Actor Focus: Damon Hunter

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“I co-produced and co-wrote a short film which featured the late and absolutely brilliant Bill Hunter.”

Interview by Joanne Kmaid

You have been acting since 2004. Is that 11 years of solid performance?
I wish it was 11 years of solid performance! (Grins). But no, about 7 years ago, I was doing a day job I didn’t enjoy in order to be available for auditions. However, the auditions weren’t coming up that often, so I changed my job to one I enjoyed. The downside was that the new job gave me no flexibility to attend auditions, so that was pretty much the end of my acting career. Only recently have I been able to create a work/life situation where I’m doing a job I love (headshot photography), which in turn gives me greater flexibility. It has taken me 7 years to create that, and if I went into all the Soul searching that went into it, I’d be writing a novel! All is well in the end though; I am back with a great agency (Gilchrist Management). I have just finished up a day’s shooting on a fantastic Aussie TV series, so couldn’t be happier!

Where does your passion rest – Television, theatre or photography?
My passions are television, film and photography; I am passionate about them all equally. I did theatre work prior to taking the 7-year break, but I really enjoy the technical aspects of film and TV. I love being aware of what’s happening on-set with regards to my marks, lighting, camera positions and angles. There is a technical element to acting that always needs to be in the back of your mind. I also love the creative side of photography. It’s all well and good to know your camera inside out and to understand the technical elements, but if you don’t have a good eye or if you can’t work with models, you won’t get a great shot. I have this crazy dream of succeeding both as an actor and photographer. The only time I feel truly at peace is when I am on-set, acting or behind my camera, so the more of those moments, the happier I am. I lose myself in those places, it’s amazing.

You have a fascinating showreel. How does one get years of work into three minutes of footage?
Thank you – Although I am hoping ‘fascinating’ means ‘good!’ (laughs). I was fortunate to have guest roles on Neighbours, Blue Heelers and City Homicide, but years later when I looked back at the footage, it looked dated because my appearance had changed. So for my showreel, I used work I had done in TV commercials and short films. I co-produced and co-wrote a short film which featured the late and absolutely brilliant Bill Hunter (no relation), and the other which featured friend and actor, Ian Rooney, who is a regular in The Doctor Blake Mysteries on the ABC. So that was it, showreel done!

Your mum is a performer too. Have you worked with her on-set?
No, I have never worked with her. My mum does Extras work at the moment, but she is starting to get into student films with speaking roles, so it will be interesting to see where she takes it. I don’t believe she has aspirations to become a working actor; she does it on the side for fun. Having said that, with Murphy’s Law and all, she’ll probably be cast in the next Baz Luhrmann film opposite Geoffrey Rush, and I’ll be sitting at home, watching her on the red carpet on TV. Mum, I expect tickets to the premiere and an autograph!

Who is your film mentor and why?
I don’t have one film mentor. The actors that stand out for me are the ones who can take on a character completely outside of themselves and embody that character. Actors who come to mind are Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Daniel Day Lewis, Cate Blanchett, Charlize Theron, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. Then there are the ones who are very natural on screen, and are simply fun and cool to watch. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon would fall into that category. I would like be an actor who can do both those things – Play any role and truly become it, and be completely natural and real.

What brings you the most joy?
Playing with dogs. Not the answer you were expecting, I know. (laughs). But yeah, if there’s ever a time when I can just forget about anything that’s going on in my life and just feel pure joy, it’s when I’m wrestling with or just patting a dog. It calms me and makes me smile, no matter how bad a day/week/month I’m having. The ridiculous part is that I don’t have a dog myself, hence walking down the street with me is next to impossible, because I stop and play with every dog I see!

What is a typical day for you?
(Laughs). Good question, I am still figuring that out! Only recently have I made the switch from full-time work to two days a week. That now gives me leeway to work on my photography and acting careers five days a week, including weekends. As an artist, there is no typical day except that I work a 2-day job that is completely unrelated to photography and acting, but helps pay the bills, and I hit the gym and run at least four days a week. The rest of the time, I am shooting headshots, editing images, marketing, doing an acting workshop or audition, learning lines or attending an acting event. And that does not include the time I spend working on improving my crafts, both photography and acting. I don’t like spending too much time sitting at home behind the Mac, so whenever I can, I’ll grab the laptop and go sit in a café and work. My working day starts at 9am and usually finishes close to midnight. And in case you’re wondering whether I have a social life… Barely. Okay, sometimes… Probably not! (laughs).

How do you unwind?
I love getting away to Daylesford for a weekend; that relaxes me. I read a book, watch a documentary or movie, sit in a café and drink coffee or go out for dinner. I love my street photography. I head out into the streets with my camera and see what I find. I zone right out, just focusing on what’s happening around me, and how the sunlight or street lights are affecting the scene.

Your photographs portray charity work…
When I’m not shooting headshots, I have two side projects – The first is my fine art photography and the second is a project I call Living Rough, which I started last year. Basically, it’s a project where I take my camera out, usually on a Friday night, and photograph people who are homeless and living on the streets of Melbourne. I prefer to take images without their knowledge in order to keep the shots completely candid. But once I have the shots, I will approach the subject, show them the shots, and if they’re willing, I ask how they came to be where they are, and what their dreams and skills are. I’ll audio record their story on my iPhone then post their story along with the image on a Facebook page I have set up expressly for this project. Its purpose is to raise awareness that those less fortunate than us have similar talents and goals. There are some situations where circumstances more than anything else, have resulted in them needing to live on the streets. It’s not a fundraising project or a charity. Its goal is simply to share these people’s stories, raise awareness and change public perception.

How will you spend Christmas this year?
Um, I don’t know. I would usually have Christmas lunch with my closest family, being my mum, my cousin and my aunt. But my aunt is very unwell and in hospital at the moment, so yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe we’ll take lunch to her and have it there. That would be memorable. Other than that, I’ll probably have Christmas dinner at Mum’s place and we’ll watch some docos or something, and she’ll make an awesome pudding. And that will be Christmas. I’m just grateful that 2015 has been a very busy year!

This interview was submitted by Cinema Australia contributor Joanne Kmaid. If you have an article or interview you would like to submit for our consideration please contact us today.

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