April 14, 2011

Russell Brand's Arthur Sydney Premier Inspires "Disadvantaged" Students, by Eva Rinaldi - 14 April 2011

The talk of Australia's entertainment industry for the past weeks has been the long awaited Sydney premier of Jason Winer's 'Arthur' - the remake of the 1981 classic which stared Dudley Moore.

Staring the ever entertaining, funny and oh so controversial Russell Brand, alongside Helen Mirren and Jennifer Garner, the flick has already been predicted by numerous insiders to be in line for a number of Oscars.

For me this is much more than just another run of the mill movie write up.

I've got a bit of history with Russell, mainly via his beautiful woman, Katy Perry. A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to do make-up on Ms Perry via my creative arts company. Katy was absolutely delightful to work and deal with, and I understand that word of the creation filtered back to Mr Brand a while later who was pretty impressed.

Ever since that personal connection with Ms Perry I have taken a more than casual interest in the affairs, if you don't mind my choice of words, of Katy and her man.

Just last March I was blessed to be able to speak about 'Team Brand' on Channel Seven's 'The Morning Show' while I was interviewed about various celebrities' experiences with professional photographers, paparazzi and the press in general. It came to my attention that a pap had attempted to put a camera up the skirt of Katy, and her man, Russell, had came to her rescue.  This is something that resonated with me, as my partner has also done his best to try to protect me from some of the undesirable aspects of the photography and larger media landscape also. Russell and Katy understand all too well that there are boundaries to personal privacy that need to be protected and honoured, but unfortunately some of the "bad guys" in the business don't understand (or don't want to understand). It actually felt wonderful to be able to publicly stick up for the lovely couple. Doing so actually got me a little bit of heat from a small number of other photographers in Sydney (so I knew that that my appearance on tele must have been good and had made an impact).

Moving along to the present, not everyone will know this but I'm also an educator. Over the years I've taught art, life skills, and more recently, even the basics of photography and media skills.  My current group of students are far from a typical student body.  This is not high school, TAFE, uni or even close. I teach a dozen students who have been labelled as "disadvantaged" (education land's legal term, not mine), and we are now five weeks into an eight week course. It's a modest, yet effective classroom at a Sydney college that doesn't require naming here.  I think the most newsworthy aspects of my class is that of the determination of the students to succeed, and how they are progressing towards their individual goals of once again entering the part or full time workforce, despite enduring some massively challenging circumstances - early childhood trauma, depression, sexual abuse, neglect, financial devastation, significant health issues and you get the idea. This crew is never say die, and they are determined to beat the odds and prove the knockers wrong. I know many folks would see my class as being in the "too hard basket" and one for the "in your dreams" category, but sometimes I look at my own life and career, and I see that the impossible can indeed become possible. The more folks tell me and us that it can't be done - the more I know it can be.

The last few weeks in the classroom have been so exciting.  We've given the the class a shot of showbiz flavor, but in quite a practical way, with just a modest amount of hype to keep things interesting, but at the same time we didn't over promise, but we did add fun, creative expression and fun in learning.  We also shared true stories of how other "successful" (whatever that is) people had themselves overcome massive odds, saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and have achieved things behold their wildest dreams.

Let's see... first up we had Eskimo the miniature pony and his handlers, Jason and Susan. The class transformed Eskimo into a Zebra! How you might ask... with bodypaint of course.  Eskimo was transported over to our college, and before you could say 'Mr Ed', he was in the lift on route to level 1.  When he trotted into the room the response was amazing, and before long many of the buildings teachers had invaded our class to take a closer look and the citizen paparazzi had swamped us (in a nice way). Fortunately we took lots of photos and also caught much of the transformation and action on video, so be sure to check it out on the web. What a wonderful day that was, and one that my students and I will remember for a long time. School had never been so much fun.

Then in the last week a dear friend of mine spoke at my class presentation about some of the inner workings of the media and entertainment business, with a focus on red carpet events. It was mentioned that preparation, hard work, dedication, and positive mental attitude were keys to success. The presenter, choosing to remain anonymous at this stage, advised the students that they had been contacting various movie producers and media agents for blockbuster films about the potential involvement for them! We went through what may be suitable questions to ask movie stars if in fact they had that opportunity, and most of the students got the idea pretty quickly. It would seem to me that 'Arthur' is going to be a really big hit, as the film and leading actor, Russell Brand, seemed to come up frequently in discussions.  So did Russell Crowe for that matter, but Mr Crowe, we know you don't have a film out in Sydney at the moment (but the students and I are super keen to see you attend our class to share also. If anyone knows about beating the odds, and some of life's challenges, that would be you. Yeah, there's some Rabbitohs fans in the class also.

All of this brings me to the present as I count down the hours to Sydney's premier of 'Arthur'. My big news is that the wonderful folks at Roadshow Films accepted our proposal to have a number of our lucky students attend the Sydney premier - camera and interview notes in hand no less! Wow. What you have to understand is that many of these students have had a really rough go of it in life, and none of them have ever got even close to showbiz before. Some of them had demonstrated a nature flair for photography, and a few even have some very solid interview techniques. Enough to trip up Russell Brand... not likely, but they will sure get him thinking if he can take the time to stop and take some questions that will surely be a breath of fresh air.

I think its wonderful that the 'Arthur' powers that be - Roadshow, Russell and you know who you are, have made the decision to enrich the lives of other Aussies less fortunate than most. The showbiz industry does have a heart, and has showed me that sometimes love can win over money - just like has been exhibited in 'Arthur'.

Hey Arthur, er... I mean Russell, I think it's time we got to know one another. My students and I really look forward to seeing you at the premier, and don't forget who publicly defended you and Katy in the Aussie press a few months ago will you mate? Just kidding, I think you and your team have already remembered it, and for that I am forever grateful.  The positive buzz and karma is already coming back to you and your team ten fold, such is the power of love and appreciation. Go with the heart, and just about anything can be achieved, be it in showbiz or everyday life. Thank you kind sir.

Russell Brand