Film Focus: Alan Dukes and Maya Stange talk 'Book Week' - blog post image

Film Focus: Alan Dukes and Maya Stange talk 'Book Week'

Speaking with lead actor Alan Dukes and co-star Maya Stange from Heath Davis’s feature film 'Book Week' which was recently filmed in the Blue Mountains, The Haze's Mathew Currey finds out how the production came about, the joys of making a film on a shoe-string budget and their admiration for the film’s director.

1.   What attracted you to ‘Book Week’?

(Alan): The chance to be the lead in a feature film, that was the main attraction, I only get that opportunity in short films so you’ve got to take those opportunities but in saying that, the story and Heath certainly interested me and the support cast were pretty enticing.

(Maya):I’m an old friend of Heath’s and had read an earlier draft of BOOK WEEK. I always thought it was a really strong script, and I was so happy that the film was being made. I think I basically hassled him to find me a role in it.

2.   What was your approach to Heath Davis’s project and vision?

(Alan): I grew a beard, let my hair grow and ate more.

(Maya): Heath and I had a conversation about wanting my character, Trish, to feel quite real, even though the comedy of the situation is fairly heightened. Trish is a yummy mummy who meets her favourite writer (played by Alan), who turns out to be a total creep. I just imagined what that would be like, and the script made it pretty easy to be disgusted by him!

3.   Alan, with your backgrounds in Film (e.g. Tomorrow, When the War Began, (2010) Last Cab to Darwin, (2015), Beneath Hill 60, (2010)), TV (All Saints, (2008), Anzac Girls (2014), Jack Irish (2016)), (and if I remember on stage?) how has all 3 mediums and now a main character in a feature film helped you progress and taught you?

(Alan): I’m a jobbing character actor. I’ve probably done more theatre work than TV or film. Stage acting gives you the chance to work with a live audience and tell a story from start to finish. You get a generous rehearsal period and if you stuff up you can always go back the next night. Film- You might only get a

few minutes to rehearse the scene with the other actors and you’re usually not shooting the story in a linear fashion, so you have to keep the characters

story arc in mind and pitch each scene appropriately, you have to bring everything to that moment, that’s the challenge. My character, Nick was in every scene so I was on set every day, all day. That required me to pace myself over long days.

Pic: Alan Dukes on the set of 'Book Week'.

4.   And Maya, your appearances in Film (such as Killing Ground (2016), Drown (2015), Galore (2013) and Garage Days (2002) & TV (Love Child (2014), Rake (2012) and The Secret Daughter (2017)), how has both mediums helped you progress as an actress and taught you?

(Maya): I really enjoy working both mediums. It just comes down to the quality of the script and the caliber of the creative team. These days there is less money in independent film, so it’s all about the love.


Pic (below): Australian actress Maya Stange. Best known for starring roles in the films Garage Days and XX/XY, Burn Notice and the highly anticipated Book Week (2019).


5.   Your thoughts on getting this movie made on a very tight budget? How did it flow?

(Alan): We shot ‘The Little Death’ (2014) in the same time frame which means you have to move fast and everyone has to get on. Luckily this crew/cast was also amazing and there is a certain alchemy that occurs when everyone is focused on and loves the project. Good films can be made on tight budgets, necessity being the mother of invention, but I wouldn’t want to be wrangling the figures.

(Maya): I think Heath is brilliant at getting films made on the smell of an oily rag, while still being creatively ambitious and uncompromising. It’s impressive. But, having said that, I still hope he gets a bigger budget to play with on his next one!

6.   Your thoughts on Heath’s direction and writing?

(Alan): Loved his direction, all made sense. He had written the screenplay with Brendan Cowell in mind, whom I co-starred with in Beneath Hill 60, so there was a bit of tweaking to accommodate me but that was a collaborative effort.

(Maya): Heath is such a talented, prolific and motivated artist. He has an amazing work ethic and it is truly inspiring to watch.

7.   Your relationship with the cast (particularly Susan Prior, Steve Le Marquand, Khan Chittenden and newcomer Airlie Dodds, along with Nicholas Hope, Toby Schmitz and Jolene Anderson) and crew?

(Alan): All the cast where fantastic and helped me immensely in every scene. I learnt a lot from watching them and their approach, we were very lucky to attract the

actors we did. I love them all! It was a bit too much fun.

(Maya):It’s great to see Al Dukes get to play the leading man, I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for him as an actor. I only worked with Al in this one, but it is such a fantastic cast, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone's performances.

8.   Your style of acting? Are you a method actor?

(Alan): I’m constantly trying to figure out the skill of acting. I’ll use anything that can help me be as truthful in the moment as possible.

(Maya):No, I wouldn’t say I’m a method actor, more of a mongrel. I use whatever works!

9.   How did you find the Blue Mountains as a backdrop for ‘Book Week’ and how was it working in the various communities?

(Alan): Love the Mountains, heading up there for Easter. We did use the spectacular vast backdrop only once I think, the streets, schools and houses of the area gives the film a great look. The people that gave up their time to perform as extras were fantastic and add so much to each scene.

(Maya):The Blue Mountains is a wonderful location for film. So many gorgeous vistas, and beautiful colours. It’s part of Australia that we haven’t seen represented enough on screen.

10.   What do you personally bring to help to get into any role?

(Alan): A sense of play and an open mind, sometimes I even learn my lines.

(Maya): It really depends on the role. Sometimes it will involve reading and research, like the character I am playing now on A PLACE TO CALL HOME, who is a British lesbian interior designer in the 1950’s. Or, I often like to create a playlist for my character, which gives me a soundtrack, mood and emotional landscape to work with.

11.   What do you hope ‘Book Week’ will bring to Australian Cinema and the results?

(Alan): ‘Book Week’ is a story I haven’t seen told in recent memory, there was a lot of love and energy put into making it so my main hope is that we’ve told a good story.

(Maya): I would love to see this film connect with a wide audience. I think it will be a fun ride, and that people will enjoy the experience.

Book Week will be in cinemas in early 2019.


Book Week: A snippet of the cast and characters of the film, which includes Alan Dukes (Last Cab to Darwin, Beneath Hill 60) as English teacher Nicholas Cutler.

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