Monday, June 4

You know, way back in 1989 or there a-bouts, while working on Les Miserables in Sydney I organised an event involving most of the Les Mis companies around the world. The event was called STOP THE BURNING and was trying to raise awareness and funds to help stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest through the burning of the forest in the dry season. This practice was, of course, leading to the destruction of the homelands of a number of indigenous peoples.

So, here we are twenty plus years later and it continues in one way or another.

As an actor I have managed to stay away from destructive ads by simply not doing them. I have been fortunate enough be able to chose. But there have also been many times when the temptation to just go for it and take the money has been a reality. Fortunately the handful of voiceovers I have done have been 'ethical' as far as I could tell. Perhaps my face has saved me from being offered the handful of T V ads that I HAVE gone for. Perhaps my inner life shines through in the audition and the advertisers KNOW the real me is not the real they want.

But in all of this, what I see is that time has not stopped the destruction of the planet. Certainly not actors. More people may be aware of it all, and more action is being taken against all types of destructive acts and industries, but the drive to consume and to enjoy the marvels of technological life is overwhelming. And we all, every human being, has a right to enjoy the best that life can offer. But I've read somewhere that for all of us to enjoy the standard of life that we in Australia enjoy, for example, would require 3 planet Earths.

And in all of this, or perhaps it's UNDER all of this little rave today, is the fact that my lovely farm like so many lovely farms in this wonderful country, is going under the knife of yet another coal mine. What the hell are we doing???

Friday, January 29

And So It Goes

This is my first post for quite some time, mainly because of a glitch in the system that wouldn't allow me to post. After several months, I gave up and concentrated on other things. The mind however kept thinking and I gave my attention to other organisations that were active in the field. But now I see it is working and here we go..........

After the Copenhagen failure, I for one have had a very strong feeling of despondency. And yet really why should I be surprised or disappointed at the outcome? Surely any one could have predicted it? But pretty much every environmental group I have been involved with was really pumping up the optimism. There were cynics, sure, but I didn't really notice them because I was so very hopeful.

It seems now as if what we (I) have to do is accept that either things aren't actually going to be all that bad or that YES they are, but there is sweet FA we will do about it so just get on with life and hang the rest. And So it Goes: we are going to hell in a hand basket.

So, in my growing sense of failure, not personal, ( although the responses to this blog suggest that it should be because no one has responded :-o ) but in the whole of the Climate Change movement, I have found the slow retreating into the shell or the burying of my head in the sand to be one way of dealing with it. I can imagine there might be many others like me who have more or less had the wind completely taken out of their sails.

But this is not a permanent change, I'm sure. Perhaps a re-assessment. And the first act of re-assessing is to look at what the potential of Climate Change actually means to me now.
On a day a couple of weeks ago when it was forty two degrees I wondered what the potential extra two or four degrees if the predictions are right, would be like?

I've thought, 'OK, so it will get hot and we will find ways of adapting. We will survive. Great. It doesn't matter what we do, we will basically be OK, so this Global Warming thing is (well fuck the pacific islands and low lying parts of the planet where most people actually live) the rest of us will be OK.

But is life only about us? What about all the other creatures? What would life be like without them. OK so we haven't grown up with dinosaurs other than their bones and our imaginations and maybe in three hundred years the people alive will see pictures of elephants and gorillas and orangutans and have the same relationship to them that we have with dinosaurs, but I kind of feel that part of what makes life so rich is the knowledge that life IS so rich and diverse. And judging by the predictions most of what we take for granted now, will all be gone.

So where do actors fit in???

More to come.........

Thursday, March 15

A certain Pride

As many of you in Australia who get the MEAA Equity magazine will have seen, the current issue is pretty much dominated by so-called 'GREEN' articles, including the main part of this blog. The union invited me to the annual federal council meeting to talk about my article and to have a discussion about it. I am grateful to them for the opportunity and the very supportive response.

It is understandable that there would be a certain amount of concern with regards to the criticism of the role of actors and advertising. As I imply in the article, this is not an easy topic. But at least it may have started people thinking.

One of the other great outcomes is that the Union is going to have a carbon audit of their operation conducted and are determined to shrink their footprint, so to speak. It gives me a certain pride that I have helped kick start this debate within our industry.

If you are reading this from another country please direct your fellow performers here to have a read and talk about it all from the perspective of your own industry. I would love to hear from you. Email me!

This is my first entry for a while. I hope to continue to add to it on a regular basis. PLEASE, contribute, leave your thoughts, ideas, questions, links........ whatever, and tell others to visit and TALK about the subject.



PS If you're in Sydney come and see Daniel Keen's play The Nightwatchman at the Griffin. Until April 7th/or 14th (if extending)

Directed by Lee Lewis with Camilla Ah Kin, Alex Demitriades and yours truly.

Monday, December 18

A Space For Any Comment

This area of the blog is for ANY comments. You may want to comment on something other than what I have written, or just make suggestions or air thoughts, so please go ahead. Click on 'comments' on the next line to do so. If you don't have a 'Google' account click on 'other'. Simple as that. Any problems, contact me at

Sunday, December 17

Global Warming: A Challenge for Performers

Global Warming: A Challenge for Performers

On Nov. 4th an estimated 100,000 Australians took to the streets as part of the International Day of Action on Climate Change "Walk Against Warming". To coincide with that day, at least 250 actors/performers, agents, techies, and others in the entertainment industry posted letters to the government and opposition expressing their concern about Global Warming and calling for serious action to tackle what is potentially the most urgent problem facing the planet. Some would say it IS the most urgent problem.

The support from the entertainment community for the letter campaign which I instigated, was fantastic. Many people expressed their thanks for my setting it all up and "making it easy to actually do something"! It's also nice to know that the original letters have been changed by people (not in our industry), to reflect their work, and who felt they wanted to add their voices. As far as I know the letters are still circulating.

Several months ago I asked, via the MEAA email if any actors/performers were interested in setting up a discussion group to look at what we as people in the entertainment industry, could do about global warming, . I'm sorry to say the response was pretty dismal. But, the response to the letter campaign has assured me that their are many of us who do care about the subject and want to do something about it.

I'm going to start a discussion here and now by suggesting that one of the major things we have to do is look at our indirect but specific contribution to Global Warming, through the work we do in advertising, be it 100%ers or voice-overs.

This is a very difficult subject because many of us earn, if not a huge living from commercials (although some do), then at least a contribution to the household budget. Often, the only financial contribution we make. The 'big ad' can be a life saver, sort of, and the steady stream of regular voice-over work or T.V. commercials can be the only 'performing' one might get to do for quite some time. As we know the industry is in pretty dire straights across the board when it comes to the amount of work that is available and calling your self an actor - or singer or dancer- when you haven't been in a show for a couple of years or on TV seems a little heartbreaking. So to challenge this area of work is quite a big issue but, I feel one that must be looked at, because our faces, voices and personalities are at the forefront of consumerism and as such we help sell many of the products which either through the process of their production or in themselves are contributing to Global Warming.

The problem we face with ads is either general or specific.

What I mean is that ads in 'general' are about increasing consumption ( or at least tempting us to buy), which has inherent problems for the planet with things like power and energy and waste. The problems of ads in a 'specific' sense, is that they may be for large gas guzzling cars or inefficient appliances, say. (One could throw into the mix the whole notion of ethics on other levels as well, but they are inherent in what I am arguing here anyway.)

The problem is that we very seldom get to question what the ad is actually doing. On the other hand even if one has a level of concern about content the script might not be available until after turning up for the job. We have no input into what is said or shown. We might get asked to do things that we don't feel particularly good about, but, "what the hell, I'm here now I might as well do it and ..... think of the money!"

We have been in a situation for many years where there was no need to question much of what ads do, -although many women have been conscious of the way they may be portrayed or used and have refused to do ads because of their concern about such images. As a general rule however, the concern over ads has come, not from within the industry but from the public or 'interested' groups, . Ours is usually a shared acknowledgement that they are often a pain to do, sometimes a little embarrassing, occasionally good fun and .......well, "think of the money". But we don't really question them, the content, the product. Of course, not all ads are bad as far as the environment goes, but perhaps now is the time we have to seriously start questioning what it is we are advertising. What is the effect of the product we are trying to sell when it comes to the environment? Or, well let's take it into ethics, how does the extolling and constant urging to buy effect poorer people in society, or the life chickens have to suffer to supply the fast food industry? You see, I think there was a time when there was no need to question, there was so much to go around and it seemed that we all could have pretty much everything, (and of course poor people were looked after and chickens were for the most part free range.) And even though I'm sure the government and business leaders would like us to keep thinking that way - for the sake of the growth of the economy - we have to acknowledge it is no longer the same world. It never really was that world anyway. Nothing in the universe grows and grows forever. To a human lifetime many things may seem to go on and on, but that is more the fault of our perceptions and perhaps our egos. The simple fact is that there are limits to growth and in the opinion of many, those limits has been reached. We are now all responsible for what happens to the world we live in.

As if we don't have enough to cope with!

It is a very difficult thing I'm suggesting here, but I think we have to seriously start questioning what it is we are being asked to do with every ad or voice-over, because everything we do in life has some sort of environmental impact. It may be minuscule, it may be large. But, how can we as performers be expected to know what the environmental impact of a product is when it comes to greenhouse gasses? Should performers be given a disclosure of the 'embedded carbon' with every item, service or object they are being hired to sell, which would thus allow for an informed decision? How does one make a decision about advertising a product which was invented for 'professional' use but which is unnecessary in the home where the product advertising is being aimed?(vacuum sealers for food, for example). Should we in fact be involved in a dialogue with advertisers to try and come up with a 'standard' to work towards, a standard that puts the environment before 'sexiness' for instance?

The issues brought up by Global Warming, when looked at in fine detail, reveal many layers. These layers reflect much of our society, everything from wasteful consumption to unethical treatment of animals, from blatant disregard for anyone but oneself to the gap between the haves and the haves-not. I admit to being on the pessimistic side on this subject. Having been involved with environmental issues since the 1970's I have heard how long the warnings have been going on and observed how little has been done. I admit there is a certain comfort in seeing the rapid shift in direction our government has made on the subject in just the last few weeks, a 180 degree turn, in fact. And even though the steps they are taking fall short of the mark, the publicity and focus on the subject will hopefully mean many more individuals will be spurred into making changes to reduce their personal impact on the planet. But the power of the individual to effect change is enhanced when the individual is part of a group - that's what unions are about of course - and when that group is able to effect change within it's sphere of influence the repercussions can be quite dramatic. When you consider that the area in which we are involved - media and entertainment - has such a close contact with people (we are in their living rooms) and has an almost ever present opportunity through our voices and images and actions to influence people's choices, then perhaps now is the time we should start to seriously question the whole area of advertising and our role in promoting a carbon hungry world.

I'm talking here about ads because of their influence on consumerism. Of course many ads are quite innocuous, but there are an equal number, if not more, that, as I suggest above, when looked at through the lens of global warming and climate change become far from innocuous. We need to look at Climate Change therefore, not only in our private life but our working life too. As an industry we need to seriously consider the impact we have. As individuals we need to be informed to enable ourselves to be discerning about what work we accept by considering it in the light of climate change, not just in the light of 'how much money am I getting?' Should we in fact be involved in dialogue with advertisers to try and come up with a 'standard' to work towards, a standard that puts the environment before 'sexiness' for instance?

I hope these few words on this important subject can start a dialogue between ourselves. Can help us as an industry, contribute in a very positive way to finding solutions to this very big issue.

Saturday, December 16

Open Letter to John Travolta (and those who can afford it)

Dear John Travolta,
I'm on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney and have just watched a doco about you. Well I thought it was going to be about you and your home but it was mainly about you and Qantas and the big new Airbus. You are their ambassador after all.

I'm an actor and I have admired your work for many years. I thank you for the great pleasure you have given me. But I have to say I was really quite shocked by the program. Perhaps you made it before Global Warming came into your field of vision. Perhaps it just doesn't figure. You may not be aware that flying is becoming a dilemma because of the conflict between it's importance in the world economy and the fact that it is a huge contributor of Greenhouse gas emissions.

The documentary showed you with your air planes ( parked outside your house which has a runway big enough for a 747 jumbo!) and you spoke of the joy and thrill of your childhood in a world that was boundless in it's possibilities and the time when you fell in love with flight. We watched you flying yourself, wife and daughter, and your sister, I believe, with a crew of five on a 'world tour'. Ten of you flying in a 707 (?) As I watched your daughter I couldn't help but think how different is the world for her - although of course the world you are giving her is the one of limitless possibilities while the reality is that those limits have been reached.

It creates a very confusing and confronting state of being when people like yourself, whom we admire and look up to and take as examples of what to aspire to, do things that surely are no longer ethical. There must be (if one insists on being in the public gaze) a more responsible approach to the things one does. It is time now for people like yourself: intelligent, warm, generous of spirit and compassionate to help guide us away from the consumerist greed that has taken our planet to the edge.

I write this with no feeling of disrespect or any desire to insult and offend. Rather it is with respect and a desire to urge people like yourself to help bring about the changes that will pull us from the edge.

William Zappa

Wednesday, December 13

Carbon Trading for Films/TV?

Hollywood carbon trading is happening. Could this be a business deal for out of work actors. I'll be in it if anyone want's to give it a go! researchers-reveal-tinseltowns-grubbiest-secret/2006/11/15/1163266637825.html