Visitors to Docklands Studios will be familiar with the friendly face of Lisa Barnes. As the security gate attendant, Lisa has seen all types – from starry-eyed TV audiences, to bleary-eyed film crew, as well as a long list of famous actors and producers. Lisa spoke to Bel Tromp about her job.
How long have you worked at Docklands Studios?
I started almost 8 years ago, having worked in customer service in the retail sector. My first stint at Docklands was in the security office for a TV show that was filming here, Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation. Coincidentally that show is on the lot again right now, filming a whole new series, so it’s like déjà vu. Anyway, I love my job – working with the production crew and helping them out and being able to talk to them. I didn’t know much about Docklands Studios before I came here, but now many of my friends are film and TV crew I’ve met here over the years.
Take us through a typical day.
When we’ve got new productions on the lot, my day could start at 7am. I work closely with each production secretary, because they have to authorise to allow each person on site. Earlier this year we had multiple films including Stem and Winchester. I think Stem had 140 people and that’s just the main crew, not extras or actors. Then when Winchester was shooting as well, that was another 120 coming through the gates. With each new visitor I have to make sure they get to the right place on the lot, whether it’s production or costume or somewhere else. I also deal with couriers delivering things like props, costumes, production tapes, payroll forms. Again I direct packages to the right person so they don’t get lost, which can be tricky when a production is spread across several buildings. It’s all pretty full on. We also get a lot of production vehicles coming through the gates, including huge trucks that need to be parked here. But we can always find a way to fit them in as we’ve got plenty of space. I have great back up from Steve and Laz and Rodney* – we’re a good team.
*Steve Wyatt, Security; Laz Tsavdaridis, Facilities Co-ordinator; Rodney Brooks, Facilities Manager.
You must know most of the production secretaries in the industry pretty well?
Yes, and each one is different. For example, one will want to know the minute their talent arrives, and others are more relaxed. Some are a lot stricter about who can and can’t go on site, such as when a crew member brings along a family member. So, I’ve got to chop and change to deal with different styles. That’s why they like it here, because I already know what their style is and I know most of them by now. Every production that comes here has at least a couple of dozen people who’ve been here before.
People say you have a good memory for faces and names?
Yes, I can’t really explain it. Usually I can look at the face and remember the name, but sometimes I just look at the car rego and remember their name!
Another aspect of your job is welcoming members of the public who come to be in a TV audience?
Yes, we could have a couple of movies going while we’re also dealing with audience for shows like The Footy Show and Hot Seat Millionaire. We’ve got to work out who is crew and who is audience, who’s supposed to be there and who’s not, in case the audience try to wander away. I think Hot Seat has 160 and The Footy Show has over 200 and they could be arriving over a short period. On those days I barely get breakfast or lunch! Most people are very excited to be here, and they have no idea what’s going to happen and what they’re going to see. Some people turn up two hours early because they’re scared they’ll be late or stuck in traffic!
At the other end of the scale, you greet A-listers turning up for exclusive events such as car launches or fashion shows?
Yeah, a lot of visitors will come in a hire car, a limo, but for me it doesn’t matter, they’re all treated the same. And when a hire car arrives, I have to actually see who is inside for security reasons because anyone could hire a limo. Sometimes the drivers don’t like it, but it’s my job. I have to be a step ahead, especially when there’s a high-end celebrity on site. I’ve stopped so many people from trying to talk their way in – they try to trick you!
A long list of famous actors have worked here over the years? I know you don’t like to drop names, but you must have some favourites?
Well, when people come through the gates they’re just another crew member on the lot to me. I don’t care if they’re famous or not and I just treat them like anyone else. But one that springs to mind would be Hugh Jackman, who was here to rehearse a stage show, and he stopped every day to ask me how I was going. Another is Ethan Hawke who was shooting Predestination, and later sent his driver around with some cakes to say thank you. Then there’s Shane Jacobson, who always remembers my name, and Shaun Micallef who recently told me: “I was driving in today hoping that you would be here!” He hadn’t been here for a few years so it was good to be acknowledged in that way. Another nice one is Sam Newman from The Footy Show – he’ll run in front of me and open doors!
You’ve had the odd surprise visit?
Yeah, I was here early one morning and I saw a hot-air balloon come in low. I was waiting for it to go up and it never did, it just suddenly hit the ground hard. Luckily the pilot found the perfect landing spot in the car park. I ran over to see if everyone was ok, and I was about to call emergency services, but the people in the balloon were actually quite excited about where they had landed and started taking photos! The pilot told me he had landed in the Yarra River the week before.
Have you seen this part of Melbourne evolve over the years?
Yeah, it’s changed dramatically. When I first started working here at the end of Docklands Drive it was like being in the naughty corner! But now there’s so many buildings going up and there’s lots of greenery and the park nearby, and more people know that we’re here. Before, no one had a reason to be near the studios, whereas now they come past to have lunch in the park. It’s really vibrant and alive.