Interviews
Interview - Joy Hruby


Interview: Joy Hruby, Producer, Presenter, Actor & Author, Joy's World & The Dubbo Dazzlers: 27th July 2004

 

Media Man Australia once again interviews the lady who gave him a break in the Australian television industry, Joy Hruby.

In this revealing interview, Joy discusses her amazing career in the Australian entertainment industry.


Greg: How did you get your break?

Joy: When I arrived in Sydney from Dubbo in 1946, I enrolled in the best Drama school in town. This was situated at the Minerva Theatre in Potts Point, and would have been the equivalent of NIDA, today, as it was the only acting establishment funded by the Government. However, because I was not a returned soldier, I had to pay my own way, and used to walk to George Street from King's Cross every morning to save the two penny tram fare.

My first job was in the Box Office in Nicholson's Music Store. The Box Office was a round counter in the middle of the shop on the ground floor where they also sold sheet music and records. Upstairs, overlooking us on the mezzanine floor, were the grand pianos and brass instruments.

A fascinating array of customers included actors, musicians, singers, ballet dancers and theatre buffs as we sold tickets to all the live shows . These included the Tivoli, His Majesty's, the Theatre Royal, the Capitol , the Elizabethan, the Sydney Town Hall, so I was lucky enough to get free tickets to just about everything that was on in town.

Of course I spent all my spare time at the opera or the ballet, symphony concerts and stage performances, or recitals in the Town Hall by visiting celebrities. Even young Joan Sutherland used to come in to buy her sheet music, so I got to meet some wonderful people.
I suppose it was a case of being in the right place at the right time that I was able to hear about the new shows coming up, and when I finally received my Diploma from the Whitehall Academy of Dramatic Art, I was able to join J.C.Williamsons Theatrical Company. They brought American actors over here to star in all the plays and big musicals as Australians were not considered good enough or experienced enough to play lead roles. So I became involved in the company that was touring Australia with "Born Yesterday". I then lived in Melbourne for eight years, working in theatre and radio.

Greg: What is and was the appeal of the entertainment business for you?

Joy: It never occurred to me that there was anything else to do with my life.

While entertaining the troops during the Second World War, I discovered the importance of laughter. I still believe that the entertainment industry is the most important industry of all. There are people all over the world taking themselves too seriously. If there was more laughing there would be less killing.

Greg: How did you put the show into show business?

Joy: That's a funny question, Greg.

Now that you mention the word "business" though, I must admit that no sooner did I settle down to being a virtuous housewife with three small children, did I yearn for the "smell of the grease paint and the roar of the crowd."

Not wanting to neglect my babies in any way, I started a Children's Theatrical Agency whereby I could keep my finger on the pulse of the industry and obtain work for young people. From then on, I was able to immerse myself in the industry by writing, directing, producing, and supplying hundreds of background artists for some of Australia's biggest and best movies.

Greg: What makes a good actor?

Joy: There is no cut and dried answer to that one.

Natural acting ability is not enough, and all the training in the world will not turn you into a good actor if you don't have that natural ability in the first place.

An actor must love acting. He must be able to throw himself into the character and believe in himself. He must be able to convince the audience that he is that character. He must have tremendous discipline of body and mind. He must respect his fellow actors. He must respect the work of the writer, the producer, the stagehands, in fact, the whole ensemble of talent that makes up a show. Above all, he must be able to take direction, whether he agrees with his director or not.

So you see much of the actor's success depends upon the attitude he brings to his work.

Greg: What makes a good TV presenter?

Joy: Training and experience is important for a TV presenter. He must be able to relate to his viewers with a friendly approach and convince them that what he is saying is true.

Camera technique is very important and takes time to learn.

Above all, a good speaking voice is essential. Diction should be clear and distinct, the tone pleasant and the voice well modulated and controlled.

There are different kinds of presentation, of course., the newsreader is different from an interviewer or a story-teller, and a cooking demonstrator is different from a comedian.

It goes without saying that neat dressing and good looks are helpful.

Greg: Why is it important to collaborate with other good people in the business?

Joy: You cannot do it alone. We all depend on one another for the success of everything we do in show business. We are always seeking out people who are experts in their own field. Co-operation is what it's all about.

Greg: What motivated you to write your amazing book?

Joy: Anger.

I was in Dubbo during the Second World War and we lived and breathed the war, as did everybody in the whole of Australia. After all, we lost more men in that war by ratio of the population than America or England or any other country.

So when I heard a young person laughingly say that Dubbo would not have known there was a war on, I got really mad and decided to tell my story.

Greg: Who has been most supportive of you over the years?

Joy: Definitely my sister Frances. My mother was very ill when I was born, and Frances, my older sister, practically brought me up. All my life she has been supportive and encouraging in every way. She has been my sounding board, my Wailing Wall, my counselor, my adviser and she still is. Through all the ridiculous crazy things I've done in my life, the successes, the failures, the highs, the lows, she has listened, but never criticized.

Greg: What were the highlights of Channel 31?

Joy: For some years before Channel 31 began transmission, I had been making TV programs from a basement in a Housing Commission complex in Redfern. Our team made regular live-to-air shows exclusively for the viewing of the tenants in the units.
Imagine how exciting it was for our crew when we joined up with Channel 31 which was broadcasting all over Sydney as far as the Blue Mountains, Woollongong and Hornsby.

It's difficult to pinpoint any particular highlights, as every week brought a fresh face, a new concept, a creative idea that may or may not have worked. At least we gave everybody a chance of getting out there and doing it.

Now that we know what people want to see, we have consolidated some of our ideas into a pretty good format.

Greg: Who are some of the people that you helped in the Channel 31 circles, in your career?

Joy: I think a multitude of people have been helped in different ways. For instance, many people have been able to have a go at being in front of a camera in a pseudo-professional studio environment and have been able to decide whether to continue, or whether to give it a miss. Others have been able to concentrate on honing their technical skills and have been able to go into the professional world with confidence.

There are lots of people out there making movies and working on television who started off on our show.

John Healy began working in the control room while he was still at school, and is now a producer for Channel 7. Rishi Shukla is an editor for the ABC. Joe Fenech is a cameraman with SBS, to name but a few.

Greg: What have been some of your favourite roles via the ABC connection?

Joy: I've worked extensively over the years with the ABC, mostly supplying children and actors. Admittedly, I've done quite a bit in front of the camera myself through my own agent.

Perhaps my favorite roles would be Aunty Beryl in"Menotti",[the series about the priest played by Ivor Kantz] and the part of Sister Polycarp in "Brides of Christ".

More recently, I enjoyed working on the late night show "Double the Fist" where I did some amazing looking stunts such as sliding down a driveway on my belly, and riding in a wheely bin down a hill.

Greg: You worked with Bryan Brown earlier in his career….when did you realize he was going to 'make it" big time?

Joy: Playing Bryan's mother in his first movie, "Love Letters from Teralba Road" was an interesting experience. He was so laconic and "laid back" in that very Australian way reminiscent of the famous old actor, the long and lanky Chips Rafferty.

At the time, I was producing a pilot for a surfie movie called "Surf Dreams". It was about a young boy who runs away from home to follow his idol, a champion surfer. We had already cast 12 year old Robert Bettles, who had played the lead in two Walt Disney movies, "Ride a Wild Pony" and "Born to Run" and had chosen for the romantic interest a lovely young actress, Jane Vallis, from "Picnic at Hanging Rock". We had pretty much decided on a promising actor for the lead role before I met Bryan, but by the time I had finished "Love Letters", I was convinced that he would be better than the guy we had chosen.

The writer and my co-producers were totally against using Bryan for the part, as he was quite unknown and not their idea of a leading man.

At last I was able to convince them. We found a tall professional surfer to double the difficult surf scenes for Bryan, and went to work.
We then presented what we considered to be a brilliant pilot to Film Australia, where Donald Crombie, the famous director, was on the assessment panel.

They rejected our film, but Donald Crombie spotted Bryan Brown's work and snapped him up for the next feature he was directing in Queenskand called "The Irishmen". And so began Bryan Brown's brilliant career.

Greg: Some of your family are also in the entertainment business. Tell us a little about that.

Joy : I suppose because they were brought up in the business, it was natural for them to persue careers where they felt comfortable.
My son , Frank, had lots of jobs as a child actor, but when he grew up decided he would prefer to be behind the camera. He now works on the crew of big movies such as 'The Thin Red Line","Mission Impossible" and "Matrix".

My eldest daughter Janette, also worked on commercials, films, and television as an actress and model when she was a child. However, as she grew up, she realized that she had no desire to be an actress, and preferred to travel around with the crew as a top, much sought after, caterer.

Anna, on the other hand, never thought of doing anything but acting. She started acting and doing voice-overs at the age of seven, and has continued most successfully to this day. Her credits include "Seven Little Australians" "The Sullivans" "Prisoner" and far too many others to mention here, her most recent work being "Home and Away" and "Fireflies".

Greg: What press covering have you received?

Joy: I have never pursued press coverage for myself, although I have had articles and pictures in various papers and magazines over the years.

Journalists have often rung me for quotes on controversial subjects such as Child welfare problems and racial discrimination or even crooked agents.

Greg: How does the Internet assist you?

Joy: It took me a long time to gain my computer skills, bur now I love to spend time communicating with my crew and my friends, doing research for my writing etc.

Greg: What are your current projects?

Joy: I have three more books to write, and of course I am still continuing to shoot "Joy's World". Even though it is not being seen in Sydney at the moment, we are sending it down to Melbourne.

Greg: What motivates you?

Joy: Every morning I spend a quiet time talking to God and writing down a list of challenges for the day. It gives me a big thrill to cross out things as I do them.

Greg; What keeps you so young at heart?

Joy: Working with young people. Living a life of thanksgiving for the past. Planning for the future.

Greg: What's your motto?

Joy: My motto?

THE SHOW MUST GO ON !!!!!!!!!!!!!

...end.

Editors note: Joy Hruby is a living legend of the Australian entertainment industry, and to know her, is to love her. On behalf of all the people you have helped so much over the years, thank you.

Interview - 29th July 2003

Links:

Articles

Channel 31 Community TV - More than just Joy's World, by Greg Tingle & Yvette Moore - 8th March 2004

Joy's World, by Greg Tingle & Yvette Moore - 7th July 2003

Channel 31 Sydney - Joy's World Production Newsletter - 21st January 2004

TV turn-off sparks protest, by Sunanda Creagh - 19th March 2004

Press Releases

Community television licence allocated for Sydney - 18th March 2004

Profiles

Joy Hruby

Channel 31

ABC

Websites

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Channel 31

Internet Movie Database - Joy Hruby