Tag Archives: Australian Talent

Actor Ben Prendergast takes up boxing to play Australian icon Jo Sparro

Ben 2
Ben Prendergast

Ben Prendergast says his love of film is genetic. His mother’s side of the family constantly watched classic “talkies” on repeat, watched Sunday matinees, and had a general love for iconic starlets and stories. His father’s side still had that same love for movies, but there was a passion for science-fiction and action films, with regular trips to the video store. As a child, Prendergast was immersed in all aspects of film from a young age, loving Star Wars and Casablanca before even Mickey Mouse.

“In Australia, the notion of being in the movies is so foreign, but as I got older and started to build a profile it became evident that I could actually make a go of being involved in an industry that I’d loved for decades,” he said.

As an acclaimed film and television actor, Prendergast has many notable projects on his resume. He has worked alongside Hollywood’s best, including Ethan Hawke in the feature Predestination, and starred in award-winning films like The Marker and Post Apocalyptic Man. Australians everywhere recognize his voice and face from many national commercials, and his versatility is constantly evident, ranging from genres and mediums. With every character he embodies, he does not just portray them, he becomes them. This is perhaps most evident when he took on the role of the iconic boxer Jo Sparro in the celebrated film Punch Drunk.

“Punch Drunk deals with a very real issue in Australia: the marginalization of the elderly and mentally unwell. I loved that the main protagonist was a hero in his day, someone that was very much valued as part of society, but after an unfortunate event he’s literally left to rot in an institution until he fights his way out. I wanted to be a part of the project as it dealt with a sport I love and tackled a real issue within the heart of a fantastic story,” he said.

Punch Drunk is the story of the Mighty Joe Sparro, a champion boxer who is cut down in his prime. Years later, he is in a care facility that shuts down and he needs to fend for himself one last time. Prendergast played the younger Joe Sparro, depicting his early career, showing his courage and man-of-the-people charm, and illustrating for the audience what might have been.

“Jo Sparro was a post-war young man trying to make a living to support his wife and child, so in a lot of ways his natural gift for fighting made him a more loving partner. He loves his wife Millie to death, so when they are separated it is heartbreaking. For so long, he has been confused about where he is, but when the film starts we realize he is coming out of an extremely long coma,” Prendergast explained.

Punch Drunk was distributed to a number of festivals, including Telluride and the New York Short Film Festival where it played in Times Square to an estimated 50,000 people. From there it went to the St Kilda Film Festival, where it was nominated for best screenplay, Young at Heart Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Film, Adelaide Shorts Film Festival, where it took home the Audience Merit Award, Byron Bay Film Festival, winning Best Cinematography, and an Official Selection at Dungog Film Festival, Heart of Gold International Film Festival, Little Rock Film Festival Official Selection, and Woods Hold Film Festival. After its film festival run, Punch Drunk was distributed digitally and has since been viewed millions of times online. The Director, Sam Wark, believes Prendergast’s portrayal of the young Jo Sparro was pivotal to the film’s success.

“Ben is a pro. He is so proactive in finding the way into his characters and has a limitless supply of positivity and fresh ideas. As a director looking to fulfill a vision and shape a story, it’s a joy to have someone who can bring me a hundred different bold choices on any one idea and then go further and further into the rabbit hole as the story unveils itself. He’s an actor’s actor, so he goes way beyond what you’d think an actor should do in order to prepare for a role, not only mentally and spiritually, but also physically. In the boxing scenes, he worked over the course of three months to not only become fit enough to perform the role, but also to perfectly imitate a 1950s’ boxer style, and then also the stunt falls required. The miraculous thing though is he’s able to do all of this while embodying a character and creating the empathy in the audience needed to touch people. Our audiences fell in love with that character,” said Wark.

Wark had the script for Punch Drunk in his drawer for seven years with no real plans on making it. He knew the script was a gem but didn’t know just how to turn such an important story into a film. That was until he sent the script to Prendergast, who was so passionate about the project, the director knew he had something there. Immediately, Prendergast was the only choice for the role of Jo.

“The film needed someone who could play a champion boxer without the arrogance or coldness that we see from boxers in the modern era. He needed to be a people’s champion, and completely likeable, even to his opponents. By doing this, the film could create the payoff needed to touch audiences and make them think about the mentally ill in a new and perhaps impactful way. That is what I kept in mind when preparing, and while filming,” Prendergast described.

When preparing for the film, Prendergast relentlessly trained for three months to not only get in the shape of a professional boxer, but to realistically fight in required scenes. He also took extensive stunt training in order to be ready to be hit and fall on command. In one boxing scene, he chose to fall a lot heavier than he had initially planned and ended up knocking himself out. The shot was so brilliant, it was used in the final cut of the film.

“I was introduced to the sport of boxing in a new way. I always loved to watch, but to participate and continue to practice to this day is something that the film gave me. I was also drawn into the world of past champions and the history of the sport,” said Prendergast.

Punch Drunk depicts an Australian sporting hero that never made it, someone who showed so much promise but was robbed of it, and audiences ultimately see him victorious after 60 years of solitude. Getting to be a part of such a story was truly one of the most satisfying parts of working on the film for Prendergast, beyond all the awards and accolades they later received. The best part for the actor, however, audiences may not have noticed.

“This ended up being a family affair. My Nana was featured as an extra in the film,” he said.

Check out Punch Drunk to see Prendergast’s outstanding performance.

Advertisements

Australia’s Pauler Lam dances in Hotel Indigo’s newest national commercial

DSC04731 smaller 2
Dancer Pauler Lam

When Pauler Lam was 14 years of age, he did what most teenagers did to entertain themselves at the time; he watched MTV. Upon seeing the music video for Jason Nevins & RUN DMC’s hit song “It’s Like That”, the Australian native watched the two teams featured in the video breakdance, battling each other and executing incredible dance moves. It was from that moment on that he knew he wanted to learn how to breakdance. From there, he practiced almost every day with his high school friends, doing back flips and dancing on the grass. He began watching music videos not just for entertainment, but to watch the dancers and study their moves. He came across Korean Pop (KPOP) videos, which were filled with outstanding choreography, only expanding his passion from breakdance to dance itself. Now, he is trained in multiple genres, and as a celebrated Bboy who is also extremely skilled at Hip Hop choreography, he has achieved his dream that he set out on at just 14.

“For me personally, I love being a dancer because it is fun, and it is the most genuine and positive way that I can express myself as an artist. I love the feeling of bringing music to life through movement. It is when I am the happiest. I love performing too, whether it be on camera or for a crowd of people. I also love making people happy when they watch me dance and perform. I am confident in my skills as a performer that I know that I can make people enjoy themselves while I dance.

Lam quickly rose to fame on the 2016 season of Dance Network’s hit show Steady Mobbin’, where he was a principle dancer for several episodes, and in one episode had a feature about his life and career. Since then, he has been in several Buzzfeed dance videos, amassing over a million views each, and a national commercial for American Crew. Despite such success, the highlight of Lam’s career came when he danced in the national commercial campaign for Hotel Indigo last year.

“What made it the highlight for me is that I, an Asian male, was cast to be the star. This is a big deal to the Asian American community in Hollywood. We, as Asians, are usually cast to play stereotypical roles or aren’t considered appealing to the mainstream media, so this definitely was the highlight of my career. After speaking to the team behind the project, I knew that they believed in me because of my skills as a dancer and performer, and did not care about image,” he said.

Lam was cast to play the lead role in the project, where he was followed dancing around the hotel and the surrounding attractions of Los Angeles. There were hundreds of applicants for this lead role. The production team needed the best possible candidate out of all those applicants, and Lam was the stand out. He had sent footage of himself dancing, videos showing his personality, and several photos. It wasn’t long before he was approved by all parties to lead the campaign. Everyone believed that he was the best candidate for the project and that he would be able to bring their vision to life through his artistry as a dancer. His high level of skill and versatility as well as his vibrant on-screen performance and personality that were shown in his video reel and resume made him the right choice.

The commercial, which premiered last September worldwide, was a large success for the Downtown Los Angeles hotel, and Lam’s dancing was a large part of that. His work ethic was also vital, as he is someone that can adapt quickly to any situation. He has a tremendous positive mindset, something he considers one of his best assets outside of his sense of rhythm.

“Pauler and I were like a dream team when it came to this campaign. His incredible skills as a professional dancer are out of this world. We spent a few days together planning and mapping out some dance moves and camera shots so we would all feel comfortable come shoot day. Pauler was able to make my vision come to life through his art and movement and I couldn’t be any happier with the result,” said Harrison Winter, Director of the commercial and Filmmaker at Co.Mission Content.

Winter hand-selected Lam to played the lead role for his project. They began with Skype meetings along with the producer, Dan Tundis. After easily agreeing on what they all wanted for the shoot, they spent two days together location scouting and rehearsing ideas on the spot regarding choreography. The teamwork between the three of them made everything very effortless for Lam.

“It really meant a lot that Harrison and Dan both trusted me with their vision. They even went with my recommendations for other people to be used on the shoot as other featured dancers.

Because we got along so easily and well, come shoot day, it made everything very smooth and fun. The hotel clients were also present and it didn’t take long for them to relax and trust in all of us too after seeing what we were capable of,” Lam described.

Any suggestion that Lam had for dance moves that he could perform, he was able to execute them easily, which highly impressed everyone he was working with. His friends, Bianca Vallar, Alvin De Castro, Savannah Marco, were other dancers featured in the commercial. In the end, they were all able to achieve the best possible result that they could have with the project. Working with Harrison Winter, Dan Tundis, Kris Young, Sam Nuttman, and everyone at Hotel Indigo made the experience for the principle dancer.

“I loved being able to showcase my personality and skills as a performer on such a large platform. Hotel Indigo is an internationally recognised establishment. And for me to play the lead role in their campaign was such a blessing,” said Lam. “I also loved working with all the people involved in this project. From the production team, the clients, to my friends who were featured dancers. We all did our best to achieve the best results for this project. It was a big validation on why I love being a professional dancer.” 

Lam knows that dance is a tough industry to break into, and he is extremely grateful for the success he has achieved. He never gave up on his dream, even when it seemed like it was the easy way out. However, he believes the best way to achieve success as a dancer is to simply be yourself, and to have fun, and working on this campaign gave him to opportunity to do both.

“It feels absolutely incredible knowing that people all over the country saw my work on this project. I love how the campaign turned out. I feel it definitely captures myself as a person on camera and I hope it makes everyone watching as happy as it made me feel performing that day. It’s work like this why I love doing what I do for a living. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.

You can watch Pauler Lam’s impressive dance skills in the Hotel Indigo commercial here.

Isabella Richardson helps prevent youth suicide with moving work in Beyond Blue Commercial

Isabella Richardson was just nine years old when she realized what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. The Australian native realized then that she could have fun whilst doing what people would call a ‘job’. She realized she could inspire people, make them laugh, and make them feel emotions they didn’t even know were there. She loves that she can move people, and encourage them to follow her dreams the way she followed hers.

Richardson has quickly become one of Australia’s best young actresses. Her performance in seasons two and three of You’re Skitting Me have earned her an expansive fan base, and her role in the film Next of Kin received critical acclaim. Just last year, her work on Sprite’s commercial garnered international attention. However, Richardson often chooses her roles for the message they convey, and her work on the 2014 commercial for Beyond Blue helped shed light on an important issue.

“I was very attached personally to this project due to the nature of what it entailed. Depression and anxiety are a huge factor in today’s society, and I wanted to be a part of spreading the word, and having people know it’s okay to talk about these things to your loved ones,” said Richardson.

The commercial evolves around six teenagers explaining youth suicide prevention to the camera, showing the message of, “If you’re worried about your child, the best way to find out if something is wrong, is to ask”. The commercial encourages parents to look out for warning signs of suicide in young people, showing the importance of showing children that they have a support system that is always willing to listen to what they’re going through. It can be a challenging and uncomfortable conversation, but it could make all the difference to a child’s life.

“I believe this message behind the commercial was so important because we were reaching an audience that needed help in understanding why their loved ones felt a certain way and what they could do to help. I was really proud to work on something with such a powerful message that could actually help save someone’s life,” said Richardson.

In the moving advert, Richardson plays the role of Katie. Katie is a 17-year-old skater kid, who has a careless outlook on life. She doesn’t have many aspirations in life and doesn’t care to have any either. Katie wears clothes to reflect her personality, such as t-shirts, ripped jeans, converse and collared flannels. She lives in a housing commissioned area where her parents are trying their hardest to pay the rent, whilst Katie reluctantly contributes by working a couple days at the local supermarket. Katie mostly hangs out at the skate park to escape her home life. Although she seems careless and selfish, deep down inside she just wants her parent’s attention and affection. In the scene, she goes to the skate park to escape her parents from questioning her quality of life. The dialogue revolves around informative info to parents who may need help understanding if their child does have thoughts of suicide and are depressed.

“It was a real reward to know we were breaking down the stigma around depression and suicide by spreading the word through a commercial,” said Richardson.

Filming at the skate park provided some unique challenges while shooting that Richardson was quick to overcome. Shooting scenes in a skate park on a weekday allowed the actress to see some of the hardships of skateboarders and their need to skate. However, the noise this caused while filming created some difficulties, but Richardson used the noise to help fuel her character. Even some of the harassment she received from the skateboarders at the park provided an insight to her character.

“The actual situation of getting into character was quite easy. I just pretended I was talking to a best friend’s mother who wanted to understand why her daughter was feeling a certain way, and what she could do to help. I felt engaged in the character and knew exactly what I wanted to evoke from her,” she explained.

From the moment she auditioned, Richardson showed all those she worked with what she was capable of. The director was immediately impressed, noting how nice it was to see someone chatting to the camera like a real person, loving Richardson’s signature naturalistic approach. This was necessary for the success of the commercial, with such a tough subject needing to connect with those going through what she was portraying.

“Isabella is an actor in the Beyond Blue commercial ‘Preventing Youth Suicide’. Naturalism is a strong point for herself when bringing compelling reality to a character and their emotions behind their words and actions. This particular commercial was incredibly personal to her for multiple reasons, so being able to apply her true emotions and experiences to her character was very important in making the character and commercial feel realistic. This particular commercial was incredibly personal to her for multiple reasons, so being able to apply her true emotions and experiences to her character was very important in making the character and commercial feel realistic,” said Nicholas Carlton, the director of the Beyond Blue ad. “Isabella is incredibly natural in the way she applies herself to the character, and I truly believe she will have every success her heart desires, because she’s not only dedicated but very talented.”

The commercial premiered on Beyond Blue’s Facebook page, website, and YouTube channel, and had a very successful social media campaign, connecting to a large number of people through the ‘Preventing Youth Suicide’ project. The success of the commercial, for Richardson, is not measured in the number of views it received, but rather the effect it had on its audience.

“We were spreading the word about something very close to my heart, and maybe even helping some people along the way, and that is the most pleasing part,” Richardson concluded.

Millions Watch Dan Babic in viral “Watch Me” parody

18342193_10210704003969943_166645179443174327_n
Dan Babic and Caitlyn Jenner

“I didn’t wake up to be mediocre.” This simple mantra is what pushes Australian Television Host Dan Babic every day. He doesn’t accept anything other than excellence, and those who have followed his career know this to be true. He is truly extraordinary, and at just 23, he has emerged as one of Australia’s most high-profile entertainment journalists.

Babic’s online television show AfterBuzz TV has over 20 million downloads a week in 150 countries. He has interviewed some of the world’s most recognizable celebrities, such as icons Caitlyn Jenner and Kim Kardashian, as well as Academy Award winners like Kathy Bates and Brie Larson.

Entertainment journalism and hosting is something that chose me. As long as I can remember, it has been the only thing I have wanted to do,” said Babic. “We live in what appears to be such a dark world at times, so I live for my moment on screen where I can help provide escapism and take audiences away from the hardships they may be facing. I love the power it gives me to brighten one’s day and the ability to just make people laugh.”

In the parody music video of the hit song “Watch Me” by Silento, Babic does just what he aims to do, and gives audiences around the world the opportunity to watch a video and escape. The hilarious video features Babic dancing and rapping a line in the song. His reputation and popularity greatly contributed to the video’s massive success, going viral and amassing over 20 million views on YouTube alone.

“Although we truly believed in the project, nothing is more validating than knowing all your hard work has paid off. While we were confident in the final result, my grandmother taught me to ‘never count your chickens before they hatch.’ There is always that slight feeling of fear upon releasing a video to the world that your intention of proving joy and laughter could be ill-conceived and taken out of context. Reading all the comments from fans provides the upmost feeling of joy knowing that through my talent and work I was able to make someone smile. It’s why I get up every day and continue to have the success I have in the entertainment industry. I see what I do as service to others.”

The video, by YouTube sensation Bart Baker, is four minutes of talent. It was written by Eli Braden, who is responsible for some of Howard Stern’s, Jimmy Kimmel’s and Joan Rivers’ most successful content. Babic had always wanted to work with the writer, and therefore jumped at the opportunity when it arrived. Knowing the necessity of having a distinct leader in the industry who would not only boost views on the video, but also who have the ability to make audiences laugh, Babic was approached to be a part of the parody. There are several controversial moments in the video, which are necessary for the humor, and Babic’s role provides the light-hearted moment needed to capture audiences.

“Production chose not to take the risk of using an on-camera personality without a notable acclaimed track record and requested my work on the project. Having notoriety in the television industry is something I don’t take nonchalantly. I am well aware of that my regard is rare and the ability to entertain millions though my personality is a true gift. I was therefore thrilled to have the confidence and respect of acclaimed industry professionals and was very excited to collaborate with successful individuals at the top of their field,” said Babic.

The video largely takes place in a gymnasium, with various characters dancing in the background and appearing on screen. Regardless of his crucial role in the parody, Babic says working on the project was very relaxed and filled with constant laughter. He was working alongside comedic experts, an exciting experience for the television host. When shooting the parody’s make-or-break moment, he felt completely confident in his ability to use his improvisational skills to create laughter. He trusted his instincts, and helped make the moment triumphant and made a moment with darker humor very tasteful. His versatility is evident, and his cameo impressed many around the world.

“The parody was an instant hit, and Dan’s leading and critical role as a television personality held tremendous weight in the production. His role in the music video worked similarly to having film stars in music videos, as fans looked forward to seeing one of their favorite TV hosts in the music video, where he was even key in pointing out the surprising twist at the end of the music video. The parody video of ‘Watch Me’ garnered an incomprehensible 20 million views on YouTube, an impressive feat which highlights not only the immeasurable success of the music video itself, but of the impact Dan’s role had on attracting viewers to come and pick out his part. This, paired with overwhelming praise from fans as well as over 180,000 likes for the video on YouTube, is incontrovertible evidence of the massive commercial success of the music video, and of Dan’s leading and critical role therein,” said Heidi Jo Markel, CEO of Eclectic Pictures who has worked with Babic in the past.

The day-to-day structure involved each industry professional staying in their lane and using their well-regarded creative instincts to ensure the project’s success. Babic was surrounded by other industry leaders on the video, and when everyone from different fields came together with one goal in mind, it was the best part of the experience for the entertainment journalist.

“Working with notable, celebrated professionals in the entertainment industry is inspiring, the project allowing us to each learn from one another and admire each other’s unique gifts and rare talent. I’m a big believer that you are your environment and felt extremely grateful to be in the position I am in,” Babic concluded. “I never take this for granted and as a host live for bringing people together in laughter, entertainment and good times. With so many views of the parody, it is safe to say our work put a smile on millions of people’s faces across the world. That’s what the world needs more of after all.”

You can watch the “Watch Me” parody video here, and prepare to feel the sense of escapism that Babic always aims for, and always achieves.

Actress Sunny Koll’s comedic chops on full display in award-winning series ‘Flat Whites’

Sunny Koll always knew she was meant to be an entertainer. Growing up in Adelaide, Australia, Koll always felt at home on a stage. However, from the age of 13, she pursued a singing career. Never did she picture herself becoming an actress, but one fateful day she decided to take acting lessons, and she quickly realized she had a passion for it. Now, years later, she is a sought-after actress all over the world.

Around Australia, Koll’s face is instantly recognizable from both the big and small screen. She has worked on several popular commercials, the award-winning series Traffik, the anti-cyberbullying film Zach’s Story, and many more. She is extremely versatile, going from different genres and perfectly embodying the characters she is playing. In the critically-acclaimed television series Flat Whites, Koll’s skills at playing a comedic role are more than evident.

Flat Whites was so much fun. It was my first indie job and I loved every minute. The crew were up for trying new techniques and ideas and it paid off,” said Koll.

Flat Whites follows the lives of best friends Phil and Luc in their endeavors to meet the perfect girl and fall in love, all the while willing to sacrifice their friendship if the chance of romance appears. The show was extremely popular, winning the Producing Award for a Comedy Series, Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Music Production in a Comedy Series, and Supporting Actor in a Comedy series at the LA WebFest. It also went on to be an Official Selection at the Hollyweb Festival and an Official Selection at the Pollygrind Film Festival in 2012. The show premiered as a web series and then because of its success, went on to air on three TV stations in Australia.

“It’s brilliant that the show has been so successful. Max Orter and the rest of the cast and crew deserve so much success. I’m really very happy everyone’s getting acknowledged for their work,” said Koll.

In the series, Koll played Stacy, the female lead in the episode Phil and Luc. Both Phil and Luc try to pick Stacy up, which causes an altercation with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend injures Luc, which forces Stacy to break up with him. She then takes Phil and Luc back to her place to tend to Luc’s injuries, only to discover it’s all been a ploy to win her over. Finally, Stacy throws them both out of her house.

“It was a very funny script. Two boys want to meet girls but they have the same taste and always end up falling for the same girl. They then sacrifice their friendship in order to win the girl over, only to both lose the girl and end up back at square one. It’s an oldie but a goodie,” said Koll.

Koll was asked to be a part of the show by the Producer, Director, and Co-writer Max Orter. Koll wanted to be involved, as she thought it sounded like a fun production, and contacted Orter. He was very impressed with Koll’s abilities and commitment to the project, and immediately requested she take the role of Stacy.

Working with Sunny is the perfect experience of working with a professional actor. She’s a very warm personality and gets along with all cast and crew. She also has an infectious smile and knows how to have a joke. Sunny is amazing to have on set. She puts in the time and effort to be as good as she possible can. She’s always well prepared and will do whatever it takes to make the production the best it can be,” said Orter.

Koll’s acting was so believable, in fact, that at one point during filming, spectators in the park did not realize there was a television set filming a fight scene, but rather an actual fight. During shooting, four men raced over to protect Koll.

“I still don’t know how they missed the cameras and the sound gear, but it was a very nice gesture on their behalf,” Koll laughed.

Koll’s portrayal of Stacy was extremely popular with viewers, and although the series ended in 2012, it is still considered a great episode. Koll has the ability to remain in the minds of viewers, bringing an authenticity that connects with audiences. This is exactly what she did for Flat Whites, and what she does for every role she takes on. It is no doubt why she is considered one of the best, and why audiences worldwide can expect to see her face on both the big and small screen for years to come.

Photo by Daniel Guerra