Take your shot – even at roles you aren’t trained for

Brooke Boland

Don’t let inexperience stop your creativity. Learning new skills can be eye-opening.
Take your shot – even at roles you aren’t trained for

Image: ‘The Bar’ scene of the film. Image credit: Gabrielle Rowe

The first shot you take at making your creative career aspirations come true typically happens at school. Most likely in high school, where you had your first taste of art, performance or writing. But after high school, the stakes are higher, and by the time you get to university, your career aspirations are not just an idea or hobby anymore. The leaps you take during higher education become more and more valuable. After all, these opportunities allow students to transition into experienced practitioners. 


Later on in our careers, we often hesitate to grab opportunities that could end up highlighting our inexperience. We don’t want to be seen as incompetent, or reveal that we are still learning. But it’s important not to let inexperience stop us from developing new skills. 

NIDA’s commitment to creating outside-the-box opportunities for students to expand their skill set includes ensuring they work on projects outside of their specific specialisation. Gabrielle Rowe, a third year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) at NIDA, recently worked on a short film project with her fellow design students. 

Written by the Master of Fine Arts (Writing for Performance) student Michael Costi, the film was conceptualised and designed by third year students, with second year students assigned various crew roles. Each of the seven third year students then directed a scene, either at NIDA or off-site.

‘This project is valuable to design students for many reasons. Most importantly, it is our first introduction to designing both sets and costumes for film, as well as our first shot at realising designs. Projects like this are essential for students to learn how things are done in the real world, with sustained support from experienced tutors,’ said Rowe.

But Rowe didn’t just learn the practical application of designing sets and costumes for film. ‘It is also valuable due to the vast range of skills we learn when having to take on so many different roles as part of a film crew, including roles in all departments such as art, lighting, camera, catering and gaffing,’ she said.

Image: ‘Rasputin’s Den of Alchemy’ scene. Image credit: Michael Scott-Mitchell.

 It was an unusual project where designers worked on every aspect of the production, from directing to stage management. But the variety posed its own set of challenges and Rowe said her inexperience in roles such as gaffing and lighting was quickly apparent.

‘Playing these roles that differ so far from the approach of a designer was definitely challenging, but immensely rewarding as you suddenly become aware of the different perspectives and different ways of solving problems. Ultimately, this experience is as rewarding as it is eye-opening to all the different areas that go into realising a film. There’s so much more to it than just the art department and design,’ she said.

The lesson here is that while experience is crucial, inexperience is also an important learning opportunity that can make you even better at what you do, as well as what you don’t. 

The short film, titled The Horrific Murder of Grigori Rasputin or How I stopped worrying and Learned to Love the Tzar, will premiere at NIDA in the James Fairfax Foyer later this year.

About the author

Brooke Boland is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.