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How to Become an Actor in Melbourne

To Sydney or Melbourne? That is the question for many Aussie actors.

Though they’ve competed from day one, the rival cities have grown to offer quite divergent spins on ‘Australia’s cultural capital.’ While Sydney is home to most big-budget film and TV productions, Melbourne houses an unmatched theatre scene. Where Sydney tempts you with its stunning beaches, Melbourne will win your heart with its artsy alleyways.

Taking on the role of our Melbourne tour guide is Kate Lister, an actor and producer (and brand new mom!) born and raised in Victoria’s capital. Lister is best known for her roles in Bump, Clickbait and SeaChange on TV, and Slant and The Reef: Stalked in Cinemas. Lister has also lived past lives as a dancer, singer, and DJ, so she knows a thing or two about the artistic merits of her hometown.

Actor Kate Lister smiling and holding her newborn baby at the premiere of SLANT. Photo courtesy of Kate Lister.

In Melbourne, you can segue.

I started in the entertainment industry as a dancer, then segued into singing, then segued into DJing. But while all that was happening, I was auditioning as a dancer for commercials, and I realized I was terrible [at auditioning]. So, I started taking acting classes because I thought it would be another string to my bow. And then I fell madly in love with it.

I realized I’m a people person. I wanted to look into all types of people, and I got intrigued by that side of the study. Then it just snowballed from there. I think it’s my true love of all the performing arts.

You no longer need to live in L.A., New York, or London.

I realized being in L.A., New York and London—hustling from there can be consuming in a way where you don’t have relief. My relief is my family and my friends and my work, which is DJing.

These days, being able to do everything online, you don’t go into the room for auditions. It felt like having my support network around was really important for my mental health: my home, my garden, my husband and my baby. But my family as well—my mum and dad. That meant more to me than living in a small room and clinging so tightly to this one thing. I think it’s important to get overseas, try different things and meet different people. But to base myself there full-time? I don’t feel like that’s now extremely necessary.

Plus, I love Australia! I want my daughter to be able to be here! I want to work on Australian productions and be a part of producing them!

Being able to earn money helps.

[When you’re in the US], there’s no opportunity to grab work in other fields to get some extra money, so financially, it sets you up at a loss while trying to audition and keep afloat. You’ve got to always have a bag of money and go there and pray that something lands. For me, paying off my mortgage while auditioning here—you’re juggling, but you’re also still living your life. At my age, with my family, my husband—who’s in the same industry—and my 6-month-old baby, it’s very important to have that balance. And I think that balance feeds acting for me.

If someone were to move here, there are Facebook pages where you can room swap—say if someone’s on a musical in Sydney and they’re leasing out their room for four months. Everyone there looks out for each other price-wise, because we’re all artists.

The community is strong in Melbourne.

There’s a community here. I’m part of trying to build on that right now. Phoenix (Phoenix Raei, Lister’s husband) and I are a week out from shooting a feature film we’re producing, and he’s writing and directing. We’re going out to all of these Facebook groups and local artists to say, “Hey, who needs experience and credits to add to your CV? Come and join us on set. Get some experience in the field you want.” And yes, that’s going to help us—more hands on deck—but it’s also something we would have loved to have done when we were starting because you need credits and experience to move forward.

My next project may be to start a little group or company where people can jump in and support each other in getting self-tapes across the line when they can’t make it to a studio or have the funds to pay. I think that would be cool for Melbourne.

That’s a wrap on Melbourne!

In Melbourne, everyone must drink coffee or Chai. Cafés are a thing. [Go] to Chin Chin. Yes, it’s expensive, but just get the pad thai. It’s the best pad Thai ever. Bar-wise, we have a lot of fun at Ballers. You can go in and have drinks or food, but there’s also table tennis, pool and all the fun games. I’d also make sure you take a trip up to the Dandenong Ranges and walk the trails around that area for some good rainforest vibes.

If you’re an actor, I also highly recommend classes at Brave Studios. I’ve done classes everywhere, and everyone is great, but I find myself going back to classes or doing self-tapes there.

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