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28 May 2018

The ‘kid from Margaret River’ makes waves in new movie

Internationally acclaimed Australian actor Simon Baker made his debut as a director with his latest film Breath that is captivating audiences around the world.

Released this month, the coming-of-age surf film not only features the beautiful heritage buildings at Albany Senior High School but stars Margaret River Senior High School student Ben Spence.

Margaret River Senior High School student Ben Spence (middle) on set with Simon Baker for the film Breath. Photo: Roadshow Films

Breath, adapted from Tim Winton’s award-winning novel, is set in the 1970s in a small Western Australian coastal town.

Ben, who is currently in Year 12, was cast by Simon Baker for his outstanding surfing skills which he shows off throughout the movie.

He had no prior acting experience before taking on the part of Ivan ‘Loonie’ Loon, the best friend of main character Bruce Pike, known as ‘Pikelet’.

Ben told Busselton Dunsborough Times journalist Therese Colman he found it tough to act Loonie’s personality as it was so different from his own.

“He is way more out-there than I am,” he said.

“It was hard always having to be up, confident and so energetic in front of so many crew members all the time."

In a situation where life imitates art, Simon Baker – who plays Bill Sanderson ‘Sando’, a former professional surfer who takes 13 year-old Loonie and 14 year-old Pikelet under his wing when the pair take up surfing – taught Ben about acting.

“When I first met Simon it was nerve-wracking, but as soon as we listened to him we realised he was just a normal, chilled guy. It made it so much easier,” Ben said.

Ben plays Ivan 'Loonie' Loon in the film adaptation of Tim Winton's award-winning novel Breath. Photo: Roadshow Films.

“He guided us the whole way, teaching us how to act, and we followed his lead.

“Simon always made us feel comfortable on set.”

It wasn’t just Ben who got the opportunity to meet and work with the legendary Simon Baker. Students from Albany Senior High School and Denmark Senior High School were cast as extras playing Loonie and Pikelet’s school mates in the scenes set at Albany Senior High School.

For the media and drama students, it was a rare opportunity to experience the making of a large-scale movie.

Despite his recent fame, Ben is completing his Year 12 studies and says he's “just a kid from Margaret River”.

Breath is currently playing in cinemas around Australia and is rated M.

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