[the bottom rung] mark grentell, film director and writer


21030910_Mark_Grentell_Headshot_Photo_by_Oscar_Colman_-30-2_NEW (1228 x 1535)Welcome to the ultimate hub for expert advice to help you get your big break (+ move up the ladder). To kick things off, this week I’m chilling on The Bottom Rung with…

MARK GRENTELL – director and co-writer of new feature film, Backyard Ashes.

Climbing the ladder

Then: Mark dipped his big toe in the local community theatre and school drama in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. He also completed the distinguished directing course at NIDA, which gave him the training and contacts he needed to establish his career.

Now: These days Mark is the successful director and co-writer* of new film Backyard Ashes, starring John Wood, Andrew S. Gilbert, Felix Williamson and Damian Callinan.

Here, Mark shares his tried-and-tested tips on how to shine (and survive!) in your first few years in the Australian film and theatre industry…

“There are no small jobs, only small people. Be willing to do whatever it takes”
Sometimes the small jobs like getting coffees, cleaning up or just driving people around are where you learn the most or where the big future opportunities happen! Learning someone’s coffee order, then buying them one down the track without needing to be asked, is a good conversation starter and an easy way to be remembered when on the bottom rung.

“The secret to standing out as an intern? Reliability, passion and energy”mARK QUOTE FINAL
Be as reliable as humanly possible and available as much as you can. People only ever really expect reliability out of interns. The bonus is if you can also do your job with passion and energy. You know you’re not getting paid, they know it too, so if you turn up and love it and give all you have to it, then that is always going to be of benefit for you. Passion and energy are infectious!

“My industry is a constant process of managing anxiety”
Whether it’s anxiety about an upcoming show, rehearsal or interview/audition or anxiety about not having an upcoming show, rehearsal or audition, it’s just a part of the process of working in a creative field. You go for stretches of doing jobs you don’t like or doing what has to be done to get you to your next creative pursuit. You just have to see it all as part of the same journey and not as though doing a casual job or part-time job is a negative for you. When you’re getting started, one does not exist without the other.

“My best memories of work experience were learning from other directors”
I’ll never forget watching directors at work and discovering new skills or ways of looking at things. The moments when you feel yourself growing as an artist and as a person are the best. You’re usually not getting paid, so you have to cherish the times you learn and the friends you make!

“Internships aren’t the only way to crack into the film industry”
There is no exact path and the one thing you always have to do is ‘your own work. So don’t wait for someone to give you a job or offer you a show, just go out and make a film, direct a play or write your own!

“It would be great to pay everyone all the time, but it’s not always possible”
Being unpaid but still staying passionate and energetic about the job is a great way to test your passion for your chosen career. Anyone will do most things for money, but people will only do unpaid things for jobs they are truly passionate about. In the meantime, take jobs whenever they come up and whenever you can do it. Often it’s the worst jobs that teach you the most or lead to the best future opportunities.

Thanks again to Mark for sharing his advice! If you’d love to find out more about Mark and Backyard Ashes, then get clicking here

*With my former high-school drama teacher Peter Cox – legend in all our lunchboxes.


<The Bottom Rung series is inspired by the release of my novel THE INTERN (HarperCollins, out February 1, 2014) and my desire to ‘pay it forward’ with career advice and tips on climbing the ladder. Click here for more about THE INTERN and say hello at facebook.com/hellogabrielletozer and twitter.com/gabrielletozer – distractions welcome.>