CQUniversity Music Theatre graduate Lauren Hamilton Neill is back generating buzz in the entertainment industry after being cast in the upcoming thriller movie Stage 5.
Since completing an Advanced Diploma at CQUniversity's Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music (CQCM) in the late 1990s' Lauren has secured a string of successful acting roles but said this project is her most significant to date.
"This is my first major role. I still get excited when I think about the movie as a whole and about my character'" Lauren said.
"There is still another block of filming to be done in Canada' so I don't want to reveal too much about my character' but she's a person I would never have been considered for in a professional casting capacity.
"The industry likes to try and force you into tiny' easily marketable boxes. I believe in doing so' they miss out on a lot of talent.
"This project has shown me that if you truly stay honest in who you are' and what you can do' live with integrity and dignity' the right people will see you and write roles specifically for you."
After being first approached for the role by the movie's writer and director' Eddy Arya' in November of 2020' Lauren said it was a long road to get the international production to its current stage.
"This incredible role had been in the pipeline for quite a while' and as we all know' the pandemic derailed almost everything.
"The story has evolved dramatically since its first conception. Like all of Eddy's films' it goes down one path and just when you get comfortable with where it's heading' you suddenly get hit with an incredible third act and you wind up somewhere different'" she explained.
"My character required me to have deep and instant emotional access to some pretty dark feelings' while also being aware of my safety and the safety of others.
"I used every part of my skill set and I feel so endlessly blessed that I have this experience."
Lauren credited her studies at CQU's CQCM for educating her with these crucial skills' giving her the confidence to succeed in physically and mentally challenging roles.
"I initially was a singing student on scholarship at the Conservatorium under the divine guidance of the amazing teacher Beth Allen.
"The skills I learned from Beth regarding singing and vocal work are always at the front of my mind' and as this role was the most vocally intense and demanding character I've ever played' it made me appreciate her lessons even more'" Lauren said.
"One of the earliest things I remember learning is that my voice is my tool. It has to always be my priority to keep it healthy and in tune.
"Thanks to the skills I learned at such a fundamental time of my skill development' I didn't lose my voice or have any vocal strain until the very last day of filming.
"Studying at the Conservatorium was a wonderful time for me. I wish I'd appreciated it more' to be honest! If I could go back' I would make sure I cherished the classes' artists' tutors and time more."
With Stage 5 due to reach completion in 2023' Lauren said the film has opened multiple doors and she is excited to see where her acting career will take her next.
"This film has been an opportunity of a lifetime. A highlight for me was to feature alongside the enigmatic Jack Campbell who was cast as another lead actor.
"I have wanted to work with Jack for years. He is every bit as captivating and warm as I had imagined' and I learned so much from watching him'" Lauren said.
"I remember reading a quote by Denzel Washington when I was struggling in high school because all I wanted to do was perform. It has stuck with me my entire career: "You create your career as much by what you say no to' as what you say yes to".
"When you're starting' it's so tempting to give in to fear that you won't get another opportunity and so people end up saying yes to things that they have no passion for' and are beneath them.
"I'm now sitting here as an actor who is now a lead in a feature film that took me over the pond. I even have several other lead roles in feature films lined up.
"Big things that are worthy can take time to manifest and show themselves."