We recently caught up with successful acting coach and teacher Paul Parker, who founded AIDA (Australian Institute of Dramatic Arts) — and is now going into his 32nd year of teaching (both in Australia and the US). We spoke to him about some of his career highlights and passion for teaching his students to be at their best to succeed in the acting world. Here is what he had to share:
Hi Paul. First of all, it’s so great catching up with you again. How has everything been going for you during the pandemic?
Okay thank you. Not so bad in Australia as it is in the US.
You have officially been teaching acting going into 32 years now, when did you first get into acting? And did you always want to be a teacher primarily, or an actor?
I’m in my 32nd year of teaching as of 2021. My first acting gig was in a school play in 1977. I worked as a professional actor from 1979 (starting with 4 months on a TV show called The Sullivans) up until 2003. In 1979, I was also given money as a Stand Up Comic at Le Joke (part of a Comedy Venue in Smith Street, Collingwood).
I have also won two awards as an actor, I’ve been in 15 television shows, (not all credited on IMDB) 35 films (most short films and some not credited on IMDB) and 35 theatre plays. I have also performed as a stand up comic (as a clown) and in television commercials.
Around the time of the mid to late 1980’s, if you didn’t get into acting schools like NIDA, WAAPA or VCA you went to Rusden. They had a double drama section full of aspiring actors, including; Rachel Griffiths, Wayne Hope, Maria Theodorakis and Richard Grieve during my years.
At Rusden you started your teaching rounds in grade 3 and I soon discovered that I was really good at it. Work and job opportunities were coming in even when I was still at Rusden (for example when I worked at St. Martins Theatre as a teacher/ director in both 1990 and 1991 in my 3rd and 4th years). Upon graduation, I was immediately offered paying jobs at secondary schools.
I walked away from teaching for a while but kept coming back to it. I moved to Sydney as an actor in 1998 to try to get away from the teaching, but then started doing it there. I moved to Los Angeles in September 2000 and worked as an actor for a while and founded my acting school in the US in June of 2002.
The school ran up until I closed it on July of 2011. During its time the school was in Los Angeles for nearly 10 years and New York for 6 years. I also taught briefly in both San Francisco and Chicago.
I recently had the chance to take one of your classes and I was so impressed with how incredibly knowledgeable you are of each performance you critique as well as your approach to teaching — it really was an eye-opener for me. Did it take you a long time to really find a comfortable formula to share your training and experiences with others?
I have found it and still find it very easy. Although it does have its challenges sometimes — I’ve learned, I’ve read, I know the history of acting, acting training, theatre and literature. I’ve also studied psychology, sociology and physiology. I have had many varied experiences and have had some great teachers, myself.
In 1979 while working as an actor on the television show The Sullivans, if I wasn’t on set, I was right by the director and the cameraman watching the actors work in the frame.
In the 90’s, I personally and privately employed some of the best acting teachers of that time who just happened to be working at the three aforementioned schools that I didn’t get into as a student. I then incorporated some of their teachings into my own; always acknowledging them of-course!
You lived in Los Angeles for quite a long time but have moved back permanently to Australia. Are you glad to be home and how are the virtual classes going?
I now live on a small farm with my wife, two children with chickens, ducks, pigeons and sheep. There are also koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, grape vines and sheep all around us; we’re very happy.
I loved my 11 years of living in LA Manhattan, New York. My school had branches in both cities. I still come back to the US and teach and have also taught actors from the US online since 2011. In 2020 I re-opened my school online and it is doing very well. There has been many setbacks in the US like Covid 19, Black Lives Matter, riots and the election circus. Therefore class numbers are not as high as they used to be, but I believe the US branch of the school will grow again. It is doing very well in both Australia and Japan.
What has been one of the biggest highlights for you so far and something you always take with you, wherever you go? I am sure there are many, but if you could give us a couple, would be great:
1. The training of people who couldn’t act and/or who were scared to act, who then booked professional work. One student went from hiding in the back of the theatre class room to booking a lead role in a SAG International feature film and won a Best Actress Award at a local Film Festival in Pasadena.
2. Training Celebrity actors such as Jeannetta Arnette and teaching others who have now become celebrities or high booking actors for example: Elina Madison, Gerald Webb, Tarnue Massaquoi, Cyanne McClairian, Preston Jones, Naama Kates. Ella Newton. Kyoko Kudo.
As an acting coach, what do you think it is that makes AIDA stand out the most from other schools/classes out there?
This is a big question. I have two acting books coming out soon. I talk about American actors in both of the books and I compare Australian and American acting training via my experiences in book 2. I am so passionate and care about every student. I am willing them on and supporting them — no matter how good they are, or how pretty they are, or how successful they are.
I am a qualified teacher and teach lesson plans that come from a curriculum that I wrote. Students have to achieve course objectives in the lesson plans. I actually teach and I’m called an acting coach in the USA.
What is the best piece of advice you could give aspiring actors wanting to take that leap into the acting world?
Do it for the right reasons. Not because you want acceptance or love from anyone. As you develop your acting skills, work on developing the inner you. Getting to know yourself, love yourself and trust yourself. It all starts with developing the inner you!
For more info:
ACTING SCHOOL: www.aidaacting.com
FILM PRODUCTION COMPANY: www.player-productions.com
CORPORATE TEACHING: www.paulparkerpc.com.au