Staff Spotlight: Stuart Lumsden

Chair of Acting, Australia


How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Since finishing drama school in 1996, I soon discovered that graduates who take up teaching their craft find work opportunities are often sporadic and seasonal. That is to say, there are plenty of teaching gigs during school holidays or on weekends, but there’s not that many opportunities for full-time employment.

There are benefits to this situation of course, one being that you’re never tied down to one place and can take up any acting work that you’re lucky enough to score. However, I always wanted to teach full-time when not acting myself and I’m lucky that NYFA has a preference to employ industry professionals like me and indeed encourage and support all acting endeavors they choose to undertake. That’s because they’re aware that they’ll then bring those rich experiences and industry practices back to the school for the overall benefit of our students.

I’ve always remembered an interview that Kevin Spacey conducted for NYFA, whereby he re-counted a conversation he’d had with the late Jack Lemmon.

A wise and master exponent of his craft, he advised a young Mr. Spacey to remember where it all started for him and to never forget to ‘send the elevator’ of opportunity and learning back down to the next generation(s). That is how I now approach my life and job and I have NYFA to thank for allowing me to do that for our students every working day.

If you could participate in any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

This really is a no-brainer for me and I’m completely and unashamedly biased when I say, any acting course that we have to offer.

In Australia, we offer 1 and 2 year Acting for Film programs and they have been specifically designed and implemented to provide anyone, no matter what their experience, background or cultural make-up, the chance to learn the craft of acting in a fun, safe and stimulating learning environment.

Further, they’ll be taught and mentored by leading industry professionals who all bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the class environment.

From learning about acting and acting before a camera, to developing their own unique voice and body, to understanding the business of acting and all it entails, NYFA students are provided with the best possible platform from which to launch their careers and an exciting and fulfilling life in the creative industries.

What makes your company unique?

NYFA’s founder, the late and well-respected Film Producer Jerry Sherlock (The Hunt for Red October), had a vision to create an arts program whereby anybody could come and learn filmmaking and film acting. He believed that in order for that to happen, it had to be hands-on and intensive just like the film industry itself.

That ethos exists to this day and although any educational institution worth its weight has an obligation to provide its students with a comprehensive theoretical understanding of the subject matter, at NYFA we believe that the best way to achieve this understanding is through practical engagement.

Acting is an active pursuit and therefore the best way to learn it, to understand it, is to actually do it. That’s what any prospective student can expect and they’ll do it in state of the art, purpose built facilities, using the latest and best professional film equipment available.

When were you especially proud of your team?

I’m very lucky that I get to work with colleagues who all bring a unique skill set and vision to the craft of acting and teaching. Their experience, understanding, empathy and approach make the learning environment at both our Australian campuses a rich and empowering one. However, if I were forced to identify specific examples, I’d have to say the team’s efforts over the latter part of 2016 stand out for me.

As our school has expanded, we’ve outgrown our original base of operations and have had to relocate to new ‘digs’ so to speak. We are in the fortunate position that the leaders of NYFA had the foresight and firmness of purpose to facilitate the move to purpose built, world-class facilities both on the Gold Coast and Sydney. These two destinations are not only recognized around the world as places of immense natural beauty, but leading educational hotspots for overseas visitors to our shores.

As anyone knows whose been through the process of relocation it can be a logistical and time-consuming pursuit, but we’re lucky that our staff embraced and actively participated in these moves. They saw the overwhelming benefits for both student and lecturer alike and we’re now able to say that we’ll have the opportunity to learn and teach this unique and gratifying craft for many years to come.

Further, 2016 saw a major overhaul in the educational sector here in Australia, which is the sign of a flexible and responsible system that’s able to cope and respond to the ever-evolving demands and challenges of a 21st Century landscape. As a result, serious thought and efforts were made to meet those demands and challenges head-on. Through the concerted efforts of all members of our Acting faculty, we’re proud to offer a training that I believe is the envy of any similar institution to ours, anywhere in the world.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Prior to becoming the Chair of Acting in August 2016, I considered myself simply a lecturer. I had not had much experience in management, let alone considering the business aspects of our institution and it’s place in the wider community.

However, I don’t believe there’s any great secret to being a successful entity. It requires preparation, perspiration and professionalism, all qualities that NYFA espouses and encourages on a daily basis because these are qualities that our industry demands. This is the reason that NYFA continues to grow and succeed both in Australia and around the world.

We have a product that is in rich demand; we’ve thought about how best to provide that product to the next generation of industry professionals, and we deliver it to the very highest possible standards. These are the hallmarks of a successful brand as far as I’m concerned.