By Travis Johnson

How did you first become interested in burlesque?

After finishing my Certificate IV in Musical Theatre and my Bachelor of Performance at former Theatre Nepean, I realised I had an attraction to the world of cabaret and vaudeville. This led to the making of my first feature film, True Face, a narrative I co-wrote, directed and produced. I needed a burlesque performer in True Face and decided to try burlesque for the first time, in front of my film crew. In one take I disrobed my cabaret club MC character in an extremely honest, innocent and subtle manner, seductively removing each item of clothing under a single spotlight. From this, a burlesque performer was born.

Now I have done 27 gigs, created 14 acts, performed at 14 venues, produced four shows, competed in two competitions and recently won the title of Miss Burlesque Sydney as my burlesque persona, Lady DeVine.

What was the impetus behind the film? What story did you want to tell here?

During my time as a burlesque entertainer, I delved deeper into the world to discover a whole network of performers who treat the art form extremely seriously. If you have been performing burlesque for a number of years, you’re likely to know many performers around the world, even if you haven’t been to their country of origin, and there’s a good chance that most performers have heard of you. This extremely small and close-knit industry struggles to find its voice in the main stages of the world. Sure, there are very popular and successful shows out there but most performers are floating below sea level, mainly performing to crowds of other burlesque performers. The average person only knows of Dita Von Teese because she has developed a high profile. This has been great for getting the word of burlesque out there but it limits audiences to what burlesque is and what it can do. Most dreaded is the Hollywood film, Burlesque, which is loathed by almost all burlesque performers – generally because it doesn’t include any elements of striptease but also because the style in which its portrayed really limits the public’s view on what burlesque can offer. Due to the fact that I have had the privilege of experiencing great artistry through burlesque, cabaret and vaudeville, I thought:

1. I should share this with a world that may not get their bum in a burlesque audience seat.

2. I should show what Sydney specifically has to offer because every city has their own “scene” of burlesque going on.

3. What if burlesque goes back to being banned like in the 1940s? What if the revival stops for any particular reason?

I should capture this moment in time for performers and audiences to be able to see the burlesque of Sydney, Australia in 50 years time and beyond.

As a member of the burlesque community, did you find it easy to get access & interview subjects?

Absolutely. As I mentioned, it’s a very small industry so I have grown a lot of professional relationships. This meant that even if I didn’t know someone beforehand, I could mention a few people I have worked with and that would be the ice breaker I needed to be able to sit down and have a chat with more performers.

How was the film funded?

I did not receive any funding for this film. You could call it a zero budget feature because I used my existing resources to complete it. My co-producer, Igor Shmaryan jumped on a DSLR to shoot the interviews and I operated on most of the shows we shot. I find operating very easy because as a director, I know the outcome I’m envisioning.

How did you come to be working with co-producer, Igor Shmaryan?

Igor Shmaryan and I  met at a business meeting regarding his potential involvement with my first feature film, True Face, back in 2012. From then we worked on the film as co-producers, developed a great friendship, which turned into a partnership both personally and professionally. We got married this year on 7th March, exactly four years after we met.

What has audience reaction been like?

So far we have only had a very small industry screening of the film. The few friends and burlesque artists that attended thoroughly enjoyed what they saw. They said they found Stripping From the Inside Out informative, entertaining and at times, quite humorous.

What are your plans for the film going into the future?

We are now going to embark on the international film festival circuit over the next 12 months and try to get Stripping From the Inside Out on as many screens in as many countries as we can.




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