People and Places
02/09/2020
Creating, directing and adapting a series over Zoom

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She’s got a bit of a thing for Shakespeare. Sally McLean is an actor, writer and director who fondly remembers the chilly winter days spent on her favourite Peninsula beach writing poetry. Building on the success of the previous two seasons of the multi-award-winning web series Shakespeare Republic (2015-2017), Sally has created, adapted and directed a new stand-alone season, Shakespeare Republic: #AllTheWebsAstage (The Lockdown Chronicles). Kate Sears speaks to Sally about creating the web series via Zoom during a global pandemic, with both established and emerging actors from all over the world, and what led to this moment.

How have you found the production process throughout COVID-19?

Creating this series during a pandemic has been challenging, fascinating, a steep learning curve, hilarious and exhausting all at once. Directing via video conference calls is a whole different thing to what I’m used to. You need to project a lot more energy to the actors, plus also deal with the fact that they are not only focused on acting, but also, in most cases, being their own crew as well. It involves two different thought processes for both myself and the actor concerned as a result. But once we got into our stride, it has been relatively seamless as far as the production process goes – just a lot of juggling of a lot of things and time zones to get it completed.

You’re a talented writer, director and actor. Which role would you say is your favourite and why?

I’m still learning and growing and I hope it never stops. As far as which job is my favourite, when all is said and done I am first and foremost an actor. Everything else I do in the business grew out of the desire to explore my creativity in as many ways as possible and gain a greater understanding of how the whole machine works. I announced that I wanted to be an actor at the age of four, so it’s something I’ve been drawn to as long as I can remember. My first stage appearance was at 10 years old, my first TV appearance was at 12, so I’ve been doing it for a while now. During my drama school training in London, we were actively encouraged to explore writing and directing as a way to support and further our acting skills and create our own work, so I made my first film as actor/writer/producer in the UK as soon as I graduated. It went on to premiere at Ealing Studios in London and got interest from the BBC for broadcast, which was amazing. 

What’s your most memorable moment?

Starting from my career to date, Sir Nigel Hawthorne becoming my honorary patron was a highlight. I ran yelling around my home in Mornington when I got his letter, I was so overjoyed he said yes. And being awarded Best Digital Series at the 60th annual CINE Awards for Shakespeare Republic. There’s so many more; I have been very blessed.

How did growing up on the Peninsula shape who you are today? 

In my VCE year at Toorak College I began working with local theatre companies – particularly Panorama Theatre – performing musical theatre and working as an on-air presenter for radio station 3RPP-FM. I ended up doing the Drive Show twice a week and co-hosted the Breakfast Show every weekday. I also worked as on-air talent and as writer/producer for a series of shows for one of the first community TV stations in Australia, Mornington Peninsula TV (MPTV), which ran for about four months around 1990. I would go on to work with PLOS and Rainbow Theatre. A couple of years later I left for the UK, but growing up on the Peninsula gave me a lot of opportunities to explore many avenues in the entertainment industry and I am so very grateful for it.

For more information about Shakespeare Republic: #AllTheWebsAStage (The Lockdown Chronicles), visit www.allthewebsastage.com

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