To actually get some of the oldest footage of Alex’s career while he was studying at NIDA, is like finding Intense Study fangirl gold!
I do not even know how to start this post, because there is so much to say all at once. We have been so excited about this for the past couple of days. We also struggled to find a name for this post that can capture the essence of the post!
Yes, we stumbled onto something old but wonderfully new to us this week. I knew about it for a long time but did not really look for the footage until now.
We know this might not be of interest to all the fans, but as usual, we would like to share everything of Alex that we can find with all our fellow fans. You will find posts of this footage on all our social media pages for the next few days.
It took us quite a while to work through the 3 ½ hours of footage to find all the bits and pieces with Alex in it. Sometimes even wondering if it is actually a glimpse of him we see or not. But for the most part, the young energetic Alex was easy to spot.
It is a pity that the 22-year-old footage is not in HD – we, therefore, apologise for the quality of the screen captures.
It all takes us right back to the beginning where Alex started his acting career – his auditions to get in and his first year at NIDA. And by seeing what the Third Year students were doing during the year, you get a feeling of what Alex’s 3 years at the school would have been like for him.
Just as a reminder to those who might not know, at the beginning of 2000, Alex started his acting studies at NIDA. Alex was already 23 years old at the time and the father of two-year-old Saxon when he applied to get into NIDA at the University Of New South Wales in Sydney at the end of 1999. During the Pauly Shore podcast, he mentioned that he tried his luck coming to Hollywood as far back 1997, already, and that he did a few commercials and some fringe theatre plays by the time he applied to NIDA.
As it happens, the same year he enrolled, a documentary about the school was filmed. The series followed a group of specific students from their auditions at the end of 1999 to the end of their first year in November 2000. Unfortunately, Alex was not one of those they featured, but as part of the broader group, there were some scenes with Alex to see.
- One critic wrote about the show:
“This show started on local Channel 7 without much splash. With the Big Brothers and Survivors and Popstars, pretty much no one was interested in a bunch of students at only the most prestigious dramatic arts school in Australia.
Pity, this show had it all, comedy, drama, action and even a few celebs! Unfortunately, this show suffered the late time-slot that Buffy, Scrubs, and other wonderful shows have garnered thanks to Channel 7’s lack of faith in its programming.”
- The original broadcast of the 9 part series started in February 2001 on Australian Television.
The footage that we now found seems to have been posted online by Ronin Films back in April 2016 already (so sad we discovered it only now). Unfortunately, it is only available for viewing in parts of Australasia and then also only through paying a subscription to watch it, or by buying the DVD.
This is what the series features:
A year in the life of Australia’s most prestigious acting school, where what happens off stage is often more dramatic than what happens on it.
Thousands of hopefuls from around the country compete for 26 acting positions each year. A small group of aspiring actors make it through the tough audition process, then endure the confronting first year at “boot camp NIDA”. By the end of the gruelling course not all will survive.
The story simultaneously follows the third year students as they prepare to graduate and begin an exciting but unpredictable future as professional actors.
It was made by some of Australia’s foremost documentary producers and provides an entertaining and moving insight into what makes an actor.
Series directed by KATE BANNATYNE and RACHEL LANDERS, and produced by MICHAEL CORDELL.
Introduced for the series by Mel Gibson, NIDA’s most famous graduate:
“I mean I loved NIDA and hated it … at times it was very frustrating and hard and depressing and all this kind of stuff but, if you were prepared to stick with it, the rewards were really good.” – Mel Gibson.
- At the beginning of each episode, they show parts of an interview with Mel, talking about his time at NIDA back in 1975 – 1977.
This is our summary of the parts with Alex in the series – broken down for each episode.
During the course of 5 weeks, Tony Knight, head of acting and his staff embark upon the gruelling culling process to select 26 first-year students from 1,400 applicants countrywide. For some, getting into this prestigious institution is a lifetime obsession. There were some who have tried out multiple times before and then there were some, like Alex, who were first-time applicants.
The applicants had to prepare 3 monologues (one specifically from Shakespeare) for the auditions which they had to perform during the process.
Later during call-backs in Sydney, they started with 100 students who go through a day of elimination until only 56 students remained. During their last part of the audition, the small group were asked to do some impromptu scenes according to themes they call out and some sight-reading. We get to see some of the funny young Alex’s moves during that session.
Link to Video – Improvisation scene
On the day of Alex’s last round, all the members of the small group actually made it through to the final cut after the day’s hard work.
On Decision Day the staff gather to reduce the shortlist of 56 applicants, who made it to the final audition cut, by half and end up with 27 first-year candidates. They notify the candidates.
Alex’s audition papers:
Boot Camp NIDA
The first NIDA year begins for Alex and his classmates. They soon realise that it is all hard work and discipline. They discover that acting is not a glamour occupation, but sheer hard work. The exhausting training aims to stretch their physical and emotional limitations.
Alex (all in white) at orientation day:
They also have to get body assessments to determine their physical abilities and to get an honest view of their physical appearance. Unfortunately, we do not get to see any footage of Alex during that process. 😦 Young Alex in lycra would have been an interesting sight. 😛
At least we got to see Alex running to get to class:
Alex at his first voice class:
The first years were divided into 2 groups, and each group had to write and perform their own play based on a Greek tragedy. Unfortunately, we do not get to see Alex’s group do their play but at least we could see him appreciating the fellow classmate’s play.
In March of that year, right in the middle of their first term, the Director of NIDA announced that the 73- year-old Queen will visit the school during her tour of Australia. The school has just two weeks to prepare.
On the footage of the announcement, the young joyful Alex can see seen at the back – thoroughly enjoying the excitement of it all:
The first-year students prepare a song to sing for her. Unfortunately, Alex is nowhere to be seen on the footage of them rehearsing.
The preparations for the ‘casual’ forty-minute Royal Tour around NIDA are nightmarish, involving endless rounds of security and protocol meetings. The day the Queen arrives it is pouring – NIDA turns surreal as the bomb squad crawls over the campus with sniffer dogs. But like any show by the time she steps in the door, it’s picture-perfect.
She watches a rehearsal of the sometimes offensive and violent play, The Ugly Man – Her Majesty doesn’t bat an eyelid. And as she leaves the first years sings for her. The Queen apparently said that she was surprised that actors could sing so well.
Then, like a dream, she’s gone and it’s back to business. The First Years get their first assessments but unfortunately, we only get to see footage of the group that the series featured.
This Glamorous Life
It’s the First Year’s turn to endure their first tough acting test. Kevin Jackson has a reputation as one of the toughest teachers in the business. His job is to push them where they are afraid to go. If they thought it was hard so far, the game just got harder.
He works them to the bone. They are split into pairs and for 8 weeks each pair rehearse a difficult scene which they will eventually perform in front of the school. The pressure is on.
Link to video:
Lucky for us, Alex gets paired with one of the girls who were featured during the series. We, therefore, get to see parts of their rehearsals with Kevin and also a part of their final small performance for the other students and parents.
Link to video:
They portray two young lovers in Northern Island. Kevin uses some interesting methods to get actors out of the shells. During one of those rehearsals, he makes a suggestion to Alex on how to get Romy (who is struggling to laugh freely) to laugh for that scene.
Link to video:
And of course, voice training is an important part of their process, because an actor’s voice is a big part of their work:
The First-year students also practise stage fighting for two hours a day. And once again, lucky for us, we get to see a short glimpse of the young Alex practising his sword-fighting skills.
Tense times also for the First Years who are given some frank feedback from Tony about their scene work the night before they perform for an audience.
Alex behind Tony Knight – watching the dress rehearsals:
We get to see part of Alex and Romy’s dress rehearsal:
And part of their final performance:
Link to video
The acting staff meet to discuss the First Years’ assessments. These mid-year results are going to come as a rude shock for some.
Romy (the girl who was paired with Alex for their performance) realises that despite her fears, braces are her only option. Her two front teeth are very prominent and she gets the braces to try to correct it.
When she arrives back at school they show the reaction of some of her fellow mates. And of course, energetic Alex was there to show his support.
Link to Video
Mel Gibson drops in for an informal surprise visit to look at how the building of the new auditorium is going – and offers some useful advice to the Third years during the week of auditions for the industry agents.
Meanwhile, the First Years are given a serve from Tony about their poor attendance. With the final assessments looming, the prognosis is not good. Some will not make it to their second year.
The Never-Ending Audition
The First Years’ future is being discussed by the NIDA staff and the Board of Studies. This is their final assessment and it will determine whether all the First Years will be invited back for their second year or whether some will be cast aside. Rumours begin to circulate about the impending ‘cull’.
During the discussion about the culling, we get to see a small clip of the first years doing a group rehearsal session.
Link to Video
The Final Curtain
The First Years find out who stays at NIDA for the second year and who will not be invited back – five unsuspecting souls don’t make it. Their notifications are posted on 24 November of that year.
Tony, Head of Acting, surprisingly reveals he didn’t make it into his second year when he attended NIDA as a student many years ago – so he knows exactly what they’re going through.
The pressure is always on to show commitment and nothing came easy for the acting students at the school. In the mercurial industry of stage and screen, the success or failure of an actor often appears random. The series Drama School provides an entertaining and moving insight into what it takes to become an actor.
Make sure to visit Ronin Films for this documentary series and also loads of other independent Australian films available with them.
- As part of the intro clip of each episode, you can see a quick glimpse of shirtless Alex practising his stage sword fighting.
- Romy Bartz, who was paired with Alex for their first year acting scene, actually also appeared in the same episode of White Collar Blue as Alex back in 2003 after they graduated.
- The year 2000 must have been an exciting time in Sydney. With the Queen’s visit in March and the Olympic Games later that year in September.
Hope you enjoyed this great view at Alex’s first year at NIDA with us.
We tried to include as much of the footage in this post.
We are very excited to have so much more detail of that first period of this career!!