Since being cast as Will Scarlett in a school production of Robin Hood at 10, Lieutenant Commander Claire Baldwin knew she wanted to be an actor.
Despite joining the Navy as a maritime warfare officer after high school in 2005, she found the theatrical bug never went away, and in 2015 she transferred to reserves to pursue an acting career.
Since then, she has performed on stage with the Australian Shakespeare Company and in TV shows including The Secrets She Keeps and Wentworth.
She was also one of the first participants in a program designed to help veterans transition from Defence into the film and television industry.
The Screen Warriors Program aims to recruit, train and assist veterans to transfer skills into a career they may not be aware they would flourish in.
The program’s inaugural Introduction to Filmmaking Course took place at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney in early March.
Thirteen participants were given a taste of the jobs their military skills could lead to in the world of filmmaking.
It covered jobs in the technical side of the film industry, including production and unit management, location scouting, assistant directing, accounting, transport and logistics.
The participants also tried out some of these roles on one of the AFTRS training film sets, and prepared, rehearsed and filmed a short scene in 90 minutes.
According to Lieutenant Commander Baldwin, the course staff seemed “a little bit spun out” at how readily the participants were able to work together.
“I don’t think the AFTRS staff had ever seen 13 strangers come together and produce something viable quite so quickly,” she said.
“As Defence members, we are trained to work well in teams and collaborate quickly with people we’ve never met to get the job done – and that’s exactly what we did.
“I think in that way we proved our worth as people who would thrive in this industry.”
Lieutenant Commander Baldwin conducts reserve service with the Directorate of Navy Culture as a leadership coach, alongside acting and directing.
She said the film industry and Defence have a lot more to learn about what they can offer each other and, once that understanding matures, the program will strengthen.
Former combat systems manager Alee Scarfone said the training was better than she could have anticipated.
“They jammed a lot into two days, and I left with a really clear understanding of which Defence skills we could easily transfer into the film industry,” she said.
An unplanned exit from Navy due to an epilepsy diagnosis led Mrs Scarfone to take up acting to help with her transition, after feeling lost outside of the Defence environment.
After 22 years in Navy, tapping into her creative side helped her find herself again.
Mrs Scarfone said even if they weren’t thinking about going into the film industry, veterans should give the program a go.
“You really don’t know what you don’t know. You might be shocked at how much you might like it and how many opportunities there are,” she said.
Screen Warriors was launched in 2022 by Warwick Young, an actor, director and Australian Army officer, as a collaboration between the Veterans Film Festival and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School CEO Nell Greenwood.
Mr Young said the high-level training and experience delivered to Defence personnel equipped prospective candidates with the skills required in the many logistical aspects of production.