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Directing student Sarah Hadley on her recent project with ACO Emerging Artist

For a second consecutive year, NIDA Master of Fine Arts (Directing) students have collaborated with Emerging Artists from the Australian Chamber Orchestra, in an initiative led by NIDA Directing graduate Benjamin Sheen.

Rollin ACO

Photo: A shot from the video of ACO Emerging Artist Rollin Zhao

For a second consecutive year, NIDA Master of Fine Arts (Directing) students have collaborated with Emerging Artists from the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), in an initiative led by NIDA Directing graduate Benjamin Sheen.

Six NIDA MFA (Directing) students were paired with Emerging Artists from the ACO to create a 1–2 minute video bio that delved into how music shaped the artist.

We spoke to MFA (Directing) student Sarah Hadley about the project. Paired with ACO Emerging Artist and violinist Rollin Zhao, she explained that the collaboration was a meeting of developing talents from different disciplines.

‘For this project, we were able to meet each other at a professional level, but also at a place where we’re still developing and learning our craft and practice’, commented Hadley.

‘Working alongside creatives from other disciplines as they are learning is particularly fruitful because we’re discovering our own practice alongside them. Being exposed to different places and practices helps us find out new ways that we can work creatively.’

The project enabled Hadley and the other directors to think differently about what they’d already learned and apply it to this new learning experience.

To ensure she gave enough focus to each part of the video, Hadley personified each element to the shoot, in what was a blend of her own training/background and the new learning experience.

‘It was an enjoyable project as a director. I have a background in screen, but the project encouraged me to think from the perspective of a theatre director about the screen and how I’m going to tell the story. Because Rollin’s a musician, there’s an instrument involved, which I chose to treat as a character. The music and the landscape also became characters of their own. I learned to consider all of those elements and their weight in the narrative.’

Zhao is a lover of bushwalks, and so is Hadley, as the pair discovered during the meeting and planning stages of the project. And that became the inspiration behind the video’s setting.

After looking at various possible shoot locations, Hadley had her vision for the video realised at Hornby Lighthouse, near Watsons Bay.

‘I loved the idea of fusing together Rollin’s professional life, creative life, and personal life. So we decided on a natural location and we scouted a few places together on google maps and in person. I then went to my director of photography and we had discussions about when the light would be best to achieve the result I wanted. I knew I wanted the magic hour – that kind of golden light – and Hornby worked out to be a great compromise.’

The video was shot just before the sun began to rise over east Sydney.

Describing her vision for the end product, Hadley explained, ‘It was about the stillness and letting the music do the job. We decided to start filming from behind Rollin and very slowly build to reveal him, and it isn’t until the last third of the song that we see his face. The music speaks beforehand and then we reveal who the maestro behind the music is. The challenging part was trying to balance all those priorities to create an engaging clip.’

Interestingly, both found the other to have other creative outlets outside of their central passion.

‘Rollin really likes writing: he writes poetry and fiction, because he needs a creative outlet other than music, free from the technical constraints of playing the violin. I love photography and I write. By engaging in a variety creative activities, we can inform the work that’s at the centre of our practice.’

How else has the experienced left its mark on the director?

‘I’ve started listening to classical music a lot. I’m sort of obsessed with it: while at the Lighthouse, hearing Rollin tune his strings in the darkness, with no one else around, was just incredible,’ finished Hadley.

The ACO-NIDA videos are now live: find them on the ACO blog. The Directing students and ACO Emerging Artists pairs were:

  • Natalie Harvey, violin (Melbourne-based) – video directed by Rachel Kerry
  • Kyla Matsuura-Miller, violin (Melbourne-based) – video directed by Shannan Ely
  • Rollin Zhao, violin (Brisbane/Sydney-based) – video directed by Sarah Hadley
  • Justin Julian, viola (Sydney-based) – video directed by Alanah Guiry
  • Jack Ward, cello (Sydney based) – video directed by Andrew McInnes
  • John Keene, double Bass (Sydney based) – video directed by Matthew Taylor

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