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The Producer Working Outside the Box: Elliot David Hawker on Disney, Cruises, & Live Entertainment

Producers are usually understood to be the money-wranglers for feature films, or those people who talk a lot on the phone while on set. Elliot Hawker is a different kind of producer.

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Award-nominated producer Elliot Hawker photographed at his home in London.

It is one thing to be a part of producing events for Disney. Knowing your event will be judged by Simon Cowell is a whole other story. It takes someone who has experience in all realms of entertainment to pull off an event that will fulfil the magic of Disney and appease the scrutinizing eye of one of reality television’s toughest judges. Thankfully Elliot David Hawker has proven he is up to the challenge through his production feats with Disney, Royal Caribbean International, and PITT London, to name just a few.

Hailing from the UK, Hawker began his career as a dancer, receiving a prestigious 2:1 honors degree from Central School of Ballet. He spent the following six years at sea, gracing the stages of various cruise ships with Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Those aboard quickly noticed his commitment to a guest’s overall experience. His passion drove him in directions unlike those of his fellow cast members. Hawker took on additional roles in his company including Production Show Wardrobe, Events Producer, and Crew Welfare Representative. By pursuing more than what he was initially hired for, he was offered a coveted management position and became a notable leader on board.

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Royal Caribbean (their AquaTheatre pictured) are well-known in live events and theatre circles for producing shows of incredible grandeur, all at sea. 

“For me, putting on live events and experiences is all about creating magic. Creating moments that engage with people on a different level and allowing them to experience something special,” Elliot says with a smile.

“My passion for entertainment started from a young age, and after an amazing career being on stage, it felt so natural for me to transition into producing, and being able to channel my creativity and knowledge into making memorable and unique experiences of my own.”

This change in direction brought immense success to the productions, with respect to the uniqueness of their creative execution, and would only be the beginning for Hawker as his career as a producer took off.  

Following his years at sea, Hawker uses his cultivated understanding for production to create memorable experiences for the Walt Disney Company and its millions of customers. He continues to take on a variety of roles, each of which rooted in his business savvy and understanding of guest experience. As such, Hawker is a standalone example of a millennial who has carved out a specialty by becoming an innovative multi-hyphenate (a few prestigious awards along the way for his career accomplishments haven’t hurt).

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Elliot celebrating Minnie’s influence in Fashion & Beauty on National Polka Dot Day. An event produced by Elliot and the Disney Events team in London and hosted at Duck & Dry, London

“Working with Disney has been an absolute pleasure, and I have had the opportunity to travel all over Europe coordinating character events, which has included  everything from Set Dressing, Photoshoots, TV direction & Film premiers. I love that we’re truly creating magical and memorable moments, whether it’s a 4 year old meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time, or a grown adult meeting interacting with a  Stormtrooper on the red carpet. These are the moments that are really fulfilling.

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Hawker with Disney Marketing Project Manager Clare Moores in Dublin Ireland for Mickey’s 90th Anniversary, celebrating with children & families from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin’

 

From On Set Character Director of The Voice Kids Germany 2019 to Photography Director of the Mickey & Minnie Iconic Landmarks Photoshoot, Hawker brings his creativity and invaluable experience in live entertainment to many different kinds of events. The most reputable of these being those held for charitable causes.

One of Hawker’s most recent achievements took place in November of last year. Disney partnered with Myriad & Co Theatre Company & Together for Short Lives and Charity Patron Simon Cowell for The Nutcracker & The Four Realms Immersive Charity Gala.

“It was a spectacular night, full of Disney magic and storytelling all in aid of raising awareness and donations that will enable the charity to support and help families make the most of every moment together” (The Walt Disney Company, 2018).

When asked about what made Elliot so remarkable as a producer, Co-Founder of Myriad Theatre company Simon Evans pointed to how Elliot attracts universal praise.

“Everyone at Myriad & Co. was thrilled with his creativity and adaptive skills, and the project benefited hugely from his ability to create compelling choreography and staging with our dancers and actors within a sometimes challenging venue.”

Hawker produced various choreographed acts which immersed guests into “The Kingdom of the Four Realms” giving them a chance to interact and witness their personalities up close as the dining room magically transported guests through the realm of flowers, sweets, snowflakes and amusement.

Creating an intricate piece of immersive theatre in such a unique venue would seem an impossible task, and was a first for Disney, but Hawker was able to delicately choreograph and direct his cast of dancers, bringing the story to life in a magical experience of Disney’s latest rendition of the classic tale. Hawker’s striking blend of choreography and special effects were instrumental in the overall success of the charity event. The awestruck audience of A-List celebrities left the emotional evening having raised over £350,000 for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

“Choreographing for this event was a humbling opportunity to be involved in something bigger than myself,” Elliot modestly exclaimed.

“Our aim was to take the guests on a magical journey, telling a fantastical tale, whilst be able to shed light on the difficult lives of these children and their families.”

This event has been one of many you may see Hawker in action, alongside his award-nominated production of An Evening with Celine Dion Starring Tracey Shield and his work as Creative Director of hawker & travis, his own digital design agency in which he produces digital content including websites, logos & brand imagery, videography & motion graphics.

Since the start of his own company, the established producer was nominated for the 2018 WIX Stunning Design Award and continues to secure his prominence in live entertainment production that brings together his expertise and understanding of choreography, visual marketing, presentation and performance.

For those reading who are spoilt for choice when it comes to their career prospects, or feel like they need to pigeon-hole themselves to one role, Hawker’s accomplishments exemplify how one can create a career that blends a wide-range of passions under one roof. His producing career, now turning to the US to work with Spark Cooperative, has become one rooted in a passion for the arts and catalyzed by a dedication to creating fulfilling and imaginative experiences.

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TV star Zara Michales on the Past, Present and Future

TV star Zara Michales has been a staple on Aussie screens for nearly a decade.

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Acclaimed actress Zara Michales, as photographed by Marnya Rothe

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunities I’ve had,” she says with a humble smile.

Most recently in the acclaimed fan-favourite Doctor Doctor, Zara made a huge impact in the developments of the season’s storyline, and managed to perfectly balance the comedic-drama tone for which the show has become known to Australian, European and US audiences via Amazon.

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Zara made yet another appearance on Aussie TV recently, this time on Channel Nine hit drama, Doctor Doctor. 

“With the role of Thomasina I was allowed to do what I wanted, character-wise, which was great because my character wasn’t your typical lawyer stereotype,” Zara offered.

Despite the fact she made only an appearance in one episode, Zara made quite the impact.

Indeed, Zara guides one of the leads Ajax (played by Matt Castley in the series) to change the course of his fate and ultimately help his family for the greater good.

Zara’s biting appearance in Doctor Doctor is just one TV appearance in a career of many.

The down-to-earth attitude with which she speaks to our editors would have any reader surprised that she’s a fan favourite amongst loyal Australian TV watchers, notorious for being reticent to embrace new talent.

Zara’s captivating screen presence however, most notably captured in her gripping performance as Steph Green on the hugely popular Home and Away, was undeniable to the fickle Australian public, and she’s been working on different genres ever since.

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Zara attracted mainstream attention for her role as antagonist ‘Steph Green’ in the award-winning favourite, Home and Away.

The character I played on Home and Away was a very controversial one that audiences did not forget.”

Zara played the very mischievous and rebellious nurse, Steph Green, who pushed boundaries in the world of ‘Summer Bay’ (where the show is set) and for the award-winning series itself.

During her time on the iconic series, Zara’s character befriended Dex and got up to no good with him at the hospital. After beginning as friends, bond turned into a volatile relationship that escalated into a series a dramatic plot-lines for which Home and Away has become best known.

“My character broke a couple of rules at the hospital – eventually she was confronted to clean up her behaviour and Dex broke up with because of it. She then spirals out of control and pushes boundaries to a breaking point which eventually sees her getting fired from Summer Bay Hospital and fleeing Summer Bay itself.”

Clearly, Zara’s time on the show was indispensably linked to the ups-and-downs of the town in which the show takes place, and without her characters’ antagonistic nature, the series wouldn’t have been forgiven by the audience. It goes without saying that, were it not for Zara, Home and Away would’ve been pretty boring.

“I just feel lucky I got to make such a fondly remembered contribution to Australia’s most loved show,” Zara adds.

No doubt Zara’s time on set was made even more memorable given she got to work alongside Matrix: Revolutions actor, and star of Oscar-winner Russell Crowe’s movie The Water Diviner, Robert Mammone.

“Robert is such an experienced actor was wonderful to work with – because of the fights our characters got in, you get really heated and worked up and invested in the scenes. So it goes without saying my experience on set was pretty miserable – in the best way possible!”

Of her many roles on Australian TV though, Zara’s quick to attest to the machine-like professionalism of Home and Away and how well everything worked together.

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Home and Away is well-known for capturing Australia’s beautiful scenery and iconic Australian citizens. Zara’s edgy performances and Greek heritage was therefore all the more noticeable and helped change the show’s tone for the better, which audiences have been relishing more than ever in the years since her appearance.

“Working on Home and Away was like being in a whole different world completely. The cast and crew worked like a family. Ray who plays Alf (who the longest running character in Home and Away) is an absolute gentleman.”

The other iconic Australian series in which Zara has also played an indisputably important character is Underbelly, the famed series chronicling the criminal life of Australian history. 

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Zara was featured front-and-centre as a part of the marketing and billboard campaign promoting Underbelly: Badness, further cementing her relationship with Channel Nine and her high-profile in Australia.

During her time on set, Zara shared screentime with Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow actor, Matt Nable.

“Matt Nable was very focused and committed actor on set,” Zara is quick to proclaim.

“I enjoy working with people like that who are focused and passionate. It just makes my job easy.”

What was perhaps less easy was the pressure Zara faced in playing such an important role in a high-profile show.

Indeed, the series hinged on Zara, who played Pippa, and Aaron Jeffery, who played her partner Frank, as Frank was the only person the police had to connect them to the killer at the centre of the season.

 

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Zara and her on-screen husband, played by Aaron Jeffery in a still from Underbelly.

Though reluctant at first to help the police, the safety of Pippa’s family is put first and Frank sides with the police.

Across a series of gripping and award-winning episodes, Zara’s performance and scenes with her family brought much of the humour and lightness to the show, as well as its emotional heart. One only has to watch a few key scenes to chuckle at the realistic portrayal Zara and Aaron brought to their characters’ marriage and how they’d bicker but love each other at the same time.

The acclaimed finale, which was written in last minute, closed in on the family Pippa and Frank always wanted in the pursuit of escaping the crime world.

In Zara’s words, it was a very memorable and beautiful closing scene with which to end the season, further cementing her place at the centre of Aussie TV.

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Zara, shown here at the premiere for Thor: Ragnarok, has been cast in a project shooting in the US. Readers will have to stay tuned for details. Photo: Getty Images.

So what’s the future to hold for this character actress-turned-household name? Zara’s tight-lipped, but was able to reveal she’s been cast in a US feature, to be shot in America.

“I’m very excited – stay tuned.”

Casey Wright: Australia’s Best Known (Anonymous) Performer

You’ve seen him a million times before but you may not even know it. Here, Casey Wright gives insight into being Australia’s hardest working anonymous performer, as mascot for the big leagues and stunt double to the stars.

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You can’t make out his face, but what’s important to a stunt actor and mascot performer like Casey is that you’re focusing on the action, not him specifically. Pictured: an explosion at the Stunt Academy on the Gold Coast, at which Casey contributed to a number of advanced level courses.

Stunt doubles and mascot performers occupy an interesting space in the entertainment industry. Rarely known unlike their acting colleagues, but oftentimes working more consistently, a performer like Casey Wright has had his fair share of set-time with A-listers than any Oscar-winner, but a regular movie goer or sport lover couldn’t be faulted for not knowing his name.

And that’s just the way Casey likes it. As he claims, he didn’t get into this business to become famous, but instead always wanted to make sincere contributions to an industry that he loved.

“I always loved movies growing up, and now more than ever I enjoy the creative process – I have found though that I love spending time on set and having conversations with stunt coordinators, directors and producers about that process.”

The result of his steadfast pursuit for the past decade in his field as a performer who dabbles in many areas of film and live event work, is a fascinating study of how someone can be working at the top of their field and yet walk down the street without someone knowing their name.

“I ultimately just really love helping make a film or TV production the best that it can be – it’s so fun to be on set, and to speak with everyone who’s a part of the creative process, but not to have to shoulder the marketing spin like regular actors do.”

Nothing is perhaps more obvious a high-profile but anonymous gig on Casey’s resume than his work on the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean film. In that production, Wright had to shoulder the safety responsibilities of stunt actors during a particularly tense filming sequence, while also completing stunt acting in a believable way so as to allow the audience to suspend their disbelief.

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Casey beams with pride when asked about his experience on Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

“On Pirates, roles like mine were essential to the production. During the big scenes, there were sometimes over 250 extras running around on set. That meant then when action was called, it was mayhem. It was up to the stunties to position ourselves closer to the action, and shield the extras from danger.”

Casey’s frequent mention of safety regulations reveal a key aspect of his character clear to anyone who meets him – he’s willing to sacrifice his ego for the benefit of the whole project, a clear reasoning for why he was drawn to the more anonymous but equally challenging work as a stunt and mascot performer than a screen actor.

“If you saw a sword-fight in the film, with people running closer to the swinging blades, that was myself and other stunt performers working as blockers to keep the production safe.

It was also essential to showcase the enormity of the action on screen.”

Casey elaborates.

“[H]earing the call of “Action!”, and then watching a team of men on horseback drag a building through the streets does make you wonder how the hell you ended up here. I love that part of the job.”

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Behind the scenes on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 5, on which Casey played an incredibly important role in the execution of a number of stunts surrounded by hundreds of extras (pictured). Credit: Paul Cameron.

Casey’s excitement about the filming process isn’t complete without an expression of his gratitude, as he discusses how well the stunt performers were treated.

“Dressing gowns and hand warmers when it was cold, freshly made juices when we wanted, access to food whenever we were hungry – boy, were we spoilt!”

When watching the movie on a second viewing, the impressive significance of Casey’s contributions are clear. In one scene, a giant building rumbling through the street needed people diving out of the way to create an exciting visual, and Casey was one of the few stunt performers who helped create that visual that became a cornerstone to the film’s marketing and social media campaign around the world, an impressive real-action sequence that did not rely on CGI and helped the movie attract a franchise best of critical appraisal.

For instance, one review referred to the opening sequence and how “visually interesting it was”, and that “even the brief slapstick elements [are] far more creative than they have any right to be. The first sequence, in which Jack and his crew attempt to steal a bank vault, is an absolute delight.” (Denofgeek) –

Of course, a discussion about Pirates can’t be had without mention of its leading man, Johnny Depp, for whom Casey worked beside his stunt doubles.

“…when Depp came in for his scene, it was was awesome. From the moment he stepped on set, he was Captain Jack Sparrow. Even when the scene was finished, he walked back to his trailer, chatting with the extras and stunt performers, still in character.”

Casey’s meaningful experience with A-listers is not limited however, as his role on action blockbuster disaster movie San Andreas with Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti and movie-star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson showcases.

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Casey with Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti on the set of Dwayne Johnson $110 million blockbuster San Andreas, on which Casey was Paul’s stunt double.

Paul, Casey says “was an incredibly nice guy, and willing to get in and get his hands dirty too, which is not something you see from a lot of actors of his level.”

“[My role on that movie involved] performing challenging actions in character. Stepping outside of that would break the suspension of disbelief from the audience, and once that happens, it’s hard to get back into it. If you see a boom mike in the middle of a Gladiator movie, you’re taken out of it. It’s the same thing with [San Andreas].”

Casey also had to ensure not only his safety, but the safety of another performer – not another stunt performer, but a nine year old actress, with no prior stunt training.

“We had a good chat with the young actress, explaining all the risks involved. She was 100% fine with everything – asking questions, making sure we all had her covered. I know performers that don’t ask as many questions as she did.” Casey added with a grin.

When seeing the movie, any viewer would be entertained by the marvel of the overall story. But after having spoken with Casey and rewatching the particular scenes he was involved with, the great extent of how dangerous his job is and how important his contributions are to the movie are very apparent.

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A blockbuster disaster epic like San Andreas (poster above) required a number of stunts to deliver the story in a believable way, thus ensuring an incredible audience turnout and huge box office returns. Casey without a doubt played an important role as he was stunt double to Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti, one of the lead actors in the movie.

The actress was suspended on wires, and thrown towards Casey, who had to catch her and then safely cradle her to the concrete floor below. Being able to rise to the challenges put in front of Casey, and executing it successfully, helped ensure the actress stayed safe, and the expensive shoot was not disrupted.

“We put safety pads on her, and rehearsed the sequence several times. Just before we shot it, I gave her a big hug and told her that I’ve got her. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “I know”.

It was incredibly intense, but we were able to get through it safely. “

And it’s details like that for why Casey’s effortless but hardworking contributions have earned him a glowing reputation within the industry, not outside of it.

“I’d rather just my colleagues know me as a great stunt actor or mascot performer.”

Casey adds with a laugh: “I compare stunts to magic . You have much more fun if you don’t think about how the rabbit got in the hat.”

 

Daniel Berini on “Promised”

It’s a rainy morning but Daniel Berini has brightened up our press room, charming every assistant and journalist with his warmth and self-deprecating sense of humour.

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Daniel Berini never fails to charm an audience.

The young actor is here to discuss his latest feature film, Promised, a new Australian work which boasts a standout cast. In the lead role of Robert is Daniel himself, another addition to a long list of projects which have consistently showcased the Perth-native’s gripping screen talent, among them, film projects like Madhouse and Terminal 1. When talking about Promised however, it’s clear that Daniel hasn’t developed an ego that would otherwise be expected from a young leading man.

“We were nearing the end of the shoot, on location, in the middle of nowhere and it was ridiculously hot. All I had to do, on this particular day, was pretend to play a game of cricket, and then notice someone back at the house and walk off. But for the life of me I just could not swing the bat…”

Daniel continues the story with a laugh. “…I’ve never been a cricket fan, but I’ve certainly watched a game or two and get the general gist. But, no matter how hard I tried to look cool swinging this bat (and I was supposed to be pretty good at it) I just made it look so wrong. What should have been a quick scene became a half day ordeal, with nearly every member of the crew stepping in at one point to show me how it’s done. It must have been the heat but the more I tried the more I laughed uncontrollably, and so on it went. They ended up cutting that part of the scene I think.”

Despite funny anecdotes such as this, Daniel’s latest role in Promised reinforces the trend of him being a remarkably capable film actor, as many in the Australian industry will attest.

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Daniel Berini and Aquaman actress Sophia Forrest on the red carpet for the premiere of Oscar-winner Russell Crowe’s movie, The Water Diviner.

“Daniel has always shown a great emotional capacity within his work. His ability to connect with a character in an honest and authentic way is extremely compelling, a skill that has resonated with audiences,” said prominent Australian casting director Micaeley Gibson when contacted to comment.

Daniel’s performance in Promised combines sensitivity with an ardent understanding of Australian masculinity as it was in the 1970s, fuelling his portrayal of Robert to be more than just another representation of a ‘coming-of-age’ saga. Indeed, the storyline about a young couple’s arranged marriage called for a more demanding understanding of love that would generally be beyond the reach of someone as young as Daniel, but it’s clear his refined understanding of craft – coupled with that aforementioned wit and sense of humour – came in handy during the filming process.

“I found it easy to identify with Robert. He’s the oldest son in a traditional Italian family living in a place that has inherently changed them but also allowed them to thrive. He loves his family, family is everything to him, but he is also driven by his own ambitions and desire to make something of his own… It was quite refreshing to read a script that celebrated Italian culture in Australia but didn’t make fun of it. This is a story that follows two people from two Italian families in Melbourne, but it doesn’t feature Italian cliches that are so often presented in film.”

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Daniel in a still from Promised, with co-star Antoinette Iesue

Daniel also experienced the bonus of working with entertainment legend, Tina Arena.

“Working with [her] was an absolute treat. She plays my mother in law, Rosalba, and despite this being her maiden foray into film, Tina’s 40-plus year career in the entertainment industry brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the set. She has such a playful quality, her personality shines through Rosalba, it’s wonderful to watch.”

In scenes opposite his The Good Place co-star Antoinette Iesue, Daniel’s performance evokes genuine selfless involvement with a measured subtlety, allowing an audience to follow his character with ease. This is in stark contrast with the tense grit that has become the norm in so many other actors’ performances in recent pedigree films that have been born out of the current socio-political discourse of anxiety.

The WAAPA-graduate’s understanding of how to build character in film has been sharpened over many years and projects. Daniel is credited with Home and Away actress Felicity McKay in Jennifer’s Coming Home, in which he’s listed as one of the cult members in the home belonging to the titular character’s mother. The reveal of the cult is the dramatic climax of the story, and represented a dark story that stands in strong juxtaposition to a feature film like Promised.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have not been typecast into any particular category, and constantly find myself playing a variety of characters.”

In the 2015 project Madhouse, Daniel is credited alongside Secret City actor Aleks Mikic, himself known for his turn opposite Oscar-nominee Virginia Madsen in Safe Neighbourhood.

Daniel is listed as the character of Silvio, who tries to break into Max’s new ‘bachelor pad’ where all the action unfolds.

The role allowed Daniel to show off an understanding of action and comedy, something which he hopes to do more of in the near future.

“They’re obviously good fun.”

And nothing was perhaps more surprising than Daniel’s refreshing turn in How to Beat A Spell, a musical-comedy shot in its entirety in one full day within the backstreets of Perth city, his hometown capital. Daniel played the humorously named ‘garbage guy’ who intercepts the protagonist Will and sends him on a different path in search for his love, the Music Lady. By directly intervening in Will’s trajectory, Daniel’s character represented something of an antagonist which is in the vein of another archetype he’s interested in pursuing further.

“Actors like Ben Mendehlson have grown into playing antagonistic characters later in their career as they’re so interesting and so much fun, so I’m looking forward to actively chasing those types of characters and stories in the future.”

With Promised making waves, it would be surprising that those artistic challenges don’t come any day now.

“As challenging as this industry can be at times, I can think of no other job that would bring me greater satisfaction. I’ve never met harder working, more passionate, creative and brilliant people in my life, and it feels like a huge privilege to be able to do what I do. I get to explore characters so different to myself, and be apart of stories so different to my own. It is such a ride at times, and I absolutely love it. I can’t wait for what’s next!”

Karlisha Wrapped Up in Success in More Ways Than One

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Karlisha Hurley, starring in the new feature film Wrapped, at the G’Day USA Gala in Los Angeles – representing another Aussie success story in Hollywood.

While award-winning actress Karlisha is still young, as she sits down to discuss some of her latest projects with us, it’s clear this Australian is no naive ingenue. In fact, Karlisha is well-known amongst industry insiders for her wise-beyond-her-years quality that has propelled her to the top of casting directors and producers’ lists when it comes to casting young screen talent.

“I had to grow up quickly as one of two siblings of a separated parent. I hadn’t even started school when my mother took us on a world trip to ensure I grew up with an understanding that the world was vast and full of opportunities and I could go anywhere and do what I wanted.”

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Karlisha in a promotional shot for Wrapped.

In many ways Karlisha, currently appearing in feature films Wrapped and a new Rob Malenfant film still being kept under wraps, has forged a place in the select few of edgy, young actresses once occupied by stars like Dakota Fanning and Amanda Seyfried. Comparisons aside, Karlisha’s Australian heritage (she’s originally from the small city of Darwin near where Crocodile Dundee was spawned) and gripping talent has meant she’s quickly built a reputation that belies her less-than-two-decades on Earth.

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Karlisha with fellow Aussie A-lister, Margot Robbie

“As a kid, I was inspired by Rose from Titanic. I grew up believing I could do anything and be anything no matter what anyone else thought of me because of Rose, who had a chance to embark on an adventure within herself that the rest of the world was against, or fall in line and have no real feeling of purpose. I feel really blessed to have the career I’ve had.”

Perhaps best-known for her acclaimed role in the gripping film project Karlisha & Morgan, for which she won Best Actress awards at the Accolade Global Film Competition and the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Karlisha had already been acting in Australia for 8 years prior to moving to the United States. A childhood comprised of auditions, acting classes and taking days off school, soon jettisoned into film shoots, rehearsals and eventually, accent lessons.

“Once you start working in Australia at a young age and travel to LA for training which I did each year since I was 11, agents in the US become interested in you. I was very lucky that the transition to the US was so smooth.”

After booking roles with Ventura Court Productions and the web series Sharing is Caring, Karlisha solidified her place as a vital component of that production company, as she also joined the cast of Hostages Don’t Take Another Step and The Safe Zone. She has also been cast in the company’s series, ‘How to Identify a Serial Killer’ which begins shooting in March. While booking any acting job is an accomplishment, building creative partnerships is often the hallmark of an indie film star. Once those actors partner with either a director or producer early in their career, the track record of other stars suggests that those creatives usually grow together. One only need look to the collaborations of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio, and more recently Ryan Coogler and Michael B Jordan (from Fruitvale Station to Black Panther) to understand how lucrative such professional relationships can be.

The critical nature of Karlisha’s role in Kristine May’s career is mirrored by the importance of Karlisha’s position in David Raynor’s company Bad Hat Films, as she has also worked with him on numerous occasions. These projects include Hello Tom Sullivan, Dark Angels, The Birthday Party and Karlisha and Morgan.

In this regard, Karlisha marks her position at the top of casting agents’ wish-lists.

Karlisha’s upcoming lead role in the series, How to Identify a Serial Killer, follows the path of a paranoid teenager Alice who struggles to distinguish the difference between reality and her imagination in a world full of serial killers and murderers, particularly while living with her best friend and crime reporter Jemma – played by star of 1, Kylie Riddle.   

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Karlisha on set filming one of her many projects.

Adding to her filmography, Karlisha’s preeminence as one of the brightest stars in independent film has recently been confirmed in her appointment as Program Director of the Port Stephens International Film Festival, a position which calls for her to judge numerous films with a focus on bullying and the acting performances of her contemporaries.

“The festival topic of bullying is something I experienced and I used acting to deal with it. I now draw on that pain; it empowers me; it gives me something to connect to; and it allows me to take my acting to a completely different level. It’s timely with the Me Too and Time’s Up movements making ground and I hope the festival will give strength to other victims and make them stronger, too.”

The Port Stephens International Film Festival is partnered with the Singapore Film Festival and winning films are screened internationally at the festival of its UK partner, Out of the Can Film Festival in England.

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Karlisha is not only a regular attendee of film festivals around the world via her leading roles; she’s also judging at the Port Stephens International Film Festival as an Artistic Director.

Festival Director Guy Perrine: “We were excited to bring Karlisha on board for this role. Her international award-winning success as an actor and experience in filmmaking for both the Australian and American film industry, writing and producing, as well as her contribution to AusPol Media as a Junior Producer and regular attendance at festivals and director Q and A sessions, have made her an enormous asset to the Port Stephens International Film Festival in her role heading up the judging of our program dealing with bullying.

Professional resume builders aside, at the core of Karlisha’s success is an imitable craft that continues to reveal an understanding of humanity that only true artists demonstrate. Much like a young Natalie Portman in the Al Pacino film Heat, Karlisha’s natural instincts on camera consistently demonstrates a creative fierceness that’s balanced with a deep understanding of technique.

This is clearly demonstrated in a scene in one of her upcoming films, Sister Mercy, in which Karlisha plays a street waif abandoned by her mother and abused by her father, Phoenix. Phoenix, ran away from her grandmother and is looking for a family and someone to trust when she dates a man who tries to get her addicted to drugs so he can prostitute her. The scene where Phoenix later sees her friend Mercy again for the first time – played by actress Dominika Van Santen – is an emotionally difficult one because of the depth Karlisha has to go within the character to make her reactions real; she is disorientated, frightened, hopeful and determined. Karlisha’s skilled use of technique balanced with natural instinct is masterfully portrayed through the look in her eyes – seeing a friendly face amidst all this doubt and chaos – and  draws in the audience to connect with her character in a way that has everyone willing her to succeed.

As we sit and discuss Sister Mercy, directed by the editor of Sharknado, William Boodell, Karlisha draws on a quote from Annette Bening who once said ‘acting is not about being famous, it’s about exploring the human soul’ and she says that is what she tried to do here.

This comment leads us on to a discussion about filming her most recent project Wrapped, which has already attracted media attention and interviews with Noah Wilson from iHollywood TV.

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Karlisha post-interview with iHollywood TV host, Noah Wilson.

Wrapped, directed by Calen Coates, is a coming of age film that explores the journey of an ordinary girl in an extraordinary position, who comes to terms with the value of overcoming her insecurities, despite the people who tell her otherwise.”

Karlisha continues: “I play the lead role of Abby, a young teenager who learns to stand up for herself by taking back the one item her now deceased mother had given to her, from a drug dealer. I’m a teenager dealing with many demons in my closet – as well as a victim of abuse – but I manage to find both mental and physical ways to not only fight back against the perpetrators but also to combat my own mental health issues. I also believe the film tackles the theme of grief. This present is the last thing Abby has of her mother. By fighting to get it back, we see what a teenager is willing to deal with in order to find a sense of closure. The journey I take – which is full of emotion, car chases, guns and fighting – is  both funny and tragic; just like life itself.”

Karlisha’s proven track record would suggest her future is even brighter. She has lots of projects coming out in 2019 – in which she mostly plays female empowering, gritty roles – including Bet the Demon wins, now in post-production, and Stitched Up  and she will appear in a regular role in the co-host series 2 of the web TV show #Me4TV. Karlisha is also in discussion with other US and Australian producers and directors. Wrapping up our chat (no pun intended), she says she can’t wait to share more about other upcoming projects and is excited about the busy year ahead.

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Karlisha Hurley: focused and ready for the busy year ahead.

“Underbelly” actress Ayeshah Rose at the forefront of the Female Wave

Ever since Ayeshah Rose played the ongoing role of Natalie in the acclaimed and award-winning Australian TV series, “Underbelly”, the Australian actress and now filmmaker has maintained a steadfast belief in portraying characters which help promote a positive narrative around female empowerment while highlighting the universal strength of the human spirit.

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Ayeshah Rose, as shot by Kristian Taylor-Wood

“Underbelly” maintains a stellar reputation as a darling of Australian television, a show which changed the way local audiences perceived its own history and wanted it represented on screen. Ayeshah retains a sense of gratitude for her opportunity to take part in the Logie and AACTA-award winning show that also boasted a top cast like “X-Men Origins” actor Aaron Jeffery, “Wentworth” and “Rake” star Danielle Cormack, and “Once Upon A Time’s” Emma Booth.

Ayeshah’s involvement in the series, which told true stories about Australia’s criminal history in the 1970s and 80s, formed a strong bedrock upon which the rest of her exciting career has continued to build. In many ways, by breathing life into the role of Natalie at the time, Ayeshah proved her chops as someone who would go on to adopt a marginally significant role in elevating the industry’s consciousness around females on screen. In the hands of any other actor, the character of Natalie may have been relegated to a relatively trivialised character seen more for sexualised purposes than anything else.

Ayeshah’s strengths as a screen actor, and capacity to bring a sense of dynamism to any scene in which she appeared and grab an audience’s attention, meant that she delivered a truly memorable performance which did not go unnoticed.

Indeed, Ayeshah attests to how her time on set gave her an opportunity to forge a strong creative partnership with award-winning film and TV director, Shawn Seet (filmmaker behind the upcoming “Storm Boy” with Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush).

“The director absolutely remembers my role, because it was the only intimate scene in that series that was more loving rather than vulgar or explicit.”

One particular scene Natalie discusses is opposite award-winning Australian household name, Peter O’Brien, also known for his role in “X-Men Origins.”

Natalie’s scenes, as she proclaims, “required bravery at such a young age, and a huge imagination.”

The character of Natalie was also crucial to the show’s narrative because she had an affair with lead character, George Freeman. After Natalie leaves her abusive uncle, who was tasked with actually taking care of her while her husband fled to America, Ayeshah had to convincingly fall for Peter O’Brien’s character and deal with the emotional fallout after her husband returns.

The varying levels of emotions called for an actor who could bring equal amounts of intensity and vulnerability, a skill that Ayeshah has been heralded as having in spades.

That bravery demonstrated during filming of “Underbelly” set the tone for many of Ayeshahs other career highlights, including most recently with “Me Too,” an award-winning film project Ayeshah also wrote, directed and produced.

Ayeshah speaks articulately when asked about the film’s storyline.

“A young vibrant, aspiring artist, who thrives on chance, puts her absolute all into auditioning to a panel of producers and a casting director for a rare opportunity for a part in a film. A moment in time to fight for this job, to prove she is talented, attractive and good enough to be noticed.”

Tension however rises when it’s clear that maybe the character’s talent isn’t enough, as Ayeshah goes on to explain.

“Amongst the situational tension, it seems her dramatic and genuine depth of a performance may not be enough to stand out in hope of securing a role. She knows what she must do. She understands what is expected of her.”

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Ayeshah Rose on set for “Me Too.”

The question the film therefore asks is what extremes must women go to for an opportunity to have an opportunity? In this regard, Ayeshah’s craft as an actor and storyteller has made valuable headway in using the medium of film to probe challenging and important social questions to its audience.

The added bonus was that Ayeshah was honoured with a Best Actress mention at the Independent Shorts Awards.

“I felt grateful that an audience could see the [depths] I went to as an actor. I also really valued having the message being understood…I put so much into that project both directing and acting. It required so much focus and vulnerability as well as being prepared for the potential ridicule by a larger audience.”  

Ultimately, Ayeshah is looking even more forward to the future, more so than she is proud of her already impressive contributions to the landscape of females in film.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done and am really looking forward to make more contributions to the world of film, and work alongside as well as support other driven female creatives along the way.”

I am in a good place with my work as I’ve now done work that has helped communicate particular and current issues as well as support artists to continue to strive for those characters that are OUTSIDE of their type cast. There are many incentives for authentic traits and blood lines of actors to play certain roles, but I hope to continue doing what I believe true artists should be exercising, which is unlimited imagination.

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The poster for Ayeshah’s award-winning and critically acclaimed film, “Me Too.”