Building a Career at NIDA

NIDA might be best known for creating superstar actors but often a career behind the scenes is a more reliable earner. Kallan Crosbie,  a third-year student in NIDA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (Scenic Construction and Technologies), was the construction manager on NIDA’s full-scale June 2018 student production of The Removalists.

Why did you want to do this particular course?

There is literally no other course out there that offers the level of practical skills this one does. Working on actual live productions within a learning environment is the best experience you can have. During the year we work on two completely different productions. There is such a variety in the projects we are working on. One project will have you up on rigging, or up on the ceiling making a flying mechanism, on another you will be under the floor making a revolving stage mechanism, then you will be back up in the classroom working on computer coding. The next day you could be in the workshop doing timber construction or in the welding bay working with steel. The in-house facilities here in the construction workshop are awesome.

What sort of skills do you need before you start this course?

This course takes you on at the ground level. You don’t have to have any prior understanding of welding or building – they teach you everything you need to know. The amount of skills I have learnt is crazy. Nowhere else has the amount of facilities and access to tutors and people with huge amounts of industry experience.

What are you working on now?

For the June Student Productions at NIDA I am working on the set of The Removalists, creating a moving wall that will slowly progress from the back of the stage to the front, to create a claustrophobic atmosphere.

In my first year at NIDA I learnt about winches and trucking stage elements and did a small project where I built a stage ice cream truck that moved up and down stage. I can now transfer a lot of those skills into this bigger production.

Where are you aiming to go after your graduation from NIDA?

The graduates from this course gain employment in such a wide variety of places – one graduate is working at Sydney Theatre Company on theatre set building, one works for an event company and on major stage events like the Commonwealth Games, another is working as an automation technician on events like Vivid Sydney. Some past students have also started their own production company.

How do you connect with the industry while you are studying?

NIDA tutors and industry experts work alongside the students here while they are creating work. Also industry placements with a leading production company are a guaranteed part of the course, which gives you a hands-on experience, and a chance to create contacts and networks.

At the end of this, my final year, I will be placed on a seven-week secondment. My idea is to travel to London and work with an art installation company that makes interactive public work. I really like the technical design elements of interactive artwork. So you might make a room full of rain, for example, where audience members walk through and it turns off when they are near the water. There is a fair amount of technical design in something like that, and I can take the skills I have learnt here on coding and programming and apply them to that environment.

NIDA says the course is the only one of its kind in Australia, and one of only a few available worldwide. The immersive, practice-based course teaches students how to create environments for performances to take place. From managing and setting up large-scale events, building stage sets for theatre or film, to automated design or interactive public art installations, the students are equipped with skills to explore a future with high employment outcomes.