During her seven year stint on popular ABC drama GP, Denise Roberts realised drama schools weren’t teaching young actors the art of screen acting and saw a business opportunity.
The two-time Logie nominee founded Screenwise 12 years ago and has since helped a cavalcade of stars learn the ropes of film and TV acting. Screenwise graduates include Transformers actress Isabel Lucas and Thor actor Chris Hemsworth.
Dynamic Business spoke to Roberts about balancing her business with a still-thriving acting career.
What inspired you to start Screenwise?
I went to drama school for three years but we weren’t taught screen acting. In those days no one recognised screen acting as being a specialised skill. Good screen actors were ones who had been working on screen for a few years and had learnt along the way. When I was in GP on the ABC for seven years, I noticed so many actors coming out of drama schools still ignorant of what was expected of them on set.
In those days actors had the luxury of networks like the ABC giving them time to grow and develop. I could see the writing on the wall and as funding and productions started to dry up, I realised that actors wanting to stay ahead of the competition, were going to also need to be skilled in the technical aspects of their craft.
How has the business embraced by the acting community?
Wholeheartedly. The industry was extremely supportive. And there’s a good reason for that… skilled screen actors make a producer and director’s life a lot easier.
How did your acting experience prepare you for being an entrepreneur?
I think the fact that acting is such a highly competitive art form – you either sink or swim.
What’s the most challenging thing about your industry?
Unhealthy competition. We need competition to continue to grow and develop, but there are unscrupulous organisations and people who pretend to be something they’re not.
How do you balance business and acting?
I have such a good team behind me. This makes for easy transitioning.
Are there any entrepreneurs you look up to?
Dick Smith is a favourite. A true Australian who cares about the country and its future. His success, I believe, comes from his integrity and his determination to produce a reputable product.
What tips would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Hang in there, and when the going gets tough, take a risk.
What’s next for you?
I’m playing an interesting character in a feature film called The Half Dead, directed by Tim Boyle and starring Tasma Walton and Jonathan Rhys Davies.