Meet Sabina Myers – APDG Interview

Posted: Thursday, May 4, 2017 - Uncategorized

Meet Sabina Myers, APDG member and last year’s recipient of the NIDA Award for Emerging Designer for Live Performance, set and costume design for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (NIDA Playhouse, 2016).


Congratulations on winning your award last year!


How did you start your career in design?

I got my start in theatre working as a costume maker at Opera Queensland, but realized along the way that design was what really interested me. The designers I met at the opera were almost all graduates of the NIDA course, so I threw my newt into that cauldron and three years later I’m neck deep in design with no regrets.

What was your first experience working in the design industry and what did you learn?

The first real experience I had as a designer was working on a music video a few years ago, which upon reflection was somewhere in between a total disaster and a fantastic triumph for me. I learned how far you can stretch a few dollars if you’re willing to give your time to a project, and that you can make magic out of other people’s garbage. I also learned how important it is to be a good collaborator and build professional friendships across the industry. Favours are a great currency, but you have to earn them and you can’t do that if you’re too stuck in your own headspace.

Did you always know you wanted to design?

Not at all! I took me years to realize what I wanted to do. Through school and university I was constantly torn between pursuing various artistic interests – painting, textiles, photography, architecture. I once tried very unsuccessfully to reign myself in and work at a law firm, where I lasted about two weeks before slinking back off to my art history degree. It wasn’t until I became more interested in theatre and film that I realized there was a path for me there, and I began to see costume and scenography as the culmination of so many other disciplines that I was passionate about.

Woyzeck Production images 2016

Image courtesy Woyzeck Production images 2016 and Sabina Myers


What are you working on now? (Who are you working with and what is your role?)

I’ve only just finished at NIDA, and since then I’ve been working on two main projects – firstly a short film in Sydney currently in post-production titled ‘Sink’, directed by Cloudy Rhodes (produced by billfilms), for which I did the costume and production design. It’s about isolation, and rural attitudes towards a romantic relationship between two teenage girls. We’re hoping to enter it into Sydney Film Festival. Currently I’m in Melbourne working as an assistant to costume designer Edie Kurzer on the remake of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, trying to cut my teeth a bit more in film after a few years of working mainly for theatre. Looking ahead, I’ve just started work on a chamber opera project – a new composition by Paul Kopetz of ‘Scheherazade’, with Iranian soprano Shirin Majd and Sweet Sound Ensemble in Brisbane. I can’t seem to decide what city I’m really living in at the moment, but for now that feels like a good thing.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

I enjoy playing with different aesthetic elements and references. The history of art (both high and low-brow) has been a constant fascination for me, so most of my design work has some points of reference, but I find the fun is in putting together unexpected combinations of style. My design for ‘Midsummer’ was about 70s psychedelic horror films, David Lynch, and Neoclassicism. The visual research process is something I spend a great deal of time on; I have a lot of fun working out what direction I can take the source material in, and I like my work to have a strong conceptual basis built into the visual style.

What have been the highlights so far?

It feels a little strange to talk about highlights when I’m really just stepping out into the industry, but the production of ‘Woyzeck’ that I worked on last year with John Sheedy (director) and Martin Kinnane (lighting) was really fulfilling creatively and a great collaborative team to be involved with. We were able to experiment with a lot of things I had never worked with before – live projection on a cinematic scale, a lot of water, and a huge number of moving set pieces. The production was fraught with difficulties and was a tech week nightmare, but we had such a great team and I’m still thrilled that we made it happen.

Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

 Drinking wine on the French Reviera with 12 dogs and a lot of cheese. But failing that, I’d like to be still designing! Hopefully with a lot more practical knowledge under my belt. Right now I feel such an impetus to keep pushing myself, and creating more strange and beautiful things. In a way I’m constantly trying to understand the various threads of my work and how they might come together and form something uniquely mine stylistically; it’s a pretty nebulous thing, but I hope that in 10 years I will have gained a bit more clarity and perspective on that. I wish I could say that I had a clearer ambition for myself career-wise, but I’m enjoying experimenting at the moment, so I’m just hoping to work with many more practitioners over the coming years and forge creative partnerships which are mutually inspiring.

Sink 1

‘Sink’ Image courtesy billfilms and Sabina Myers



Who has been your major influences?(Could be an artist, family member, a mentor, a historical figure, writer, all of the above! )

So many! A number of painters have been hugely influential for me – Hieronymus Bosch, Jean Béraud, Gustave Moreau… their sense of composition and colour has inspired me from well before I was ever a designer. There is an appreciation of tableaux and stylisation which was probably instilled in me through studying art, and it runs through all of the work I do.

Who do you most admire and what has been your favourite work? (or are there too many to name??!)

The late designer Eiko Ishioka is someone who I will always admire. Her costumes in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’ (1992), and her sets in Paul Schrader’s ‘Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters’ (1985) absolutely stunned me when I first saw them. Her work is uncompromisingly artistic but always seems to be in harmony with the other elements of the production, and she blended theatrical and cinematic elements in fascinating ways.

Any tips for people starting in the industry?

Reach out to other designers or creatives that you admire, the worst they can do is not reply to your email, and more often than not I have encountered warmth and generosity from other creatives willing to share their knowledge. I believe it’s important to be just as generous in return though – think about what you can offer in exchange for someone’s time, and if you make yourself useful you’ve got a better chance of being able to stick around!


The APDG would like to thank Sabina for participating in this interview.



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