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I Don't Get It: The Australian Creative Industry

On The Set Of Home And Away

Summer Bay is everyone’s holiday getaway dream. For Grapeshot’s Aussie issue, I wanted to touch base with this cult classic. To gain first-hand insight into Australia’s creative industry, I interviewed a member of the Home and Away crew, who has worked on the show’s set for years.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in the Australian creative industry, specifically on the set of Home and Away (H&A)?

A: I’ve always had an interest in films and filmmaking and we shoot only an hour away from my house so it seemed like a natural fit, right place, right time and all that. Specific to H&A, I would say, for the most part, it’s all the lovely people I’ve gotten to know and the location that pushes it up.

Q: How does it feel as an Australian working on a show with such a large international audience in an industry that often struggles to break through national borders?

A: While it’s definitely nice to have had a hand in making something that’s been seen by so many, I don’t take much pride from the perspective of it being uniquely Australian because (at least to me) it isn’t. Outside of its location (and there is a novelty to seeing that location on TV) the actual content of the show doesn’t reflect anything inherently Australian. I will say that the more recent inclusion of the Māori family has been a nice touch though, and many of my Māori and Polynesian friends have responded positively to that.

Q: The Summer Bay setting of H&A is iconic. What is it like working at the beach while you’re on set? Is it as romantic as it sounds?

A: Some days when the weather’s nice, it’s a dream. For a smaller production capturing sound with the wind and the waves and dealing with all the sandy equipment it would be a nightmare, but we have the budget and an incredible team of professionals that have been working down here for years that really helps streamline the process.

When the weather isn’t nice, however, you can spend long stretches huddled under the surf club or “KD” (a portable rain proof gazebo) waiting for the sun to come out from behind clouds or battling strong winds. We’re essentially completely at the mercy of the elements which hasn’t led to the best time this year with La Niña.

Q: H&A has a legacy of contributing to the career growth of Australia’s best actors. From Guy Pearce and Heath Ledger, to Isla Fisher and Chris Hemsworth, H&A was a home for internationally-acclaimed talent. How does it feel to contribute to this Australian legacy? To elaborate, do you think H&A is important to Australia’s creative industry, particular for those who are starting to make their way into film and television?

A: Definitely, behind and in front of the camera, the focus is of course on the world-famous actors, and I think it’s great that local actors get that opportunity in an incredibly saturated, hard industry to crack into. That being said, there are a number of younger grips and camera assistants who are getting their start behind the scenes and I think that should be applauded too.

It might be a little off-topic but having consistent work in this industry is also nothing to turn your nose up at. There’s a lot of jokes about how long the show has been dragged out for, but as many of the people on set are independent contractors, it’s incredible that they have any degree of job security, especially on a show that shows no signs of ever slowing down.

Q: Were there any boundaries you had to overcome while on set as a creative who is not directing/leading the project you’re working on?

A: At this stage in my career I wouldn’t expect (nor want) to direct something of its scale or budget, and even then the directors have their own constraints placed on them by the producers who have constraints on them from Channel Seven. There’s no one person in charge nor could there be on something that’s run for as long as it has. As for me, I have no issue starting small and working up.

Q: H&A has been known to controversially explore adult-rated topics and storylines during family-time broadcasting. How does H&W navigate the creative industry’s need to express emotional complexity while compressing and editing it into a PG-rated soap opera, and how do you think H&A has contributed to Australia’s television identity during its 34 years of broadcasting?

A: I watch no Australian television so I’d struggle to say, especially in regards to the long term landscape. Like you’ve said, however, they were known for exploring more controversial themes and subject matters in the early days, and considering ratings and censorship was a lot more conservative back then I can understand and appreciate their look into those topics.

Q: Working on the set of H&A, do you feel a sense of pride as an Australian in the creative industry? Do you think opportunities abroad would offer you more?

A: There is a certain novelty to turning on the TV and being greeted with Palm Beach and its recognizable landmarks. There’s not so much a sense of pride as there is a happiness that there’s still mass-consumable, highly profitable content being made by countries other than the States.

As for future opportunities, it definitely won’t hurt to have the name on my resume.

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