Daniel Monks, 2017 Heath Ledger Scholarship Finalist
Actor and filmmaker Daniel Monks was also the recipient of the Arts and Fashion Award at the 2015 NSW/ACT Young Achiever Awards and is one of the first eight participants in the Screenability NSW internship program, an initiative launched by Screen NSW to create opportunities for people with disabilities in the screen industries. The AFTRS graduate is currently playing the lead in The Farm – a dance theater production with the Berlin Dance Theater Company and WA's contemporary dance company co3 – and recently completed his first feature film Pulse, which he wrote, produced and starred in.
AiF: Where do you call home right now?
DM: Home for me is Sydney but I’m a Perth boy originally so I do go back to Western Australia quite a bit.
AiF: When did the acting bug first bite you and you knew it was your calling?
DM: Well that’s quite a funny story! My mum was an actor who trained at NIDA actually and when she was seven months pregnant with me she performed a one-woman theatre show called From Here to Maternity so technically I started very, very early! And I remember always loving the idea of acting from such a young age, a favorite memory was adapting Peter Pan into a musical that I wrote, directed and starred in when I was in Year 2 at primary school so it’s fair to say I was very much a performing kid.
AiF: What inspires you in life?
DM: My family! I was 11 when I became disabled and it really bonded us together. They truly mean the world to me and I’m constantly inspired by them and how close we are.
AiF: Who are your favorite actors and/or filmmakers and why do they resonate with you?
DM: There are so many actors whose careers I am in awe of – the late Philip Seymour Hoffman was so incredible as a film and theater actor and director. I also love Viola Davis who is such a talent and a real trailblazer in Hollywood too, and I think Kathryn Hahn is an amazing and hugely underrated actress.
AiF: What work are you most proud of creating so far in your career?
DM: Making my first feature film Pulse is definitely a milestone I’m immensely proud of – I spent the last eight years writing, producing, playing the lead role and editing the film with my best friend and it was entirely crowd-funded and self-financed with no government support. It’s been so exciting to see Pulse began its festival life this year including being accepted at Australia's most prestigious film festival, the Sydney Film Festival in June, plus some exciting international festivals in the latter part of the year. It’s been a long process but such an incredibly rewarding experience.
AiF: How are you hoping your career will unfold in the years to come?
DM: I just really want to work with likeminded, creative people and artists I really admire. Ryan Murphy is someone who comes to mind instantly, so too director Kimberly Peirce – I was so moved by her film Boys Don’t Cry. And I would love to be in a position to successfully move between acting, developing and writing for the screen as well as theater.
AiF: When did you first hear about the Heath Ledger Scholarship and make the decision to enter?
DM: I first heard about the Scholarship the very first year it was launched actually – my Mum became a casting director back in Western Australia when I was two years-old and she’s still one now. Anyway, when Heath was in high school she saw him in a school production and cast him in his first two shows coincidentally enough, So as a family, we were always very aware of how special he was and there is such a feeling of love and kinship for him.
AiF: What does California represent for you in terms of your dreams, aspirations and goals in life?
DM: My personal hero is Harvey Milk, the American politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office, so California represents such an open-minded and progressive place that provides enormous opportunity for people who are different. And that’s so awesome!
AiF: What are your favorite parts of California and what makes them so appealing?
DM: Definitely San Francisco – I remember walking through The Castro District and just loving it. It’s such a beautiful and wonderful city.
AiF: What would it mean to you if you won the Heath Ledger Scholarship for 2017?
DM: Just being a finalist means so much to me but winning the Scholarship would be beyond incredible. I have a physical disability and historically the film and television industry is so prohibitive to people with disabilities let alone sustaining a successful career. Winning would mean breaking through some long-standing barriers and that would be amazing.
Heath Ledger Scholarship 2017 presenting partners are Qantas, Visit California, Screenwise and Ausfilm.
AiF would also like to thank Penfolds and Kate Raynor & Associates, official Immigration law partner.