NSW Education LIVE – Gracie Otto

This page is a transcript of the video NSW Education LIVE with Gracie Otto.

Duration – 13:33

Filmmaker and actress Gracie Otto discusses her creative process and her time as a NSW public school student.


Gracie Otto

Hi everybody, welcome to Education Live. Some of you may be in the playground, sitting down waiting for roll call, some of you might be at home on Zoom. My names Gracie Otto, none of you probably know me, maybe like a few, maybe we'll see. But I went to Summer Hill Primary School, and I went to Burwood Girls High School. So I came up the public education system which I'm very proud of. And I guess you know, what my career is at the moment is I work in the film industry, I work across a few mediums of television, documentary, short films and I'm always trying to do new things.

So firstly I guess, I hope you're all having a good time in isolation. I never had to go through that when I was growing up, but what's been really interesting for me is to go back through all my old home video's 'cause I'm doing a documentary on my father at the moment. And I've been finding old video's I did when I was in high school, so I had some ideas around that. And so I guess today I want to talk about things that I've been doing in isolation to keep me busy and keep creative. And yeah, so when I was in high school, I knew pretty early on like in Year 8 or 9 that I wanted to work in film. We didn't have obviously a subject that did that until year and you could do the certificate for in film making. So I guess what I would do is I would take a little camera around and I would go shoot like any of our school activities and make these like funny little video's. And sometimes they'd play them at assembly, which was like really exciting. So I've been finding all these tapes and what it made me realize was that you don't need a lot of resources and a lot of money to still be creative, especially you know, while in isolation. I had a like a little camera and I guess we didn't have the technology that you guys all have now. We only had you know basic stuff back in the day, like we had computers in the library, like we didn't even have like Google. I mean maybe we... I know we didn't have Google, we had Ask Jeeves. Ask Jeeves, you'd ask Jeeves a question and I just thought I would be blitzing high school now if I could just go on and Google stuff.

I decided I wanted to do Certificate IV in Film, which is a TAFE course that they did in high school. And luckily Burwood Girls had this elective where you could do that. And from that I learnt how to you know, work with video camera's, I learnt editing. Back in the day it was a VHS, which is an old tape you put in a machine and you would edit it from tape to tape. But I learnt all these skills and then I wanted to do Extension Two English, I probably wasn't smart enough to be in Extension One and my mom did read all the books for me and when I'd go to soccer practice, she'd tell me what happened. So I wasn't really cheating, but I guess I wasn't smart enough to be in Extension One, but the teachers knew that I really wanted to do this film elective. And I made this short film called, Kill Blondes which I acted in and I shot and I edited and I did the music. And for me it was the most proud thing I did in high school because also, you know, I came from a family that are all involved in the entertainment and arts industry, but when you submit to the HSC, you're just a number. And I remember you know, just submitting as a number and I got 100 out of 100 which pumped up that UAI score. Who cares about UAIs? But by getting that in Extension Two English, it made me kind of go, ah that's what I wanna do, and I wanna be a film maker and I wanna go to Sydney Film School. I think you know, you don't have to know what you wanna do in your life at the moment and like who knows. But I wanted to be, yeah, I wanted to go to film school and I didn't wanna go to university because I wanted to travel.

So I tried to do everything in high school that would lead me to have a good life after high school. So I did French because now I'm doing a documentary that's actually gonna be in French. I did drama, I did English 'cause you had to. And I did PE 'cause I used to play soccer in the Australian Indoor Women's Team and then I played NSW Softball. So actually I didn't really spend that much time at high school, I got to have like two to three days off a week just doing sport, which I loved. And I loved being part of the music program. And yeah, so I guess when I've been going through these old video's and looking at things like Kill Blondes, which was my first short film, it just reminded me that to you know, in order to make that, I didn't need a lot of equipment back in the day, I had the little camera, and there was, you know, especially now in isolation, like your dad might be a really good actor. Fortunately my dad is a good actor, so he would like act in little things that I did at home. But like you never know, like you could have like your mum, she could act in something, you can make up little scenes. And by watching those video's I realized that we didn't have all the tools and everything, but we still had really funny ideas and we could still kind of you know, come up with something. And especially now, I guess in isolation I've been trying to think of things that I can do. Because I wanted to... My dream now would be to host a show. Or have like a podcast. And so as soon as isolation started, I came up with this idea for a show called Small Town News, 'cause I was always really obsessed with country news. And basically the idea of my show is that I have five, six guests on a night and they get about three minutes each. And I add them in on Instagram Live and then I cut them off if they talk too long with music, which I'll probably get cut off soon on this video.

And so what it's taught me was like a, it's free because I made up the show, I got some little temp logo's made which are pretty basic. And then I would just slide into people's DM's, I'm sure you guys might know that sentence, I'm trying to be hip and young and cool, but I would inbox people and say like hey, I'm doing this show, can you come on? And I would try and find like a mix of people, like some people who have lots of followers or who are quite well known in their field. And then find other people who I just think are really interesting and cool. And so for me it's taught me in isolation to do all these different skills for no money. Because I've just got my iPhone with Instagram on it and then I'd like email all the people during the day, sometimes I'd call them to remind them how to come on the show and like show them how to do everything. And then it's also taught me about time management because I have to try and time it out to be about minutes at night. And it also teaches me more interview skills like listening to people, trying to come up with something creative and funny, and trying to find their best thing that I feel like they can bring to Small Town News and teach us. And to kinda remind us that we're all in this together at the moment. And I actually was, yeah, I had this idea for like young kids to come up with ads. 'Cause I was thinking if I was to be a teacher, I would do something where you know, you could do an ad for like a potato peeler, or like items around the house that you think are really useful at the moment. Because I feel like kids are coming up... Kids are, you guys are basically going back to what we went through as children, and having to come up with creative ideas without you know, necessarily having all the right tools. And so I thought that was a way that you know, kids could send in a video where you'd come up with an idea for say something like a potato peeler, and then you'd have to write what the ad is, it's like 15 seconds, you'd have to shoot like a few shots, like edit them together and come up with this like concept, and it could all be done in a day.

So I feel like I've covered the two points I want to cover. But I've got one more point which is narrative structures, which I believe a lot of you are studying at school. For me, finding a good story; usually they just come to me which sounds silly, but it's because I've gone out on an adventure and I've met someone, or something's happened where something that's inspired me and I wanna know more about it. So I made a short film last year called Desert Dash. And I'd actually been shooting a commercial in Coober Pedy which is in the middle of Australia, amazing outback town and it's home of the black opal. And I just got so obsessed with like black opal and like all the things around what a black opal was. And so we went up to Lightning Ridge which is another part of Australia in NSW. And I spent two days with all the locals because I wanted to come up with a short film that was like built inside a video game, where the opals were currency. So like when you play Super Mario Bros and it's like little you know, coins and the mushrooms or whatever. I would be collecting opals. So it's a bit of a crazy concept but I kinda had this idea of shooting a short film that was set in this outback town, and played by two primary school kids who were playing me inside a video game called Desert Dash. And so the concept was that I had to get out of town before I got like injured, murdered. And try and get to you know, get to the end and collect the opals.

But I guess what I found really interesting was talking to the locals and actually learning about the history of where the opal came from that's been around for like millions of centuries. And all the different types of opal, like blue opal, black opal, red opal, like there are just so many different types of opal. And then also kinda going and talking to the locals in the town about you know, how they go underground and how they hunt, or you know mine for opals and that kinda process. Which is also quite a dangerous process and it's a process that can go on for years without getting any result until you finally get opal fever and you get an opal. So yeah, I guess for me, like I would do things like, yeah, once I find something really interesting, it you know, drives me to find out more about it. So now after doing that, I'm gonna do a sequel to that which is gonna be on pearls. 'Cause then I wanted to kinda discover all the amazing Australian, beautiful kinda things that we have going on in the country, 'cause I've spent so many years traveling. So I decided to do this new short film which is gonna be on pearls at the sea. So I've been watching documentaries on pearls and all this amazing old footage of people like pearl diving and getting the pearls and I wanna do something with like mermaids and jet ski's and make it like a kinda different version of Desert Dash. So I'm working on that at the moment.

And then other than that, I did a documentary a few years ago which was about a film producer and it was one of those things when I met him at a film festival. And I just found him so interesting and I wanted to know more about him. And he kind of was like one of the biggest producers back in the day, and then he'd lost all his money and he was bankrupt and he couldn't pay for dinner. And I read his book up until 1975 when he was kind of at the top of his game in the theater world and I wanted to discover what happened to him. And really with that, I just had a Canon camera, and I set out on this journey and followed him around for like two years, and I interviewed of his friends. And so for me I guess my style of you know, narrative structure, is about trying to come up with an idea of discovery on something and trying to work out you know, and asking lots of questions, you can probably tell I've got lots of energy so I'll always wanna try and find the answer in something. So I feel like now, there's a lot of opportunity at school where yeah, you could be starting to think of subjects that are interesting if you wanna get into that documentary path.

And I'd also say it's like a time at the moment where you can just chill as well, like everyone's like, aw, you should start learning a language or doing all this. But like being in high school's enough. Like my niece has just come back from America and so she would be I think in Year 9 here, and yeah, she's still trying to have to do school online, but I do think it's a really great opportunity because you have to remember, everyone in the world is going through this together at the same time. And you know, it's things like this have been around before, but not so much in our world. So it's a really good time to learn cooking, I've been learning to be a cook at the moment, I've got no skills in cooking. It's also a great time to get to know your family better 'cause all of a sudden you're spending all this time with your family I imagine, and you're like whoa, I didn't know dad could do that, or like couldn't do that.

So I think it's yeah, it's an exciting opportunity, it's obviously very different for education, but I guess my take on it would be that you know, I did work really hard at high school, but at the same time it didn't like define what I do now. Like I learnt you know, good skills along the way but I didn't wanna go to university, you know I did the best I could in my exams but I knew it wasn't the end of the world. 'Cause I think a lot of you are probably going into Year 12 you know, having a melt down and freaking out. And it's so... Like I do remember what I got, but I don't remember everything, you know what I mean? Whereas I think at the time there was so much pressure, like what the UAI was, and what your score and what that was. But you know I wanted to go to France, and it was great 'cause I'd learnt French in high school, learnt the language and then I went and lived in Paris and I actually just learnt French and built on that by just hanging out and eating baguettes .But yeah, so don't stress about it. School's you know it's a good time to learn life skills at the moment as well. Because when you get out in the real world, it's a completely different learning experience.

So I would say my advice to you would be find what you're good at, not even what you're good at, what you're interested in. 'Cause it's never too late to start something new. And I try to build that around what I'd studied in high school when I got the choice of what subjects and what interested me. Like in hindsight, like I probably should have done history, cause I don't know much about about history still, I'm sure you guys would know more. And like same with maths, like I find if I'm in America and you have to do like a tip and it's like 15 percent. Like I still find that difficult. So maybe if I'd gone back to school I would have studied a bit harder at that. However I did do drama, I did do, yeah, the film course. I did do French and I did PE. So I did all the skills that actually kind of are now implemented in what I wanna do with my life. So you know, you can take my advice or not, I won't be offended. You can also add me on Instagram, @gracieotto. And if you wanna come on Small Town News, we have young guests who come on. If you wanna make an ad for Small Town News, you can do that, you can slide in the DM's if you're allowed to. And I think that's probably the end of my little lesson. I don't know if that was even a lesson, I think that was just me just giving you some information and yeah, been like you guys are cool, you know what you're doing. Go have a fun day at school.

End of transcript.

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