PEOPLE: Moving overseas because the Australian film industry was “playing it safe”

Ola Endress is an Australian actor an content creator who wanted to be the change she wanted to see on Australian screens. But after extensive attempts, she found her most successful path to being part of a diverse film and TV industry would be to move overseas.

In Canada, she’s experienced the richness of an arts scene that welcomes and embraces diversity, while also working at a major video tech company. While she balances these two careers, Ola is hopeful that the Australian film and TV sectors will soon become more diverse and open-minded, creating exciting opportunities for all actors and content creators to thrive.

  • You moved to Canada after experiencing first-hand that the Australian film and media industries weren’t ready to show ‘diverse’ faces. Can you please share what that experience taught you, and why you felt the need to move to Canada?

I moved to Canada after realizing that the Australian film industry was not ready to show the rich diversity that Australia already has on TV screens throughout the country. Although I was still booking roles here and there, they weren’t roles that were prominent on screen.

Three years ago, I was offered a lead role for a popular Australian TV series, it came down to myself and one other actress for the part. I was told that although they loved my look, the show needed to play it safe. I felt disappointed in the industry that I looked up to throughout the years and realized nothing was going to change anytime soon. This experience taught me to take matters into my own hands and to think of different ways I could still achieve my dreams.

I felt the need to move overseas, to a country where they were already ahead of the game, encouraging actors who come from diverse backgrounds to audition for lead roles and to book them.

  • What have you noticed as the biggest differences in North America, when it comes to accepting or welcoming different people, ideas, and views?

Canada is very multicultural, just like Australia, and both have many similarities, so it is surprising to see how much farther ahead Canada is when it comes to the TV and film industries. The roles they are auditioning for are funnily enough reversed. Casting directors are wanting more diverse people to apply for lead roles, they want more than just the standard Caucasian look, which I believe was the complete opposite in Australia. I think the industry is realising that we are now living in different times compared to 5 or 10 years ago and that everyday people want to be able to relate to the characters they see on their screens.

They want to see that there are actors and characters that have diversity, that come from all types of different backgrounds. They want to be able to relate to them and build a relationship with the characters they watch, finally putting an end to diverse actors only playing stereotypical roles like they had in the past. This allows for more depth, more creativity, more conversations and ideas to be explored now than ever before.

I absolutely love the direction where the industry is heading towards and really would love Australia to get on board to the same capacity where Canada is at right now. The audience wants to see that the characters they watch are relatable to them especially in the times we are living in now.

I just moved back to Australia, so it will be interesting to see where the industry is now at and if things have changed since I left however I will have to patiently wait as the industry is at a complete halt while we deal with the current Covid-19 situation.

  • As someone who is half German and half middle eastern, have you experienced any discrimination since moving to Canada?

Not at all, in fact in the two years that I was living in Canada not once did I face any sort of discrimination, as it is already very multicultural and accepting of all backgrounds. I felt very accepted and really loved that about Canada.

  • You’re now working for a tech company – what encouraged this career shift or extension?

Fortunately, I was able to land a job for one of the largest video tech companies in the world, which happens to be based in Canada. I am especially fortunate that this company was created and founded by someone I look up to – a young, entrepreneurial woman who also comes from a diverse background.

The company I work for allows me to audition so that I can pursue my acting goals at the same time, which is a dream come true. I love that the industry I work in is very supportive and flexible, even more so that I am still able to work for the company right here in Australia now that I have returned back home.

  • What have you noticed about the issue of gender diversity in tech, which has a renowned and dire reputation in North America?

I feel as though the gender stereotype is now out-dated. Times have really changed and I am feeling blessed to live in a time in history where individuality and diversity are encouraged. There are just as many women as men, if not more, which work in the same company/field that I work in. It is exciting to see that we are building a future in the right direction where no minority or groups of people are being left out.

I truly believe we are on the right track as a society. We are all aspiring to have equal rights, not just for women, but all genders and people who come from different backgrounds as well.

About the expert

Ola Endress is an Australian actress, content creator and also works for one of the largest video tech companies in the world. She loves to inspire people to make the most out of life by doing what they love, living life to its fullest and seizing every opportunity that comes our way.

She believes there should be no boundaries when it comes to achieving your goals and if there are roadblocks that are stopping you from reaching your goals, then to pave a new way to get to where you want to be.