received funding from Screen Australia. The Robert Connolly-produced film will have a range of big-name Australian filmmakers and actors directing different ‘chapters’, including Connolly, Snowtown director Justin Kurzel, Van Diemen’s Land director Jonathan auf der Heide, The Slap showrunner Tony Ayres, actors Cate Blanchett, David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska, among others. “Winton’s iconic Australian short stories will come to life, showcasing acclaimed Australian talent as well as emerging directors, writers and producers,” says Screen Australia’s chief executive Ruth Harley.
Copyright – time to act The Alliance is calling on the Australian Federal Government to act after the High Court ruled in favour of internet service provider iiNet in a landmark copyright-infringement case. The court unanimously held that iiNet had no direct power to prevent its account holders from using the BitTorrent system to infringe copyright in the appellants’ films. “Illegal downloading of our film and TV shows poses the biggest single threat to future investment in content creation and hence to the livelihood of Australian performers and other film-industry workers,” says Equity director Sue McCreadie. The dispute began in November 2008, when several major film and television studios, with the assistance of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, filed an action in the Federal Court of Australia against iiNet, alleging it had authorised the peer-to-peer file-sharing activities of its users. “The judges have recognised that legislative change is needed to protect copyright owners against peer-to-peer
infringements,” McCreadie says. “The decision clearly demonstrates that Australian copyright law is outdated in the current online environment and that the government needs to act now.”
Quotas not the answer There may be fewer female artistic directors and writers today than there were in the 1980s and ’90s, according to a new Australia Council report, Women in Theatre. According to the authors, Associate Professor Elaine Lally from the University of Technology, Sydney, and Professor Sarah Miller from the University of Wollongong, “It appears that there has, at best, been no progress over the decade since 2001, and there is evidence that the situation for women in creative leadership [in theatre] deteriorated over that time.” The report was commissioned by the Australia Council several years ago, following the outcry that erupted when the Belvoir St Theatre released a program dominated by male talent. “The report confirms what we know instinctively – that there’s no ’silver bullet’ solution,” says Stephen Armstrong, Chair of the Australia Council Theatre Board. “People commonly talk of gender quotas, but these have been shown to be ineffective.” The report proposes such solutions as “more rigorous tracking of the state of the sector and any advances for women; greater board and senior management accountability for their track record; and vigilance, through all individuals taking responsibility for their decision-making”. Read more at www.australiacouncil.gov.au
Duck home to roost In August, Belvoir will take its critically acclaimed adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck to the biennial International Ibsen Festival in Oslo, a 15-day celebration of the Norwegian playwright’s work. The play, which was completely rewritten and set inside a glass box featuring a live duck, won several Helpmann and Sydney Theatre Awards.
The cast of Mary Poppins the Musical celebrate being 100 per cent Equity at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Every single cast member is a financial member of Actors Equity Australia
“It’s going to be a very expensive three nights of theatre,” Belvoir’s resident director Simon Stone told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Actually, it’s ridiculously expensive but the Norwegians really want us to go.”
Sapphires shine at Cannes Australian feature film The Sapphires – starring Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens – received a standing ovation when it screened at Cannes in May. The musical comedy, based on the true story of an Indigenous girl band, had its world premiere at a midnight gala screening on May 19 and received ‘’a 10-minute standing ovation’’ according to Forbes. com’s Roger Friedman. “The precedents are good,” wrote Michael Bodey in The Australian. “Both Strictly Ballroom and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert premiered in out-of-competition gala screenings at Cannes in 1992 and 1994 respectively.” The film has been picked up by The Weinstein Company, the US distributor behind The Artist and The King’s Speech. It will be released in Australia on August 9 after opening the Melbourne International Film Festival.
Funding boost for SBS SBS received a much-needed funding boost in this year’s federal budget. The government will provide an additional $158.1 million over five years aimed at infrastructure needs, the production of new Australian content and supporting indigenous broadcasting. “This funding boost during incredibly lean budgetary times is an acknowledgment of the critical role SBS plays in our society in telling the stories of multicultural Australia and reflecting the true diversity of the Australian community,” says Equity director Sue McCreadie. Equity has been calling for a funding increase for SBS for many years. In May, the Equity director travelled to Canberra with Australian performers Julia Zemiro (RocKwiz), Bruce Spence (R.A.N.) and a number of producers and directors to discuss the state of SBS with Friends of SBS (a parliamentary group convened by MPs Steve Georganas, Paul Fletcher and Senator Scott Ludlam and other members of Parliament) to argue the case for increased funding. As part of the funding package SBS will establish the free-to-air presence of National Indigenous Television.
Equity director Sue McCreadie and Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren met with Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten in May to discuss a portable long-service leave scheme for performers, who often miss out on this entitlement due to the nature of their work. The scheme would allow performers to transfer entitlements from employer to employer. A parliamentary committee review is being established.
TV negotiations set to begin
Equity is negotiating a new TV agreement to improve pay and conditions for actors working on Australian TV shows. Pictured: Ten Network’s Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms
Back to the drawing board The Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, advised Equity in April that he would not be endorsing the revised guidelines on the use of foreign artists in film and TV because of strong disagreement between stakeholders. This is a great outcome for performers and for the film and television industry. It means we can go back to the drawing board and come up with guidelines that work for everyone. Last year, the government had proposed radical, sweeping changes to the existing laws which ensure Australian performers have a fair chance of landing jobs in Australian-made productions. Performers stood firm and joined Equity’s Save Spaces for Aussie Faces campaign to oppose the revised guidelines – through rallies, letters and ultimately a vote to take industrial action if necessary. The minister is seeking the industry’s agreement to work together to identify a common approach to the issue. Equity has responded with an undertaking to negotiate in good faith and looks forward to negotiations recommencing.
Fruitful discussions with ad-agency body Equity met with representatives of the Communications Council – the peak body representing advertising agencies – in
April to discuss industry trends and ways to work together. The council is keen to develop an agreement for performers working in local advertising and to update the Offshore Commercials Agreement. The agreement was terminated by the Screen Producers Association of Australia in 2009 but has continued to be used by the producers of every offshore ad shot in Australia. The agreement exists to protect performers’ rates, rights and residuals. The Communications Council has also indicated that it would like to work with Equity to address issues relating to convergence.
Convergence Review findings welcomed Equity welcomed the findings of the Convergence Review Report, released on April 30. “This was a huge and complex task and we congratulate the committee on recognising the need for ongoing regulation and funding for Australian content in a converged media environment,” said Equity director Sue McCreadie. The report recommends all Content Service Enterprises – a new term to describe businesses delivering audiovisual material to Australians – be subject to Australian-content requirements. Read our full response at
www.equityfoundation.org.au/newsbites/ equity-welcomes-convergence-report. html
New agreement for OA performers Negotiations for the Opera Australia enterprise agreement are nearing conclusion. The outstanding issue is chorus numbers. In recent years members of Opera Australia’s chorus agreed to a reduction in permanent chorus members with the understanding that when the company’s financial situation improved the extra positions would be reinstated. The reduction of chorus members from 48 to 40 has had a significant impact on workloads. Opera Australia has announced an operating surplus but is refusing to increase permanent chorus numbers. Positively, the new agreement sees annual pay rises, over three years, of 3.7 per cent, 3 per cent and 3 per cent. It includes a new pay structure for principal artists which reflects their significant contribution to the company, improved superannuation contributions, improved transport arrangements and an increase in the vocal-maintenance allowance. Strong union membership in the company has contributed to these excellent outcomes.
This year, actors will have a chance to negotiate better pay and conditions in the Actors Television Programs Agreement. In the lead up to negotiations, Equity is holding a conference with the Screen Producers Association of Australia to discuss issues relating to television, such as residuals. Equity has also been surveying performers since May to find out what they want to see in the agreement. Negotiations for the Actors Television Programs Agreement and the Actors Television Repeats and Residuals Agreement will begin this month.
NZ Equity in talks with SPADA New Zealand Equity has begun negotiating with the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA) for New Zealand’s first standard contract for performers. Equity is seeking a document which protects performers’ basic rights and conditions. New Zealand is one of the only countries in the western world where actors have no collective agreement or standard contracts. Discussions with SPADA continue.
Film school ups rates Equity recently met with the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) to discuss the rates of pay offered to performers appearing in AFTRS films and workshops. AFTRS has agreed as an interim measure to increase minimum rates paid to performers by $31.72 per day with rates to increase in accordance with the Fair Work Australia minimum wage review. AFTRS has also indicated their desire to meet with Equity to negotiate a new agreement to cover performers in AFTRS films.
Photo by Adam Hollingworth
Photo thanks Ten Network
Talks on long-service leave
ou might be surprised to learn that this year Alex Dimitriades is celebrating his 20th anniversary in the industry. Looking as fresh faced as ever, he has an extensive back catalogue of successful projects under his belt that would make many actors envious. He burst onto the big screen in 1993’s hit movie The Heartbreak Kid, with Claudia Karvan. Up until then, he says, he was a bit directionless. “I left school without much of an aim. I had a whole lot of energy and talent but the opportunities weren’t there. I guess the kind of person I was and the place I was coming from, I wasn’t necessarily attacking them either, just very much living in the moment. I didn’t foresee much of a future [as an actor], so it was quite fortunate that something came along, because at that point I was putting a lot of my energy and mind into personal artworks. The movie was a good fit for me. It was a total gamble and I had no idea what I was doing but just trusted in the fact that I could do it.” The film’s success led to the long-running TV spin off Heartbreak High, with Dimitriades starring. Since then, he has amassed an impressive show reel that includes roles in such well-respected local television productions as Wildside, Blue Murder and Underbelly, making him one of the most recognisable faces on Australian television. He has also starred in Australian and international movies: Head On, Three Blind Mice, La spagnola, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo and Ghost Ship. Most recently, he played Harry, the perpetrator of that slap in Equity Award-winning and critically acclaimed drama The Slap. “The Slap forced a lot of conversations and challenged a lot of people’s notions about what they believe is right and wrong. It made you question yourself. It is such a fantastic piece of work. We are all really proud about that. The awards that it has garnered are pretty well deserved.” The cast of The Slap recently won the Equity
Alex Dimitriades at the 2012 Equity Awards
Heart to heart
In conversation with Karol Foyle, Alex Dimitriades reflects on his two decades in the industry and ponders on what the future may hold Award for an Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Mini-series or Telemovie. “I have been fortunate that I have displayed a certain something that has attracted those roles to me,” Dimitriades says. “I’ve instilled confidence in others to employ or re-employ me and see what I can bring to their projects. That’s a real blessing and I thank my lucky stars that I have been given some kind of talent. “It’s really fun running with it but scary as well because you always wonder, in the course of the journey, whether you are doing the right thing. So it is a complete gamble but you’ve just got to do what your god-given talent
allows you to do and I think I have made the right choice.” Dimitriades has not had any formal training and says he learnt his craft from watching others around him. “With the help of a few people, I kind of taught myself how to act. You have to use what you’ve got but absolutely get as much training as you can because that’s what it’s all about; you never stop learning. It just so happens that I learnt from a different way, as have many, but seeing young people go through the process of an institution and living that dream is inspiring in itself and a pleasure to witness.” Dimitriades acknowledges that life as an actor is not always easy but says he would not have it any other way. “I only have positive things to say about being an actor, although it can be rather lonely sometimes. I remember someone telling me when I first started out that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. When you are standing on the sidelines, you don’t realise these things until you experience them and even when someone forewarns you about something, it doesn’t make sense until hindsight and you think, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that person was saying…’, but you can’t prepare for these things because life is just a mystery that has to be lived.” Currently in negotiations for a number of projects, Dimitriades is also contemplating a return to the US to become another member of the gumleaf mafia. “It’s an interesting time for me. I just returned home from the States a couple of weeks ago and am sort of looking to head back there soon. I’m capitalising on the new contacts that I have made and feeling the energy about the place. It’s pretty inspiring and industrious. I kind of made that promise to myself that I would get back there soon enough. “I am happy but I can always be better and that’s what I strive for – excellence, I guess, self-satisfaction and good health, that’s the main thing. I want to be healthy enough to be doing this and to have the fever for it many years from now.” Karol Foyle is a journalist with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
Alex Dimitriades, Diana Glenn, Jonathan LaPaglia, Lex Marinos and Liberty Townsend
The Equity awards, by Dinosaur Designs
The cast of At Home with Julia
Maggie Dence, Lex Marinos and Patricia Amphlett
Jillian McCree and Izzy Stevens
The people’s choice
Alex Dimitriades and Equity president Simon Burke
Diana Glenn and Daniela Farinacci
THE EQUITY AWARD FOR AN OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A MINISERIES OR TELEMOVIE The Slap Jonathan LaPaglia, Sophie Okonedo, Melissa George, Essie Davis, Alex Dimitriades, Anthony Hayes, Lex Marinos, Sophie Lowe, William McInnes, Blake Davis, Diana Glenn, Toula Yiannis, Liberty Townsend, Raffaele Costabile NOMINEES Cloudstreet Killing Time Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo Underbelly: Razor
When members were invited to nominate, then vote for, last year’s best ensemble casts, they found they were spoilt for choice
he performers who starred in East West 101 (season 3), At Home with Julia and The Slap were selected by members of Actors Equity Australia as the winners of the 2012 Equity Awards. These are the only peer-judged awards for performers in Australia. The awards ceremony, hosted by Equity president Simon Burke, was held at ivy penthouse in Sydney on May 7. “We saw some phenomenal performances on Australian television last year, but the ensemble casts of East West 101, At Home with Julia and The Slap were voted the best of the best by Australian performers,” said Equity director Sue McCreadie. “Given the calibre of nominees, it’s a huge honour.”
Amanda Bishop, Phil Lloyd and Peter Carmody
Debbie Lee, Greer Simpkin and Penny Chapman
THE EQUITY AWARD FOR AN OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A DRAMA SERIES East West 101 (Series 3) Don Hany, Susie Porter, Matt Nable, Daniela Farinacci, Aaron Fa’aoso, Renee Lim, Tasneem Roc, Taffy Hany NOMINEES Bed of Roses (Series 3) Crownies Offspring (Series 2) Packed to the Rafters (Series 4)
Trent Baker and Aimee Ravek
Renee Lim, Matt Nable and Tasneem Roc
THE EQUITY AWARD FOR AN OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES At Home with Julia Amanda Bishop, Phil Lloyd, Peter Carmody, Michael Denkha, Craig McLachlan, Georgina Naidu, Al Dukes, Paul McCarthy, Jonathan Biggins, Jim Russell, Drew Forsythe, Joel Barker, Jack Dawes, Jack Versace, Pavarotti the Dog NOMINEES Angry Boys Laid The Jesters (Series 2) Twentysomething
I like the idea that perhaps by gaining some sort of profile over here I could help to get an amazing story back home off the ground.
Steering a course for LA An impressive number of Aussie actors are flying high after this year’s US pilot season. Lizzie Franks reports on who they are and how they got there
Rachael Taylor in ABC’s 666 Park Avenue and Emilie de Ravin, Natalie ost Australian actors are familiar with the craziness that Mendoza and Anthony LaPaglia in ABC’s Americana. is ‘pilot season’, either through personal experience or The casting process during pilot season is notoriously lengthy the war stories they’ve heard from friends. Sleeping on and competitive. The casting of Friends, which went on to be one of couches, traffic gridlock, exhaustion, nerves and angst America’s most successful sitcoms, gives a particularly good insight into are some of the defining traits of the whole ordeal. the competitiveness of the casting process for a television pilot and just Pilot season is that time of year (usually mid-January to mid-April) how seriously the bigwigs take it. when the major US networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, The CW and Fox – ask For an article in The New York Times titled ‘Finding writers, producers and studios to cast and produce the absolutely perfect actor: the high stress business a prototype of the first episode of a television series. of casting’, published in 1994, arts journalist Although they can be filmed any time of year, most Elizabeth Kolbert sat in on the “casting of a circle of are produced during pilot season. So it’s no wonder There is plenty of friends in their 20s living in Manhattan” for the pilot actors from all over the world flock to Los Angeles to interest in actors who of “a sitcom called Friends Like Us”. Kolbert describes try their luck, hoping for their big break. have not worked on US the “laborious casting process” she witnessed: “For “It is a great time to be over here,” says Matt television before. each of the six regular characters – Joey and five Skrobalak, the LA-based vice president of casting friends – the show’s casting director, Ellie Kanner, at CBS Television Studios. “The sheer volume of Matt Skrobalak, received more than 1,000 glossy black-and-white projects being produced – north of 80 among the vice president, casting, photos. From these, she chose about 75 actors for five networks – means that the most meaty series CBS Television Studios each part and called them in to read a scene from regular roles are available at the same time and the show. Those who seemed promising were CDs [casting directors] are more open to looking called back again to read in front of Ms Kauffman, Mr Crane [the anywhere and everywhere for the best options.” writers] and their partner, Kevin Bright, a producer. And these were During this year’s season, it would appear Australian actors have just the preliminaries. At the end of the month, the actors who had had a particularly good run. Among the lucky ones cast in pilots were: made it through the first set of cuts – three or four for each part – were Clare Bowen in ABC’s Nashville; Meegan Warner and Chris Egan in called back yet again to read in front of a group of Warner Brothers ABC’s Beauty and the Beast; Jay Ryan in The CW’s Beauty and the Beast executives.” (yes, there’s two versions of Beauty and the Beast and both featured Jessica McNamee, formerly Sammy in Packed to the Rafters, says of Australians in the lead roles!); Rebel Wilson in CBS’s Super Fun Night;
Australian actress Anna Lise Phillips (bottom, left) in NBC’s Revolution
the pilot season: “It truly is like nothing I have ever experienced. It is three months of pure chaos where you can have anywhere from one to four auditions in a day. There were a couple of weeks there were I was averaging 12 auditions a week.” McNamee moved to Los Angeles in 2011 and has since starred in US feature film The Vow alongside Rachel McAdams, Sam Neill and Jessica Lange. This year, she was cast in ABC pilot Scruples. Natalie Portman was the executive producer. The casting of Scruples, which is about a rich and powerful clothing designer who is living in a world of sex, revenge and scandal, was an “amazing experience” but far from “smooth sailing”, says McNamee. “I had actually worked with the director, Michael Sucsy, on The Vow. He has always been very supportive of my career and when he signed on as director, he instinctively thought of me for one of the roles. From that point, he had me come in and audition for the producers and then I went on to test for the show about a week later. “After my initial test, I got put on hold for two weeks while they tested a bunch more girls because the network wanted to be 100 per cent sure about their decision and felt they hadn’t seen enough people to commit to me. Finally, about five weeks after my first Scruples audition, Michael called to tell me the exciting news!” While many of the actors who were cast in pilots this year already had US credits, like McNamee, “there is plenty of interest in actors who have not worked on US television before”, says Skrobalak, who oversees casting activity on all CBS Television Studios shows and pilots. However, he says, having a US agent is crucial to a positive pilot season experience. “The Australian agents, while talented and fantastic, just don’t have the depth of relationships with US casting directors to assure their actors will get in the room and get the opportunities. I always advise actors without US reps to stay home and self-tape or avail themselves of auditions with Australian CDs hired to work locally on US pilot searches. There are definitely a lot of opportunities for that in Australia, as most of the major studios work with Australian CDs on select pilots.” Skrobalak, who has been a regular visitor to Australia to scout for talent since 2005, says he is pleased to see the diversity of overseas actors landing roles in US television shows. “We cast Jay Ryan in our Beauty and the Beast pilot at CW and British actress Janet Montgomery as the lead of our CBS pilot Baby Big Shot – both of whom had never worked on US series before – not to mention the countless others who
tested but did not land roles. My very first Aussie hire was Rachael Carpani right after she left McLeod’s. To see her starring in her own series Against the Wall on Lifetime last year was incredibly exciting.” For many performers, landing work in the US means the opportunity to boost their profile and then come home and support the local industry, which is what actors such as Teresa Palmer, Joel Edgerton, Rachael Taylor, Ryan Kwanten and Guy Pearce do. “I like the idea that perhaps by gaining some sort of profile over here I could help to get an amazing story back home off the ground,” says McNamee, who is due home this month to shoot an Australian film. “I think that was always my main drive for following work over here … to be able to then get the ball rolling or be considered for projects that I am passionate about back home that otherwise may not happen or I may not get a look in for.” Australian actress Anna Lise Phillips says she was “very lucky she didn’t have to go to LA for pilot season. It came to me.” “I participated in that hilarious wide net of pilot auditions that reach Australia every year, and after taping an audition with Nikki Barrett, I ended up getting flown to LA to test for an NBC pilot called Revolution. In fact, my tests in LA were only with the director, the casting director and her assistant. It was a dream run.” Phillips landed the role and was flown to Atlanta in April to shoot the pilot. “On hearing the news, I cried and opened a bottle of duty-free scotch I’d bought as a present for a friend … sorry, Graeme. And it’s been amazing, if not crazy, ever since.” While landing a pilot is a terrific experience – not to mention a nice boost for the CV and the bank balance – every actor, writer and producer’s dream is to have that pilot picked up by a network and developed into a TV series. The statistics are pretty scary. According to an article published last year in The Wall Street Journal called ‘The math of hit TV shows’, each year the big four networks receive 500 pitches from writers. Of these, a network will commission 70 scripts, from which they will make 20 pilots, which will result in four to eight series, of which there will be multiple seasons for only one or two. Phillips beat some of those unlikely odds – her pilot was picked up in May. “I came to LA during pilot season 10 years ago and hated it,” she says. “I know people who have come 12 times, only to finally land a dream job on their 13th … things change.” Lizzie Franks is the editor of The Equity Magazine
Photo by Penny Stephens. Thanks Fairfax Photos
Déjà vu all over again The Alliance’s Drew MacRae traces the oftenturbulent history of the Live Theatre Agreement, what its recent scrapping means to Australian performers – and what can be done about it
t’s a case of “here we go again” with the recent decision by the employers’ association Live Performance Australia (LPA) to walk away from the long-standing agreement that governed the use of overseas performers in Australian live theatre. Many performers will be forgiven for feeling an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. It was only a year ago that performers were gathering to take a stand against the Federal Government’s proposal to undermine rules regulating the importation of foreign actors for film and television. But for many members working in the live performance field, the sense of déjà vu will be even stronger, as Australian performers have had to deal with this issue over and over again. For the first half of the 20th century (and earlier), productions and casts were imported directly from London’s Drury Lane or New York’s Broadway. Australian producers would simply bring the casts of Annie Get Your Gun, The Merry Widow or Oklahoma! – to name just a few – without even considering putting an Australian up on stage. Watching UK and US actors strut For the first half of the their stuff in place of Australians 20th century..watching was the cringeworthy norm. UK and US actors strut It was really only after World their stuff in place of War II that things began to Australians was the change, when Australian performers stood together and cringeworthy norm. insisted on being given a fair go on the stage and screen. The first imported-artists’ agreement was imposed in theatre in 1945, with a complete ban on foreign ballet and chorus, while 75 per cent of principals and 25 per cent of cast could be foreign. The first opera-singer quota of 25 per cent was introduced in 1951. But it was an agreement reached with the key commercial live-theatre producer, J.C. Williamson, that really turned the tide. This ensured that ballet, chorus and showgirls (yes, showgirls) were 100 per cent Australian, and theatre and musical casts were 75 per cent Australian. The floodgates were opened with the 1957 production of The Pajama Game which featured a strong, largely Australian cast, including Toni Lamond, Jill Perryman and Bill Newman. Last year, the LPA’s own Helpmann Awards presented the JC Williamson Award to Toni Lamond AM, Jill Perryman AM MBE and Nancye Hayes OAM for their central roles in building a truly local liveperformance industry. This triumvirate of trailblazers showed them
Actors censure LPA More than 40 Australian theatre casts have passsed the following resolution: “This cast expresses its shock and deep disappointment at Live Performance Australia’s decision to terminate the Agreement Governing the Use of Foreign Artists in Live Theatre unilaterally and without discussion. We understand that Equity has signalled its preparedness to discuss any issues that LPA members may have about the framing or implementation of the agreement. However, Australian performers will not accept a situation where there is no agreement in place at all, leaving the way open for there to be no limitations on the use of overseas artists. Performers are committed to a collaborative approach to building the Australian live-performance industry and resolving industry issues. We call on the LPA to avoid an unproductive escalation of this dispute by returning to the table immediately.”
The cast of musical Moonshadow are among those who have passed Equity’s cast resolution
that Australians could do it just as well as anybody else. The battles continued over the years, with regular campaigns asserting the right of Australian performers to stand up to the cultural-cringe thinking of producers who would assert that overseas performers were better than us. Over the subsequent 50 years or so, Australia has become one of the premier centres of live performance in the world – built in no large part on the local star system that has been created because of the agreements in place. With the opportunity to show their wares, Australian performers break through and now regularly greenlight new shows on their own names and status – think Anthony Warlow, Marina Prior, Todd McKenney, David Campbell, Lucy Durack, Caroline O’Connor, Amanda Muggleton, Emma Matthews, Ben Lewis, Cheryl Barker and José Carbó.
The current guidelines were developed in 1988-89 and only ratified in 1993, after four years of negotiation and more industrial action by casts and members. Back then it was the casts of The Rocky Horror Show, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying and Phantom of the Opera who took a stand. Now it is An Officer and a Gentleman, Jersey Boys and La Traviata. These casts are acting in a tradition that stretches back to the 1940s – standing united against employers who disrespect our ability and our voice. It seems that traditions are big for the employers, too, with the same tired old arguments being trotted out yet again. Back in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the EIEA (now LPA) argued that the migration rules, which state that there needs to be a net employment benefit, were adequate protection for Australian performers. This ignores the basic point that there is no specific requirement that the engagement of an
overseas actor must lead to additional opportunities for Australian performers – merely “Australians”. In other words, if local front-ofhouse staff or a marketer are hired, that is all an employer needs to gain a visa for the overseas performer. This latest move by LPA will not immediately undermine the gains local performers have made in building a strong performer sector. We believe most producers genuinely support hiring Australians and encouraging the development of the local industry. But, over time, increasing financial pressures and the inevitable creep of the cultural cringe will empower other, less-supportive producers to give away Australian jobs. We may have been here before but at least we know what we have to do about it: unite, take a stand and have our voice heard. Drew MacRae is the Alliance’s federal policy officer
Devil’s in the detail Anthony Hayes and Ewen Leslie play Bernie Banton and Matt Peacock respectively in ABC’s Devil’s Dust. They speak with Karol Foyle about how they prepared for their roles and the challenges they faced – not least in the make-up department Anthony Hayes as asbestos campaigner Bernie Banton in ABC telemovie Devil’s Dust
him by any means.” ortraying a real person is a daunting undertaking for any What the two actors did have in common were the hours of make-up actor but when that person is a public figure twice your age, required each day in order to play men twice their age. who died fighting for a very public cause, it comes bundled “It has been a challenge,” says Leslie. “We go through at least an hour with additional pressures. That’s the challenge Anthony of make up for each look, especially when we are aged. Normally, you Hayes faced when he took on the role of Bernie Banton in the ABC’s would play someone young and gradually age throughout their lives but Devil’s Dust, a two-part telemovie which will air later this year. in Devil’s Dust it’s quite a big jump and you don’t get to play the middle Four years after losing his battle with mesothelioma, an asbestosperiod. When you see Tony in the final production, you will be amazed.” related cancer, Banton is still widely remembered as the spokesperson “It took two hours of make-up to play Bernie [in his 70s],” Hayes says. for sufferers campaigning for adequate compensation against the “We bleached my hair every week and a half because of regrowth. primary producer of asbestos products in Australia, James Hardie. I had no idea how painful that was and now I realise why girls sip While Hayes acknowledges the role was a challenge, it was also an champagne and wine while they get their hair bleached. Then I got a opportunity to honour someone he greatly respected. blue rinse through to give it the grey look and then a streak to get the “Playing Bernie was such a challenge but it was very invigorating, as older Bernie look. Then we used airbrushes to go back well,” he says. “It’s a pretty daunting task to start from that to get to the various stages, as it starts with off with because he is so iconic and there are so a bit of grey and gets greyer and greyer. Then there many videos of him, so much imagery, and people is old-age stippling make-up which is basically liquid do remember him as the face of that crusade. So it It took two hours of latex that gets applied to your face and blow dried, was daunting just to get it right, physically, and even make-up a day to play layer by layer, and stretched so when it bounces back getting his distinctive voice right. You just want to Bernie in his 70s. into place, it creates wrinkles.” do the best you can.” Anthony Hayes Hayes also felt a deep sense of responsibility in Hayes also felt he needed to honour all sufferers of portraying Banton during the last years of his life, asbestos-related disease and, as a result, he studied when he was suffering the devastating effects of the disease just as determinedly as he did Banton. asbestos disease. Even in his dying days, Banton “I did a lot of research and spoke to a lot of valiantly continued his public fight against James Hardie, often victims about the different stages and what it feels like to have asbestos appearing in public attached to oxygen tanks. It was a poignant disease,” he says. “It was a very sad time as I went out to the offices of reminder of the suffering he and many other victims endured and the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia and sat in a room with something Hayes wanted to portray sensitively. seven widows. I heard what it was like to nurse their husbands till “You do get used to it after a while,” he says. “Carrying the portable death, so for me it was more about representing the various stages of tanks around in every scene gets pretty heavy but it didn’t bother me. the illness correctly and knowing what it was like so I could act it.” It would be a horrible thing to have to do in life and humiliating to Hayes’s co-star Ewen Leslie plays Matt Peacock, the journalist who have to carry it around. The portable tanks don’t last very long, so you penned the book Killer Company on which the show is based. Peacock’s have to have spare tanks and you can run out of oxygen at any time, profile was never as prominent as Banton’s, so Leslie’s role did not have which can be quite dangerous. In the house, there are massive oxygen the added pressures Hayes faced. machines that you are attached to that are essentially a 40-metre hose “I met with Matt Peacock but it was never really a case of doing an that follows you around the house and gets tangled up.” impersonation of him,” Leslie says. “I met him a couple of times before Told through three narratives, Devil’s Dust is also the story of Adam we started shooting and got to spend a bit of time with him. I heard Bourke (Don Hany), an employee of James Hardie who must defend about his experience and got some of his insights but it was never the the company’s actions. Because it represents three sides of the story, case that I would study how he was holding his fork or impersonating
Leslie believes Devil’s Dust accurately reflects the issues, rather than being one sided. “I suppose the stroke of genius with the script is its multi-narrative aspect,” he says. “You’ve got me in the journalistic world tracking down the story; you have Bernie in the factories and with the families; and Adam Bourke is in PR on Hardie’s side of the world. It means you are able to tell the story in a complex but clearer way.” It’s a sentiment Hayes agrees with. “I think it’s done really well,” he says. “The three narratives are fantastic and this was probably my favourite part about it. There have been other projects that I have been involved with that have been seen to be left wing and I think this sits in a better place, as it presents both sides. There was a lot to draw on, with a lot of legal teams involved to make sure that, although licence can be taken with the dramatic personal lives of people, licence cannot be taken with the Jackson Commission [into James Hardie’s records]. That had to be done pretty verbatim.” Hayes is also glad the script was not written as a simplistic story of good versus evil. “It shows a human side as much as possible through Don’s character,” he says. “It shows how someone can start off working for a company and have a family, go up the corporate ladder and provide for their family, and you can see quite clearly how you could get into the situation. At the same time, it does not pull any punches about what Hardie did and nor should it. They are still a corporation who knowingly mined a product that killed people. “But it also does not make Bernie out to be a complete angel. It goes into aspects of him, like having a bit of an ego … he is a bit of a superstar and he plays on that a bit.” It’s not surprising that after doing significant research for Devil’s Dust, both Leslie and Hayes feel strongly about the issue and hope the telemovie not only raises awareness for current sufferers but also
reminds people that the dangers of asbestos have not vanished. “I am very lucky to be a part of something like this as it is a story that absolutely needed to be told,” says Leslie. “Meeting people on the set whose loved ones have died or been exposed to asbestos has been a really special experience.” Playing Banton has also brought home the magnitude of the problem for Hayes and he is hopeful that Devil’s Dust will reignite public awareness, something he feels has diminished since Banton’s death. “Everyone needs a poster boy and he was a great one,” he says. “He was a master at short, sharp sentences that were easily printable. That was one of his greatest things and I think that, with his passing, interest in the issue has certainly waned. I believe that companies like ADFA have less funding and less access to government support because there is not someone front and centre driving the issue home.” Despite its Australian setting, Hayes is hopeful Devil’s Dust will have universal appeal, as many countries are still using asbestos products despite being fully aware of the dangers. “There are still people mining and flogging asbestos products to places like India, Africa and Third World countries,” he says. “Because it can take 30 years to diagnose, or for the disease to come to fruition, we still don’t know how many people are going to be affected by this. It’s disgraceful that cases are popping up all the time and that asbestos does not go away or disintegrate into the earth. I don’t think we have seen the worse of this yet. By the year 2030, there are supposedly going to be more asbestos-related deaths in Australia than Australians who died in World War I and that’s quite staggering.” Devil’s Dust will screen on ABC1 in the second half of 2012. Karol Foyle is a journalist with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
Voice of experience What does it take to get a foothold in the extremely competitive field of voiceover? Practitioner and coach Abbe Holmes offers some insider’s tips
David Wenham lends his voice to an owl for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
et’s start by talking about what’s out there. Hundreds of voiceovers are produced nationally every week, mainly radio ads and promos, also called ‘imaging’, and mostly made in-house at the stations. In-house radio production caters to the ‘single event’ or ‘short campaign’ advertiser and the stations churn them out. Of course, radio ads are not all written and produced in radio stations. Advertising agency-created ads, usually for a more extensive campaign, will have a bigger budget and, therefore, a higher creative content. They’re recorded in the mainstream soundrecording studios, which specialise in crafting stand-out, memorable, engaging, often award-winning product. Radio is my favourite medium to work in; it’s so spontaneous. Television is next. Apart from the stations’ own promos or imaging spots, which are recorded in-house, most multi-channel television ads and campaigns are recorded at the high-end studios and have the largest budgets. Because of the high production costs, most are made for national release and
Coaches for hire
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designed to have a long shelf life. There’s a big difference between voiceover performances for radio and for television. In radio, the voice actor is solely responsible for creating the visuals in the message. In television, the images and sound design are doing a lot of the work and it’s the actor’s role to marry his or her voice with these two elements. I love the challenge of creating a voice that fits with a television ad. The next biggest area is ‘corporate’. It’s longform narration, running several minutes, rather than seconds, and could be for things as diverse as a training video, a DVD about a new housing development, airline safety narration, website content, product launch, an informational for a company’s upcoming conference or e-learning… and that’s just a sample. The corporate area is big and growing. Then there is work, albeit more sporadic, doing on-hold messaging and interactive voice recordings (IVR), animation, foreign-film dubbing and audio-book narration. So how do you get into voiceover? You make a voice demo. Warning: don’t even attempt this
John Higginson Abbe Holmes Ric Herbert Andrew Carlton Kirstie O’Sullivan
0418 588 637 0419 200 969 0416 047 740 0425 202 848 021 244 9393 18
unless you know what it is that others will ‘buy’ about your voice, what you’re good at, what style of script you’re most comfortable with and where you’d fit in. You might not need a degree to do voiceover but you do need to know what you’re doing. Producing a demo without that knowledge is a waste of time and money. So, if you’ve determined that you have the goods but have never stood in a studio, in front of a microphone, holding a script you’ve just seen for the first time, you’ll need some lessons. Find a voiceover coach who can work with you privately or who runs courses in a studio − and make sure it’s someone who’s working as a voice actor and uses ‘broadcast quality’ scripts to teach technique. Voiceover is not just about the voice − it’s also about understanding the advertiser’s message, comprehending key words and phrases, and knowing who you’re talking to, why, and what response you want from them. Let’s jump forward. You’ve had some coaching and feel absolutely comfortable behind a microphone. It’s time to make a demo, then market it. You don’t really need to go to the expense of a CD; just attach an MP3 to an email, and send it to studios and radio stations, either personally or via your agent. Your aim is to build a relationship with studios, engineers and producers, so include a short covering note, telling them a little bit about what you do and what you’re good at, then let the demo do the talking. Remember, your voice-acting career will never be as important to anyone else as it is to you, so the more work you do ‘well’ on your own behalf, the better off you’ll be. Voiceover, in all its forms, is about converting written word into spoken word in a way that informs, engages, charms, entertains and − this is why the client will keep booking you time after time − convinces the target audience to take action. Abbe Holmes is an actor, voiceover artist and voiceover coach. She’s been the regular voice for such names as Garnier, Spotlight, Snooze, Forty Winks and NAB
www.rehearsalroom.com/workshops/wkshpspresenter1a.html email@example.com voiceovercoach.com.au firstname.lastname@example.org richerbert.com thebizofshowbiz.com www.boldcommunication.co.nz
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Cinéma vérité A stunning new coffee-table book takes us behind the scenes of the Australian film industry, exploring its long and complex history in words and outstanding pictures. Author Martha Ansara gives us a sneak preview of what’s inside the glossy covers Photograph by Matt Nettheim
Shooting Australian feature film Little Fish in Sydney. L–R: Danny Ruhlmann (DOP), Rowan Woods (director), Cate Blanchett (Tracy)
Behind-the-scenes of Look Both Ways, Adelaide, 2005. L–R: William McInnes (Nick) on bed, Marco Arlotta (boom swinger), Leon Teague (Doctor), Ray Argall (DOP), Jules Wurm (focus puller), Sarah Watt (director), Chris Odgers (first AD), Toivo Lember (sound recordist), unknown in cap
It Isn’t Done, 1937, Cinesound. Ken Hall (director) seated, and cast members Cecil Kellaway behind Hall with Shirley Ann Richards on the other side of the camera
around him, again, is the crew, including DOP Ray Argall, whose large camera is peering down at the actor from atop a ladder which straddles McInnes’s upper thighs. And the list goes on… In one of the book’s many anecdotes, a tough old camera operator, Bill Grimmond, speaks of the tensions that actors are subjected to. His advice is: “You’ve got to cheat a little bit at times. Start pulling actors up in the middle of their best performance (laughing a bit) they’ve ever
done and ask them to do another take, they can throw their handbag down, ‘I was on it! I hit my bloody mark! You don’t know, you’re —.’ Yes sir, okay, three bags full. Actors are a feeling people, trying to play an emotional scene. You’re only trying to capture that scene. So you can’t be dominating and saying mechanically (stupid voice), ‘Well, I’ve got to get it right.’ You have a certain feeling for these people who are performing; it’s not a dogmatic bloody mechanical thing.”
Martha Ansara is a documentary filmmaker whose films on social issues have won international prizes and been screened in Australia, the UK, Europe and North America. The Shadowcatchers: A History of Cinematography in Australia, published by the Australian Cinematography Society, is available at www.shadowcatchers.com.au and in selected bookshops
Photo courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive
ome of the most beautiful photographs in The Shadowcatchers are of actors from the silent period. There they are in 1919, posed on a tiny drawing-room set at the glass-roofed Rushcutters Bay Studio, or in 1928, being filmed by three cameras, Hollywoodstyle, with a jodhpur-clad American director and an imported star. The 1920s was just one of several periods in our film history in which we pinned our hopes on imported personnel and productions. Another was after World War II, when most of the viable ‘Australian’ features were British or American productions. Although they gave work to our actors and technicians, it was usually in minor roles. Among the stills from these films is one showing American star Anthony Perkins as an Australian naval officer in front of a huge blimped camera in On the Beach (1959) and ‘Australian drovers’ Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr filmed by a largely British crew in The Sundowners (1959). The very English Some of the Deborah Kerr was apparently so convincing that she was nominated for photographs in The an Academy Award. Shadowcatchers reveal Some of the photographs in The the conditions under Shadowcatchers reveal the conditions which Australian under which Australian actors have actors have achieved brilliant performances. We achieved brilliant see, for example, Jack Thompson giving a speech on Breaker Morant performances. (1980), standing before a wall of eyes all looking at him – or at something else clearly more important than him. And from the sublime to the positively weird, there is John Ley in Out of the Body (1989), according to director Brian Trenchard-Smith, “…about to be hoisted into the air by an astral-travelling invisible demon. Grips below frame are ready to elevate him through frame… we then transitioned to a wide shot of him continuing to be hauled up to a height of 20 feet by a (largely) invisible cable before shooting himself.” A more recent photo shows William McInnes in Look Both Ways (2005), on his back on a massage table, wearing very little. Crowded
On the set of telemovie Small Claims in Sydney in 2005. L–R: Peter Fitzgerald (standby props), Paul Shakeshaft (first assistant camera), Claudia Karvan (Jo Collins), Marc Spicer (steadicam operator)
Aftershock of the new With the regeneration of Christchurch slowly taking place around them, Lizzie Tollemache joined a group of Christchurch actors for an inspirational masterclass – held, fittingly, in the Court Theatre’s new home
fter the devastating earthquake of February last year, actors in Christchurch have found ourselves dealing, among other things, with the same challenges as performers anywhere, simply in a concentrated form. Not enough work? Yep. Shortage of venues? Check. But for those of us who have chosen to stay here, the hunger to make it work rumbles loud and clear from our collective belly, launching a new kind of determination and creativity. Last year’s Christchurch Arts Festival provided a perfect example, as it knuckled down and continued, regardless of the considerable hurdles it faced. Shows took place in school halls and in tents. All venue rules went out the window, as audiences desperate for entertainment flocked to the strangest of places. The Loons Circus Theatre Company had been commissioned by the festival to produce a post-apocalyptic version of Macbeth, a theme which was suddenly staggeringly appropriate. I had the good fortune to be involved with the production which, after the original (indoors) venue fell to a particularly feisty aftershock, we ended up performing on the rubble of Lyttelton’s Volcano Bar, with a set consisting of handmade bunkers, braziers and not much else. Difficult times have always given rise to creative solutions and, as the new Christchurch slowly takes shape, it seems incredibly fitting that the city’s actors are gathered together this frosty Sunday morning for a masterclass to sharpen the tools with which we shape our work. A full day with the incomparable Miranda Harcourt begins by standing together inside what was once an old grain-storage warehouse and is now, after some innovative building and a flood of support, The Shed, home of the new Court Theatre. Miranda starts us off with deceptively basic focus exercises that shed some light on our individual bad habits: cueing issues, lack of connection, reliance on rigid blocking. We zip on to that old chestnut of how to establish
Lizzie Tollemache (centre) in the Fortune and Court Theatre’s production of Five Women Wearing The Same Dress
Difficult times have always given rise to creative solutions.
truthful connections in auditions, and over the course of the day are taken through a feast of rehearsal technique, performance analysis and scene work. Miranda is a beam of energy, effortlessly moving us through the day’s work, driving discussion and startling us with sprinklings of astute observation and individual feedback. New technique is immediately put into practice, as in pairs we explore short scenes, which are then developed and workshopped among the group. As scene after scene uncovers gripping and juicy relationships to drive each story, Miranda demonstrates her ability to electrify a scene with the simplest of direction and the most minute of changes. As the end of the day rolls around and we view recordings of each other’s work, I reflect that it would be easy in Christchurch to feel out of the loop and jaded, with the vast majority of New Zealand’s acting work occurring in the North Island. Workshops such as this, with Equity’s presence felt so strongly in the room, remind us that we are part of an international community. But so much more than that, they are essential opportunities for communication between local practitioners, students and teachers. The exchange of knowledge and mutual discovery were galvanising and, for me, it was a joy to see the Court Theatre rehearsal room used to foster the skills of an acting community. Hearing that Equity is working with the New Zealand Film Commission to push for local talent to be used in South Island filming was deeply encouraging, and cemented an idea expressed several times throughout the day: when you strengthen both the connection between actors and the skills of the individuals, you strengthen the entire industry. After all, what is the union here for, if not to join actors together? Lizzie Tollemache is a Christchurch-based performer who is has just finished a season of Much Ado About Nothing at the Court Theatre
Photo by Jeff Busby
n the audition merry-go-round, being told you’re “just not the look we’re going for” is par for the course. But what about performers who struggle, not just to get cast in a role, but to get the chance to audition at all? Performers who, by virtue of, for example, a disability or a particular physical characteristic, have to fight just to be considered for a role that doesn’t explicitly ask for a short-statured performer or one who is hearing impaired? These performers are often not even in the position to be told they aren’t the right look, because they won’t be considered in the first place. And even when a character is, say, meant to have autism or be visually impaired, to make matters worse these roles are most often given to actors who do not have these characteristics. Equity has worked hard in recent years to open up a dialogue with producers in film, TV and theatre about the need for more diversity in casting in Australia. In the US, nontraditional casting is big news, with a recent three-year tri-union campaign involving the Screen Actors Guild, AFTRA and Equity drawing attention to the issue. Called ‘I AM PWD’ (which stands for ‘Inclusion in the Arts and Media of People With Disabilities’), the campaign sought to raise awareness about the low participation levels of sections of the performing community in mainstream television, film and theatre. For so long, it has felt normal that Al Pacino would play a visually impaired man in Scent of a Woman, or Sean Penn would play a man with an intellectual disability in I Am Sam. For people who have never dealt with disability, these casting choices would not even raise an eyebrow. But why, when we have moved beyond ‘blackface’, is this sort of thing okay? We know that stars are not born but made (or make themselves), so if we don’t have a visually impaired actor with the star power of Pacino, who is to blame? Things are, to some extent, looking up in the US. In The West Wing, the impressive Marlee Matlin played a recurring character who was hearing impaired. Matlin, an Academy Award winner, is hearing impaired. In the popular Game of Thrones, the short-statured performer Peter Dinklage has won wide acclaim for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, and has been awarded an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance. He now has top billing in season two of the series. Robert David Hall, long-time cast member of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has made a living as an actor for 30 years and walks on two artificial legs. Michael Patrick Thornton, a wheelchair user who plays Dr Gabriel Fife in Private Practice, is another example of a character who is about much more than just his wheelchair. Glee, on the other hand, has been widely criticised for its portrayal of disability. The program sees Kevin McHale cast as
Emma J. Hawkins (centre) in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies
sailing! I still struggle to get auditions where a short-statured person is not asked for.” Hawkins has responded to the challenges she has faced. “I’m often creating my own work or within independent theatre, which allows me to get my profile and skills out there without the typecasting that seems to happen in the mainstream,” she says. Sancha Donald, CEO of Accessible Arts NSW, an organisation that promotes opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in arts and cultural activities, agrees that openings are limited. “Most opportunities for performers with disabilities are either in disability settings or with companies where disability art is the main focus,” she says. “Very few pop up in mainstream performances.” Donald advocates for a combination of training for performers and job opportunities. “Access to the arts is a human right and people with disability also have much to contribute, and the arts are the poorer without the patronage, talent and critique that 20 per cent of the population can add,” she says. There is also the question of whether a term like ‘performers with disabilities’ is a useful way to describe a cross-section of people with
Don’t mention the D-word Missing out on roles is an actor’s lot but, writes Victoria Houston, performers with disabilities face a bigger challenge – getting an audition in the first place wheelchair-dancer Artie Abrams, when he does not use a wheelchair in real life. When there are so few parts available to wheelchairbound performers, not using this rare chance to hire one of them seems like a wasted opportunity. In Australia, openings for performers with disabilities are even more limited. We have seen a wheelchair-bound character in The Librarians (played by the able-bodied Heidi Arena) and a character with cerebral palsy in Packed to the Rafters (played by Kristian Schmid, who does not have the disease). In Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights High we saw an actor with Down’s Syndrome, Danny Alsabbagh, play Toby. Lilley attracted criticism from some quarters for his subversive treatment of disability (and everything else) but, in truth, it was a show that mocked everyone and for once an actor with a disability was able to just be himself. Emma J. Hawkins, a short-statured performer who toured Australia with the Lloyd-Webber musical Love Never Dies, says her career “definitely hasn’t been smooth 23
wildly varying reasons why they do not fit traditional expectations. There is, without a doubt, a lack of understanding, not just about the extent of the problem, but also with how to usefully tackle it, especially when even finding the right terminology is a challenge. We now have a clause in our Performers’ Collective Agreement which encourages producers to think outside the box when casting, and will soon sign off on the same in the Feature Film Agreement. Ultimately, however, those who have the power to make casting decisions need to step back and think about what it means to ignore a group of performers who could bring a depth of feeling and truth to roles that others simply cannot. “Why can’t disabled people tell their own stories? We’re living, breathing members of society. Including us in the arts and letting us act on screen and participate in production behind the cameras would help us tell the most important story of all, that we are just people and our disabilities are second to our characters, real or fictional,” says Kiruna Eliza Stamell, a short-statured Australian performer, based in London. “We aren’t inspirational or metaphorical points to be made in a plot, we are just human and full of the richness that humans are and deserve to be involved in our society’s culture rather than ignored, or spoken for.” Victoria Houston is Equity’s national live performance industrial officer
Dust. These central characters were: cancer victim Bernie Banton (Anthony Hayes); James Hardie PR man Adam Bourke (Don Hany); and ABC journalist Matt Peacock (Ewen Leslie). Two-time AFI Award-winning writer Kris Mrksa and producers FremantleMedia Australia are bringing the story of this ongoing national tragedy to the small screen.
Howzat! The Kerry Packer Story
(Channel Nine, 2012 TBC, two-part miniseries) This looks like a highly entertaining trip back to the late 1970s, when a young Kerry Packer took on the cricket establishment. Then owner of Channel Nine, he set up a rebel competition, World Series Cricket, ushering in the era of one-day cricket played under lights. Lachy Hulme, recently seen in Beaconsfield, Any Questions for Ben?, The Killer Elite and Offspring, continues his strong run in portraying Kerry Packer, backed by a supporting cast of moustachioed stars, including Brendan Cowell, Damon Gameau and Matthew Le Nevez.
year on the
It’s shaping up to be a bumper year for local TV, with an impressive number of original productions, as well as new seasons of popular series. Simon Elchlepp gives us a rundown
(ABC1, 2012 TBC, telemovie) The story of Melbourne GP Bert Wainer is that of a long, hard struggle on two fronts. In the late 1960s, Australian social mores were rapidly changing and Dr Wainer, moved by the death of a young woman, embarked on a campaign to overturn laws that made abortion punishable by up to 15 years in jail. Soon he was not only up against the legal Shane Jacobson and Guy Pearce in Jack Irish system, but also against an illegal abortion ring involving highly paid doctors, backyard Photo courtesy of ABC TV abortionists, high-ranking police and power-broking politicians. Devil’s Dust As producer/writer Kris Wyld’s (ABC1, second half 2012, two-part next project after the AFI and telemovie) AACTA Award-winning East For more than a century, asbestos West 101, Dangerous Remedy was one of the most commonly promises to be another slice of used building materials, and first-rate Australian TV drama, it took decades to recognise its brought to life by a high-profile devastating health impacts. In cast that includes Jeremy Sims Australia, the actions of three men (Bert Wainer), William McInnes, brought about a turning point Susie Porter, Maeve Dermody and in the struggle for recognition, Gary Sweet. recreated in the telemovie Devil’s 24
Jack Irish – Bad Debts / Jack Irish – Black Tide
(ABC1, 2012 TBC, 2 x 90 mins) Rain. Wind. Pubs. Beer. Sex. Corruption. Murder. That’s Melbourne in winter for you, according to Peter Temple’s Ned Kelly Award-winning series of Jack Irish crime novels. Jack is an expert at finding people who don’t want to be found – dead or alive. He’s a former criminal lawyer, part-time investigator, debt collector, cabinetmaker, mug punter and sometime lover – and the producers couldn’t have found a better actor to portray this complex character than Emmy Award-winner Guy Pearce. Damien Garvey, Anthony Hayes, Shane Jacobson and Roy Billing co-star, with AFI Award-winner Jeffrey Walker directing.
(ABC1, 2012 TBC, telemovie) The life of Eddie Mabo has been the subject of several
documentaries, most recently in Rachel Perkins’ groundbreaking series First Australians. Now Perkins returns with this telefeature. At its heart is the love story between Mabo and his wife Bonita that sustained their momentous struggle to change the face of Australia. In the lead role, Jimi Bani (The Straits, R.A.N.) is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that includes Deborah Mailman (Bonita), Colin Friels, Miranda Otto, William McInnes and Ewen Leslie. Behind the camera, Byron Kennedy Award-winner Perkins works with a team that includes the multiple AFI Award winners, composer Antony Partos and writer Sue Smith.
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab
(ABC1, second half 2012, series) Redfern Now looks like it might become a landmark series in more than one sense. Crafted by seven Indigenous Australians under script guidance from threetime BAFTA Award-winner Jimmy McGovern (The Street, Cracker, The Lakes), it is employing more than 250 Indigenous Australians in various roles, including producers, directors, writers, actors, and production and post-production staff. Produced by Blackfella Films (First Australians, Mabo, The Tall Man), the series will tell “the explosive and dramatic stories of six households in Redfern ... one of Australia’s most famous suburbs – an area full of contradictions; [an] Aboriginal icon, centre of black struggle, and a real estate goldmine”, according to McGovern.
(ABC1, second half 2012, telemovie) Period crime shows are hot right now. The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is based on the first detective novel written in Australia, in 1886, by Melbourne barrister’s clerk Fergus Hume. A milestone in the development of the literary crime genre, the book has been filmed three times as a silent movie and comes to the small screen courtesy of producer Margot McDonald (The Dunera Boys, Nancy Wake, The Real Macaw) and director Shawn Seet (Underbelly, Slide). It will star John Waters, Shane Jacobson, Helen Morse, Logie Awardnominee Anna McGahan and Chelsie Preston Crayford, winner of this year’s Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding New Talent.
(Network Ten, 2012 TBC, 13 x 1 hour) Family-oriented action fare has taken a bit of a back seat in recent years, but that’s about to change with Reef Doctors, starring Lisa McCune (Sea Patrol). She plays a single mother and leader of a team of doctors who serve the remote Hope Island Clinic on the Great Barrier Reef. Reef Doctors marks McCune’s first foray into producing and she is joined by two-time AFI Award-winner Jonathan M. Shiff (Elephant Princess, H20 – Just Add Water, Cybergirl). Rohan Nichol, Matt Day and Richard Brancatisano complete the cast of this Australian-German co-production.
(Network Ten, second half of 2012, series) Like Bruce Beresford’s 1981 classic movie of the same name, this series is based on the novel by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette about two Sydney teenage girls trying to fit in with the local surf gang. Its top-flight cast includes Claudia Karvan, Susie Porter, Dan Wyllie, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Rodger Corser and Ashleigh Cummings. More AFI Award winners are found behind the camera, with Southern Star duo John Edwards and Imogen Banks (Offspring, Tangle) producing, and Glendyn Ivin and Emma Freeman (Hawke, Tangle, Offspring) directing.
(Channel Nine, second half 2012, eight-part miniseries) This jumps closer to the present day than any previous Underbelly series. Set between 2001 and 2011, it focuses on Sydney underworld figure Anthony Perish and how he was brought to justice after a 10-year police investigation. Production company Screentime has landed a casting coup, as AACTA Award-nominee Jonathan LaPaglia will return
to Australian screens as Perish, after his much-lauded turn in The Slap. The cast is completed by Matt Nable, Josh Quong Tart, Ben Winspear, Leeanna Walsman and Jodi Gordon. Executive producers will be Underbelly veterans Des Monaghan and Greg Haddrick.
(Network Ten, second half 2012, telemovie) Network Ten’s line-up is likely to generate plenty of discussion around the water cooler. As well as Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms and Puberty Blues, there’s Underground. Few people have received as much media attention and polarised the public as strongly in recent years as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, so this telemovie about a young
Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Claudia Karvan, Ashleigh Cummings and Ed Oxenbould on the set of Puberty Blues
Photo courtesy of Network Ten
Assange and how he allegedly hacked the CIA website is bound to make waves. After weeks of intense online speculation, Ten announced Underground’s impressive cast, headed by newcomer Alex Williams and including AFI Award-winners Anthony LaPaglia and Rachel Griffiths. The production will be directed by Robert Connolly (The Slap, Balibo, The Bank).
(Foxtel, 2012 TBC, series) One of Australian TV’s undisputed classics is Prisoner,
which ran for seven years and has a cult following around the world. So Foxtel has some big shoes to fill with Wentworth, its contemporary ‘re-imagining’ of Prisoner. Little is known about cast and crew at this stage, but Foxtel Executive Director of Television Brian Walsh promises “a dynamic and very confronting drama series, developed and
Hollowmen will greet Lowdown’s second season with open arms. Adam Zwar returns as the Sunday Sun’s celebrity-gossip columnist, who compensates for his lack of a moral compass with a keen sense of which stories will drive up circulation. From exposing political sex scandals and violent actors to outing gay sportsmen and setting up cheating TV chefs, Alex will do what it takes to save the Sun’s declining readership. Lowdown Series 2 reunites AFI Award-winners Adam Zwar, Kim Gyngell (as the Sun’s editor) and series producer/ writer/director Amanda Brotchie for another good skewering of the tabloid press.
(ABC, second half 2012, six-part series) Episodes of This Christmas are set a year apart, as Dan (Ian Meadows) visits his dysfunctional family Matt Le Nevez as Dennis Lillee in Howzat! every Merry Season. AFI Award-winners Phil Lloyd (At Home with Julia) and Trent O’Donnell (The Chaser’s Photo courtesy of Nine Network War on Everything, Laid) have mined similar territory before stylised specifically for in Review with Myles Barlow – subscription television Christmas Special and will know audiences”. Produced by how to milk this comedic setup Jo Porter (Packed to the for all it’s worth. Rafters, All Saints, Always Greener), Wentworth will Please Like Me follow the story of newly (ABC1, 2012 TBC, 6 x 30 mins) arrived prisoner Bea Smith Well known to comedy buffs and her rise through the ranks through his stint as Gen Y of the all-female prison hierarchy team leader on Talkin’ ’bout Your to the position of ‘Top Dog’. Generation, Logie Award-winner Josh Thomas writes and stars in Please Like Me. For Josh, life is just Winners & Losers kicking off, now that he is living (Seven Network, 2012 TBC, series) in a share house and taking steps At this stage, we don’t know towards adulthood. But then he’s much about the second season of forced to move back home to care Winners & Losers, except that it for his divorced mother and grow will return to TV screens in 2012. up a bit quicker than expected. The final episode of season one brought some big changes to the lives of Frances, Sophie, Bec and Simon Elchlepp is a project Jenny, giving series creator Bevan and office coordinator for The Lee (Packed to the Rafters) “a new Australian Academy of Cinema launching pad for season two”. and Television Arts (AACTA) Filming began on 23 August last This is an edited version of an year. article published by AACTA To subscribe to the AFI|AACTA Lowdown Series 2 e-news or become a member, visit (ABC1, 2012 TBC, 8 x 30 mins) aacta.org Fans of Frontline and The
Photo by Jessica Schapiro Thanks Fairfax Photos
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
To big business, the spoils
he recent release by Radio New Zealand of its Official Information Act (OIA) requests on The Hobbit offers a rare glimpse into the fashion in which the New Zealand Government ‘negotiates’ with major corporates. This could hardly be more timely, given the secrecy that continues to surround a SkyCity Casino proposal to build a controversial convention centre in Auckland. Like the Hobbit situation, it involves the government being (apparently) willing to scrap existing New Zealand laws and regulations in order to meet the demands of a foreign corporate. We’d done this sort of thing before, of course, over the change in tax laws to accommodate the Lord of the Rings project. Clearly, the only way that successive New Zealand governments have known how to ‘negotiate’ with Hollywood studios has been to fall to their knees. Even so, the Hobbit situation is in a class of its own. It was a national embarrassment from the outset. What the studios wanted was a change to our industrial law – in essence, an overturning of rights established by the Bryson case in 2006. This required employers to extend the same rights and conditions as permanent employees to those ‘contractors’ able to demonstrate that their employment conditions were indeed those of permanent staff. In other words, what the courts had done with the Bryson decision was to prevent the exploitation of people who were, in reality, permanent staff but who, because of the useful fiction of being deemed to be ‘independent contractors’, could be denied sick leave, holiday pay, and other normal workplace rights and protections. Warner Bros wanted to return things to the previous condition of exploitation, and John Key’s government was happy to comply. Not that the case of Bryson – who was not an actor – was in any way central to the decision to make The Hobbit in New Zealand. It was just one item on a wish list which included screwing more money from the government.
The New Zealand Government seems set on bending to the will of international corporations, at the expense of protective industrial laws, writes Gordon Wood A similar item on the corporate wish list was the ability to scrap Equity’s right to challenge the casting of overseas actors in minor roles, if and when there were New Zealanders who could do the job. This is not only an accepted premise of immigration law worldwide as a means of job protection – it is also what Hollywood studios routinely comply with in UK film productions. If, as former Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee suggested recently, the production was ever remotely at risk of being whisked off to Pinewood Studios in the UK, Warners would have had to comply with the following set-in-concrete British work rules that they allegedly could no longer tolerate here. To ensure that overseas actors are of a sufficient high quality and not displacing resident labour force in the United Kingdom it has been agreed with Equity that the employer must, in all cases, provide evidence of one of the following: • The work is for continuity. For example if the person has worked for a period of one month or more on the same piece of work overseas. Applications submitted under the criteria for continuity must supply proof that the overseas national is currently, or has recently been working on the same piece of work overseas (i.e. contracts or press reviews or other such documents) and has done so for at least one month. The UK Border Agency will still consult with Equity if the actor/actress has played the same part abroad in a production of the same name, as this would not be classed as continuity. • The person has international status. For 26
example if they are internationally famous in their field. An actor with international status is a well-known star who would not displace resident labour. This does not mean the same as being established overseas. Etc etc etc… In reality, US film productions in Britain still comply with those rules. Yet, thanks to the Key Government’s craven capitulation, Warners no longer have to meet those same conditions here. All this, however, was just a sideshow. The unions had already signed a deal on October 19, 2010 that had effectively closed the door on industrial action over The Hobbit. That deal promised in good faith – which is a legal commitment, not merely a goodwill gesture – not to take industrial action during the course of the film, and not while the new Pink Book conditions, which were meant to govern the management of film productions in New Zealand, were being negotiated. All parties had been informed of this successful resolution, but the unions acceded to requests to keep quiet about it. This request for compliance not only enabled the unions to continue to be scapegoated publicly, but it also maintained a fictitious political climate of perilous uncertainty, whereby the other goals (more than $30 million more money for Warners, the changes to industrial law, the immigration visa permit guarantees) could be rationalised, gift wrapped and dropped in Warners’ lap. It is hard to say which is more excruciating – the sense of outrage or the sense of embarrassment that New Zealand let itself be played like a chump. It is embarrassing to read about the government dispatching a fleet of official limousines to pick up the Warners executives at the airport, as if they were visiting heads of state, and to hear the details about Brownlee rushing to the phone – like some star-struck groupie – to ring Peter Jackson about the gist of Cabinet discussions. You know, those private Cabinet discussions to which the media and the general public are never privy. It should be underlined that we know this stuff about The Hobbit only because Radio NZ kept on doggedly seeking the evidence via OIA requests and complaints to the Ombudsman in the face of government obstruction. The government has wanted no transparency about its behaviour during this episode and one can readily see why. But we should all be worried – very worried – that this same government is now conducting negotiations with SkyCity behind a similar veil of secrecy. Few people would begrudge the secrecy if the public could have any confidence in the government’s competence at the art of negotiation. But all these papers reveal is its readiness to run cap in hand to the bargaining table to sign the surrender papers. This is an edited version of an article originally published by scoop.co.nz on April 27 2012. Gordon Wood is the editor of scoop.co.nz
first appeared on television some 43 years ago. Ouch! It was black and white and live to air, and was simply sent out from the studio without any recording, so don’t try looking it up on YouTube. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time in front of, behind and sometimes even underneath cameras. It has been a rollercoaster ride of drama, serials, series, comedy and variety shows, plus TV and feature films, short films, student films and about a million training and corporate videos (why do we still call them videos?). I had a small amount of formal training in screen acting at NIDA but mostly I’ve watched and learnt and tried and failed, and learnt and experimented and failed, and learnt and sometimes not failed. For the past year and a half, I’ve been running screen acting classes for the Equity Foundation, with my good friend Bernard Purcell operating the camera and teaching with me. The classes have been mainly focused on the technical side of acting for film and television. They have proven to be very popular, with many Equity members applying and some not getting in, so Equity asked me to write down some of what we do in class. I don’t know if it will work because it makes sense when it is happening there in front of us and we are all watching the performances on the big screen in the training room, but I’ll give it a try… I once said the difference between film acting and stage acting was catering. You get it in film and television; you don’t get it in theatre. In reality, there are only two sorts of acting – truthful and faking it – and you can do them both on screen and on stage but only one of them is worth watching. If your experience is mostly in theatre, don’t freak out about the common misconceptions about screen acting, such as “I have to be smaller on screen”, “they say I’m too loud for television” or “I’m too big to fit on the screen”. The size and scale of your performance is based on the character you are playing and the size of the shot. I played an intellectually disabled character for a while in a TV series. The character dictated my performance and therefore he was louder than any of the others in the show. However, I was still bound by the size of the shot. You need to be aware if you are in close-up or extreme close-up, so you can fit your performance to the screen. It is similar to playing different-sized theatres and genres of plays. For example, if you’re playing a small theatre like Downstairs Belvoir, the technical aspects of your performance will be different from playing the Festival Theatre in Adelaide with more than 2,000 seats. Think of the shot size on screen as being similar to where the back row of the audience might be in a theatre.
The screen actor’s craft A veteran of both big and small screens, Jonathan Mill now runs classes through the Equity Foundation. Here, he shares some of the camera-ready techniques he has mastered over more than four decades
A wide shot is like a large theatre, a two shot or mid shot a smaller theatre, a close-up like Downstairs Belvoir and an extreme close-up as if the audience is sitting right next to you. You may be changing the size of the theatre many times in one scene. You often shoot out of sequence and with long gaps between lines as the camera and lights are repositioned, so it helps to keep the story alive in your head all the time. Where are we up to? What has just happened? How much of the story do I know at this point? In theatre, the story runs in a straight line, but when shooting, you have to keep it in your head and grab the parts you need at any given time. There is no alternative to thoroughly knowing the script, your character, relationships between characters and where you are up to in the storytelling. Most importantly, talk! Talk to the director as much as you can. Talk to the first AD about where you are up to and what is happening.
Talk to the cinematographer or camera operator about the size of each shot. Talk to the sound and boom operators about where the microphone is, and what is working for them and what isn’t. Talk to the other actors in the scene. You don’t need to use words all the time. Make eye contact with someone about the size of shot and get them to show you what bit of you is on screen. I worked once with a great American star who would start dancing during a scene just to check if she was still being seen on camera. She told me that, early in her career, she had given some magnificent performances, only to find out the camera was no longer on her. Which is not to say stop acting when the camera isn’t on you; it’s just nice to know so you can relax and save your energy. Practise and practise and practise hitting your mark. Put down a bag of laundry and get used to walking up to it and stopping next to it without looking. Don’t allow your body to relax and slump once you’ve found your mark in a close-up; you’ll start to drift out of shot. When you are the shoulder the camera is shooting over for your fellow actor’s close-up, try not to move. Practise cheating an eye line. Looking at someone’s ear instead of their eyes feels strange but it may be what the shot needs. Above all, keep thinking, feeling, breathing, as these strange technical things happen around you. Don’t get distracted. Michael Caine once said, “I do the acting for nothing, but they pay me a fortune to sit around waiting.” Save your energy for when the director says, “Action.” And then enjoy those brief, wonderful moments when someone is paying you to act. Jonathan Mill is an actor, writer, director, teacher and a member of the National Performers Committee
Jonathan Mill (far right) hosts a workshop on screen acting at Equity’s Sydney headquarters
A healthy jump in membership numbers has been mirrored by renewed confidence that the local industry can achieve best-practice levels in the foreseeable future, writes Anna Majavu Photo by Grae Burton
Equity staff and committee members at a meeting in Auckland. Back row (L-R): Bruce Hopkins, Robert Tripe, Kelly Wood, Anna Majavu, Todd Rippon, Charlie McDermott, Sam Snedden. Front row (L-R): Tandi Wright (vice president), Phil Darkins (vice president), Jennifer Ward-Lealand (president), Sue McCreadie (director), Liesha Ward-Knox
s New Zealand Actors’ Equity enters a fresh round of negotiations with the producers’ association, SPADA, for residual payments and a standard contract, it is clear that actors in the country are on the move. The New Zealand branch has increased in size by 21 per cent over the past six months, after recruiting 90 new members. The number of members in the major screen casts has grown, and in theatre, casts are often between 80 and 100 per cent Equity. This makes Equity the second-fastest-growing union in New Zealand, after UNITE, which organises workers in hotels, restaurants, casinos, cinemas, call centres, security and shopping malls. Equity has also seen an increase in the number of producers calling the office to ask if there is a standard contract they can use for their films. Many local producers are not opposed to the idea of giving actors their fair share of the pie – neither are they opposed to decent working conditions. Recently, a producer casting for a film not only asked Equity to tell our members that roles were up for grabs, but also asked for the union’s blessing for the contract. With actors leaving the country all the time for greener pastures, keeping membership numbers high is not easy. The union’s strength lies in its dedicated performers’ committee of 20 well-known professional actors, who
Many local producers are not opposed to the idea of giving actors their fair share of the pie – neither are they opposed to decent working conditions.
volunteer their time. As well as fighting for actors’ rights, most committee members are involved in bettering the industry as a whole – managing theatres, teaching at drama schools, fostering the blossoming comedy industry, directing, producing and working as crew. The committee members carry out regular cast visits, speak at recruitment events organised by the country’s top agents, and hold popular Green Room meetings, where actors socialise while discussing plans for our industry’s future. Equity members in Auckland gather almost every month at the union’s newly launched professional development program events, which this year have included workshops with casting directors and physical-theatre workshops. Members in Wellington and Christchurch are also involved in the professional development program, having recently attended an acting masterclass with 28
Equity member Miranda Harcourt (see story, page 26). More than ever, New Zealand actors need to be united to meet new challenges. Producers at recent TVC pre-casting talks were pushing for their clients to be allowed to leave TVCs online long after their contract with the actor had come to an end. Their argument was that, in the digital age, the internet is a storage facility. But this puts the actor in a bad position, because he or she remains associated with one product for years, and often finds it hard to be cast in other TVCs. Equity is working on several cases where producers have ignored the end-of-contract date and left a TVC online, refusing to pay the actor the agreed rollover fee. So far, we have been successful in getting at least one to offer a settlement amount. There is a growing number of cases of actors being paid last, if at all. These are not only on low-budget films but also well-funded quasi-documentaries/reality TV shows, where people are hired as actors, then taken into such venues as prisons to shadow officials, while being filmed. Producers fob them off with the excuse that they are participating in a ‘documentary’. Part of building respect for the acting profession includes pushing for residual payments, or ‘back-ends’, on all screen productions. It is widely known that New Zealand is the only country in the western world that doesn’t pay residuals to actors, but we are also behind less-affluent countries when it comes to actors’ rights and residuals. In South Africa, for example, both the major free-to-air TV channels have standard agreements with the actors’ union which include payments for repeat broadcasts, residual payments and payments for the exploitation of the likeness of the actor. In fact, the situation in New Zealand is more like that in Nigeria, where ‘Nollywood’ actors are still campaigning for residual payments. While a majority of Kiwi actors are now part of Equity, the union is on a drive to increase membership to 80 per cent, as is the case in Australia, England, Canada and the US. The standard contracts, good working conditions, minimum rates and residual payments that actors in these countries get are the result of struggles fought by their unions 80 years ago. With more professionals joining NZ Actors Equity every week, we are growing in confidence that standing together, we can get the industry up to best-practice levels in line with the rest of the world.
Photos thanks Alex Jones
Growth spurt for NZ Equity
Pearl Tan (standing) hosted an Equity workshop on digital media with NIDA marketing manager Candice Wise
s an actor, your personal brand is your livelihood. Like it or not, social media is not going away any time soon and it plays a huge part in building your personal brand. YouTube is currently the second-largest search engine in the world, Facebook has more than 900 million monthly active users and there are more than 200 million Tweets each day. You can choose to ignore the digital world, but the internet will continue to grow alongside your career, and things like theatre reviews, film and television listings like IMDb, Wikipedia and fan sites mean you will end up with a personal brand online regardless. So why not harness the power of the digital world by creating and controlling your own content? First, you need to decide what username or handle you want to use. If your stage name has already been taken, try to come up with something unique and easy to remember, then snap it up on every available social-media channel – whether you think you’ll end up using it or not. This consistency will help build your brand. You also need to make a decision about what sort of information you want to share. Ask yourself what your communication style is: are you a warts-and-all sort of person, who will happily share your life with the world? Using your real name online is advantageous because potential employers can easily find you. However, you may prefer to keep your private persona (party photos, dating sites etc) separate
Selling yourself Keep your finger on the digital world’s pulse by using social media to promote your ‘brand’ online. Pearl Tan and Candice Wise have some timely advice from your public image. One option is to choose a pseudonym for your private affairs, or you can use privacy settings to your advantage. For example, Facebook automatically creates the groups “Close Friends” “Acquaintances” and “Restricted”, as well as allowing you to create your own groups. You can change the visibility setting for every single status or photo that you post, from “Public” through to a group or even a single person. With new social-media channels popping up all the time, you need to choose where to put your energy. Pick channels that not only have high traffic and engagement levels but also suit your communication style and the type of content you want to share. For each socialmedia channel you use, you need to think about who your target audience is and what they
Anna Majavu is an Equity industrial officer based in Auckland
might be interested in. Are you posting content for fans or industry practitioners? If you want to build and maintain a loyal following, try to create content of value for your target audience and encourage interaction. They don’t want to be spammed with shameless self-promoting material, repetitive pleas for crowd-funding pledges or what you had for lunch. You could share articles that you’ve read, industry opportunities such as grants or internships, let people know about a show you really loved or provide amusing anecdotes about your time on set. Be creative and sensible in finding your own style and tone to engage with your audience. The mix of content you post on the different social-media channels and the way you interact with your audience will allow your story to unfold and build your personal brand. Finally, many people want to create their own website. It’s a great way to have complete control over your content and how it is presented. For a reasonably priced and simple way to get a professional-looking site up quickly, check out Squarespace, which does all the complicated technical bits for you. If you get stuck, there is an extensive help section and if you email them for advice, they’re very friendly and patient. See you online! Pearl Tan is the director of Pearly Productions. Candice Wise is the marketing manager at the National Institute of Dramatic Art
Photo courtesy of ACA
Photo courtesy of 16th Street Actors Studio
James Monarski, Olivia Simone, Ian Rickson, Linda Cropper and Andrew Lees at the Sydney masterclass
Master’s apprentices When renowned director Ian Rickson gave a masterclass in Sydney, Duncan Fellows was among those who felt privileged to sit at his feet
ast year, a family member asked me if I knew an actor friend of hers. “Only by name, and all the work they do,” was my reply. She noted that this friend had a feverish work ethic and was forever taking classes, regardless of having a successful film and television career spanning decades. As the conversation continued, I silently resolved to do more classes. Actors can always keep learning and we should take every opportunity to upgrade our skills. Melbourne-based 16th Street Actors Studio has given post-drama-school training in Australia a shot in the arm. Over the last few years, Kim Krejus and co have toured or facilitated classes with the likes of Ivana Chubbuck, Larry Moss and Ellen Burstyn, offering world-class tuition by renowned practitioners to Australian actors and directors. Ian Rickson is the latest of these tourists to grace our shores. The former artistic director of London’s Royal Court Theatre boasts an impressive back catalogue of work, tackling Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen, as well as a swag of contemporary work, to critical acclaim. Along with a fantastic reputation for directing, Rickson has a lover’s passion for Chekhov and his masterclasses in Sydney and Melbourne allowed participants, for a few short hours, to be voyeurs in a riveting
Rickson has a lover’s passion for Chekhov and his masterclasses allowed participants to be voyeurs in a riveting rehearsal of two scenes from The Seagull. Duncan Fellows
rehearsal of two scenes from The Seagull, using a band of great local talent. Sydney’s Monday-evening event, held in conjunction with the Equity Foundation, was a sell-out. Arriving early, it was invigorating to see the cross-section of actors and directors, new grads and familiar heads pile into the Seymour’s Reginald Theatre. Rickson began by admitting that he was really visiting Australia to see his son, before explaining how the evening would work. He encouraged the actors – Linda Cropper, James Monarski, Olivia Simone and Andrew Lees – and us, the observers, to slow the thinking down, was emphatic about the collective search in the rehearsal room and was inspiring when talking of good theatre’s unique qualities and charged alchemy. He then ran the scenes, keeping a weather eye on his actors and respectfully interjecting to offer direction when the need arose. One of the points he stressed over the course of the session was that every moment has to be transitive, affecting someone – the other or oneself. He encouraged his actors to “think in pictures all the time” and to combat blurriness in situations by accessing all the senses to feel grounded in a scene. Likewise, he suggested improvising any unseen scenes or conversations to elicit moments of “inner life”. Rickson made clear that “the director fights for every character”, and it was fascinating watching him working tirelessly and actively, offering arrows and trampolines to the actors to get them working in transitives and getting more juice out of scenes. A good few hours in, the director signed off, dragging his hands down his face and pleading: “Can we finish now? I’m on holiday!” It was indicative of the exertion of the workshop, as well as Rickson’s humour and humility. There is enormous value in this type of workshop, offering a rare chance to watch actors explore, succeed and struggle with a piece of work. It has an immediacy which is impossible to recreate in acting texts. This was only possible with a group of brave and generous actors, who had the task of remaining truthful to the work in a fishbowl environment without, as Rickson said, “putting a bow on it for us”. Duncan Fellows is an actor who has appeared in several TV series, including Life Support, Laid and At Home with Julia. He is a presenter on BBC’s children’s channel, Cbeebies
ACA creative and founding director Dean Carey (right) with English actor Sir Ian McKellen
n my life, there have been a number of chance encounters that have not only helped grow me as a human being but also shaped my creative endeavours. One of the most important was in 1994, when I walked through the doors of an old brick and sandstone building in Surry Hills, Sydney. From that first class at Actors Centre Australia to my studies and subsequently as a member of the centre’s teaching faculty, ACA has challenged and supported my artistic life. When the creative and founding director of ACA, Dean Carey, talks about acting, his passion is contagious. “I am proud to work among a group of like-minded artists who respect the calling each actor and creative artist follows, and who rigorously instil the standards and responsibilities that come with any creative endeavour or vision,” he says, adding that the key to ACA’s success is the staff’s commitment and passion to education, as well as to the craft of acting itself. Carey, along with co-founding director Stan Kouros, alumni, tutors and directors are this year celebrating ACA’s 25th birthday. And among the non-acting community, Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore has expressed her gratitude to the centre for its extracurricular activities. “ACA has made a significant local contribution, with its involvement in youth mentorship programs and support of local schools and community organisations,” she says. The long rollcall of actors who have passed through the doors includes Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts, Rose Byrne, Colin Farrell, Jonathan LaPaglia, Lisa Chappell, Amy Mathews and Simone McCauley.
ACA marks a milestone Actors Centre Australia alumni include many of our best-known performers. In the centre’s silver anniversary year, graduate Lisa Schouw asked some of them to share their memories During a break in filming on the Underbelly set, Jonathan LaPaglia observed: “The training at ACA was always fun. I think that comes from the Aussie sentiment of not taking yourself too seriously. We still put in the hard work but by being fun you remained loose and therefore at an optimal state for creativity.” Logie Award-winning actress Lisa Chappell says she would “do the full-time course again in a heartbeat. What a remarkable environment for exploration and expression. They produce confident actors outside the box, who come out playful, kind and balanced.” When asked why Australian actors are doing so well on the international stage, ACA patron Hugh Jackman commented that, in his case, the training he received was “world class” and the fundamentals learnt at ACA are a “huge part of the foundations I take to work with me every day”. Daniel Henshall, winner of 2012 ACTAA Best Lead Actor Award for Snowtown, graduated in 2006. “The Actors Centre was a place where I was allowed to learn at my own pace, to find out what worked, how and why,” he says. “I was never reprimanded for this and was always encouraged in what I was trying to achieve. Of course, I was challenged and asked 31
to better myself constantly, but never did I feel like it was a problem that I had; it was always in the vein of exploring. This gave me a great deal of confidence and belief; it also allowed me to take big risks.” From the beginning, Dean Carey has worked with artists of the calibre of John Bell, Nick Enright, Lindy Davies and Meryl Tankard. Bell is among those celebrating the centre’s 25 years and congratulating them on their “magnificent contribution to the nurturing and development of new Australian talent”. In recent years, directors such as Rodney Fisher, Gale Edwards, George Ogilvie and Craig Ilott have worked with ACA’s full-time students to produce innovative pieces of theatre. With ACA’s first graduate company having a sell-out season last year of Stories From the Wayside, a season at Riverside Parramatta in 2012 and Dean Carey’s latest book, The Acting Edge, about to be published worldwide, ACA has plenty to celebrate on its silver anniversary. Lisa Schouw is an ARIA-nominated singer/ songwriter, performance coach, writer, researcher, psychotherapist and ACA faculty member
Spinning an intergalactic yarn
he 3rd Annual LA Webfest, held in April at the LAX Radisson in Los Angeles, featured 178 webseries during the three-day event. The international section saw nine countries represented, and Australia topped the list for ‘international series’ entries, with 10: Flat White, One Step Closer to Home, The Peep Jeep, Snow Wight and the Stripper, The Broke Ones, The Inland Sea, Vegan 101, Shutterbugs, Fever Dreams and The Making of Serbs in Space. The development of The Making of Serbs in Space, a collaborative effort by the production team of Tom Vogel, Heath Novkovic and me, plus a dedicated unit of more than 30 cast and crew, began when I attended the 2010 SPAA conference in Sydney. During the one-on-one meetings and round-table discussions with content commissioning officers from the networks, it became apparent that they were very keen to have cross-platform and digital content that would be available on demand for their audiences. As one of the commissioning officers from the ABC said, “It’s a numbers game, it’s a pretty simple equation; there are around 2,000 cinema screens in Australia but about five million PC screens.” Tom had just enjoyed success with his short film One in a Million, making it into the final 16 at that year’s Tropfest, and he’d developed a project to pitch to Movie Extra based on the exploits of two incompetent filmmakers looking to make a feature-length sci-fi film. Given the advent of the NBN and the fact that networks want to enhance ‘viewer engagement’, we set about making a webseries that encouraged audience and viewer interaction, offered a website, Facebook pages and character profiles, a Twitter account and the webisodes available on YouTube, Vimeo,
the website and Facebook. We were very lucky, as Tom has an audience following from his annual Angry Film Festival, which recently had its 10th outing in Melbourne, and a monthly event, Westside Film Night. The web-series gives our team the opportunity to have an ongoing storyline about the production of an ill-fated science fiction film, based on the “true story of alien abduction in the Aussie outback”, spoof current events, like when we uploaded a viral of the Julia Gillard ‘shoe incident’, and also contribute horror stories from our collective experiences working on film shoots. Our guerrilla style has seen us film at airports, fast-food restaurants, places of business and parking lots, using quick set-ups – thanks to our experienced crew – and available light. One incident that stands out was when we had assembled a cast and crew of about 20 and were at a Bunnings parking lot. The security lights went out at 11.30pm, so we had to go back a week later to finish the scene. However, we used the delay to advantage, as we went to a nearby McDonalds and filmed there until 3am and they were fine with it. Sometimes you never know until you ask. However, our first-ever day of shooting, at a café while they were open for business, saw
two waiting staff – friends of mine, who’d arranged for us to film there – have a stand-up argument with their employer. One of them ended up quitting her job that day and the café eventually went out of business. Our series has an international focus, too, as I spent the first half of 2011 in Auckland, working, studying and, when I could, doing volunteer work in the Equity office in Ponsonby. We now have a couple of Kiwi characters in the webisodes and location shots of Auckland Harbour, as well as a very well-known design studio in Wellington. One of the contacts I made in Auckland was a product-placement broker who was hooking us up with a food company. We were all set to get some sponsorship and donations, and at the 11th hour the marketing person got into trouble for misappropriating funds. There are plenty of true stories that have happened to us during filming that you couldn’t script. We even had a stalker sending hate mail. The web-series allows us the freedom to explore and expand our writing, directing, producing and acting skills, and make some great contacts with talented cast, experienced crew and industry players, who we intend to pitch ideas and new projects to in the future. The series so far has used cast and crew from Russia, Poland, America, England, New Zealand, Australia, Serbia and Somalia for our inter-galactic exploits. Tim Ferris is an actor who has worked on several television series, including Underbelly, City Homicide and Rush. He has also appeared in Sydney Theatre Company productions. You can follow the series at www.serbsinspace.com For more about Tom Vogel’s film festival, visit www.angryproductions.org
Role model, mentor and prolific performer
Photo courtesy of Laura Gabriel
Web-series, both here and overseas, are a growth industry. Tim Ferris tells how he and Tom Vogel got (happily) caught in the net
en Gabriel passed away at 3am on April 25, aged 94. His timing was always perfect as an actor, and leaving us on Anzac Day, at an hour when people were waking early to head off to the Dawn Service, was apt. Ben was introduced to the theatre by his mother Ethel Gabriel, who had a long career as a character actress and will always be associated with the role of Emma in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll on stage and in the film. Ben’s prodigious career spanned 60 years in radio, theatre, film and television. It began just after World War II, where he’d served as a signalman with the 2/32nd Infantry Battalion, 9th Division. Their legendary campaigns included Tobruk, El Alamein, Syria, New Guinea and, finally, Borneo. Ben told a wonderful story of being home on leave and auditioning for work as an army extra on Charles Chauvel’s The Rats of Tobruk. Chauvel, in a scene that all Equity members can relate to, told Ben that unfortunately he didn’t fit the image of a soldier from Tobruk, as he was far too short. As he turned to leave, Chauvel asked him where he’d been stationed, to which he replied, “Tobruk.” Ben worked prolifically in the early days of radio in many well-loved series and plays. In 1949, he married Rhonney Webber, and they subsequently became proud parents of Laura. Ben and Rhonney appeared in many Phillip Street Theatre reviews and shows, such as The Willow Pattern Plate. On one occasion, Ben was the back end of a horse to Reg Livermore’s front end. In the early 1960s, Ben toured the country in various productions with the Young Elizabethans, and in 1963 he co-founded Sydney’s Q Lunch Hour Theatre with Doreen Warburton, Edward Hepple, Robert McDarra,
Ben Gabriel 1918–2012
Terry McDermott and Walter Sullivan at the AMP Theatrette, Circular Quay. They each put in ₤5 ($10) to start the company and during the next 14 years produced, acted, worked front of house, painted sets, and begged and borrowed to keep the theatre going. The Q became the longest-running lunchtime theatre in the world. Ben played many iconic Australian characters, including Barney in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and Wacka in The One Day
of the Year in a production that was invited to Tokyo in 1966. He was much praised for his performances in Old Tote productions, Tiny Alice (1966) and Death of a Salesman (1970), leading roles that proved his great warmth and extraordinary depth. After his performance as the innocent priest in Tiny Alice, Robin Lovejoy, who directed both productions, described Ben as an actor of “innate goodness”. Other theatre highlights included Edward Bond’s Lear, in which he played the title role, King Lear, Gorky’s The Lower Depths at Sydney Opera House and A Fortunate Life in Perth. Ben married his beloved Doreen (Warburton) in 1969. In 1977, Doreen took the Q to Penrith, where Ben joined the company in many plays, including The Homecoming, Buried Child, On Our Selection, Reedy River, Travelling North, The Department, The Club and The Warhorse. Ben also appeared in the films I Can’t Get Started, Fighting Back, The Mango Tree, Break of Day, The Office Picnic and Let the Balloon Go. In his vast television career, he played leads in Dynasty, Contrabandits (for which he won a Penguin Award for Best Supporting Actor) and Over There, as well as guest roles in all the old and new favourites – Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police, GP, Sons and Daughters, A Country Practice, All Saints… the list goes on and on. At his funeral, many actors spoke of Ben as a role model and mentor in their early careers… of how this “quiet and unassuming” (!) actor, who had more talent than perhaps he realised, guided and supported them through their early years. By Laura Gabriel, Ben’s daughter
Ben played many iconic Australian characters, including Barney in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and Wacka in The One Day of the Year in a production that was invited to Tokyo in 1966.
Photo thanks Chrissie Page
A tale of two Fringes The decision to stage Joanna Murray-Smith’s two-hander, Love Child, at the Adelaide Fringe proved a winner, writes Chrissie Page. Now she’s fundraising for an Edinburgh season – and finding it’s far from child’s play
or a girl who’s in her 60s and has never been to the UK, a season at the Edinburgh Fringe is pretty special. The story began last year, when I approached Charles Sanders, artistic director of an Adelaide theatre company called Early Worx in Theatre and Art, and said, “I want to work with Anna Cheney.” I had seen Anna’s work and loved her energy, strength and stillness. I had worked with Charlie, winner of the 2011 Adelaide Critics Circle Emerging Artist of the Year Award, in a production of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children. I loved his passion and his vision for creating new work, his support and commitment to emerging artists, and his idea of coupling new graduates with established performers. Anna Cheney is a recent graduate of AC Arts in Adelaide and winner of a 2011 women@ minterellison Rising Star Award, as well as an Adelaide Theatre Guide Curtain Call Award. She said, “I know the play we should do” – and Love Child was reborn. From our first reading of Joanna MurraySmith’s beautiful script, we were hooked. We spent hours dissecting the piece and didn’t ‘get on our feet’ for ages. The story of a young woman’s search for her biological mother, it focuses on their first meeting. It’s about loss and longing and connection. And so much more. The rehearsal period was a rollercoaster ride of joy and pain, frustration and exhilaration. Just like the play itself. We opened in the tiny dark basement of Higher Ground during the Adelaide Fringe, with a couch, a lamp and a side table. And, to our amazement, the audience came in droves.
Somehow, this beautiful piece touched hearts. We had extraordinary feedback from strangers about their own lives and how the play resonated with them. We won The Advertiser and Critics’ Circle ‘Best in Fringe’ Award Week 2. And then we were asked to present at the Gilded Balloon as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. Paul Kelly was right –from little things, big things grow – and, for me, this is huge. We are performing 21 shows at the Gilded Balloon, one of the Fringe’s largest venues. We have been blessed with some funding from the wonderful Helpmann Academy and the Independent Arts Foundation, and our brilliant friends and colleagues are supporting us through Pozible, the internet fundraising site. But we still need to raise more to cover rights, flights, accommodation, per diems, insurance, so we are finding creative ways to fund the journey: a quiz night, a raffle, a cabaret night. It’s a big ask, but so many other artists want to help us get there. This is what our Adelaide arts community is all about – the generosity is amazing. For the three of us, it’s a fantastic opportunity to present an Australian play with such universal messages on the world stage. Love Child is about to be reborn. We’ll keep you posted on her growing up in Edinburgh.
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Chrissie Page is an Adelaide-based performer and vice president of Equity’s South Australian branch Chrissie Page (right) and Anna Cheney in Love Child
We opened in the tiny dark basement of Higher Ground during the Adelaide Fringe, with a couch, a lamp and a side table. And, to our amazement, the audience came in droves.
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