Artist/actress/high country farm girl; Amelia Guild has those sparkly, glinty eyes that instantly captivate you. I have spent much time with her over the past few years as a close friend on many an adventure and not once did I ever see the sparkle level drop. Not once!
So on my recent trip to Canterbury I finally had the opportunity to visit her with the intention of delving deeper into her story and sharing the grassroots life she has chosen with her husband and family – almost at odds with her recent success under the bright lights around the world.
Enjoy and welcome to Tom and Amelias cottage/studio/home of great ideas – High Peak Station.
Amelia grew up on High Peak as the youngest of three, whole heartedly absorbed in the farm life of a child – pets, farm work, tree huts and more. She was one of just two children in her class at Windwhistle School, the other being her first cousin, and that was out of an almighty total of 12 on the role. Like many isolated country kids, the best opportunities for learning lay in the city and at just 9 years old she went to boarding school in Christchurch.
It was here Amelia was introduced to Drama for the first time and totally relished it. She left behind her shy little farm girl persona to dive head first into school plays and as she got older, theatre sports and leads.
At 15 she decided she wanted and must be an actress.
But another creative pursuit had also begun to grab her attention too. Her mother, Anna had got back into painting while her kids were away at school and it piqued Amelia’s interest when she was home in the holidays. With a team of influential and knowledgable art teachers on her side, she plunged very quickly into oils. At 16 Anna invited her daughter to join her in a group exhibition which was where she sold her first painting.
That was it – she wanted to be an artist too!
At 18 and just on leaving school she joined forces with a friend to enter into a national Under 20’s short film competition. They promptly won and part of their prize was 3 months work experience and total immersion into the television world in Auckland. While she relished the Auckland life and the valuable knowledge gained behind the camera she still burned to be in front of it. When voicing this desire it was met with cynical and pessimistic attitudes advising her she will only ever get a role with an agent, a drama degree and the list goes on.
Luckily there were positive, enthusiastic voices in her ear too and on some solid advice she set off for Dunedin and study in English, Art History and wonderful practical theatre classes.
In 2006 she skipped the country to complete her final semester of Uni in Amsterdam where she had success getting her art into a local gallery and was able to stay on over the summer. Feeling buoyed she then headed for the UK – “the land of opportunity!” to only be beaten back into the ground.
She found herself auditioning for unpaid theatre roles against 200 other hopefuls and was told that at 21 years she was “over-the-hill”. Combined with the dismal acting scene she also had no luck in getting her art into any galleries. Bouncing between soul destroying temp work and the occasional nanny job she felt stuck in the mud.
Then the dream job arrived! She auditioned and won the role of travelling exhibition artist/presenter (unpaid) on a documentary called “Tracing Tea” which was set to explore the origins of tea and the rituals, impact and social effect it had across many countries. The crew travelled overland following the physical route that tea took from Indian tea plantations. Unfortunately the director was “bat-s**t-crazy” and when the 3 weeks in India turned into 3 months there was a mutiny by the team and Amelia boosted back to NZ to work with her brother at High Peak and paint for 7 months. Safety and calm after a series of challenges!
But….the desire to act was still burning hot. In 2008 she threw caution to the wind and this time headed to Auckland where she enrolled in the 2 year Mike Saccente Meisner Acting Course which she attended 1 night a week. She got herself an agent, started to win roles in ads and slowly the paid acting work added up. She then found a gallery and took part in group exhibitions as well as a successful solo show followed by another in the South Island.
By the late 2009 she was legitmatally supporting herself between acting and art full time. Dreams were finally coming true!
In late 2011 she received an invitation from a friend to take part in a casual theatre project which threw strangers together to create a small piece to perform. It was here she met Emma Newborn. Amelia very nearly pulled out like her original assigned partner did but was then matched with an actress visiting home from her UK base having won the trip off the back of a jar of Marmite!!
Emma and Amelia immediately bonded and decided they would do a short comedy piece. They shared some crazy banter about talking animals which progressed to the Amelia telling non-farm girl Emma about the bitches that get put up high in “boxes” while they are on heat to keep them seperate from the other male sheep dogs. Their resulting 10 minute performance was REALLY well received so from there they rolled with it.
With writing, rehearsing, developing on repeat they created a full length, two women show called The Bitches Box which debuted at the Splore festival in 2012. From there they joined forces with like minded muso, Mel Parsons and took the show on the road performing sell outs at 19 woolsheds in the South Island followed by 20 in the North Island by the end of the year. In early 2013 they tested their country dog stories with city folk at the Auckland Fringe Festival, Amelia squeezed in her wedding to Tom, then the girls were off on invitation to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. Rave reviews followed including an unprecedented 5 stars from Libby Purves of The Times…a women who on ever reviews West End Shows!
As Amelia’s friend I felt sure that I pretty much had her story covered. But on sitting there and listening to her take me through in the same way I do all my interviews, I suddenly realised how easy it was to miss the creative hurdles, journey and inspiration from those right beside us.
Take the time to explore her creative world and take heart in the fact being a “slashy” is a totally possible and legitimate career outcome – even living on a high country station with no cell reception!All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home.Animals in order of appearence:
Prince Wirimu the black lab
Mimi the deer
Martin the calf
SBJ the pig
WHAT I LEARNT FROM AMELIA:
Follow your bliss. Hard.