"In Adjusting to Australia, expect things to be different, not better or worse, just different".
Country of Origin: Mexico.
State of Residency: VIC. Favourite place in Australia: Fed Square in Melbourne. Upon arrival: Surprised by the hook turns (a specific way to turn in an intersection). Photo by Sergio Villaseñor.
By Trini Abascal
Paulette Arvizu is the National Festivals Coordinator at Palace Cinemas. She is behind the Italian, Spanish, and Scandinavian Film Festivals held across Australia each year. Her life revolves around making, distributing, promoting, and screening films. She has worked in various areas of the film industry in companies like the Ben & Jerry’s Open-air Cinema, the Hola Mexico Film Festival, Aztec International Entertainment, and Palace Cinemas. Paulette is passionate about sharing stories through film. Through her role she contributes to promote multiculturalism in Australia.
Tell us Your Story
As part of my Bachelor Degree I studied a year abroad in Auckland, New Zealand in 2004. I had the opportunity to come to Australia as a tourist and I fell in love with Melbourne because of its architecture and all the cultural activities. When considering different Universities for a Master Degree, as a way to further my career, Melbourne seemed like a great choice. Just before I moved to Australia I met my now husband, Paco, at a Film Festival in Mexico. Since all my University and visa arrangements were ready I moved to Melbourne in July 2008 to start my Master Degree in Cinema Management at Melbourne University. Paco decided to catch up with me one month later whilst doing an English course. After his course he also enrolled in a Masters Degree. After one year at University, I wanted to work again but it was really hard to break in. It is a tight-knit industry and I didn’t have any local contacts. So my strategy was to try to meet as many people as possible through volunteer work in institutions that interested me. This included the Spanish Film Festival and The Melbourne International Film Festival. I also built relationships with my teachers, and I did a lot of research on the way local companies operate. Around that time, Paco and I decided to move in together as we were getting along very well.
Paulette at the Italian Film Festival
In 2009, I worked as Location Manager at the Ben & Jerry’s open-air cinema in St Kilda. This helped me connect with the local industry and it was a great networking opportunity. It was at this job that I met the former Director of the Spanish Film Festival, who then put me in touch with the Manager of The Palace Cinema Como; where, soon after, I started working as front of house member. My responsibilities included cleaning cinemas and selling tickets, drinks, and popcorn. After several positions at The Palace Cinema Como and after managing the “Hola Mexico Film Festival” for two years, I joined the Festivals Team at Palace Cinemas Head Office. Currently, I’m the National Festivals Coordinator at Palace Cinemas and I’m behind the Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, and many other film festivals held in Australia. I coordinate seven film festivals every year, in six cities, and more than eleven venues across the country. I also volunteer with Melbourne Filmoteca as the Director and Curator. Melbourne Filmoteca is a volunteer-based organisation that screens monthly Spanish and Latin American films, thus promoting Hispanic arts, language and culture at ACMI in Melbourne. On my personal life, Paco and I have been married since 2013 and we’ve just had our little daughter Olivia. She is about to turn one and she has turned our lives upside down, but we wouldn’t change it for anything. We love her so much and even if we are currently still sleep deprived, she is the best thing that has happened to us.
Being away from the family - Paco’s family is in Spain and mine is in Mexico. Every trip overseas has to be really well planned and we need to take turns going to Mexico one year and to Spain the other. Now that we have a baby being away from the family is harder, it breaks my heart to see her grow up without her grandparents, uncles and cousins. However, with the aid of technology, we get to see family every week (at least on facetime and skype), so they are kept up to date with Olivia’s development.
Language barrier – I think that even for someone that has a perfect level of English it’s always going to be really hard to communicate and be yourself in another language. My English is not so bad, but sometimes at work I can’t find the correct word or the appropriate social expressions. I think people can’t really know who you are when you’re talking to them in a language that is not your mother tongue, you are never 100% yourself.
Professional growth - The film industry is built on relationships and networking so I had to start from zero when I moved here. I think it was crucial for me to work hard and be persistent. Nothing will come to your way unless you work hard for it; especially if you come from abroad. In certain industries having overseas experience doesn’t really count, as they prefer people with local experience.
Social relationships - The way we approach social relationships is very different. In Mexico and other Latin American countries friends and family visit each other often and most of the times these catch ups happen impulsively or are improvised! With most of my Australian friends I have to book our catch ups weeks in advance. I’ve heard stories of people that show up on someone else’s doorstep and this seen as an inconvenience, rather than as a nice surprise!
Way of life - The Australian way of life is much more relaxed than the Latin American. The way Australians dress, think, and behave is very different to ours. I think we should try to embrace it and relax a bit more!
Family facilities in public areas – Now that I’m a mother I’ve entered the world of ramps, lifts, change tables and parents rooms. We have a pretty good set up here even with breastfeeding cubicles in public places. I have never seen this in Mexico. It really makes your life much easier when you are on the go.
Piece of Advice
Start somewhere - Regardless of your previous experience or position you might have to take a step back or start in an entry level job. Remember the first job is always the hardest to get. Prepare a lot of job applications and be flexible when accepting a job. You have to start somewhere!
Avoid comparisons - It is important to not compare the way things are in Australia to the way things are “back home”. In adjusting to Australia, expect things to be different, not better or worse, just different. It is better not to try to live in a bubble pretending we’re still back home.
Be patient - Work hard, be patient and don’t get frustrated if things are not the way you expect them to be. It takes time to settle in and find a good job.
In the next few years...
Paulette will continue working in the film industry either in the festivals area or in distribution. Probably with another baby and trying to maintain a balance between her professional and personal life. She would also like to move to a Spanish speaking country for a while, perhaps Spain or Mexico, so that her kids can learn the culture and the language of their parents. If you wish to contact Paulette email us at firstname.lastname@example.org