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Art of the Actress, The by Hayley Ann Thomas Printer

The Art of the Actress
By Hayley Ann Thomas
The Newcastle Herald
June 18, 2005

ONE of Rhiana Griffith's early memories is sticking her head into the frame of the family's first video camera.

The 20-year-old Mulbring actress has spent plenty of time in the focus of cameras since, accumulating a repertoire of television and film appearances that have transported her to destinations around the country and the world and into the sights of some big names in the industry.

Since earning her first major credit in the acting game with a part alongside Hollywood star Vin Diesel in the American-financed, Australian-made science fiction film Pitch Black, released in 2000, Griffith has gone on to a string of roles in popular television dramas such as Home and Away, All Saints and White Collar Blue. She also landed a role in the low-budget Australian film 15 Amore, shot in the Hunter Valley in 1998 but not released until two years later, and has found a niche playing short-film roles.

However, it is Griffith's artistry on canvas rather than celluloid that is winning her plaudits currently, as she continues to forge a parallel career as a painter.

It was a colleague from the film 15 Amore, Tara Jakszewicz, who encouraged Griffith's creativity.

"She did these beautiful paintings and was really magical," the young actress recalled.

Consequently, Griffith now balances a paint-brush in one hand and a script in the other.

She has already achieved two sold-out art exhibitions, one at Sydney's 249 Art Gallery in Surry Hills last year and the other at the Tighes Hill Gallery, which is currently showing two of her latest works as part of a group show comprising local and Sydney-based artists.

She is particularly fond of one of the pieces, Mid Summer Moment, which Griffith described as representing a new artistic direction for her.

"I hope Mid Summer Moment sells but at the same time I always find it a bit hard to part with works I particularly like," she said.

"Acting and painting are both these wonderful creative facets that I put a lot of myself into. But painting is more private."

Her next artistic foray may be into the world of fashion, with one Surry Hills label interested in featuring Griffith's art in its clothing range.

It's an exciting new development for Griffith who loves clothes and has a distinctive dress sense.

"I don't like trendy," she explains, saying she is a fan of the Newcastle label High Tea with Mrs Woo, which is fast gaining a profile in the fashion industry with its unique, multi-panelled look constructed from bright Asian fabrics.

Their range of clothing is multifunctional, Griffith said: "You can turn them inside out or take off a hood and turn it into a corset!"

But creating a fashion label is not on the agenda for Griffith in the near future. Her focus lies in developing her acting career.

"I kind of imagine this future for myself," she said. "I have it mind. I intend it. I want it."

Like most aspiring actors Griffith plans to travel to Los Angeles and penetrate the Hollywood film industry. However, unlike most actors, she doesn't seek fame and fortune.

"I'd be happy doing low-budget, independent films," she said.

" I don't want to have a profile like Nicole Kidman. I'd like to have consistent work in roles that I love. That would be just fine."

Griffith has learnt much from her television appearances but says film is "more enjoyable and didactic".

Nevertheless, her televsion background has made her realise the significance of a good audition.

"I mean, this is the point where you have to sell yourself," Griffith said.

"A good audition means a recall, a possible job and a good reputation with the casting agent."

Stints as a child model and parts in advertisments gave Griffith self-confidence in front of the camera. However, it was not until her appearance in the ABC program Children's Hospital at the age of 11 that acting became a potential career path.

Griffith worked with a few different agents but it was through Soojee Promotions, her mother's modelling and talent agency, that she scored her breakthrough role of Jack on Pitch Black.

Working on Pitch Black, shot in Cooper Pedy when she was just 13, Griffith was the baby of the cast "family".

"Vin [Diesel] definitely became a big-brother figure to me. He would call me his little sis. He gave the best hugs," she recalled.

"I went shopping with Vin in Surfers Paradise because I had gone to the beach and forgotten to take a hat. So we went looking for a hat for my shaved head (Griffith played the part of a boy in the film). We must have been a funny sight.

"No one knew him back then though, so it wasn't like we were getting mobbed. Not like when he came back to promote the film and we went to a radio station in Sydney.

"When we walked out [in Sydney] there were all these school girls screaming for his autograph. He tried to palm them off to me."

The big-brother relationship with Vin Diesel continued after the last "Cut" was called on Pitch Black, with the star imparting some advice on his young acting colleague for dealing with the nerve-wracking process of auditioning.

"He told me these decisions are never bad for me. They are just junctions on a journey," Griffith said.

And the journey seems to be progressing well. With four successful short films to her credit, Griffith is now working on another, Wrong Answer.

Never knowing when the next job will come is the nature of the industry, but it's not something that fazes the actress.

With a colourful professional palette offering a range of career possibilities, Griffith is ready to seize whatever opportunity arises.

"I don't care," she says. "Just bring it on!"

Griffith's work is on show at the Tighes Hill Art Gallery, open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am-5pm, until July 3.

Factual errors: Rhiana's episode of Children's Hospital aired two months before her thirteenth birthday; unless there was a really long delay between shooting and airing, it was shot when she was twelve, not eleven. The character Jack, from Pitch Black, was a girl masquerading as a boy, not a boy.

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