14 Sep Happy Birthday Kenny!
The Master Plumbers have published Matt’s interview with Shane Jacobson in Australia’s leading plumbing magazine “Australian Plumbing”. Happy Birthday Kenny! is approximately a 4-minute read about the man who brought plumbing to the silver screen. To read the full article on page 42 navigate to the magazine via this direct link Happy Birthday Kenny!. Or, read below. Enjoy…
Happy Birthday Kenny!
A short 10 years ago almost no one knew who Shane Jacobson was. A low budget, family made mockumentary about toilets changed all that. From fearless Aussie plumber Kenny Smyth to the set of Top Gear and The Bourne Legacy, Shane has the knack of keeping things fun and helping people laugh along the way. Here we discuss plumbing, maintaining his schedule, film and his thoughts on learning-
MR: Being a plumber myself I have to ask, the movie Kenny, you so accurately portrayed many of the intricacies about a plumbing life, what was the secret behind it all coming together?
SJ: The truth is, I come from a very working class family, I went to a technical school and most of my mates are tradies. I have a license for driving trucks, fork lifts, and most things. I knew all those guys at Splashdown and during the filming I actually did the work, drove the trucks, fired up the generators and plumbed the toilet blocks in, though I’m not a qualified plumber at all. When I was a kid, I helped a plumber for a few weeks so none of it is that strange to me and I just kind of know that world, feel comfortable in it and feel comfortable to talk about it. And working in jobs like I did as roadie you know what it feels like to have people staring at you dressed in black. My brother Clayton actually cleaned toilets to get himself through film school so he knows what it’s like to be frowned upon. We both understood the sensitivity in it. All plumbers know this, especially the Splashdown workers, the first ten things they hear out of anyone’s mouth when they tell people what they do for a living is a joke at their expense. What we found interesting. Everyone can crack a joke at a plumber but man, as soon as the water or sewerage goes bung on their house, how quickly do they want them there and how much do they respect the work of a good plumber. Then, as soon as the house is fixed they don’t want to shake your hand in case they catch something and the jokes start again. I just find that amazing.
MR: I agree and I think most plumbers would understand.
SJ: As my brother pointed out, when a natural disaster hits an area, if you’re a lawyer, barrister or an accountant you’re probably not much help initially. The reality is a plumber and their skill set is one off the most important people to get in there because post incident the first thing that starts killing people is disease and fresh drinking water is one thing that everyone is going to need. But again, as soon as it’s all over the jokes start again and I think that’s why so many tradies connected with the film.
MR: You’re an extraordinarily busy man, I’m surprised at the lack of rest and lack of sleep anyone who achieves a high level of success seems to need?
SJ: I’m not a great sleeper to be honest, many thoughts whirl around in my head. As a young bloke I could sleep but I do think you get used to less sleep and my schedule never allows it. I think when you have enough thoughts in your mind that’s what keeps your body moving, it’s like your minds own form of adrenaline in that you want to get up, write notes, get to a meeting or get on your computer or whatever. When you get down to only one or two things to do, you can start to drag your heels but when you’ve got fifty to do, you have no choice you have to start to plough through them.
MR: Is that an environment you purposefully create for yourself, to take on more than you can do to force a higher than average output?
SJ: No, not at all, I’d be happy for things to be quieter. The problem is you see, get sent or hear of a good idea, start to chat about how you would execute it and before you know it things start to grow their own legs. So I don’t think I intentionally create a busy world for myself, but in the business of creating things you just tend to be busy. It’s a horse and cart thing. Films and TV shows take a very long while to make. On average, a film takes seven years from idea to cinema.
MR: Seven years? Wow!
SJ: Yes, I don’t think people realise that. Oddball came out recently and I was first attached to that seven years ago. Based on that, to do two movies a year, at any one time you need to have fourteen on the go. So you have no choice but to be busy.
MR: Was there a specific moment when you realised that you had a special talent and you could live your dream as an actor?
SJ: I’m not even sure I ever thought I actually had something special, I just loved doing it. I don’t think anyone is necessarily born with a natural ability, though some are more gifted than others. If someone wants to be a great tennis player, they just start playing at a very young age. If they love it and persevere they actually get better and better. But if they didn’t apply themselves, even if they had a natural ability, they wouldn’t reach world success. You have to apply yourself and you have to love it. For me, I loved acting and out of that came a set of skills I’m now able to apply.
MR: Is there any specific skill you are working on to get better at?
SJ: Your work is never done as an actor, my next roll could be a school teacher or a mass murderer, you don’t know so there’s always a new angle to work on. Aside from acting, I have four children and the hardest part is trying to make sure you’re a good parent amongst it all so that’s the part I’m trying to hone the most. I’m trying to get better at driving my tractor too.
MR: Do you have any advice you can offer for those just starting out in the plumbing trade?
SJ: The advice I offer anyone on anything is that there is no skill that is going to be wasted, there really isn’t. I share this with actors, sports people, whoever, information is all around you in the minds of the people that work beside you. You don’t have to go to trade school to learn new things, you do need to go to complete your apprenticeship, but my point is people learn things by asking people. Simply ask, can you show me how to do that? Young people need to know they have complete freedom to ask, even of people who are not in their own trade, how to do things. Information is all around us. If you just keep asking questions and gathering skills it all pays off. I learnt as a young guy on film sets and in theatre to ask questions. It’s how I learn to be a lighting guy, learnt fireworks, driving trucks, fork lifts etc. That’s all I say to young people now, just don’t be afraid to ask questions, it will help your job in time because there is no such thing as wasted knowledge. You know what I mean?
MR: Absolutely, remain inquisitive?
SJ: Yes, and do something with it.
MR: Thank you Shane, appreciate all your work.
SJ: My pleasure, thanks mate.
Shane Jacobson is Chief Scout of Victoria, Ambassador for the HMAS Canberra and works with many charities including Heart Kids and the Mirabella Foundation.