We speak with rising star Hunter Page-Lochard about working closely with his father (the film’s director, Stephen Page), the advantages of growing up on the stage and what he looks forward to in the future.
Jemma Walsh: Given that there is very little dialogue, and music and dance carry the story, did you approach Spear in a different way from your previous film roles?
Hunter Page-Lochard: Definitely. I have grown up around the Bangarra Dance Company, and having an understanding of the importance of dance provided a great platform for my role within Spear. I knew how to carry my spirit through physicality.
I had to approach this role in a different way due to the limited dialogue. I had to display my emotions, not with words but through facial movements, especially my eyes. I had to ensure my eyes and facial expressions conveyed the emotions of the character. I loved the challenge.
Are you currently focusing on your dancing or acting career, and how do you balance the two?
It is one of the hardest things [to balance the two roles]. In theatre, you are so animated and projected, and quite physical. With film you can slack off a bit as the camera has the ability to still pick up on you and the character. I enjoy the challenges of both, and learning the hard craft of the stage and the screen.
I heard that the shoot for Spear was only 12 days. Is this correct? How intensive was it?
It was gruelling, but it was amazing to watch this great family spirit form within the team, and you got to know everyone on set so well.
It was a three-week shoot, excluding weekends. It was the most grueling shoot, but the short time frame created a wonderful trust within the team because everyone knew that we had to get it done in such a short time. The Bangarra dancers and crew had never been on a film set before, working with a film crew. But it didn’t seem like a film; it felt like a project that everyone was involved in.
You’ve worked with great directors such as Rachel Perkins, Wayne Blair and now Stephen Page. What is the main difference between their styles?
Wayne knew what he was doing behind the camera. He can walk into the room and construct something from nothing. Page did not know the lingo of the film industry, the camera terms, but he learnt on the job and adapted. But they all know how to tell the story; they are as good as each other.
What is the importance of dance in Indigenous culture?
The Aboriginal culture is all about telling a story through art, song and dance, which is how the culture is shared. Spear provides a contemporary way of spreading the message of the struggles of urban Indigenous men and women living within the modern world, to both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
What is your favourite scene in the film?
There are two. The ‘Androgynous man’ scene; dancer Kaine Salton-Babij starts off with the drag queens, and then the scene continues with him going back to country and being welcomed by these spirits to do a great performance. I love the spiritually of this scene.
The second is the ‘Call’ scene with Daniel Riley. This scene was created by my uncle Russell, before he passed away. Every time I see that scene or hear that music, I see him dancing, and it brings back many great emotions that I connect with him.
What was your reaction the first time you saw the film?
It took the breath right out of me. Aaron Pedersen, he blew my mind.
What was your favourite location?
All the urban locations where I worked with Aaron Pedersen. They gave me the opportunity to see how Stephen Page would frame the shot cinematically. I didn’t get the opportunity to go to the rural locations due to other commitments. Cockatoo Island was one of my least favourite locations; film sets can be really dusty and I have hay fever!
Do you prefer to act in front of a camera or on stage?
I love the magic of both the stage and film. I’d like to start my own theatre company one day, and I’ve also studied screenwriting and have a lot of ideas in my head that I’d like to put into good use in the near future. I don’t always want to be in front of the camera. Give me the next two to three years, and hopefully I will start having my name in other film credits.
Do you have a message to the Canberra community to encourage them to come along to the NFSA to see the film?
Spear is a spirit within itself. Australia’s land is one of the most spiritual on this planet, and to really understand that, see the film and look inside yourself. Do you want to experience (emotionally, spiritually) something, and look through a beautiful window called Spear? Come along.