Since the age of eight, Italian Australian James Liotta has aimedto leave his mark on the entertainment industry. Over the last 20 years, James has been fulfilling his dream, working as a full time actor, performer, Master of Ceremonies (M.C), comedian and radio host, all while directing his own performing arts company, Comica Variety Productions.
I recently interviewed the 27 year old at a local café, where he gave advice about performing, as well as sharing his own experiences and future aspirations.
How and when did your passion for the performing arts develop?
I have always been a performer, since the age of eight, doing little school plays and amateur theatre productions. I also had an agent. I think my love for performing initially came from my father, for he was quite a prominent theatre maker within the Italian community in Melbourne… He wrote roles for me, so I developed a love for performing. Actually, the first performance I did was in fluent Italian.
You recently played the lead role in the 2010 Tropfest finalist Falling backwards. What other achievements highlight your contribution to Australia’s entertainment industry?
Tropfest is the world’s biggest short film festival. There were 600 films. Tropfest is screened live simultaneously across Australia and is shown on Foxtel and Channel Nine. For us in Melbourne, it was at Federation Square. It’s a huge deal on your CV to have a film that was a finalist at Tropfest… it’s a great achievement.
In 2007, I was one of the youngest recipients of the Victoria’s award for Excellence in Multicultural Arts, so that was quite an honour. I won it based on the Italian culture I brought to young children at schools through comedy over the last twenty years.
I was also picked to be one of the MCs for the 2008 World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney, which was a huge thing for me. I was being broadcasted live to Italy on television, and on the net in front of a crowd of 10,000 people. There was a real buzz. Those opportunities don’t come around too often.
What will being selected as a supporting role in the feature film, ‘Scrab Girl Asylum’, mean for your acting future?
Scab Girl Asylum will be a huge feature film. It’s a thriller based on a true Australian story. It is being produced by Wingman Picture, and is estimated to have a $5 million budget. I scored the supporting role through the producer watching a dramatic short film I did… I will play a prominent role in the film; the exposure will be fantastic! To have a name in a feature that is to be out in the cinemas means I am bankable. Hopefully out of this I’ll be in a couple of movies and have prominent guest roles in television.
What advice can you give young people who aspire to be successful in the performing arts and media industry?
Firstly, define what it is that makes you different… Your niche will make you bankable. Volunteer at amateur theatre groups and radio stations to gain experience… The difference between a professional and a non-professional is very simple, a professional gets paid. That’s really all it is. You can have the best talent in the world, but until somebody has paid you for it, it’s just a hobby.
If you want to be a performer, get a camera, shoot some stuff and put it on YouTube. Producers know there is talent out there. While opportunities are hard to get, producers look at these mediums and word gets around… You have to think of yourself as a business.
You appear in a recent Medibank commercial where you say, ‘Freedom is having options’. How important is it to have other ‘options’ when thinking about entering the entertainment industry?
Freedom means you can do whatever you want, so give it a red hot go. I have no back-up, this is what I do… I have tried to make myself flexible enough to not only be a performer. I’ve worked for radio behind the scenes as well. I have been a sound operator for shows and so forth. Just as long as I’m in the entertainment industry, I am happy… I guess you need options in order to pay bills… Don’t study and do drama courses all your life. Volunteer, do shows with real people, with real reactions… that’s real.
And finally, if you weren’t involved in media or the arts, where would we find James Liotta?
I don’t have any options, so you’ll probably find me in jail! You know what, in another world, I’d love to be a pilot, to be able to fly, for I love to travel… Look, I’ve known from a very young age that this is what I wanted to do. There are no answers. You do it because it’s in your blood, because you love to do it.
Gianna Dalla-Vecchia is a second year Bachelor of Media Studies student at La Trobe University. Walk through her blog to discover life’s promenade or follow her on Twitter: @promenadewithme