Sunday, 10 March 2013

Nicole Kidman and my knee

Nicole Kidman placed her hand on my knee. I blushed. She said to relax and not to worry. We were in her trailer at Fox Studios during filming of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, just shortly before Christmas 1999. Kim Williams, then head of Fox Studios, was also there, along with Angela Bowne SC. Who knew what would happen?

Nicole put her money on the table, and asked Kim to match it. Kim immediately did, but then to his continuing credit offered to call David Leckie, then head of the Nine Network, asking that Nine match it too. As ever, Kim was true to his word. David happily agreed, and then a few days later the Australian Theatre for Young People had close to half a million dollars over three years.

I recalled this moment at the 50th Anniversary gathering of ATYP at The Wharf in Sydney on 23 February. It was a moment that enabled transformation. I had been appointed Artistic Director of ATYP earlier that year and knew of the challenges facing a company that needed, and was inviting, change.

The Board had asked me to look into a particular possibility: that the company live up to the promise of the national reach inherent in its name. It's difficult to make anything in Australia national - geography is tyrannous - but ATYP has had that promise embedded in its very identifier since 1963.

We went about meeting the challenge in a few ways. Why don't we ask 30 youth arts companies from right across the nation, from small regional towns to capital cities, to each send a young artist to something we'd call the National Studio? There they'd meet and work with some of the best professional artists we could muster. Where better to hold the event than in the middle of the country?