Topic – Why Paul Parker moved back to Australia from the States?
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I moved to Los Angeles, in the States on September 1st 2000. I left and returned to Australia in July of 2011.
Like many other Australian actors, I moved to the States hopeful of a career in Hollywood. I returned a successful acting teacher. During the near eleven years of living in the States, I won a joint award on stage as an actor with Robey Theatre Company, appeared in television pilots and a few short films and on Young and the Restless on CBS TV.
I joined the SAG and AFTRA unions and not long after I arrived, (to accept a SAG voucher to help me get into the SAG Union) – I did a featured role in the MGM film Windtalkers with Nicholas Cage. It was ironic and wonderful in one sense that I was on a major motion picture and working alongside Frances O’Connor; whom I helped direct when I worked on Lady Windermere’s Fan at Melbourne Theatre Company in 1995.
Yes that’s me, in a few shots, in the hospital, at the start of the movie Windtalkers! I later wrote to the SAG President Melissa Gilbert, who checked out my resume from Australia and then invited me to join SAG.
I attended five Academy Awards and two Golden Globes while living in the States. I was a voting member of BAFTA – the British Academy Awards for eleven years. I drove a 350 E Mercedez Benz with the number plates AIDA – LA. I lived in Hollywood with a view of the Hollywood sign out of my lounge room window, and I worked with some awesome fellow Aussie teachers. I also met many, many amazing people. I had five other people helping me live my life; by cooking for me, washing my car, running errands and doing administration and marketing for my school.
2006 Academy Awards (I think).
For most of the school’s years I was a single man. I would listen to my AFL football team called Collingwood www.collingwoodfc.com.au play AFL footy during the night. I would bounce and kick the football up and down my street in Hollywood from 1 – 5 am – drinking Jack Daniels or a Polish beer called Zywiec. Most of the time I would do this by myself! If I was lucky I would get some Victoria Bitter beer and a Four N Twenty meat pie.
Most importantly, I opened and ran an acting school for nine years and one month in Los Angeles. After a few years in the Complex Theatres, the school ended up in its own loft / theatre at 6444 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood 90038. I also ran an acting school for nearly six and a half years at Champion Studios at 257 W 39th Street, 14th Floor, NY, NY 10018. As I was building a school in four major cities, I also taught in Chicago and San Francisco.
The school was initially called ATAS – Acting To Achieve School and then soon later, AIDA – Australian Institute of Dramatic Arts. www.aidaacting.com The school became accredited and had international students attending. It had an Australian curriculum that I wrote and actors won awards in film and theatre under my and my staff’s tutelage.
I am proud to say that I have booked hundreds of actors onto major film, television, theatre and commercials in the States. AIDA had four Showcases. I.e. our 2009 Showcase group performed in Los Angeles, San Francisco and off Broadway in New York.
I also produced eleven Comedy Review shows in Los Angeles and AIDA also had a few Open Day performances too. We also had an annual party. Below is a picture taken of the Sunset Strip with the sign in the background reading “AIDA’s 4th Anniversary party” that was at The Viper Room in Los Angeles in 2006. Other photos are from a party on Hollywood Boulevard – over two thousand people attended that night in 2007 in the 90038 postcode district.
Business people, professional sports players and presenters and models would also come to AIDA for tuition in the States. For example: business people like Cassandra Bates from the company ARF in Manhattan New York http://www.thearf.org/ , sports players like Karnell Matthews, presenters Susan Silvestri and actor / presenter Sonja Fisher to name just a few.
I worked really hard. I basically had very little life outside of running the school. For some monthly periods I would teach in New York, Monday & Tuesday nights and then fly to Los Angeles. I would sleep in the afternoon, then teach in Los Angeles on Wednesday & Thursday nights, then fly back to Manhattan on Friday. I would then do the same thing the following week. I did similar things when I flew from New York into Chicago to teach.
I cared so much about my students that I would make myself available to talk to them anytime. I worked like a dog! With living in the USA, I ended up a high profile acting coach with status!
Health issue! I left all that behind. Slightly shifting focus.
On February 7th, 2009 my world changed. My mentor of nearly thirty years, actor Reg Evans
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0263149/?ref_=fn_nm_nm_1 died in the Black Saturday bush fires with his lovely partner and painter Angela Brunton. On this day, I called Reg’s number over and over again from Los Angeles, listening to his voicemail. I called the St. Andrews pub and they told me that Reg and Angela had gone.
Not long after that my brother Colin called me from Australia to tell me that he was terminal with esophagus cancer. Then not long after that I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. I flew home to Australia and had part of my large intestine removed in 2010. Colin and one of my best friends Bev Matthews nursed me back to health. Colin died in 2010. I was very home sick.
In recovery from cancer, I flew back to America via China. Already pre-arranged, I taught acting at two Universities in Beijing and Hainan in China and I said to myself “I will give myself a year. If I am still homesick, I will return to Australia”.
That year was difficult for me. All I wanted to do was return home. I eventually decided that I would go home no matter what privileged life I was now living in the States. I sold everything. I can remember having a garage sale on the local street in Hollywood. Students would come by and say “please don’t leave!”. But I had to go.
Why did I move back to Australia from the States?
While in the States, I would day dream of having my own home on some land in the bush with sheep, chooks, ducks and pigeons and with kangaroos living all around. I also wanted an Asian wife and a baby. I have that dream now!
I realized that I was giving too much of myself to my students. I had given up acting in 2003 and focused solely on them and the growth of my school. My ego was saying “I was the only Australian acting school in the States”. “I was a pioneer in Australian acting training in the USA”; which was true!
For example; Apart from Ros Gentle, who worked for me, when I arrived in the States there were no other Australian acting teachers. Eventually I realized that I had to go to America to become someone different, to receive validation of my intellect, my creativity, my curriculum and my talent. I had to go to America to realize that I was a much better teacher than I was as an actor. For example, as an actor I suffered anxiety at a profound level. As a teacher I did not.
What now? Why tell this story?
With a gorgeous Asian wife and a healthy 7 month old child, a small farm, an office in Melbourne and most importantly, good health, I am back giving through my teaching! I am back doing what I love and I am so busy!
You can follow me:
After renovating the farm over the past few years, hopefully now, I can finish and release the acting book that I have been working on for years called – “Acting the Australian Way!” By telling this story, perhaps you too may feel like a change of focus in life? Please take care of your health and please have organ checks for cancer regularly.
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Paul Parker (B.Ed)
Acting and Presenter Coach