When twenty-six year old musical theatre actor Adam Noviello met award winning feature filmmaker Martyn Park, a unique collaboration and friendship was born. It began for Adam whilst sipping champagne and donning a statement white faux fur at his 2017 Adelaide opening night of Matilda: The Musical. He was introduced to Martyn by a colleague. Fast forward to mid 2019, and the two have successfully co-produced a new Australian feature film called Spencer, starring Noviello in the title role.
The dream of becoming a movie star is a dream that is held by many young acting hopefuls, and at times, for any actor, it seems like a very far off dream, but particularly those in the art form of the musical, as the note usually goes something along the lines of … “Musical theatre actors can’t act for the camera, too much facial expression for the screen, they don’t know how to reign it in”.
Many all-singing-dancing-actors will recognise these notes. Adam recognised them all too well. They were reminiscent of the feedback he was given about him pursuing his musical theatre career, particularly after his multiple rejections from the big performing arts institutions.
Adam tells Theatre People:
“I remember walking through VCA, having done my final audition for the BFA (Music Theatre) course, thinking, I’m going to be huge! I was such a confident little shit. I thought doing that course was going to be the beginning of the great career I’d always dreamed of having: roles in musicals, roles in movies, and of course television. Everything was going to be mine. Mwah ha, ha! But it didn’t exactly go like that.”
After being turned down from the course again, Adam had to make his own path, which for him meant two years of full time musical theatre studies at Patrick Studios Australia, a course that set him up to land his first job as Hanna From Hamburg in La Cage Aux Folles with The Production Company.
“I was off and running. The road blocks suddenly didn’t matter as much anymore. I knew there would be more of them. More people saying no. More people saying I couldn’t. But I also knew there’d be more opportunities that I must go for and grab with both of my skinny hands.”
And that’s what he’s done ever since.
Another appearance with The Production Company, two international tours, cabaret shows and appearances, ensemble roles in big Australian commercial musicals, and now, his feature film debut.
“Meeting Marty kind of changed everything. I’d done a few musicals, and was absolutely loving my life, but I knew I wanted more. Even when I was performing in a show, I’d always made a habit of working on the creation of my own projects. In between auditions I dreamed up ideas of my own shows, or characters I could play. I wrote songs. About fifty dreadful ones for every one I listened back to and thought, hmm, not bad. But I’ve always wanted to make stuff. And when we met after he saw me in Matilda, and he asked if I was working on anything new, I recognised this as one of those rare opportunities I couldn’t let go of. I was writing my second one-man show at the time, and had started fooling around with writing a screenplay, and before I could get a refill on my champers, I had sent him an email.”
So at around 11.30pm on Adelaide opening night of Matilda: The Musical, a 35 page work in progress script landed in Park’s inbox. It was titled Spencer. It was the framework of a story about an openly bisexual man, his tumultuous relationships, but at its core, a story about a label-less person living in a world of labels and binaries. Park read it, and loved the concept and possibilities, and after many meetings and conversations, he agreed to come on board.
While Martyn worked away on the first draft, Adam (at the conclusion of the Matilda tour) would go on to produce his show, Songs For Girls, at the prolific Melbourne venue, Chapel Off Chapel. He invited Martyn along, an invitation that helped solidify their creative partnership, as he got to see Adam in action once more, but this time, not only as a performer, but as a writer and a producer. The show was a huge success, colouring Martyn; very impressed.
The two quickly became a fierce partnership, and with further conversations, writing, re-writing, more conversations, more re-writing, soon enough, there was a completed ninety-six page screenplay and Martyn was at the helm as Director. Once they agreed that the script was everything they wanted it to be, they entered into offical pre-production, all whilst Adam played a Sydney Les Girl in the touring production of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.
“There were many hilarious moments where you would find me in my dressing room, a full face of drag, nothing but a g-string and tights on, making very serious ‘producer-voice’ phone calls about the movie. It was full on! Locations, budgets, casting, schedules, catering, props, costume design, make up, all in a world I had no real knowledge of, but Martyn was extremely experienced, and we were a team, we did it together.”
That team went on to complete 22 days of principle photography between Sydney and Melbourne, and then, after running a successful crowdfunding campaign to fund the post production, they continued with the lengthy post production process in Melbourne.
With a stellar cast, fantastic music (including two of Adam’s original songs), along with a beautiful, touching, and very relevant story, this duo, made up of a mid 20s musical theatre performer, and an early 60s writer/ director, have made the 95 minute feature length film that is … Spencer. A film that tells the story of a young bisexual man struggling to re connect with life after a series of tragic and complicated relationships.
Spencer is coming soon, and so is Adam Noviello.