Netflix and Nell: Is Perth a talent hotspot?

Rattlesnake is the new Netflix genre flick written and directed by Zak Hilditch, and with it, he teams up with Perth local Alexandra Nell, raising the question, is Perth Netflix’s new hotbed for talent?

Much was made about the first Australian made, Netflix produced series, Tidelands, but once it was released the critical reaction was less than great, with most suggesting to give it a miss. The less said about Chris Lilley’s Lunatics the better. But, while the Australian TV series are floundering, it’s the films that Netflix is producing that is providing ground for Australian filmmakers to flourish. And Perth seems to be where their getting a lot of their new talent from.

In 2016, Perth director Ben Young released Hounds of Love to high praise worldwide and is ‘Certified Fresh’ on Rotten Tomatoes. Two years later Young’s latest effort, Extinction, was debuting on Netflix. The sci-fi film starred Michael Pena, one of the best working actors out there today, and the underrated Lizzie Caplan.

In 2013, Zak Hilditch, another Perth director, released his Perth filmed, Rotten-Tomatoes-certified-fresh feature These Final Hours, a Nathan Phillips led drama that set the world on fire (quite literally). It certainly set mine on fire – I loved it. Then came the Stephen King adaptation 1922 which was Hilditch’s Netflix debut in 2017.

Another Perth director Grant Sputore, helmed Netflix film I Am Mother, which starred Hilary Swank and garnered many positive reviews, even gaining Swank a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 2019 AACTA Awards. Like Hounds of Love and These Final Hours, I Am Mother is also certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

And now, as 2019 wraps up, Netflix have once again dipped their fingers into the Perth talent pool, uniting Zac Hilditch and actress Alexandra Nell for Rattlesnake, and a Perth-double-whammy.

Alexandra’s career started in 2012, according to IMDB at least, but in 2019, her star has risen more than any year before, having worked on several films, TV series and short films.

After getting the part in Rattlesnake, as an Aussie hiker, she was quoted as saying “I remember waking up to an email from Zak a few hours before hearing from the casting office saying I got the part. I think my heart stopped when I read the congratulatory email. Working on a feature film in New Mexico, let alone on a Netflix set with cast and crew heavyweights, has been an absolute career highlight. I’m so grateful that the team saw something in my audition tape.”

Before being featured on Netflix, Rattlesnake had its World Premiere at Austin Film Festival, where Nell’s talent was heavily featured. Alexandra featured in a second film at the AFF, a short film called I’m Not Hurting You, where she played Megan, a sister who kidnaps her meth addicted brother in an effort to get him clean.

Nell also co-created her own web-series with Megan Hollier and Aaron Moss, called Single Ladies. It tells the story of a provocative radio show run by two strong, self-assured women trying to steer through the windy roads of relationships. Single Ladies can be watched on the streaming service Hyvio.

As an Adelaide based writer, getting to see international productions like Mortal Kombat and Daniel Radcliffe’s Escape from Pretoria roll into South Australia regularly, it’s easy for me to think that we’re a pretty successful state, or at least when it comes to the film industry. But then when I read about people like Alexandra Nell, I realise that we’re just an all-round successful country with some bloody good talent. It gets me excited about the future of the Australian film industry, and curious about who Netflix will handpick next.

Travis Akbar

Travis grew up on the west coast of South Australia and has been interested in film since seeing Jurassic Park and Predator for the first time in the mid-nineties. Particularly fond of the action and thriller genres, he met his long-time idol, Jean Claude Van Damme, in 2016, talking with 'the muscles from Brussels' about his upcoming films and the hurdles he has faced in the entertainment industry. Some of his favourite films include Jurassic Park, The Salton Sea, Apt Pupil and Any Given Sunday. Travis loves the way a film can make people feel such a diverse range of emotions, from excitement and happiness to fear and sadness. He believes that creativity is what helps the world evolve and that the arts, is the centre of creativity.

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