An exciting career: Production graduate Charles Coy
We caught up with NIDA Production graduate Charles Coy to speak about his incredible career since graduation and Sketch Evolution, the company he set up with fellow NIDA graduate.
Tell us about some of the exciting projects you have worked on lately?
I have worked on a diverse range of projects since graduating from NIDA’s Production course, now the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Technical Production and Stage Management), six years ago both in Australia and internationally, and set up a company called Sketch Evolution with fellow NIDA graduate William Jensen.
A few recent projects include: technical director for Ample Projects for Vivid Sydney 2016 at Taronga Zoo; technical director for the BeatBox show at Dreamworld; the successful tour of Hong Kong Dance Company’s Legend Of Mulan with Sketch Evolution as the Australian Producer; Sydney New Year’s Eve events; and the Love Never Dies tours to Japan and Germany, among many others.
Looking to the future, I’m about to head off to Japan and Hong Kong to develop some exciting new projects. There is a massive market in that region and so many exciting opportunities to collaborate with some fantastic and interesting partners!
How did your company Sketch Evolution come about?
Will and I met in high school and then both found ourselves at NIDA studying Production, a year apart. After NIDA, we continued to work together because we had such a strong bond of communication and trust. We always joked we would start a company when we were 30 and had established careers!
We both worked as freelancers for a period of time after graduating, including working together on the event franchise, Miss Chinese Pageant across Sydney and Melbourne. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a three hour event, no interval, and all in Cantonese!
In 2012, I went to work for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group in their Asia Pacific producing office, and Will started working full-time for Sydney Dance Company. That’s when the call came, asking if we could produce Miss Sydney Chinese. The offer was too good to pass, so we registered Sketch Evolution and started work on the project, whilst maintaining our full-time jobs.
The following week, I was having lunch with the then project director of Vivid Sydney and mentioned we had started a company. Upon hearing that, she asked for us to quote on the Vivid Sydney and a few weeks later, Sketch Evolution had its first state government contract! It all then continued from there.
What skills can your company, Sketch Evolution, offer a project?
We are primarily a creative producing company for live entertainment experiences, including theatre and events.
We also provide Project Management, General Management, Production Delivery, Technical Direction and Coordination, Strategy Development, Technical and Producing Consulting, Operations Management, Stage, Orchestral and Production Management, Production Design and various other services.
It’s not just entertainment however, we have consulted for property groups and a Top-50 ASX listed company, so the work can be quite varied.
Having worked on a diverse range of projects, what has been your favourite to-date?
In 2011, I worked on Sydney New Year’s Eve as the Technical Assistant. My role was part of the staff at the Event Control Room – I had the pleasure of speaking with air traffic control to give them the ‘all clear’ once the fireworks checks were complete.
Located high up in a skyscraper with the best view in the world, I will never forget being behind six inches of glass and hearing 1.5 million people counting down to midnight. Not only that but hear those 1.5 million people take a sudden breath, all at once, the half-second before shouting ‘Happy New Year’ and our first PYRO explosion. It’s a moment when we all say ‘This is why we do, what we do!’.
How did NIDA training set you up for your career?
The NIDA training was instrumental in preparing me for a strong and lively career. There are many aspects to mention, but I’ll highlight two key areas:
Fundamentals in Process and Collaboration: the NIDA Production course taught us the process fundamentals of developing a show from the rehearsal room to the stage, and the role each creative professional plays in this process, including producers, performers, technical crew and contractors/suppliers, among others.
Furthermore, the collaborative environment at NIDA between all the students from differing disciplines, has been crucial to my ability to work successfully and efficiently within a team.
I can remember seeking the opinion of then directing student and now NIDA graduate Imara Savage regarding my first-year Cuban nightclub model box for a Twelfth Night production, during our time together on the bus to-and-from NIDA. In return, being a musician, I’d tell her my thoughts on Mozart and his operas for her opera directing exercise. The collaboration still remains strong today!
Secondment Program: the third-year secondment program, where students spend a minimum of 10 weeks working within a company of their choice, was invaluable to my industry experience and establishing new contacts – both of which assisted greatly in defining the direction of my career after graduation.
NIDA has a brilliant, wide-reaching network of alumni, who are often pushing the forefront of development within the industries we work, so it is an honour to be part of this alumni group.
You started out as a musician, so what sparked your love of the behind-the-scenes world of production?
Yes, I played violin with the Sydney Youth Orchestra for 11 years and had a lot of fun performing and touring with such a great group of musicians and life-long friends.
When I was much younger – about age 6 – I used to put on Christmas concerts at home, but of course, I wanted lighting, audio, backdrops, and curtains – the works! So music and production always fell hand-in-hand for me.
What advice do you have for NIDA production students about to branch into the industry?
Learn as much as you can: even if you think it has nothing to do with production, chances are, it does! We live, work and thrive in a world where our creative teams are weird, wonderful, eccentric and often just different. Their designs, concepts, tours, budgets and strategies are sometimes just as bizarre and in order to deliver, we need to think outside the box.
Mentors: mentors are important for inspiration, bouncing ideas off, and supporting you when times get tough. I have four mentors, and all have been very influential and supportive of me and my career.
To quote one mentor, ‘Be sure to pass down the knowledge’. We work in a bespoke industry, where often we learn by doing. I have four wonderful mentors, colleagues, bosses, and friends, and am now starting to pass that knowledge down to the next generation.
Don’t be afraid to change direction: I went into NIDA with an amateur lighting background, having crewed for some local theatre companies. I came out wanting to be a stage manager with the vision to move into directing. Within my first year out of NIDA, I was presented with a full-time job in art direction for Sydney New Year’s Eve and that gave me a new perspective on what I wanted to do. Now I’m a producer, running a company which turns five in March 2017.
Don’t be afraid to change direction, try something different, and look for challenges.