How to become a theatre and film mogul

Stephen CarnellAn interview with Stephen Carnell

There are those that talk about doing stuff and those that actually do it. Stephen Carnell is without doubt, one of the doeist doers I’ve come across when it comes to the world of theatre and film. I thought I’d have a chat with him about what he’s up to and how on earth he finds the energy.

So Stephen, you’re a doer, but what exactly do you do?

I write, produce, direct and act for theatre and film. I’ve also produced a variety of major events, such as the Kings Cross Food & Wine Festival 2005-08. I’m the co-founder and co-convenor of the Actors Anonymous theatre and film networking group, which meets monthly at World Bar (and has around 1,000 members) and Writers Anonymous (which has around 500 members), which holds rehearsed readings of new scripts once a month at the El Rocco in the Cross. I also teach a project management course called OPENING NIGHT, which runs in Belvoir Street Theatre.

How did you get started with all this?

My older brother inspired me – he was a very talented actor and a writer. I majored in Modern Theatre at Uni, and then dabbled in theatre for years while holding down a very busy job running an ad agency for Y&R. I dived back in as Assistant Director on four plays at the New Theatre in the nineties. Then a few years later, I did four terms of actor training at Darlo Drama and worked on five plays working as AD to Michael Block, who was really inspirational. I met Nick Bolton and Scott Grimley at Darlo Drama, and we formed Actors Anonymous in 2006.

What are you particularly proud of?

Producing my first feature film CROSS LIFE and having it premier at the Sydney Film Festival and Screen at Dungog Film Festival in 2007, was definitely a major highlight. I also really enjoyed producing my theatrical concept, CRIME SCENES, at The Factory Theatre in 2009.

Just being in constant production of new work is very, very rewarding; five years of writing and directing for Short+Sweet, four major theatre shows in the past three years, directing two other plays over the past year, making four short films in the past 18 months and having a new show opening at Slide in August 2010, plus a new short film shooting in September. Oh’ and we launched PLAYTIME this year – a new monthly script in hand theatre show at the World Bar Club Room.

What groups/clubs do you recommend for aspiring actors, writers and filmmakers?

  • Actors Anonymous and Writers Anonymous Great for writers, directors and actors. You meet a gamut of people working in the industry, at all levels of professional skills.
  • Crash Test Drama – is also good for practice and networking in theatre.
  • NAFA – For filmmakers.
  • Dungog Film Festival – a great way to meet film industry professionals – the Festival’s goal is to bring the industry together in a creative and social environment.

I’d also advise being a member and attending meetings and workshops with professional groups, such as the Australian Writers Guild (AWG), the Australian Directors Guild (ADG) and the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA).

5) What are you currently working on?

I’m presently working on a Theatre+Dinner show for Slide in Oxford Street, ‘The Four Faces of Love’ We did a very successful show, 4PLAY, at Slide for Mardi Gras 2010, and they wanted us back.

It’s called the 4 FACES OF LOVE, a collection of plays of various lengths that dramatise the variety of ways that love can possess us all – a mother’s love twisted, love of and in marriage, heterosexual love, homosexual love and even the love of celebrities. It’s a rollercoaster ride of comedy, drama, tragedy and rampant sex! The drama on stage is punctuated by some brilliantly conceived food from the superb kitchen at Slide.

Then I start shooting a new short film, TAKING A BULLET, written by Steven McGrath. It’s an  enormously funny script that started life as a play and was in the final at Short+Sweet this year. It’s full of witty dialogue and crazy physical action, which Steven himself and collaborative partner, Gerry Sont, will now bring to life on film.

What advice do you have for those looking to get into the Sydney Theatre and film scene?

Train hard, practice regularly, work often, network vigorously, remember favours and stay on schedule and on budget. Then everyone will adore you!

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