Luke James Southern – (Needle In The Hay – 2011).

I recently got the chance to talk to Luke James Southern about his leading role in ‘Needle In The Hay’. Here, Luke talks about how he got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…

Hey Luke. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Needle In The Hay’.

What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?

‘Needle In The Hay’ has a very simple theme running throughout the whole film which is ‘Every decision has a choice’. It’s a simple play on words that indicates every action has a reaction and that every decision that is made sets off a chain of events that is specific to that certain choice. In the film there are multiple storylines that also show how decisions can change things drastically. The other stories deal with a whole range of different issues such as; prostitution, infertility, mistaken feelings and abusive behaviour.

Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…

The film itself centres on the character which I played, Sam Case. Sam is a young man who has finished university, passing all of his exams and assessments with flying colours and is planning on moving abroad to Spain. He is a very strong-minded young man who seems to be carrying the people closest to him in life that are weaker than him; eventually these people start to drag him down.

Firstly there is his best friend Aaron, Aaron means the world to Sam in many ways they are closer than most siblings, you might even call them ‘blood brothers’. Unfortunately Aaron can’t seem to break through the barriers that face him. For example he is re-sitting his first year at university for the second time, he has broken up with his girlfriend and can’t seem to kick-start his life. In a way he envy’s Sam and all his success.

Then there is his mother who has distanced herself from all of the family and in some ways is dependant on Sam as he is all she really has left. That is until during the film she meets her new man ‘Mark’.

Finally there is Sam’s father. An emotionally crippled, degenerate gambler, taxi driver (no offence to any taxi drivers) who never seems to be able to pick a winner. He owes Sam money as well as half a dozen others.

How did you get involved in the project in the first place?

Well ever since I left university I’ve been looking for a way to get my foot in the door (as it were) and start doing some real professional work, so I went back to basics and produced an actors C.V with professional head shots, set up my own website http://www.lukejames.org/ with pictures, my full resume and a blog so everyone can keep up with what I’m up to.

After all this was done I uploaded myself onto a number of internet based acting work sites like Mandy.com and Spotlight. The Uprising Production company contacted me after browsing my profile and offered me an audition.

Funnily enough the part I first auditioned for was not Sam; it was in fact Aaron which I was cast for. As the audition process went on the directors didn’t find anyone to play the part of Sam. So in the New Year I had a call from Edward Rastelli-Lewis (producer) telling me that they had no one to play the lead and that essentially Aaron and Sam are so close and similar that whoever played Aaron should be able to play Sam. This is when Ed offered me the lead role. So I jumped at the chance and accepted the part.

How would you say this film is different and unique?

This is the first feature-length film ever made by a university. The crew, team of directors and producers were completely made up of students. Obviously it was overseen by the leaders of the course but for the most part the students were on their own to direct and shoot with us, the actors.

The shooting schedule was strenuous. Some days started at 5 am and finished around 8 pm, so the days were long but I must say that it’s the most fun I’ve had working as an actor. It was a great achievement on everyone’s part because it was a massive task to undertake because we only had six weeks to shoot the entire film.

You can’t really be told how to make a feature film in a class or a lecture you kind of have to learn as you go along. For me this is the first feature film I have ever acted in and worked on so it was a huge learning curve for me. I feel that I have grown as a professional actor just by working on this particular project.

The film stars your good self, Andrew Lancaster, Martin Clarke, Peter Clatworthy and Will Matthews – with Ben J Hall and Viktor Ivanov onboard as directors – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?

The cast and crew were fantastic through the whole process and I have made some great friends such as Andrew Lancaster who I got on with straight away as we had a similar sense of humor and strong work ethic. I plan to work with him again, be it on another student project or possibly a future blockbuster. Two weeks before shooting started I spent a lot of time with Daniel Openshaw in rehearsals, he was the director of Sam’s story and over the previous weeks of shooting I built a great rapport with him which I think is crucial. We worked well together and as I got to know him better we worked as a closer unit. I could gauge his visions and what he wanted for the character which helped me to anticipate how Sam would act and react to the things that were happening to him. I feel that this made my character better rounded and three-dimensional.

Let’s talk a bit about you Luke – what made you want to get into acting in the first place?

Wow, going back a few years here. The first acting experience I ever had was when I was an ugly sister in a school production of ‘Cinderella’ (street cred officially destroyed) when I was 6 and from then on I developed a love for it but it was in high school when I decided this is what I wanted to do for a living.

To be honest Year 7 was the first chance I had to study Drama and I never really took it that seriously until I got my report for my first year. My Drama card said I had real potential and that I was the star pupil which made me think that if I set my mind to it then I could have a real shot at making this a success. I have so many people who influenced me through my transition from student to professional. My parents are first and foremost, they have been so supportive for which I am so grateful.

My Dad has been acting as my agent for a long time and helped me set up my website so without him none of this would have been possible; I owe a lot to my parents. There are also my tutors at Accrington and Rosendale College: Martin Cosgrif, Mark Oliver and Nicola Markham. Without these people I would not be the performer I am today.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?

The advice that I would give to any anyone who aspires to crack their way into the industry is to know what you want and work hard. I’m not going to lie it is a very difficult business to get into but as long as you are devoted and driven and never lose sight of your goal then you can do it. What I will say is that anyone who wants an agent is audition for student films and shorts as you will need these to create a show reel which agents will need to see. You will not be taken seriously without one. So work hard, get those headshots, do a few plays and a few short films, it’s all experience. I will give you an exclusive tip on how to do well in auditions, no matter if you’ve learnt the text or not for your audition always take the script in with you, hold it in your hand. This shows the director that you are not the finished character and that they can mould you into their vision.

What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?

Oh dear what was left of my dignity is going to be destroyed now. I have a mish mash everything really. My favourite band to listen to is Green Day but there are other things on there like Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, and Biggie Smalls. I do have my guilty pleasures on there like McFly and Rick Astley.

If you could invite three guests to dinner – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

  • J.D from Scrubs because you never know when you might need an emergency Heimlich.
  • Gordon Ramsey because we could stick a deck of cards in the contours in his face as after dinner entertainment.
  • Charlize Theron cause DAAAAAAAAAAAMN!

What’s your favourite holiday destination and why?

I would have to say Johannesburg South Africa. I have been twice to visit family and the country itself is just stunning. We go over the Christmas period because that is the summer time for them and its awesome to have a Barbie on Christmas Day!

What’s coming up for you in 2012?

The future over the next year is looking bright. I have a feature film under my belt, a new website, a few music videos I’ve been in, with all these things I think I can entice a new agent to sign me so I can start on the road to professional success. So watch this space people.

Thanks for the interview!

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