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How studying at NIDA jumpstarted this fly supervisor’s career

For the past two years Zachary White (Scenic Construction and Technologies, 2021) has been working as a fly supervisor at Sydney Theatre Company (STC), taking on projects such as Julia and Dorian Gray. Encouraged by a former teacher, Zachary moved to Sydney from the Top End, where he applied for and earned a Diploma in Live Productions and Technical Services, as well as a BFA in Scenic Construction in 2021. Read on to find out how studying at NIDA has jumpstarted Zachary’s career.

Zachary White_Scenic Construction

Image credit: NIDA

NIDA: Are you still in touch with your teacher in Alice Springs who helped you apply to NIDA? Was your teacher also in the performing arts industry?

Zachary White: I haven’t been in touch with Steve (Kidd, NIDA Acting, 1987) for quite a while but the last I heard was that he will be working on Evita in Darwin sometime around July this year.

NIDA: Tell us a bit more about your background: what got you interested in the world of theatre and stage?

ZW: I did Drama as a subject in high school and really enjoyed it. At the same time, I was doing Applied Tech (wood and metal work), so those pretty much steered me into doing the Scenic Construction course, which I discovered while I was doing my diploma in 2018.

I didn’t really have much to do with theatre outside of high school, except for a couple of small jobs with the local small theatre group from my hometown called Totem Theatre, which I did after graduating from high school.

NIDA was pretty much the start of my theatre experience. Through my diploma, I got work at STC as a casual after a short secondment with the Staging department. After that I started to get various casual jobs with other companies such as Opera Australia and Pinchgut Opera.

Do Not Go Gentle_STC

Do Not Go Gentle (2023). STC. Image credit: Prudence Upton

NIDA: We heard that you’re the Fly Supervisor at STC. Can you tell us more about how you got into this role?

ZW: I had been working casually at STC with the staging department as a mechanist mostly on bump out/ins and corporate events since the second half of 2018 to May/June of 2021. Chris my (now) manager knew I was getting a fair bit of the experience I’d need for setting up and operating automation systems via the Scenic Construction course. So, while I was in the middle of bumping in Perfect Stranger (June 2021) at NIDA, I got a call from him asking if I could do a six-month full-time cover for someone going on leave at STC, which I had to decline as I still had six months of my studies left.

Chris also mentioned that another role in the same position (Fly Supervisor) would be getting advertised a bit later in the year, so I applied when I saw the advert on the STC website. In the end I got the job. This was around midway through Term 3 of my final year at NIDA, and STC was happy to wait until I finished my studies to start the role. In the lead up to starting the job, I needed to do some training on the automated fly system at the Roslyn Packer Theatre. To do this training, I spoke with my course coordinator Nick Day about killing two birds with one stone, and used two of my four weeks of course-required secondment to do the training at STC.

NIDA: Was studying at NIDA helpful in terms of getting your foot through the door in the industry?

ZW: I’d say that it was quite helpful at getting my foot in the door as I had moved here from the Northern Territory with little to no experience working in theatre.

If I didn’t do the secondment at STC in 2018 during my diploma, I may not have got to work at STC until much later into my career. If I didn’t meet the Staging Manager at STC (at the time I started working there) who was supportive and gave me work not too long after the secondment, I may not have gone on to do the BFA course, as I was a bit on the fence about doing four years of study consecutively. But he helped me decide on if I should do it. Now I’m at STC full time so, I guess it has all worked out.

Since starting full time at STC in January 2022, I have had a hand in almost every show, mainly managing the rigging and assembly of flying elements and automation systems, and operating the fly system, revolves and screen automation systems. Some highlights include Wudjang, Dorian Gray, Jekyll and Hyde, Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Tempest, RBG: Of One, Many, Julia (Canberra and Sydney Opera House tour), and most recently, Do Not Go Gentle.

Julia_STC_Canberra Times_Lukas Koch

Julia (2023) STC. Image Credit: Lukas Koch, The Canberra Times

NIDA: What’s next for you?

ZW: For the time being I’m going to finish my two-year contract at STC and if I see a cool opportunity in the latter half of this year, I might move on to something else. I’m enjoying working at STC though, so I may stay here for at least another year or two, as I can probably roll over into another contract easily.

BFA Scenic Construction and Technologies is now known as Set Construction Technologies. Learn more about the course at NIDA Open Day on Saturday 17 June. Register here.