Archives for posts with tag: Melbourne

emily sexton

Emily Sexton is in her first year as Artistic Director of Melbourne’s Next Wave, a biennial festival and artist development organisation that supports innovative work from young and emerging artists. Prior to this, Emily was the Creative Producer at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. She spoke to arts interview about how she juggles the realities of leading a small arts organisation that makes a massive impact.

Interview by Emiline Forster

Do you feel that regardless of the job title you often find yourself balancing multiple roles?

Yes and no. In the arts you certainly need to be responsive and flexible. We are switching between different kinds of ideas all the time. We go from very conceptual conversations to very financial and strategic ones, and I think that is the nature of our practice. However, the challenge and joy of growing as an artistic director is to know how you want to execute your goals.

Earlier in my career there was that sense of being led by the work as opposed to being led by how I wanted to work. These days I make a lot more choices about how I want to work and what I should focus on.

I guess it is also about achieving a balance between personal and professional roles. When your passion, life, work and friendships all roll together you have to be quite careful to make sure that you still love all of those things – it is not like we are doing it for the money. It is something that you have far more control over than you might think. Last year just before the 2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival opened I had dinner with my old housemates. It was a commitment to myself that in amongst all this dedication to a community that I adore, I would also prioritise me being a good person who still caught up with her old housemates. I think it is something that you need to be really cognisant of all of the time, because it can stop being fun very quickly if you are not directly aware of it.

Do you think the size of an organisation affects a person’s ability to find balance between all the required roles?

Probably not. I think it comes down to the individual. For me personally, I know that I will always throw myself into things, I will always love what I am doing and be passionate about it, and I will probably always be working on things that, if I let them, will take over everything. So regardless of what you are doing, if you are working in the arts you need to make sure you are still enjoying the ride. Certainly in a small organisation you are covering a lot more territory and there are so many factors that lead towards you needing to diversify your skills, but there is also a nimbleness that means you can be quicker to respond to new and exciting opportunities.

How do you manage the shifts between your professional roles? For instance going from a creative headspace to a financial or planning one?

I guess you tend to have your eye on the bigger prize and see them all as part of a larger whole. I cannot be artistic without thinking clearly about how I am going to resource that endeavour. I also have to consider what my audience might want or need as well as how I will support and nurture my artists to ensure their ideas are the most explosive and radical that they can be. You have to take the time to manage and plan all those factors yet still stake out time to just talk about ideas. To achieve this, I have put in place a range of structures that allow us to prioritise the art, but also ensure that we continue to talk about why we are doing it, who we are doing it for, how it is going to happen.

When moving from the Fringe Festival to Next Wave, did you feel equipped with the skills needed to fulfill your new role, or did you accept that you would be learning on the job?

Both. Certainly there are loads of experiences, people that I have worked with, and things that I learnt at Fringe that provided a fundamentally amazing foundation for my time at Next Wave. But at the same time, I would not start any job presuming that I have all the knowledge that I need. The wonderful thing about Next Wave is that we really are a development organisation at every level. For me and my co-CEO Paul Gurney, this is the first time that we have come to the organisation, and the board is really dedicated to nurturing us as arts leaders so we can in turn nurture artists and arts workers. It is a really positive and exciting environment where it is ok to fail – it is ok to make mistakes, because that is actually how we will learn. It would be pretty crazy for us to go so hard at inventing new things and really being innovative, and also expect that to succeed 100% of the time. I am learning things all the time in this job and that was one of the reasons I was so excited to step into a new role.

 For where people are working in the Australian arts industry:


Yolanda Finch is the Creative Producer behind the annual L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF). Each year the festival launches the Autumn/Winter collections of Australia’s top and emerging designers. The festival is considered one of the largest consumer events of its kind in the world and last year showed the collections of over fifty Australia’s leading design talents.

Finch has been working with LMFF for over ten years and, as Creative Producer, generates and oversees the fashion and creative content of all Festival productions. Finch discusses with arts interview stress in fashion and the arts, and finding the illusive balance between work and well-being.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

The world of fashion is typically portrayed as high speed, glamorous and stressful. Do you think that is a true representation and how do you personally handle stress in your job role?

Karl Lagerfeld said in Lagerfeld Confidential words to the effect that one should work hard, but not talk incessantly about working hard, for nothing could be more tedious. I love the Kaiser, and of course he is right, but in the interests of sharing…!

The high speed and stressful side of fashion industry is true almost all of the time and the glamour side is true some of the time. I think those of us who have made our careers in this environment have a kind of addiction to these aspects, because you actually cannot pay anyone enough to live through the harder parts; you have to live your job with true passion.

Now that I am a little older, I have realised that I cannot dedicate my entire existence to the job like I have in the past. This is because it often feels very social and you can easily confuse the lines that technically should be in place to achieve balance. I do now try to pull back on the hours when I can and try to leave work issues in the office so they are not part of my home life. Of course, when an event is running it just needs you to be there no matter what, and that remains the key to delivering it successfully. I have no ability to compromise on that and furthermore, I really enjoy it!

The very best release from the job is a holiday, so that I am physically and mentally separated from my desk and the industry by many miles.

In the arts sector, and especially for emerging arts practitioners, it seems everyone has their fingers in so many pies, often a lot of very under-funded and time consuming pies. Do you find the arts sector a stressful area to work in?

Under-funded projects are almost guaranteed to induce a significant amount more stress than comfortable resources would bring. Although, it does not have to be a given, and I think the way through those projects is creativity and using the right people with the experience to pull everyone through efficiently.

The arts sector has that unique characteristic not only of being universally under-funded but also of demanding very particular outcomes and standards for which there are no obvious substitutes. So we end up working harder and longer to try to get to that end point without the resources to make it easy.

It is hard not to over-commit because often saying ‘No’ to something can result in a lost opportunity for both networking and building relationships which are crucial in the arts sector. I think the key is to know when many projects become too much, and the rule is to never let anyone down, least of all your stakeholders or audiences. In the arts, expectations are high, critics are everywhere, and you are only as good as your last project, so being selective about what can be delivered well is the first rule of committing to a project.

In your opinion, is fashion one of the more stressful faces of the arts with such strict production deadlines for designers to adhere to? Does this pressure compromise the artistic integrity of designers?

I think fashion designers face similar kinds of stresses as many other arts practitioners, but in unique combinations and situations. Certainly, deadlines from production through to retail delivery are uncompromising and not meeting a deadline on a single season can send businesses under. It can happen to very talented designers and often for reasons outside of their control.

Artistic integrity is an interesting commodity in fashion. It is perceived as the highest jewel that must be protected at all costs in order for a designer’s vision to be realised. At the same time, an understanding of how to adhere to the demands of commercialism is vital to operating the business of a fashion house. There are many examples of how these mutual objectives can be cleverly realised.  Designers who understand the total picture will generally have a better chance of flourishing, both artistically and commercially.

Finally: you are super stressed and nothing else will do but to: open the liquor cabinet or host a personal pastry smack down or exercise?

I wish I was more original and I certainly wish I had more restraint, but it is probably the liquor cabinet!

Interested in more information on well-being in the arts?


Patrick Sarell is a film maker, who this year completed a 10-minute computer generated film, Nullarbor. Currently travelling the international film festival circuit Nullarbor, has already won the Yoram Gross Award for best Short Animation at the Sydney Film Festival, Best Animation Short Film at the Melbourne Film Festival and is nominated for Best Short Animation at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards in January 2012. This is Patrick’s first venture as a co-director/writer and animator after working in the industry for a number of years. He spoke to arts interview about the decision-making process when working on such a labour intensive, collaborative endeavour.

Interview by Kim Goodwin

How does functioning as a co-director work? 

Well to be honest, our roles evolved organically on the production and I guess if you want to get brutal about it, Al and I have a fairly complementary skill set with different strengths. I have a natural aptitude for character and performance end of animation, whereas Al is much stronger visually in terms of colours, cameras and mood. While we both have strong instincts across all areas of animated film-making there is something about our partnership that brings out the best in each of us.

At times this can be a fairly volatile process but we always had the best interests of the film at heart and I think we do better work in partnership then we do as individuals.

What process do you use to make decisions?  How do you ensure this is efficient?

Story is king. Story is the tool that guides you in this process. Animation is an art of economy and you can clearly see on the screen where the money goes. In order to makes sure that you get the best possible end result you want to make sure that production value is being put into the elements that matter the most. The only yardstick you have for making a call on what goes in and what gets left out is the story. So every time I had to make a decision I would ask myself “Does this help move the story forward?” If it did not we dropped it, if it did it went in.

Do you divide up areas of responsibility? E.g. allocating resources, time or money.

Yes we do. We had a reasonably large team for a short film (around 15 people) each of whom was responsible for certain areas. Those areas can be loosely broken down into the following departments:

  • Production (Management)
  • Story
  • Art, Design, Modelling and Look Development
  • Rigging and Character technical development
  • Animation
  • Lighting, Rendering and Visual Effects
  • Compositing, Editing and Output
  • Sound and Post Production

People are often misleading when you tell them that you used a computer to animate. They think that the computer does the work for you. It does not. Everything in our film is hand made and animated on a computer right down to the eye darts, blinks and pupil dilation.

Have you had situations where a decision made has caused disharmony? How did you resolve it?

Yes, many times and they were all resolved in different ways. I think that in general we were able to solve them through open discussion using the story as a yard stick for measuring the value of an idea. The major issues came after we had finished the film and it started to do well. For some reason, we all got a bit protective of the importance of our own contribution to the project. I know at one point I caught myself thinking “they could not have made this film without me” and I think that a lot of other people on the crew were feeling that way too.

Ultimately this is true, but I could not have done it without them and we all came to the conclusion that we wanted to do another project together, and the only way that was going to happen was if we believed in each other and supported and valued the work everyone had contributed to equally.

 What advice would you give to other artists working in a collaborative partnership?

Be honest, trust your instincts, surround yourself with people you trust and who you want to work with, and do not be afraid to take your time to get the important stuff right. Always be open to being wrong and learning something new, nobody knows everything. Have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, that way when someone else comes up with a better idea you will not miss an opportunity.

Always know that nobody knows your project as well as you do. Finally and most importantly: share the love and share the knowledge. To get the best work people need to feel like they are learning and being appreciated.

Interested in more information on decision-making?