Few Australians have managed to maintain a steady career in television with the apparent ease that Livinia Nixon has. This year she is celebrating 20 years at Channel Nine. After starting out as a presenter on Hey, Hey it’s Saturday, she’s gone on to present the weather on the Channel Nine News, as well as segments on Postcards and Getaway. Here she shares some of her experiences working on air and offers her advice for aspiring performing artists.
In the final year of studying my Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Commerce at Deakin University, I worked for Channel 10 in the marketing department’s prize cupboard two days a week, putting together prize packs and sending them to people. I worked the entire year for no money. I did anything I could to get in front of people who make decisions and be on their radar. I had my final exam and then the next day I started working at Foxtel. I worked with Glenn Robbins, Marty Sheargold and Steve Bedwell co-hosting the Comedy Channel. I was learning how everything worked and absorbing it. No one was watching because it was the beginning of pay TV in Australia and not many people had Foxtel. It was a great chance to get my hours up and make mistakes because it didn’t matter. The best way to make sure you’re relaxed on TV is to spend time in front of the camera.
Glen Robbins took in a tape of some of the work that we’d done to show the people at Hey Hey and it made its way up to Daryl Somers. As luck would have it – it’s all about timing – Jo Beth Taylor left Hey Hey and they asked me to join the show. When you’re joining an ensemble cast it does take a little while to find your feet. The relationships that those people had came from years of knowing each other and knowing each other’s families. It was difficult, but when you’re 23 you think everything is possible. One of the things you learn pretty early on in live television is to keep talking. You always have what you’re going to say in your mind and you have a back-up as well. If you’re prepared, you should be fine.
'One of the things you learn pretty early on in live television is to keep talking. You always have what you’re going to say in your mind and you have a back-up as well.'
Deakin University graduate
Once Hey Hey ended, I didn’t have a lot of work. When you drop off a high profile show like that, all of a sudden people don’t invite you to things. It was hard to have had that sudden success and then have it pulled out from under me. I’d just bought a house so that was very unsettling as well. All my friends were working at normal jobs so they were busy Monday to Friday. I suddenly felt aimless. I didn’t have anywhere to direct all my energy – I really struggled with that. In hindsight I should have just played more golf and not worried about it. But when you’re in the moment and you’ve got mortgage payments to make it is quite stressful. Things did change, though. I got back into television, I started proving myself again and the snowball started rolling again.
News in Melbourne has been really successful of late, so we’re doing a lot of it. We do our 4pm afternoon news, our 6pm bulletin and we also write Sydney’s weather for the afternoon news. You have to write a script that lasts 10 minutes and arrange all of the graphics that match with it. We’re constantly looking at Weather Zone and international weather websites, too. The whole day is spent thinking about the weather. Even at 6.15pm I’m still checking the radar, constantly updating things and giving everyone the latest information. I might have done all of the maximums for the state and then there’s a late max that comes in and it changes everything.
When I go away for work my husband steps up to the plate. I wouldn’t be able to do a Getaway trip if he wasn’t able to look after the kids. Obviously I do get mother guilt but I can leave knowing that they’re in the best hands. A lot of work goes into making sure Getaway is the best TV show we can produce. For a night shoot we start at 10am and finish at 10pm. If it’s just a normal day we’ll start at 8am and finish at about 6pm. The hours aren’t gruelling but when you do it back to back for 18 days straight it does get a little bit tiring. But I get to have incredible adventures and learn so much about different countries. I was recently in Japan. We went to Mt Fuji and did sushi-making classes.
I think there’s a little bit of a misnomer that television is dying. I think people are just watching it when it suits them. Australians still watch an average of two hours and 39 minutes of TV a day, so there are still a lot of opportunities in television. I think the best advice I could give to people aspiring to work in television is to be proactive. Getting your foot in the door, proving that you can turn up on time and do a good job, and getting along well with people is half the battle. It’s so easy now to put together a video of your show reel. You can do it at home on your computer. You can shoot on your iPhone and edit it together. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. People aren’t looking for production values; they’re looking at what you can do as a presenter or scriptwriter, or what you can do to pull together a show. Just take as many opportunities as you can and before you know it you’ll be in the workforce and you’re drawing on those skills.
Interested in pursuing a career in the spotlight? Consider studying film and television at Deakin University.
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