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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Ash Girl

So I have a few friends in an upcoming Harbour Theatre production called 
The Ash Girl. 

First, there's Nicole Miller, she portrays the Ash Girl or Ashie. Nicole is a very talented make-up artist but this time she's not standing behind stage, making sure people look old when they're supposed to and not shiny when they're not supposed to. No! Nicole is putting all her charm and vulnerability on the stage. I can't wait to see her awesome performance as The Ash Girl! Everyone who's seen a preview is seriously impressed!

Then we meet Teigan Isobel (credited as Teigan Downing, just to confuse you, Harbour likes to disregard actors' stage names) as Gluttontoad. I can assure you that Teigan is anything but gluttonous or toad-like. I met Teigan on a set shooting a party scene for a feature film. Unlike the complaining and sour-faced Molly Kerr, Teigan was jolly and enthusiastic and friendly through the entire shoot. I'm sure that the Harbour cast and crew have had just as much of a hoot working with her on stage!

And speaking of a 'hoot'... the man playing Owl is the one and only Trevor Dhu! I played alongside Trevor in Jane Eyre and Trevor directed me in The 39 Steps and I got to watch two of his wonderful perfomances. One was as Bondi Bitch in Ladies Down Under, directed by Peter Kirkwood and the other was at the Melville, Life After George, where he played the title character's best friend and the confidante of the lovely ladies he left behind. This is something that carries into reality, as Trevor always has everyone's back.

If these local legends fail to whet your appetite for theatre, maybe this media release will... :D

Directed by Nicola Bond and Peter Kirkwood

Enter a world of mythical proportions with a Fairy in the Mirror, a handsome Prince, brave field mice, and a stepmother with only the best of intentions. Olivier and New York drama Critic’s Award winner, British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker has written an expansive adaptation of the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella. This exciting Australian Premiere production that is Harbour Theatre’s final season for 2012, is being brought to life by the award winning directorial team of Peter Kirkwood and Nicola Bond whose previous directing credits include the Harbour Theatre smash hits Ladies Day & Ladies Down Under, Oliver Twist, Sleeping Beauty, Dracula, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights to name but a few.

The story of Cinderella has never been so strongly conceived! The Ash Girl is a rich folk tale with hints of allegory, myth and fantasy. There’s still a slipper, a Prince and a wish-granting Fairy, but the journey to the Royal Ball is fraught with danger. Only when she finds the strength to confront the monsters lurking in the forest—and in her heart—will Ash Girl regain her missing happiness.

Best director award winner Kirkwood and Bond say “The monsters that The Ash Girl must confront in order to find happiness are those which lurk inside all of us and these days particularly young people making this story a fable for our times.” 

Nicole Miller (from South Fremantle) is delighted to have been chosen to play the part of The Ash Girl from over 40 auditionees and states “The Ash Girl is a complex character with many of the challenges that Ashie has faced in the past and continues to face, so applicable to young people of today. This role is very different to the Good Fairy that I portrayed in Sleeping Beauty for Harbour Theatre in 2008 and is very exciting for me. Over the past few years I have qualified as a Make-up artist and have therefore been behind the scenes for a lot of Harbour’s productions. This time I can put away my greasepaint and brushes and enjoy being on stage.”

Bond and Kirkwood add “The cast of over twenty people that we have selected have embraced all facets of this complex production with enthusiasm and commitment. They bring to life the humour and the dark realities of this rich fairy story with huge amounts of talent and energy. This is a show not to be missed”.

The Ash Girl plays at Harbour Theatre on November 30th, December 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, 12th, 14th & 15th @ 8.00pm with matinees on Sunday December 2nd and 9th @ 2.00pm.

Bookings through Ticketek – www.ticketek.com.au $24.50 full, $22.50 concession and $19.50 f./T Student and child < 15. Members bookings 9433 6260 or email tickets@harbourtheatre.org.au

For further information on this and other Harbour Theatre productions as well as membership enquiries visit www.harbourtheatre.org.au

2013 in Harbour Theatre’s 50th anniversary of entertaining the community – if you want to find out how to be a part of this important milestone visit our website.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

"Sorry Red Camera Operator, We Can't Pay You!"

Actual quote.

Or near enough to the actual quote to make my point. (And possibly get me sued?)

Now, it's important to note that actors will work for free (or for food) when they feel they are part of a team and that everyone is putting in the same commitment for the same reward. Usually this is a non-monetary sense of achievement and a beautiful, or at least passable, piece of art that will last for as long as digital does. If the creator needs to pay a specialty service to like a lepidopterist or something, to make the project happen then the actors are really likely to understand and not feel ripped off. But why should one person that contributes to the film significantly, like an actor, not get paid for the benefit of another team member, like a Red camera operator?

The context of this 'actual quote' is an online discussion of the logistics of paying one's actors. The person who said this was using a slippery slope fallacy... or possibly a straw man fallacy (I can't remember, it's been years since my first year philosophy unit, Critical Thinking, introduced me to all these terms) to conclude that it's better not to pay your actors, just in case it leads to not being able to pay your crew. Or even more devastatingly, not being able to pay yourself.

All hell broke lose. Actors everywhere suddenly erupted into diatribes of indignation against the stand that this producer was taking at our expense. The actors decided en masse to join the MEAA and boycott any producers that thought it was okay to exploit their passion and commitment for their own personal financial gain (or puffed up reputation with their film-making buddies). There were online protests and a few public demonstrations when actors were told they 'wouldn't find work in this town again, partner' because of their lack of cooperation with the unjust and corrupt system. The original forum went into meltdown, trying to cope with the traffic between angry actors fighting courageously for their right to share in the booty and the producer who, I'm sure innocently, suggested that actors really don't count in the creative process enough to count in the budget. Finally lawyers had to get involved when actors started sending the producer bits of their flesh, scabs and dead skin, in a symbolic gesture. 'No more blood and tears for you, Mr. Producer, Sir,' the dried up flesh seemed to say.

Oh, wait. Sorry. I'm mistaken. That didn't happen at all.

A couple of screenwriters stood up for actors: suggested that it was reasonable for actors to at least ask, on the projects for which they were being expected to offer their time and talent for free, whether anyone else was being paid. They were, rather predictably, berated by the producer and friends and accused of being communists. (Because that's a bad thing?)

Where were the actors? Did they stay silent? Did they watch nervously, reasonably concerned that any interest in money would make them undesirable for future casting? Did being a dime a dozen actor mean they settled for being a dozen actors per gratis? Did the actors secretly long for someone in the upper film-making echelons to stand up for them and say, 'wait, it's okay to want to be paid for your time and talent, especially when everyone else actually is being paid for your time and talent' and hope that the producers paused long enough to hear the growl of their starving bellies?

Actors' pay day.

No. The actors LIKED these comments.

Too bad these actors can't afford to put themselves through a critical thinking course. 

Extra Ordinary Bites.

"Whoops, we didn't organise enough food, umm..."

Maybe he was going to declare that he'd take us all to a nearby pub and pay the tab in apology for not catering for us properly. We could have chips and pies and dips. Mmmm... dips.

"...Take half of what you'd usually eat."

That was the organisational and problem solving skills of the Assistant Extras Coordinator from a filmset I was on recently.

To be fair, he was just the spokesperson, but I feel like shooting the messenger.

I already don't like being an extra. There I said it. My problems with it are as follows:

1. I'm not the main character.
This is challenging. I want people to notice me and preferably to adore me. If I'm just one of a crowd the chances of this are significantly reduced.

2. I'm not acting.
I want to be acting. I don't understand how texturing a background is required anywhere in an actor's apprenticeship. All it proves is they can stay positive in the face of absolutely demeaning treatment. (And I failed at this aspect, just ask the Extras Coordinators that have worked with me. I feel genuine pity for them by the five hour mark- that is five hours of being onset, ready to shoot, without having a camera pointed at me yet.)

3. I don't get anything out of it.
Oh, the networking, the new friendships, the experience. Those are great. I love those aspects of production, whatever sort of production I get them from. However, if I don't have at least thirty seconds of material to choose from for my showreel, I get kind of resentful. That resentment increases if I can't even promote my involvement in the production because anyone watching wouldn't have seen me at all. Why did I spend twenty hours on your set if no one was ever going to see me there?

So it's established. I don't like being an extra. Okay, sometimes I like being an extra. If you have me on set, working, straight away then I'm just happy to get to practice my craft. Also, if I get to wear cool make-up or costumes then you've probably bought yourself another two hours of contentment from me.

Though, I must be specific, this is only relevant for those unpaid extra roles. If you're paying me to be there, I'll pack you a lunch, if you like.

For unpaid work as an extra, I usually want to convert to Christianity so I can curse God to his face. But for whatever reason, up until recently, I've been under the impression that I need the experience of being an extra to improve my craft and the networking aspect to further my career. Even knowing that I would probably be invisible in the finished product, I've tried hard to get what I can out of the immediate experience.

One of the things I got out of the experience was FOOD!

Extra: will work for food!

It's really a very simple policy: feed me well on set.

Here are three hard and fast rules to go by if you're planning on having extras on your set. Unpaid extras, remember. If you're paying them then see what the union says. They're not my problem.

1. Any shoot under three hours- you can get away without feeding us so much as a breadcrumb. Any shoot three to five hours- please provide some refreshments. Any shoot between six and eight hours- you really must provide a substantial meal. Any shoot over eight hours- you really should provide a substantial meal and refreshments throughout. At all times provide water. And for goodness' sake, cater to vegetarians!

2. If for whatever reason you have failed to organise yourself properly and catering has failed to satisfy the hunger of your dedicated team of background texturers, DO NOT DISMISS THIS PROBLEM! You deserve to be mobbed and have a full-blown riot on your hands if you think that is an acceptable managing of affairs. Call the pizza place. Call the sandwich place. Call your mum. Call anybody! Put it on Tony Abbott's tab. Tell the director it was a magwie attack! Do anything. But don't leave your extras hungry, man. That's not on.

3. If for whatever reason you suck and are NOT catering, you MUST tell the extras when they are signing up. Don't let them come unprepared. The day before the shoot you should remind them so they can get their mum or boyfriend or trained platypus to pack them the meals you should have been providing. If you aren't providing water, let them know this, too. You may have fewer extras for your honesty, sure, but on the other hand, people that volunteer to be extras are often in it out of a sense of altruism or a misguided idea that it might be fun or beneficial to them (admittedly, most of the extras I've come across have seemed happy just to be there. It kind of makes me feel bad for being such a misery guts but the chip on my shoulder is there for a reason). Exploit these characteristics to your benefit and the fact that you aren't feeding them could become a real gimmick to attract their attendance.

So that's it. You've learnt that I'm not in the slightest bit altruistic and that I like to eat. Maybe I should censor myself a bit more effectively?

Catering suggestion for your next production.