Bella – Jacqui Purvis

An Extraordinary Audition

On a cold night in April 2016 after an exhausting day of casting a young woman walked into the room and produced an audition so mesmerising that she forever stamped herself as the lead character, Bella.  Jacqui Purvis is stellar in this role, and delivered an extraordinary performance well beyond her years and experience.

Jacqui says, I’m obsessed with film. I always have been. Now even more so. Being a part of this film cemented that fact that I love what I do.

Peter Spann (Director) allowed me to be very involved with the creation of this character from the beginning.

Over about a year we discussed the development of my character so that I could grasp the complexities of Bella’s life. Having such a long time to develop a character was an absolute blessing, because then when it came to being on set, it was very natural. Everyone worked so hard on set, and it shows.

Playing a character like Bella I had to understand addiction.

Before this film, I didn’t know a lot about it, but now I understand that it didn’t mean I was a victim, it meant that at times I simply wasn’t in control, something else was controlling me.

And for me, that was difficult at the beginning because I am someone who is striving to always be in control of my life.

I found that addiction is not weakness or attention seeking. It is something far deeper than that. It is uncontrollable.

I spoke to one of my friends who had a drug addiction. I asked him lots of questions so I could fully understand the effects it has on a person’s life. Including the physical side effects and also the mental effects it has on a person during the addiction but also after you have survived it.

I am here to bring light to the fact that you can survive this and you can have a happy healthy life, if you ask for help, believe in yourself and never give up.”

Jonny – Hamish Street

Good Guy, Bad Boy…

Hamish Street, starring as Jonny was originally asked to play Nate because the Director (Peter Spann) thought he was too nice to play the villain, but was recast at the last minute.  His skill, dedication and rapport brought Jonny to life.

Hamish says, “Upon reflection I find myself looking back on what was the most enjoyable acting experience of my life.

The feeling of nostalgia rings true when thinking about the location we shot in – the beautiful Byron Bay. It’s even nice in the rain!

Everyone involved in this film gave it their all and I’m just so glad I got to work with such talented people, on a great project, in a beautiful place.

The challenge for me was immersing myself in the ‘self-destructive nature’ of Jonny. With all the sun, waves and happy days lifestyle surrounding me, I looked inward to find a sense of darkness to bring to the character.

Learning the details of the true story and the people Bella and Jonny were based on, helped me breathe some air into Jonny and will him into life. Having tragically lost his life drug driving, I wanted to tell the story without judging my character, but rather allow him to exist and leave the question of morality up in the air so to speak.

Life can take some unexpected turns and some of those turns have grave consequences. I loved the discoveries that were found in working on this film and feel blessed to have been apart of it.”

Jess – Madeleine Russell


Madeleine Russell, co-starring as Jess.

Madeleine has always had a passion for the arts. After being taught through the Children’s Performance Company of Australia (CPCA), Madeleine was cast in leading roles in her two high-school performances of Mary Poppins and Cosi, before moving to Wagga Wagga, NSW to complete a Bachelor of Stage and Screen, Majoring in Acting. Madeleine has been seen in a variety of short films; some of her most recognised roles being Zachary Williams’ psychological thriller “Bird Nest”, Jack Virgo’s drama, “House”, Ten Network’s series, “Offspring”. 

Madeleine says, After trying to prove myself through multiple auditions and callbacks, I had the absolute privilege and pleasure of being cast in the role of Jess. This opportunity was something I have never experienced in my career thus far, and it gave me a huge insight, understanding and appreciation of the acting and filmmaking process on a scale as this. 

Despite none of us knowing each other we hit the ground running with shooting around the clock to make the most of the post cyclone weather and sea, as well as the incredible sunrises and sunsets that Byron had to offer.

Days sometimes seemed to roll into themselves, but everyone was so absorbed and committed to this project that it suddenly hit us all that it was over before I was ready for it to be.

I learnt an incredible amount about myself and the process of making a film of such a professional and high quality calibre.”  

Lana Spehar - Undertow

Maddie – Lana Spehar


Lana Spehar, co-starring as Maddie.

Lana began performing at a very young age, starting with eisteddfods and always acting in Drama ensembles throughout school. At the age of 16, her first lead role in a student short film, directed by Darren Ashton (Thunderstruck, Razzle Dazzle, The Wrong Girl) was selected into festivals such as the International Family Film Festival – Overseas Student Short, ATOM Awards – Best Senior Secondary Fiction (Finalists) and the Dungog FIlm Festival – Student Short Official Selection.

In 2013 she commenced university, studying a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Theatre/Media and graduated in 2015. The following year she started and completed the Screen Acting Studio course at NIDA.

Lana says, Undertow will always hold a special place in my heart and will be the project where I met and worked with some of the most talented and hard-working creatives.

Having been a year in the making, it was so lovely to see the characters and story evolve into something that turned out even better than we could have hoped for.

It was so inspiring to work with and watch a director (Peter Spann) who had such commitment and trusted his work and his actors. It felt very much like a collaboration. Ideas were tried and tested, criticism and questions were welcomed and poor Peter had to listen to things he probably shouldn’t have.

Then the time came when we finally set off for Byron Bay. New cast members and crew had joined and IMMEDIATELY it felt like we knew each other for years.

You could often find us laughing, bonding over breakfast or just enjoying each other’s company.  The standard of professionalism amongst everyone was outstanding. Things like: battling the unpredictable Byron weather, rescheduling whole shoots and actresses who can’t surf (*me – cough, cough) became no match for our team.

In the end, I had an amazing time where I was challenged as actress, supported by a great team of people and trusted by my director.” 

Nate – Sam Curtis

The future?

Sam Curtis, co-starring as Nate.

Sam Curtis, is a 25 year old actor based in Byron Bay hinterland. Previous studies at BBFATS in Byron Bay for the past several years has been the start of my acting career, alongside various other courses, and work on other films over the last couple of years as well. 

Sam says, Working on Undertow was a wonderful experience. Meeting a whole new cast and crew with such professionalism definitely made filming such a delight.

Peter Spann (Director) was great to work with and I’m happy to have been cast to play Nate. A very honest story to get people’s heads turning and thinking about life as a young bunch of adolescents doing life together, and having Bella as a role model as core of the film is something special. It was a privilege to be a part of this production.”


The Cast

UNDERTOW features a superb young cast of actors including many Byron Bay locals and it was a pleasure working with them.  Their dedication, commitment and enthusiasm was excellent.