“Keep the flame alight and don’t be delusional… Network properly and meaningfully. Don’t just go to the ‘opening of a door’ to be seen for the sake of being seen.”
TAFTA is your ambitious achievement. What makes your workshops unique?
I have always believed that a school has a greater responsibility than just educating people towards a profession. It has to do its best to place people in a position where employment is possible. Acting is not like other professions; a certificate, diploma or degree is not worth the paper it’s written on. It ultimately comes down to ‘show me.’ In other words, you still have to audition no matter what or where you’ve trained. Training to act is one thing. Training to audition is something completely different. It is a skill that requires a different approach. Our courses and workshops are unique, because our aim is twofold – We teach you how to act and how to get a job. We teach you how to audition and market yourself into the Australian and world industry. I introduced the Ultimate Screentest Courses to Australia in 2001, but it received resistance from ignorant individuals. The value of these workshops is recognised today and many careers may not have started without them. Of course, the copycats are now out there in droves.
TAFTA has helped students flourish and achieve Film and TV roles. That must bring satisfaction every time.
Enormously satisfying. Thrilling actually. Our most recent achiever is Teressa Liane who came to us as a 17-year-old. She has just been cast as a regular in Season 7 of The Vampire Diaries. Another success story is Pia Grace Moon who has landed roles in the feature films, Circle Work and Holding the Man.
What makes a good Actor stand out in the crowd?
A good Actor is just like anybody else in any other profession who stands out in the crowd. They must love, and I mean really love what they do. They must tackle everything, including career adversity with high internal energy which is in fact their charisma. Some people are born with it, but it can be manufactured if their love, desire and hard work are in equal parts.
Over the years, you have played diverse roles. What has been your most memorable?
Tough question. On TV, I am most remembered for my character, Detective Mike Georgiou in Cop Shop. However, the role of Miklos in an ABC telemovie, written by Louis Nowra and directed by Geoffrey Nottage, called Displaced Persons stands out.
What has been your most challenging role?
Probably playing Oedipus on stage at The Parade Theatre in Sydney. I was quite young.
How well do you switch off at the end of the day?
I have no problem switching. The job is done for the day and it’s time for the usual things one does – Family, friends, dinner, perhaps some preparation for the next day, but only if absolutely necessary.
How would you compare today’s Actors with the talent that thrived years ago?
I think today’s Actors have it much tougher in the sense that there is ten times more competition. In Australia, there wasn’t such a thing as a Film or TV career until about 40 years ago. Before then, it was dominated by the theatre. No matter what some people may think, acting in the theatre was vastly different from acting in Film & TV. Some Actors made the transition successfully and some did not. For me, the tragedy is that Actor training has not evolved, but is still steeped in the archaic nonsense of the Method.
Laughter can hide pain. Writing can hide emotions. What does acting hide?
Acting can hide lots of things I suppose, but for me it’s a joy. It’s playing. It’s fun. I am a child again. Or should I say, I am still a child. I am myself at all times no matter what the role and I have no dark secrets to hide. I just love what I do.
It’s a hard industry to tackle. Share some words of wisdom.
I quote from the book I am writing – This is a cruel, destructive, exhilarating and intoxicating profession that I would not swap for anything. It will test an individual’s mettle to the max. You must have thick skin, a modicum of talent and a desperate desire to perform. Most of all, you must have a strong drive and persistence. Don’t give up. Keep going to workshops, keep the flame alight, and above all, don’t be delusional. Keep training. Even if you’ve heard it all before, try to listen to it all with new ears. Network properly and meaningfully. Don’t just go to the ‘opening of a door’ to be seen for the sake of being seen.
What changes would you like to see within the Australian Film & TV industry?
Our drama programmes are pathetic. It seems that the industry is completely ignoring the cultural diversity in Australia. Almost every show is placed in an inoffensive soft middle not wishing to offend anyone or provide any drama not centred on Anglo-Saxons. Perhaps the Underbelly series could be regarded as an exception. I talk to people daily and these are their comments by large. “The shows on TV are pathetic. Bring back shows like Cop Shop.” Flattering really, but it wouldn’t work, at least not in its original form. In the 70s and 80s, we broke new ground and it was exciting, but we’ve gone backwards since the 90s. The shows are stale and boring catering to a bland taste. The issue here is that the TV networks probably have boring, staid and colourless individuals making or buying programmes. I’m afraid there is no quick fix here. If we want to move forward to an exciting and innovative television, we need a clean sweep. That is, we have to throw out the baby and the bathwater!!!
Your feisty passion is contagious. Does that come from confidence, frustration or success?
All of the above! Confidence – Because I know what I’m doing works. The proof is on the screens around the world.
Frustration – At on-going outmoded schools of thought perpetuating psychobabble. At people who still believe that they need a certificate or diploma or degree to achieve any modicum of success. This industry does not care about those qualifications. It’s about ‘show me.’ Everyone has to audition and everyone has an equal chance.
Success – Both personal and those of my students. Their success drives me.
This interview was submitted by Cinema Australia reader and supporter Joanne Kmaid. If you have an article or interview you would like to submit for our consideration then contact us today.