Nelson's Matthews scores lead in Aussie film

01:38, Jul 30 2013
Jack Matthews
GREAT CHALLENGE: Jack Matthews, left, on the set of his new film Drown.

Actor Jack Matthews left Nelson three years ago to pursue his silver screen dream.

Now it has become reality with a leading role in an Australian feature film, Drown.

"I've spent every moment since leaving college pursuing this dream, and step by step things fall into place," Matthews said.

Jack Matthews
TAKING THE LEAD: Former Nelson Youth Theatre actor Jack Matthews has landed the starring role in Aussie film Drown.

"You spend a lot of time lining things up, but once they click into place you just have to take your shot. If you miss, you just reload, adjust your aim, aim, and try again.

"Everything has its challenges but I've never seen a reason not to do exactly what you want with this life."

Matthews' acting career started at Nelson College, where he fell in love with the drama programme, and joined the Nelson Youth Theatre.


After training in Wellington at the New Zealand College of Performing Arts in 2009, and landing his first paid gig, as part of a sexual education and health show that toured South Island schools, Matthews moved to Melbourne "with a few bucks" and hunted out an agent.

In 2011 he took a small part on Neighbours as Josh Gould, who he says pops up on the show now and again, and also landed one of the leads in a small film, 1500 Steps, now in post-production.

Drown, originally written as a stage production, is the biggest film Matthews has worked on yet.

He plays Phil, a young gay athlete who moves to Sydney and joins the local surf lifesaving club.

Phil gets in strife with the club's "golden boy" Len, who is struggling with his own sexuality within the heterosexual club environment. The trouble culminates with Phil being buried up to his neck on the beach, as a rising tide approaches. []

"It's about male hierarchy, challenging stereotypes, and the clashing of worlds," Matthews said.

"It was a challenge but a good one. After a role like that I could do anything.

"Phil gets beaten, bashed, and abused at the hands of Len and working with material like that is very rewarding as an actor."

Playing a gay character as a straight guy was very challenging but rewarding, Matthews said.

"If you are not being challenged in what you are doing, it's not worth doing in the first place."

He said the demands and limitations of shooting a film on a small budget were also a challenge.

Director Dean Francis, who teaches at the International Film School in Sydney, was "stupendously talented" and fantastic to work with, he said.

"This film is one of the rare pictures where the director, writer, and actors make a film not for the money but because it is an important film to make, and carries issues close to their hearts."

The crew hope to take Drown, now in post-production, on a film festival tour starting in Berlin early next year.

Continuing to chase his dream, Matthews heads to Los Angeles in two weeks, where he hopes to find representation and land his next big role.

"I've already had the opportunity to audition for some pretty big films in the States, which kind of blows my mind, thanks to the magic of the internet.

"It's pretty exciting reading a brief that reads ‘principal shooting commencing in Africa 2014' when you come from little, sunny Nelson," he said.

The Nelson Mail