Original article at Couturing by Hannah Bambra January 22, 2013
Screenwise’s Denise Roberts
Denise Roberts is an iconic Australian actress. Best known for her roles in Home and Away, Headland, Packed to the Rafters and numerous others, Denise has graced our television screens for generations.
Although she has achieved so much already, Roberts continues to take on impressive roles and seize opportunities for both herself and the next generation at Screenwise in Sydney, as their CEO.
Couturing was lucky enough to have a chat with Denise and hear how she is totally committed to her students and will continue to nurture their talent while still expressing her own.
Couturing: What do you feel are the key lessons you have learned about the industry in your time?
Denise: The fact that it’s a business. I realised that when I got into my very first long running TV show. That was a real eye-opener for me. The craft is vastly different from the profession. The importance of the acting profession and the social commitment and responsibility that comes with it. And also that most of the actors you work with, even with all their faults and foibles are the cream of humanity for putting themselves out there, opening their hearts and baring their emotions all for public scrutiny.
Couturing: You’re CEO of Screenwise in Sydney, what kind of programs do you run there?
Denise: We have a lot of part-time programs incorporating everything to do with acting – but we specialise in film and television ranging from acting basics for beginners to advanced, american dialect, extended acting techniques right through to presenting – all on camera. We also bring out International tutors and casting directors to hold master intensive workshops for experienced actors.
Something I’m exceptionally proud of is our government accredited Diploma of Screen Acting. It’s the first and only two year full-time intensive creative and technical screen acting program that covers everything from Screen Combat and Theatre Training right through to developing relationships with producers, directors, agents and casting directors. Showbusiness is exactly that – a business, so we are also very focussed on ‘the business of acting’. How to present yourself, how to find a job and most importantly how to keep a job.
Couturing: You’ve acted as a lot of mothers over the years, do you feel any kind of maternal instinct over the young actors you’re now meeting through screenwise?
Denise: Absolutely, it breaks my heart when I have to say goodbye to them – I do my best to keep in touch, see how they’re doing and if I can help them and/or promote them in anyway. Support is so important. Let’s face it, it’s a highly competitive industry and you need all the support you can get.
Couturing: I noticed Susan Prior from Puberty Blues is a tutor, is it motivating for students to have teachers who are still an integral part of the industry?
Denise: Yes absolutely. They’re getting top class training and industry information direct from the horse’s mouth. I find it quite disappointing sometimes when students first commence classes at Screenwise and they haven’t heard of Claudia Karvan, Damon Herriman or even Ben Mendlesohn. They watch so much American stuff. So I correct that straight away. If they want the Australian film industry to support them, then they have to support the Australian film industry.
Couturing: Did you always want to work predominantly in television?
Denise: From when I was a small child my passion was always for the screen, but screen acting schools didn’t exist, so I went to theatre school for 3 years instead. I love all the mediums, but film and television is not only the actor’s bread and butter to sustain them through the hard times, it has become the actor’s main source of work in a very difficult and demanding profession. Twelve years ago if you weren’t a ‘theatre actor’ you weren’t really considered an actor. Well the work has turned and the industry has changed immensely since then. In today’s demands, if you don’t have a film or television profile, you can’t get a job in theatre. Even theatre producers now recognise the importance of an actor having a film or television profile. Actors with a profile put bums on seats. That’s just good show-business.
Couturing: How has Australian television, film and theatre changed since you entered the industry?
Denise: It’s all about the ratings and the dollars. Networks, theatres and production companies like any other company has to make money to survive. Competition is huge, so I guess they’ve got to do what they can to pay the overheads.Most of our theatres have been demolished and replaced by fast food franchises. We have nowhere for actors to develop their craft.
Couturing: What is its future, in your opinion?
Denise: If we could get some proper funding and some decent regulations in place geared to giving Australians more opportunities in all of those mediums, then we could end up in a really good place. But as it stands at the moment, our kids will be conversing in American accents in 20 years time.
Couturing: Could you tell us about your role in the new Sebastian Guy film, Nerve?
Denise: Gary Sweet and I have been married for over 25 years and our only adopted daughter is killed. We both find it difficult to deal with this and through the film you see the circumstances on how she died tearing our marriage apart. Christian Clark, one of my Screenwise graduates is the star of the movie and he plays my son in law. It’s a psychological thriller.
Nerve is currently in post-production, as are films Cliffy and Concealed which Denise will also be appearing in.
How Denise has any time left to herself is beyond us.
For more information on Denise and Screenwise visit;