One of the biggest treats I had was getting to see filmmaker John Balazs’ progression partly on social media for his most recent shortfilm, Night Shift. The second I spotted a fight demo he filmed with stunt performer and action actress Zia Kelly and lead actress Adele Elasmar earlier this year, I was instantly sold on its potential for greatness.
More to the point, it pretty much asserted the second time I covered Elasmar’s work since her co-starring role in Balazs’ 2017 short film success, Dancer, which I very much took a liking to. That film showed all I needed to know about the kind of quality and mindset that Balazs brings to the set in addition to the two interviews we’ve shared thusfar.
As such, it gave me great pleasure to be able to discuss Night Shift in a series of questions earlier this month in this second of a two-part project surrounding the short. I briefly got to chat with co-star Stephen Degenaro who himself is one of the best I’ve seen in screenfighting and he certainly showed it in my viewing of the film, and he’s had nothing but positive things to say about our heroine.
Enjoy my interview Elasmar below as she’s one of the most charming, tenacious and gorgeous talents I’ve seen… straight out of left field and into such a physically demanding, tough and gritty role that gnaws at the bones. I’m kind of in love with her!… But guys, that’s our little secret. Please don’t tell her I told you. I’ll pay you all in candy. Word is bond. ?
Greetings Adele and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. How is 2018 going so far for you up to this point?
Hello!! 2018 has been absolutely crazy! (And I’m loving it) I’m heading to America for the next two weeks so I’m looking forward for some time off in the sun and catching up with family.
Tell us how you initially got into acting.
Acting has always been a passion of mine since I was little. I remember always being in a state of trance when watching movies. I was always drawn in to every moment and just felt like I was there with the actors. I was a little performer. I loved dressing up!! In Primary school we would practice dance routines to Spice Girls every day and just perform in front of the class (I was Posh – believe it or not – now I understand when people see me as Scary Spice!) It wasn’t until I started a fascination with theatre that I knew I wanted to pursue acting. Throughout my high school years, I was always involved in the school musicals. Stage is a completely different rush you feel in comparison to film. Dad was a theatre actor when he was growing up in Lebanon – so I know where I get my dramatic side from. During University, I was involved with Deakin TV. Where I was involved both in front and behind the camera for a community TV station (a lot of Live shows and sitcoms). After this I started taking acting classes again. I was confused with life and what I wanted to do career wise… but I always knew acting was something where I could explore different people and their jobs! I was drawn to the magic of film. I studied at Peter Sardi’s Melbourne School of Acting for 4 years before moving to The Lab under Peter Kalos, 2 years ago.
What’s your ideal list of favorite movies? Like, are there any you still watch to this day? Or any that have inspired your current craft?
I’m a 90’s baby! That era for me was all about Julia Roberts and my fav Leo! Chick flicks, romance, adventure and feel good movies did it! (I’m a sucker for feel good movies)
Believe it or not, I grew up watching late night Action films with my dad and brothers (a four-year-old watching True Lies). Actors like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Seagal, Snipes, Connery! You name it! Saw them all. I just love movies that make me feel something! I want to be part of creating that!
My inaugural entry into your work was with John Balazs where you co-starred in Dancer – It was a big hit in the festival scene and now he’s gone and put you front and center with Night Shift. How different was that role for you as an actress? Did you see yourself eventually taking the mantle as the star of an action movie?
No way! If someone had said to me after Dancer finished that in a year I’d be the lead in an action movie I would’ve laughed. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity. It’s not every day you get to play a female lead in an action film. When I think about both characters, they had a strong drive to do what they do. They both based their actions on survival. Both for different reasons and different circumstances but ultimately for survival. As an actress, playing the role of Bianca Fury took more out of me. I had to learn fight choreography and research intensely. It was a completely different journey to develop the character.
Tell us who Bianca Fury is, your role in the film. I thought it was intense and your performance really peels back some layers with respect to its vague connection with Tony’s played by your co-star Stephen who does incredible job as well.
Bianca Fury is a Senior Constable in the Police Force. She’s a strong woman. Not just in the physical sense, but emotionally and mentally, she’s been through a lot. She didn’t have the best upbringing and learnt martial arts at an early age to defend herself from family abuse – which leads her to becoming a Police Woman. She’s highly disciplined and leads a routine life with rules and regulations. Has strong work ethics and is a go getter. She knows how to protect herself and those around her. She goes through a lot in the film. Not only is she still struggling to get through a painful hostage gone wrong situation, but is thrown into a dangerous situation by her partner Senior Constable Tony Rafael and ultimately has to fight to survive.
Playing Bianca was intense, but what I love about Bianca is that she isn’t your glamorous Hollywood hero. She’s raw. Emotionally honest and isn’t afraid to show her strength and weaknesses.
Stephen and I have built a great friendship from working on the film. He is a hard worker and comes from a martial arts background, so was able to use that whilst building his character. Our relationship in the film is different. Tony is only one of a few males Bianca has been vulnerable in front of, yet after the hostage situation she can’t look at Tony the same way, losing respect for him.
You went from “doesn’t do martial arts” to whipping out a billy club, throwing back kicks, taking out three guys single handedly and hanging a dude by his own head! ? Talk about that, and ARE YOU OKAY? (joking)
I’m only just recovering from all the bruises!! Wow! Martial Arts is an incredible discipline and I was absolutely blown away with the talent that was bought to training every week by the fighters in the film. I really had to step up my game. So yes, I had no martial arts experience as of 6 months ago. I had done a little boxing but nothing extreme. So I worked hard, I trained hard and I had a support team that helped me every step of the way. I was in Bali earlier this year and attended Muay Thai sessions. Johnny and I had a one on one session before heading into fight training with Dan and he taught me about the different martial arts, how to fall so I don’t hurt myself and taught me that technique and tradition is everything and it was really important to him for the movie. It became really important to me too. After learning choreographer from Dan or Johnny, I really had to embed in my body the techniques of each move as I wanted to be true to the martial art I was learning and keeping tradition. These fighters were fit and moved fast. I was doing my own strength training with my PT before work and after work I was at the Dojo in the evenings. I was committed and wanted to be as disciplined as I could be. The fighters were brilliant and patient with me. So talented. We would go over moves again and again and again. Constructive criticism all the way. Dan would explain to me why doing certain moves would lead into the next and why we would use that move in an actual fight. His awareness and knowledge of tradition blew my mind. I had injuries, bruises, sore muscles, my body wasn’t conditioned but we worked hard. I’m proud of myself, the team and what we achieved. Martial Arts is forever going to remain in me and I am definitely going to take it up later on in the year which excites me! My own brothers stay away from me now. Everyone sees me as this badass and I’m over here like no…I won’t hurt you!
What insight can you give us about Night Shift in terms of its potential for something bigger? I looked at this shortfilm and all I could tell myself was that it could use maybe another hour! And having followed John myself for a few years now, it seems he’s well into a time to be recognized, helped and funded for bigger projects.
Night Shift has huge potential for something bigger. It’s so exciting and fresh. Especially down under in Australia. We don’t have a community of film makers and actors that are making Action films like Johnny and Prima Lux.
Also, it has a kick ass female lead! Which we need to talk more about. It’s crazy how growing up I would watch action movies with male leads. All. The. Time. It’s so important for where film is heading and Johnny is making decisions and creating stories that are changing the genre game.
Johnny is such a hard worker and he deserves to be recognized. He puts his all into his films and is there every step of the way. Not only is he great to work with and is clear about his vision from day one, but he’s talented and is making awesome action films for people who love action!
I remember sifting through an Instagram story and I loved seeing you and John smiling one evening after wrapping production. I think you were even in tears at one point. Talk about that night and what went on through your head at this juncture.
Oh there were tears. I remember that moment like it was yesterday!! Johnny and I have always had a great relationship over the years of knowing each other, but working on a film together every day creates a special bond. We work well together, even on things we don’t see eye to eye on, but we trusted each other and I admire him as a film director. When you’re on the go 24/7 for several months, you create a bond with everyone involved in the film. The cast and crew. For me personally, these people became my second family for months (I was seeing them more than my own family) so it was really hard hearing “PICTURE WRAP”. Especially after all the work you put into a project. It’s hard to let go of the routine and most importantly the character you portray. So yes. I cried and got to share it with those making this special film.
So now that you’re basically scrapping with linebackers by the half-dozens, do you see yourself in future action roles? Please say yes and I will love you forever…not that I don’t already, I do. But I will gleefully reiterate that fact.
YES!!! Where can I sign up? You now have to love me forever! I would love to be in another action film. I mean who wouldn’t?! Yes, it was hard work, yes, I got injured a lot, yes, it was long hours but I had so much fun as well. There was a lot of laughing AND I did make physical contact with a few of the fighters… accidentally of course! I blamed it on my lack of skill. ?
John tells me there are plans for festivals with Night Shift in the coming months. How excited are you? And will you be attending any?
Yes, Night Shift will be doing festival runs. It’s so exciting for everyone involved. To have a project out there for everyone to finally see is a thrilling experience. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was also nervous! I would love to attend but it all depends on my next commitments.
What are some of the biggest lessons and other memories you take with you from Night Shift as you move forward with your career?
My biggest lesson is discipline. From doing this film I learnt about things I didn’t know before. Through my research on Police Officers and experience with the Victorian Police force, I have been reminded that we are all humans. We have our ups and downs whilst trying to always move forward. It was touching to hear about what Police Officers experience on a day to day basis and still get on with their jobs whilst personally dealing with their own demons. The Police force have their own disciplines and I was lucky enough to also learn the disciplines of Martial Arts. Routine. Technique. Tradition. It is all very well respected and this will remain with me as I move to my next roles and day to day life.
Are there any theatrical releases you’re looking forward to in the coming weeks? I’ve got Mission Impossible – Fallout hopefully this weekend if not next.
I’m just looking forward to the fact I have time to go see a movie!! No surprise there for you and another action! I’ve heard Hereditary is brilliant – but I’m too scared for scary movies. Might have to suck it up and get the popcorn ready (and wine).
Do you have any final thoughts you wish to share on Night Shift?
Night Shift has been a crazy ride. It’s a great action film. There is nothing pretty about this movie. It’s raw, honest and brutal. I don’t play a Hollywood hero. I play a female trying to survive. Everyone involved put 200% into this project. Cast and crew. Everyone worked hard, which made it so much easier rocking up every day knowing that everyone is willing to put in just as much work as the next. It’s inspiring and motivational. What you can create with the right team is beautiful. Thank you Johnny for writing a kick ass action story with a female lead! #fightlikeagirl
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.