The Talks @ AFTRS Podcast from the Australian Film Television and Radio School, is a series of insightful, inspiring conversations with leading Australian screen and broadcast creatives – directors, producers, podcasters, scriptwriters, radio makers and more. Season one is out and available to stream now.
Produced by Rhiannon Mooney and Fyona Smith
Assistant Producers: Wendy Gray and Alicia Emery
Presented by Nell Greenwood
Voice Over: Cam St Clair
Music: Extreme Music – Andrew James Christie, Billie Ray Fingers, Bruce Fingers, Jasha Alain Klebe
1. Directing TV & Film: Jocelyn Moorhouse and Kriv Stenders with Rowan Woods
Acclaimed Australian directors, Kriv Stenders (Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, Red Dog, Network 10 miniseries Wake in Fright) and Jocelyn Moorhouse (Proof, How to Make an American Quilt, A Thousand Acres, The Dressmaker) talk to AFTRS Head of Directing, Rowan Woods. This episode explores their careers and their movement between the worlds of television and feature film. They offer insight into their screenplay analysis process, how to modulate tone, and how to develop “director’s instinctual muscles”.
Jocelyn Moorhouse graduated from AFTRS in 1984. In 1988 she made an extraordinary leapfrog into the professional realm with The Bartons, a series based on a short film she made at AFTRS. She also worked on several TV shows in the late ’80s including Flying Doctors, Out Of The Blue, A Place Called Home and Humpty Dumpty. In 1991, Jocelyn made her debut feature film, Proof about a blind photographer. The film’s success launched Jocelyn’s recognition in the US and led to her directing How To Make an American Quilt and A Thousand Acres. Jocelyn is an industry leader with all sorts of skill sets. She was a producer for Muriel’s Wedding and Mental, director for Sydney Theatre Company’s Sex With Strangers and screenwriter for Unconditional Love.
Australian writer, producer and director Kriv Stenders is widely known for an extremely diverse and eclectic bunch of film and TV projects. These include Blacktown in 2005 and Boxing Day in 2007, two very influential short films that preceded his first feature film, The Illustrated Family Doctor. From there Kriv directed The Lucky Country, Red Dog, Kill Me Three Times, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan as well as the TV series Hunters, A Place To Call Home, Doctor Doctor, and the acclaimed SBS series The Principle.
In this episode, directors Jocelyn Moorhouse and Kriv Stenders sit down with AFTRS’ Head of Directing, Rowan Woods to discuss their careers and their movement between the worlds of television and feature film. Offering insights and advice for aspiring or emerging directors, this is one you don’t want to miss.
- The importance of being fast and decisive in your role as director and how to hone this skill
- The importance of having ‘dreaming time’ with the screenplay to sift through creative options before you lock in with collaborators.
- Their screenplay analysis process
- How to modulate tone
- Pushing boundaries with the style of TV
- How to make the transition from directing short films to feature films
- Insight to behind the scenes of Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan
- Kriv reflects on how he used his “director’s instinctual muscles” to shoot Australia Day, a 100-minute film in four weeks.
- Jocelyn explains how she established the tone and look of The Dressmaker
- Jocelyn’s approach to putting her director’s stamp on Stateless
- Jocelyn and Kriv share what draws them to choose projects
2. Podcasting: Marc Fennell and Leanne Cartwright-Bradford with Tony Rasmussen
Leanne Cartwright-Bradford, Country Manager at Audible, commits to creating compelling audiobooks and exclusive podcasts. Enter author, journalist, documentary maker, and interviewer Marc Fennell with It Burns, a story which takes listeners from the Australian Coast to South Carolina in a race to breed the world’s hottest chilli. In this episode, Leanne and Marc are in conversation with Tony Rasmussen, Senior Lecturer in Radio at AFTRS discuss what constitutes compelling content for Audible and the genesis of the globally acclaimed It Burns. Marc talks about his approach to the craft, the importance of challenging audience expectations and the power of music in regard to binding characters and experience together around a theme.
Marc Fennell is a journalist, documentary maker, author and well-known presenter of The Feed (SBS) and Download this Show (ABC). He has also gained recent recognition as a podcaster with his documentary, Nut Jobs (Audible) and the award-winning podcast about the dramatic world of competitive chilli growing and eating, It Burns (Audible).
Leanne Cartwright-Bradford, Country Manager at Audible.com is responsible for inspiring a dynamic team to drive the expansion of compelling audiobooks and exclusive podcasts across Australia and New Zealand.
Tony Rasmussen, Senior Lecturer in Radio at AFTRS, sits down with these experts in spoken word entertainment to explore the process of making non-fiction narrative podcasts.
This one’s a must for emerging broadcasters, podcasters and radio producers.
- What constitutes compelling content for Audible
- The genesis of Audible’s podcast, It Burns
- Thinking visually when creating an audio narrative
- The importance of questioning why you care about your characters
- Personal vulnerability as a creator in a story
- The importance of challenging audience expectations
- How to prepare for an interview – the importance of thinking in “scenes”
- The power of music to bind characters and their experiences to a theme
3. Experiential Storytelling: Lynette Wallworth with Nell Greenwood
Lynette Wallworth is an Emmy and AACTA award-winning Australian artist/filmmaker (Coral, TENDER, Collisions, Awavena) and the first Artist-in-Residence at AFTRS. In this episode, she talks to AFTRS CEO Nell Greenwood about finding her artist’s voice in her VR; film works and immersive installations, which reflect on the deep connections between people and nature. She recounts her experience with indigenous communities and the ability of VR to transport its users to landscapes and cultural environments and connect to spirituality. Lynnette also reflects on the unique relationship she has with her audience through her interactive storytelling and sheds light on the challenges of working in a tech space.
Lynette Wallworth, multifaceted artist and VR pioneer is AFTRS’ inaugural Artist-in-Residence. Her immersive installations, VR and films reflect on the connections between people and the natural world, as well as explore fragile human states of grace.
Lynnette was awarded an Emmy for Collisions a VR film about the experience of an elder of the Martu people of the Pilbara in Western Australia witnessing the atomic tests of the 1950s, and her XR work Awavena, about the first woman shaman of the Amazonian Yawanawa people, premiered at Sundance and competed at the 2018 Venice Film Festival. She also received an AACTA award for her documentary TENDER which traces the beginnings of a community-led funeral company in the industrial seaside town of Port Kembla. Other works include the interactive video installation Evolution of Fearlessness and the award-winning ‘full-dome’ feature Coral, with accompanying augmented reality work.
Lynnette has been awarded a UNESCO City of Film Award, the Byron Kennedy Award for Innovation and Excellence, in 2016 she was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the year’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers. She has been awarded an International Fellowship from the Arts Council England, a New Media Arts Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts, the inaugural AFTRS Creative Fellowship, the Joan and Kim Williams Documentary Fellowship and the inaugural Sundance New Frontiers VR Fellowship. Her work demonstrates the power of art to have a political impact and to change the minds of our most powerful decision-makers.
In this in-depth discussion with AFTRS’ CEO Nell Greenwood, Lynette talks about creating immersive environments and the power of interaction to open viewers up to experience so that they engage with their hearts.
- The importance of understanding who you are as an artist and your point of difference
- The importance of developing ideas around consideration of audience
- How we perceive audience and how we create a unique relationship with audience
- Working with emerging technologies and using them to activate connectedness in the viewer (biological, ecological and social)
- The importance of respectful collaboration between a community and an artist
- The challenges of working in a tech space including the pushing for tech companies to solve problems around accessibility
- How Lynette got her work seen by powerful decision-makers
- The power of art and its ability to create change
Lynnette’s research project for the AFTRS residency is exploring the creative potential of audio narratives.
4. Writing & Producing TV Comedy: Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope with Denise Eriksen
Gristmill production company is recognised for its distinctive brand of narrative comedy (The Librarians, Upper Middle Bogan, Very Small Business, The Inbestigators, Little Lunch). In this episode, comics and Gristmill founders, Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope, share stories of their careers with co-founder of Media Mentors Australia, Denise Eriksen. They talk about handling rejection, what drew them both into comedy, the inspiration behind The Librarians, how they cast Upper Middle Bogan, and what it’s like working with Netflix.
Actors, producers, directors, writers and husband and wife team, Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler have created and produced three seasons of the multi award-nominated and winning The Librarians for ABC TV, Very Small Business, Little Lunch and the hit comedy, Upper Middle Bogan for ABC TV. Robyn has written and produced the feature film, Now Add Honey, in which she also stars and Wayne has appeared in the iconic comedies, The Castle and The Micallef Program, and was nominated for Best Performance in a Television Comedy for Back in Very Small Business (2018).
In this episode, comics and Gristmill founders, Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope, share stories of their careers with co-founder of Media Mentors Australia, Denise Eriksen.
- Why comedy?
- Their career paths and big breaks
- How to handle rejection
- The power of versatility
- Creating shows for children
- The inspiration behind The Librarians
- The casting process for Upper Middle Bogan
- Working with Netflix
- Their personal reflections on rejection
- How they met on the set of Stories From The Golf
- Breaking the doors down of the ABC
- Why Australians related to The Librarians
5. Radio Presenting & Journalism: Avani Dias with Fyona Smith
Avani Dias is the host of Hack – Triple J’s current affair show for young Australians. She has been a multi-platform reporter for ABC news across TV, radio and online in Sydney and Darwin. She was a finalist in the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award for her reporting of a blotched case whereby a UNSW student was wrongly accused of terror offences in 2019. In this episode of Talks at AFTRS, Avani speaks to Fyona Smith, Head of Radio and Podcasting about the making of Hack, the importance of having a heightened sense of curiosity, creating opportunity through outreach and the power of authenticity.
- Avani’s motivation for pursuing a role in radio and multi-platform broadcasting
- The process of story selection for Hack
- The top three skills or attributes necessary for presenting for Triple J
- The importance of setting personal boundaries and maintaining a life/work balance
- Creating opportunity through outreach
- The importance of mentorship
- Attention to tone – finding the right balance and the power of authenticity
- Avani shares her career journey – the early days and how she got her break at the ABC
- The joys of being a cross-platform reporter and her motivating force
- Avani offers advice and tips for aspiring reporters and presenters – the importance of a heightened sense of curiosity, strong interviewing skills, and great editing skills
- Avani reflects on her proudest moments as a journalist, including her report about the University of New South Wales student who was wrongly accused of terror crimes on Hack
6. Directing TV Dramedy: Kate Dennis and Jonathan Brough with Denise Eriksen
Two of Australia’s top television directors Kate Dennis (Offspring, The Handmaid’s Tale, Run) and Jonathan Brough (Rosehaven, Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane, The Family Law) speak with Denise Eriksen of Media Mentors Australia. The trio discuss new wave of drama/comedy hybrids including Fleabag, Afterlife, and Sex Education and how the dramedy is the home for raw, devastatingly human experience played for laughs. Kate and Jonathan offer insight into what they are looking for in a script, how they frame comedy and tragedy differently, the benefits of learning the language of each actor, and how to create a safe environment on set.
Kate Dennis got her start in the camera department and then as a second unit director before making her debut as a director. Her credits include directing episodes of hit series such as Glow, Damnation, The Tick, Heathers, Sleepy Hollow, Fear the Walking Dead, Suits, Offspring, The Mindy Project, to name just a few. Kate received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for The Handmaid’s Tale.
Jonathan Brough’s career was launched when his second short film The Model won a slot at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, as part of a special season of New Zealand shorts. Since then, his credits have amassed in NZ and also here in Australia with the award-winning ghost series Spirited, It’s a Date, Rosehaven, The Family Law and episodes of Logie-nominated ABC drama The Time of Our Lives. For his direction of the first episode of Sammy J and Randy in Rickett’s Lane, Jonathan took the Australian Director’s Guild Award for Best Direction in a TV Comedy and to add to his CV he is now tackling the topic of euthanasia in the ensemble drama The End.
- The importance of research and preparation
- What to look for in a script
- How to foster an environment on set where actors can be daring
- How to work with actors – the benefits of learning the language of each individual actor and how to foster an environment on set where actors can be daring
- The differences in framing comedy and tragedy
- How far can we push comedy?
- Coping emotionally with subjects such as death and how to create a safe environment on set.
- The complications of shooting on a train for the TV series Run
- Kate’s use of LED televisions for lighting
- How Kate established the tone of Run
- How Jonathan got involved in The End
- What’s next for Kate and Johnathan?
7. Producing & Writing TV: Tony McNamara and Marian Macgowan with Pieter Aquilia
AFTRS graduate and Academy Award-nominated writer Tony McNamara (The Favourite, Ashby, The Rage in Placid Lake, The Great) joins producer Marian Macgowan (Two Hands, The Rage in Placid Lake, South Solitary, The Great) to discuss their careers and collaborations with AFTRS Head of Screenwriting, Pieter Aquilia. With film and TV credits that span decades and many joint ventures together, they stress the importance of being on the same page tonally for successful collaborations. They also offer insight to emerging writers on how to pitch projects and identify entry points for writers in Australia.
Australian producer, Marian Mcgowan has an innate ability to find authentic stories and the most talented storytellers and has been described by Showtime’s Marion Pilowsky as “Australia’s best kept producing secrets”. After 20 years in the commercials and music video industry, Marian turned her hand to film production with Lilian’s Story and the box office hit, Two Hands. She has formed creative partnerships with emerging storytellers as well as established talent, such as Tony McNamara (The Rage in Placid Lake, and the political comedy, The Candidate)
Tony McNamara’s has writing credits that span plays for stage, TV and screen. He has written The John Wayne Principle, The Virgin Mim, The Unlikely Prospect of Happiness, The Great and The Grenade for stage, and his TV credits include The Secret Life of Us, Love My Way, Spirited, Offspring, Tangle, Puberty Blues, Doctor Doctor, Rush, and The Great. Tony also wrote the screenplay for The Favourite, which won a host of awards including the Grand Jury Prize at the 75th Venice International Film Festival, Best Original Screenplay at the 91st Academy Awards, BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay, Best Screenplay at British Independent Film Awards, and Screenwriter of the Year at London Film Critics Circle Awards.
- Their journey to where they are now in their careers
- The importance of creative collaborations and what makes them work
- The process of adapting the play The Great into a 10 x 1-hour miniseries for Hulu
- How to pitch projects
- Entry points for writers in Australia
8. TV Drama: Tim Minchin and Helen Bowden with Caroline Grose
Tim Minchin and Helen Bowden talk with AFTRS Senior Lecturer in Screenwriting, Caroline Gross about the conception, development and writing of their television series Upright. Tim Minchin is an Australian comedian, actor, writer, musician, composer, lyricist and director best known for his comedy and stand up shows as well as his success as musical theatre composer and lyricist (Matilda the Musical, Groundhog Day). Helen is one of Australia’s most prolific and highly awarded drama producers (The Slap, Soft Roots, Devil’s Playground, Lambs of God) and is managing director of Lingo Pictures. Tim and Helen offer interesting and amusing insight into the making of Upright.
Helen Bowden is one of Australia’s most prolific and awarded drama producers. She is founder and managing director of Matchbox Pictures and Devil’s Playground. Helen also represents one half of Lingo Pictures. Along with Jason Stevens she has produced Wake In Fright the TV series, On The Ropes, Lambs of God and Upright.
Tim Minchin is an Australian comedian, actor, writer, musician, composer, lyricist and director who burst onto the world stage with his comedy shows Prejudice and If I Didn’t Have You. His musical Matilda won 4 Tony Awards and the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2012, and Groundhog Day was nominated for 8 Laurence Olivier Awards and took Best New Musical in 2017. As an actor, Tim has had roles in Californication, Secret River, Squinters as well as Upright, which he also co-wrote and directed.
- The making of Upright
- Character development
- Different ways you can integrate theme into your story
- What went on in the Upright writer’s room
- The trials and tribulations of making Upright
9. Directing & Stunts: Maria Tran with Pearl Tan
Actor and martial artist, Maria Tran (Fist of the Dragon, Maximum Choppage, Tracer) is credited with developing the martial arts action film genre in Australia through her shorts such as Hit Girls, Gaffa, Enter The Dojo. In this episode, Maria speaks to AFTRS Senior Lecturer in Directing, Pearl Tan about finding your voice and creating your own work and space in the screen sector. As the recipient of the Create NSW Western Sydney Art Fellowship award, Maria established the female-led film and art collective Phoenix Eye based in Western Sydney. She talks about building her career through community, the importance of having a mentor and seizing every opportunity in the pursuit of goals.
Maria Tran is a go-getter. In this wide-ranging discussion, Maria talks about transitioning from acting to writing, producing, choreographing stunt action and developing expertise as a martial artist. Maria’s international film credits include Rodger Cullens Hollywood movie Fist of the Dragon, Chinese martial arts movie Death Mist and Vietnamese blockbuster Tracer. In Australia, she has appeared on ABC’s My Place, Maximum Choppage, Channel Ten’s Street Smart as well as working as a stunt attachment on Jackie Chang’s movie Bleeding Steel. In 2018, Maria became the recipient of the Create NSW Western Sydney Art Fellowship award and established the female-led Film and art collective Phoenix Eye based in Western Sydney.
- How she established goals and built up the resources to get to where she is today
- Finding her voice and creating her own workspace in the screen sector
- The importance of having a moral compass and staying true to yourself
- Setting goals to improve your craft
- The importance of having a mentor
- The significance community when building a career
- Maria recounts her experience of standing in for the director on Fist of the Dragon
- What’s next for Maria
- The complexity of making action scenes
- Advice for emerging creators
10. Visual Storytelling: Mitch Torres with Joseph Cardona
Actor, writer, director, producer and documentary filmmaker, Mitch Torres shares her insights into the media industry with Joseph Cardona, AFTRS Project Coordinator in the AFTRS Indigenous Unit. Mitch is a Djugun, Jabirr Jabbir, Yawuru, Gooniyandi, and Walmajarri woman from Broome and has been in the media industry for over 30 years. In this episode, she discusses career transitions; from presenter (SBS, ABC) to journalist (GWN’s magazine program Millbindi) to broadcaster (Goolarri, WAAMA 6NR) to producer (ABC Kimberley) to filmmaker (Jandamarra’s War, Whispering In Our Hearts). Passionate about visual storytelling, she explains the power of the medium and the importance of cultural safety and the fundamental need to treat all stories with respect.
Mitch Torres is a Djugun, Jabirr Jabbir, Yawuru, Gooniyandi, and Walmajarri woman from Broome and has been in the media industry for over 30 years. She has extensive experience in acting, directing, producing and writing.
She was SBS’s first Indigenous presenter in 1988 and went on to do her cadetship with ABC TV based out of Perth TV news. Mitch was the first presenter and field journalist for GWN’s long-running magazine program Millbindi. Mitch then turned to a successful period as a broadcaster for both Indigenous radio stations: Goolarri in Broome and WAAMA 6NR in Perth before settling back with ABC Kimberley as the morning show’s presenter and producer.
In the mid 1990s, Mitch focused her talents on visual storytelling and made her first short drama for the Shifting Sands Short Drama Initiative (SBS TV). She began making documentaries – including award-winning Jandamarra’s War, and the heartbreaking Whispering in our Hearts – a historical documentary about the Mowla Bluff Massacre in the West Kimberley.
A highly successful award-winning writer and director, Mitch has directed or written a range of dramas and documentaries.
In this wide-ranging discussion Mitch sits down with AFTRS First Nations & Outreach Team: Joseph Cardona, Sue Elphinstone and Dr Romaine Morten to discuss the power of visual storytelling.
11. Directing TV: Daina Reid and Emma Freeman with Rowan Woods
Australian Directors Daina Reid (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Secret River, Sunshine) and Emma Freeman (Stateless, Glitch, Secret City) sit down with AFTRS’ Head of Directing, Rowan Woods to share their experiences of directing local and international television. In this episode, they talk about how they got their first break and what’s important to them in terms of collaboration and inspiring creativity in others. They also share their ultimate rehearsal strategy and tips on how to get the best performance out of an actor. This episode is essential listening for any aspiring or emerging directors.
- How they got their first break
- TV series that have inspired them
- The importance of collaboration and inspiring creativity in others
- Their screenplay analysis process
- Developing their directorial voice and communicating it effectively
- Working with actors
- How to get the best performance from cast and crew within time constraints
- How to explore landscape as a character in a series
- Embracing the possibilities of the rehearsal process
- How winning Tropfest in 2002 with the short film, Lamb, the story of a father and his blind son’s struggle to survive in a drought-stricken land, launched Emma’s career as a director.
- How creator and producer of The Secret Life of Us, John Edwards gave Daina and Emma their directing break on this classic drama about a group of twentysomethings living in the same Melbourne apartment block.
- Daina’s transition into directing internationally (The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) and David Makes Man (OWN/Warner Television).
- Emma’s insight into working on the set of Stateless, a series inspired by the real-life story of Cornelia Rau, an Australian who was unlawfully detained under the Australian Government’s mandatory detention program.
- How Daina developed the Australian landscape as a character in itself The Secret River