Interview: Jackie Alixander, star of Nude Study

Interview: Jackie Alixander, star of Nude Study. By Simon Miraudo.

What? You didn’t think it would be all zany documentaries and warm, fuzzy comedies, did you? Stefan Popescu’s Nude Study makes its Australian premiere at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival and it is guaranteed to be one of the most talked about films of the fest. Jackie Alixander stars as Sarah, a woman devastated by tragedy who decides to head back to her childhood home and get a grasp on her identity. While there, she finds herself faced with more questions than answers. Sarah then heads to Canada (undergoing an actress change in the process) to conduct a new art project depicting nudes. And it is in this small Canadian town that Sarah finds herself, and unintentionally leaves a trail of destruction (both emotional and physical) in her wake.

Jackie Alixander was kind enough to answer some of my questions via email.

SM: Tell me how you first got into acting. Was there a specific moment or turning point in your life where you realised you wanted to become an actress?

JA: Cliché I know, but I had always wanted to be a rock-star! Everything revolved around music and making music for me. But when my (then) model agent booked me for a background role in the last series of Xena, there was no turning back after that, it was like every nerve in me came to life and I wanted to know how everyone did everything on set and beyond – I still do.

SM: I understand that you studied acting in London, New Zealand and Sydney. Tell me what that experience was like. What did you discover about your capabilities as an actress?

JA: I simply love to learn, and believe that no matter where you are at as an actress, someone can always teach you something else. Each acting and drama school has given me a different spin on my approach to acting, and really helped me to realise where my strengths and weaknesses lay. Some schools like to break you down so that you can be built back up stronger and others look for your strengths to concentrate on them, either way I learnt invaluable lessons and am thankful to have been able to experience classes in each country.

SM: Which actors or filmmakers inspire you?

JA: As far as film makers go, I think I’m completely in awe of most of them. To name a favourite though, it would have to be Peter Jackson, I think he just brings out the magic in film and I’ve been a fan of his for a lot of years now. My most prominent acting inspirations would be Jennifer Connelly, Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett; apart from growing up watching Labyrinth after school on a weekly basis (and wanting to grow up to be Jennifer Connelly), I really admire the choices that these women make and how when I watch either of them, I feel like she takes me on the journey with her every step of the way.

SM: How did you become involved with Stefan Popescu and Nude Study?

JA: I answered a casting call sent out to students of Screenwise acting school here in Sydney. I met Stefan and Nude Study’s producer Katherine Berger at the audition and did a 3 round audition process before I was offered the role.

SM: It’s quite a confronting film, not only in its literal nudity, but also in its emotional nudity. Was there any specific aspect of the script that you were particularly drawn to?

JA: The entire Australia based script was quite a cathartic experience for me, I was grieving the sudden death of a good friend when I first read the script and was also still coming to terms with losing my grandfather 10 months earlier – so I guess that more than just associating to the character, I could quite literally feel Sarah’s grief when I read the script.

SM: The film brings up some interesting issues regarding identity, perhaps most explicitly with the character Sarah, who is played by both yourself and Victoria Moss. Firstly, how was it explained to you that there would be another actress also playing Sarah? Secondly, did you discuss with Victoria at all your approach to playing the character?

JA: When I came on board with this project, the Sydney Underground team had already completed filming in Canada with Victoria playing the role of Sarah there. My understanding was that the film was strongly centered around the search for identity and that I would embody fragments of both the female characters (Sarah & Lyndsey) filmed in Canada. It turned out that I had a few things in common with Victoria and we made a good connection, so there were a couple of discussions between us prior to my filming, but I was lucky in that most similarities to both women just flowed naturally.

SM: It’s a challenging role. Was there anything you found particularly difficult?

JA: Every day of filming was an emotional roller-coaster, I think I filmed about 80 scenes over the month of shooting and had to pull up an emotional state for around 60 of them. There was a point when I really thought that I just had no tears left, but was still expected to cry. Finding a way to push well beyond ‘safe’ was a difficult commitment.

SM: How do you feel about starring in a film certain to generate lively conversation and debate? What are you hoping for people to come away from this film discussing?

JA: I think that apart from entertaining, films should affect people, change them in some slight way; preferably for a greater good. Debate is healthy, and differing opinions are what makes life interesting. My main hope would be that the film is actually discussed; if it’s not then we haven’t done our jobs as film makers.

SM: What does Nude Study mean to you?

JA: Nude Study means a few things to me; hard work, pushing of boundaries and a search for light at the end of the tunnel.

SM: How does it feel to have this film finally screen in Australia? What does it’s – as well as your – involvement in the Revelations program mean to you?

JA: It’s quite a relief to finally see the film and have it seen locally. It was a creative choice that I wouldn’t see the script or know the entire story of the Canadian part of Nude Study, so it’s fantastic to see a finished product and to find out what happens to Sarah after she leaves Australia. This will be my first visit to Revelations (and Perth) and have heard from many industry people what an excellent Film Festival it is, so I’m extremely excited to be involved. I’m also looking forward to hearing for myself some of the lively conversation and debate anticipated around Nude Study.

SM: What’s next for yourself?

What’s next for me? On a long term scale, hopefully a lot more movie roles. But within a semi-controllable timeline I’m also trying my hand at writing and producing, and am hoping to have my first short film out of post product

Nude Study makes its Australian debut at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival Sunday 18 July.

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