Close-up: An Interview With Alana de Freitas

Australian actress, writer and producer Alana de Freitas joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about acclaimed independent film Before The Dawn.

Available now to stream on Amazon Prime Video, the film follows the taboo relationship between a young high school teacher (played by Alana de Freitas) and a troubled student (Jared Scott).

Q: After an intensive two-year journey with this film, how special does it feel to have it out there and to see it being so well-received by audiences? 

A: I have been completely blown away at how enthusiastic our fans are! So many people have been asking me if there will be a sequel. It’s great! But yes, it was a long time in the making, so it really just feels like a weight off to finally have it out in the world.

Q: The teacher-student relationship is always incredibly curious and fascinating to study. We recently saw it given a dark humour twist in ‘Frances Ferguson’. What interested you in this dynamic and from what angle did you approach it?

A: Well, you hear about these stories all the time in the news, and it just made me wonder why it keeps happening. So I wanted to explore what kinds of factors in a person’s life could draw them into this type of taboo relationship.

I approached it from a place of trying to understand rather than a place of judgement. We all know it’s wrong, but I don’t think you can work on trying to address these issues until you understand why they happen in the first place.

Lila (Alana de Freitas) and Jason (Jared Scott) in ‘Before The Dawn’

Q: Can you tell us about Lila and Jason’s relationship? What draws them together? And why she is susceptible to a relationship that could ruin her career and life?

A: I guess that’s why they say love is blind! I don’t want give too much away. Ultimately, they have a connection and I think they both see each other as someone safe. She has come out of an abusive relationship and moved to a new town. She’s lonely. And he also feels isolated to a certain extent because of his family’s circumstances. Lila definitely struggles with the push/pull of her feelings versus the potential consequences.

Q: How was your experience working with Jared Scott (who plays Jason) to capture this taboo relationship?

A: Jared is great! He really takes the work seriously so that he can get to where he needs to be emotionally. But he’s also a lot of fun. Having a scene partner who is charismatic and talented makes it pretty easy to cultivate the relationship between Jason and Lila.

Q: How did you find the process of writing, acting and producing a project? Is there a part of the process that you particularly enjoyed or found challenging?

A: I’m not gonna lie. It was a lot! And working with an independent film budget means that everybody is wearing a number of different hats. So I would be up till 3am doing iron-on transfers to create school uniforms, after working a 14 hour day, and having to be up the next morning to shoot again. Or I would be thinking about where a chair was positioned for continuity purposes right before they call action. But it all came together and it was a team effort.

I’d definitely do it again. I’ve learned so much from it – I’m grateful for the experience.

Q: This is a project that I’m sure will always mean a lot to you. What do you think will be your fondest memory from it?

A: Probably the first day on set out in Santa Clarita. I didn’t have any scenes that day because we were shooting Jason with his family. I remember watching the monitor and just feeling very happy and proud watching it come to life on the screen.

Colin Cunningham, Alana de Freitas and Mitzi Akaha on the set of ‘Bashira’

Q: You also have a role in Nickson Fong’s horror film ‘Bashira’, which comes out early next year. What can you tell us about the film and your role as Dani?

A: Dani has a very tumultuous relationship with her stepdaughter Lela (played by Mitzi Akaha), and this in turn puts pressure on Dani’s relationship with her husband, John (Colin Cunningham). On top of this, there is a curse involving an ancient Japanese entity, named Bashira, that is wreaking havoc on our lives.

I don’t think there has been anything quite like this before, so I’m really excited to see the finished product.

Q: Nickson is an Academy Award winning VFX Artist. What was it like to step into the horror genre and collaborate with him?

A: The film has a lot of VFX in it so I’m really excited to see how Nickson creates this world. He’s great. He very clearly has a definite vision when he’s working. It was my first time doing any major special effects makeup and green screen scenes, so it was helpful to have someone at the helm who had an end product in their mind’s eye.

Q: I understand you are about to start shooting a comedy called ‘Cash Collectors’. Can you reveal anything about this project yet?

A: I can’t say too much about the details of this one, but I can tell you that it’s about a reality show that is in its third season, and I play the showrunner of that show. Contestants on the show are tasked with collecting from people who have defaulted on their debts. The screenplay is a lot of fun!

Q: We are closing in on the end of 2019. How do you reflect on your decade and your journey in that time?

A: Wow. I haven’t really given that a lot of thought, but when you put it like that… I can tell you that there has been a tsunami of change in my life during that time. I’ve grown so much as and actor, writer and producer. I left behind all my family and friends and moved to the other side of the world to chase this crazy dream. I’m very interested to see what the next decade will bring!

Q: What are your hopes and plans for 2020?

A: Bashira should be released early in 2020. And I’m looking forward to pilot season. I have a few other things in the pipeline that I can’t really talk about just yet. Some are projects that I’m developing, and others are roles that I’m signing on for. So you’ll just have to stay tuned!

Watch Before The Dawn on Amazon

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