Savage River TV drama writer also a tarot card reader

Savage River TV drama writer also a tarot card reader

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AFR Magazine

For Savage River writer and producer Polly Staniford, tarot card reading has parallels to the craft of storytelling. Other Passions, a regular column, appears in the February issue.

Polly Staniford is co-founder, creative producer and writer with Aquarius Films. She’s 42 and lives in Haberfield, Sydney.

Did tarot lead you to a career in film and TV?

I was always interested, ever since I was a kid. But I didn’t get given my first deck until my early 20s, and I was already studying film by then.

Tarot and oracle: what’s the difference?

Tarot has 22 major arcana, which are based on classic archetypes, and have very specific meanings. The meanings don’t change between the decks, but each deck has its own slight interpretation.

Oracle cards are much simpler – meanings about things like love or abundance or shadows – and they’re just a nice tool to use with the tarot. They’re a way of getting a quick message.

Polly Staniford: “I’ve always found the cards to be a good way to connect, particularly on set when it’s a new team of people coming together.” Oscar Colman

So, you don’t have to be clairvoyant?

Nothing like that. It’s all about tapping into the symbols – I just love the meaning of the mythology behind it.

What of people who say tarot is bunkum?

If you don’t believe it, then don’t do it or engage with it. We all have our own unique ways of navigating through life, and for me, it opens up new ways of seeing and can light the path ahead.

You have 75 decks. Why so many?

I’m a very visual person, my parents are both artists, and it’s fascinating there can be so many versions of the same thing, and they all have their own uniqueness. I pick them up in my travels. It’s become a sort of obsession where I can’t stop buying them.

Do you use tarot on yourself?

I’ve got a deck on my desk that I refer to when I need a bit of clarity or reassurance – as in, OK, I’m on the right track. And when [Aquarius Films co-founder Angie Fielder] and I are hiring new staff, we often pull a few cards after the interviews to see if they provide any insights about that person. And often it marries with our instincts.

And the messages that you don’t want to read?

It’s easy to think, ‘oh, I don’t like that, I’ll pull another card’. But you have to listen and in fact, what you didn’t want to hear is actually something you need to confront.

Any uncanny readings?

I do numerology as well and recently, my husband and I were about to bid on a house. So, before the auction, I was pulling all the cards asking: ‘Are we going to win? Are we going to get it?’ And I kept pulling the number of the house and pictures of houses – representing new beginnings – and I was like, oh my god, this is so weird. And then of course we got the house.

What are you working on improving now?

Understanding and recognising patterns. For example, with tarot, if you get the Sun card with a Knight of Pentacles – that means something … the patterns of what certain cards mean with others.

What happens when you’re doing a reading for someone and the cards spell bad news?

The cards don’t ever say ‘you’re going to die’ or anything like that, but often I think, ‘oh, this reading is a bit confronting’. However, my philosophy is to just read the meaning of the card and don’t hold back. I get nervous because I think I’ll offend someone, or what if I’m wrong? But so far, they go, ‘oh, my god. Yes.’ And next minute you’re hugging, and you’re best friends.

So, you do tarot readings on set, too?

I’ve always found the cards to be a good way to connect, particularly on set when it’s a new team of people coming together. It’s amazing how quickly people come to you when they find out what you do. Inevitably, when you do a reading for someone, they open up personally about what they’re going through or how they’re feeling, and so instantly, you just kind of build rapport.

Is tarot having a resurgence?

Now that we’re in this era of speaking up and #MeToo, I think people are finding their power again. And women’s power is about their intuition. Women who were interested in herbal remedies or tarot were once considered witches because men were afraid of that power.

You’ve produced three feature films and you co-wrote and produced Savage River, recently on ABC TV. What’s on the cards for 2023?

A couple of films going into production and a couple of TV series, along with another four things that we’ll be actively developing for the following year.

Your work seems to align with your hobby.

Stories are what I love, and the cards tell stories. For a long time, I wondered how do I balance these two passions, but actually, they’re very similar. Tarot is a way to access intuition.

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Philippa CoatesAFR Magazine deputy editorPhilippa Coates is deputy editor of The Australian Financial Review Magazine. She is based in our Sydney newsroom. Connect with Philippa on Twitter. Email Philippa at pcoates@afr.com.au

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