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Mr Burns: a post electric play, 2021 at NIDA Playhouse Theatre. Construction Manager, Matthew Hinton. Photo by Lisa Maree Williams.

NIDA Alumnus Matthew Hinton's Soaring Career as a Technical Swing

Since graduating, NIDA Alumnus, Matthew Hinton (Scenic Construction and Technologies, 2021)* has found great success in his career as a fly operator and technical swing. Matthew shares insights into his decision to transition from a chemistry degree to pursuing his true passion in theatrical production, highlighting his experiences, achievements, and the invaluable lessons learned at NIDA. From his proudest moments in production to the skills honed for stage work like Mary Poppins, Matthew's story offers a glimpse into the transformative power of pursuing one's creative calling.

Why did you decide to apply for NIDA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Scenic Construction and Technologies?

I think I just wanted to do what I loved. I was doing a chemistry degree before I applied, and it just felt like I was doing what I was 'supposed to do' rather than what I really liked. So I think that was what pushed me over into doing the degree.

What were some of your highlights while studying at NIDA?

I enjoyed working on productions most I think, both in the building and the show itself. I found that the larger collaboration worked for me better and then working on my own on my course-specific projects but that, being said, they were the tasks that often allowed me to learn more as I could more easily tailor the task to fit any skills that I wanted to learn.

What is the production that you are most proud of and why?

Probably Revolt. She said. Revolt again. I learned so many new things about that show particularly about static structures and bracing moving parts off to them. Many of the effects in the show also needed to be prototyped a few times so that was also really good to go through that process and be able to test what worked and what didn't. I was also very close with the rest of the team as we were in third year by that point, and it was very good to create something like that with my friends.

Matthew Hinton on the Set of 'Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again'.

Set dressing for Revolt. She said. Revolt again. From left to right: Construction Supervisor, Matthew Hinton (Set construction, 2021), Costume Supervisor, Samantha Manning (Costume, 2021) and Properties Supervisor, Rachel Hallet (Props, 2021).

How did NIDA prepare you for working on stage productions such as Mary Poppins?

I think it was best at preparing me for the aspect of being a smaller part in a much larger machine. I also had all of the individual skills that I needed. What I still needed to learn and what I was able to learn on the job was the difference in scale from what I had done in the past.

Can you tell us a little bit about what your job as a Fly Operator entails?

I started as a fly operator for the Sydney season which is just doing fly cues on the fly system. When I left Sydney to go on the tour I shifted to the role of a technical swing, which involved me learning 5 of the floor plots and I already knew the 3 fly plots from the Sydney season, so I was on the show to cover any of those 8 roles if they were off for any reason.

Mary Poppins - Australian production 2022 [credit Daniel Boud] - Playing The Game

Mary Poppins - Australian production, 2022. Photo by Daniel Boud.

What was your experience working with fellow alumni, Gareth Isaac and Robert Grubb? Have you worked with other alumni?

I had seen Isaac around the building I think in my first year but hadn't interacted much so it was very nice to actually get to properly meet him and Robert Grubb. Other alumni who worked on the show were:

Liam McIlwain - Resident Director (Directing, 2020)
Luke Woodham - Stage Manager (Technical Production, 2003)
Toby Rosengarten - Assistant Stage Manager  (Technical Production 2016)
Jemima Snars - Head of Props  (Production Crafts: Properties, 2009)
Gemma Rowe - Deputy Head of Lighting (Production, 2014)
Cara Bessey - Ensemble (Musical Theatre, 2017)

It was great to see how varied the graduates are, which seems obvious because there are so many courses, but it was really nice to see it in practice.

What advice do you have for any creatives who are considering applying for the BFA Scenic Construction and Technologies?

If you don't have passion and excitement, then you'll burn out quickly but if you're excited to be creative and make things then I don't think there's a better course for it.

What is next for you?

I try not to plan ahead too much but for now, I'm working on & Juliet at the Lyric Theatre and then I'll see what lays out there that I can grab.

*This degree is now named Bachelor of Fine Arts in Set Construction Technologies.

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