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From school passion to professional success in Live Production and Technical Services

Image credit: H Tanswell, Opera House

Image credit: H Tanswell, Opera House

Harry Tanswell, a graduate of the Diploma in Live Production and Technical Services (DLPTS, 2019), discusses his triumphs, challenges, and opportunities that shaped his professional life.

NIDA: When did you know you wanted to get into Live Production and Technical Services?

Harry Tanswell: When I was in Year 2, I became quite intrigued by the theatrical technical equipment in my school's auditorium and that passion followed me all the way through my respective school years. Being self-taught through my younger schooling years, I commenced an accelerated VET course in Entertainment in Year 9 and then went on to complete work experience in Year 10 and work placement in Years 11 and 12 at Sydney Opera House (SOH). This gave me a real taste of what it’s like to work in the live entertainment industry, with hands-on experience in a multitude of events including Crowded House on the forecourt of SOH and Opera Australia (OA)’s Carmen. Later on, I gained my first professional job at Glen St Theatre and the rest is history.

Image credit: H Tanswell, Opera House

Image credit: H Tanswell, Opera House

NIDA: Can you tell us why you chose to do a Diploma in Live Production and Technical Services at NIDA?

HT: The greatest attraction to selecting NIDA was the number of key contacts and stakeholders that NIDA has within the industry. In the Live Production and Entertainment industry, word of mouth is very important, and at the time, there was no other institution offering this type of specialised industry studies. The course outcomes were attractive and seasoned professionals recommended this course as a pre-requisite for developing key skills in technical production.

NIDA: Has being a NIDA graduate been helpful in terms of getting you the kind of gigs you’re working on, or have worked on in the past?

HT: Following my work placement in the Diploma in Live Production and Technical Services program, I gained professional employment at SOH as a Lightning Technician for three and a half years. There, I was given the very special opportunity to step up into a Lighting Supervisor role for OA’s major opera seasons and the Phantom of the Opera musical season at SOH in the Joan Sutherland Theatre.

Image credit: H Tanswell, Opera House

Image credit: H Tanswell, Opera House

NIDA: Can you tell us more about what you’re working on now or your next project? 

HT: In January of this year, I accepted a position as a Technical Operations Coordinator at Pavilion Performing Arts Centre in Sutherland (formerly Sutherland Entertainment Centre). It has been the biggest growth I’ve had in my career so far with steep learning curves – they have significantly propelled my professional development.

These are some of my responsibilities:

  • Managing all technical aspects of the venue
  • Enhancing key skills related to project commissioning
  • Providing assistance with all productions and touring technical requirements
  • Building and developing technical teams in a startup business environment
  • Developing technical procedures
  • WHS policies for the venue
  • Managing technical teams on deck

Due to my new full-time role at the Pavilion Performing Arts Centre at Sutherland, my capacity at SOH is now only on casual basis. I’m also looking to extend our outreach community services with my new role.

Image credit: H Tanswell, Opera House

Image credit: H Tanswell, Opera House

NIDA: Any advice you want to share with those who would like to apply for the Diploma in Live Production and Technical Services program?

HT: It’s a course to consider whether you’re a school leaver or wanting to deepen your understanding and skills within the technical production environment. There are many years of experience among the teaching and tutoring staff, which is extremely valuable in this field. When you are enrolled in the course, take advantage of every bit of information that you can gather from the tutors. I would advise maximising the project opportunities you work on at NIDA by thinking outside of the box while still following the rules. It is important to always find ways to accomplish different tasks in different ways, as this gives you the best learning outcomes to carry forward in your career.

Learn more about Diploma of Live Production and Technical Services at NIDA. Applications are open 13 June – 30 October 2023.

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