Speaking with Saskia Burmeister about the Australian movie 'Hating Alison Ashley' which is released nationally in Australia on 17 March 2005 where Saskia plays the role of Erica Yurken, a 14 year-old melodramatic teenager at high school who gets dethroned when the new kid on the block arrives - Alison Ashley. Erica soon learns to hate Alison Ashley for all the things she's not. Saskia shares a few thoughts on the movie and her life.
Firstly Saskia, congratulations on the movie.
You really are Erica Yurken in 'Hating Alison Ashley' and so very believable. I think everyone will be able to relate to Erica as I think everyone has or had an Erica in their class at school and also an Alison Ashley, or even was one of these characters themselves.
The role of Erica - how did you feel about playing this person?
I think that there are so many American teen films where the main character is non-realistic, you know, this blonde haired prom queen type person and that's what I liked about Erica Yurken, she was a totally relatable character who has this need for acceptance and is filled with teenage angst. She just wants to be liked and not rejected which is something we can all relate to.
Did you draw on your own school life for inspiration in the movie?
I can relate to Erica and I believe every girl can but I don't want roles where I play myself for the rest of my life, so I tried to follow the character as it was written and not draw on my own life. I don't want to end up playing me all the time. Erica has nicknames in the movie - Yuk and Erk - did you have nicknames when you were at school?
Yeah but it was just Sassy, Sas, Bask, that sort of thing.
Had you read the novel at school?
No, I didn't - I don't know what I was doing! I was probably doing lots of ballet!! I did read a lot of plays while I was at school. I read the script and that's the first I knew of the novel.
Are there any similarities between the Yurken's and the Burmeister families?
Some, sure, like when my Dad says something embarrassing or my parents were hanging around at school but I love my family dearly.
What was it like working with Jean Kitson (Erica's teacher) and Tracy Mann (Erica's mother)?
I'm glad you mentioned Tracy Mann because most people ask about Craig McLachlan (Erica's PE teacher). On the set, I had two groups of support people, which was really good because sometimes we worked really long hours and I needed them. Jean and Craig teamed up, partly because of their relationship in the movie and were always making it so fun to be on set. I remember one scene where Jean has to hand out homework and we worked on this scene, I think it was from 6am until 8pm that night, and the whole time, Jean was just so professional and always took every take seriously, so it was great to be able to have her to look up to. I also had Tracy and Richard (Richard Carter, Erica's soon-to-be step-father) as another support group.
So they were sort of like your parents on set, like they are in the movie?
Yes. They were really grounding on the set and were always coming up to me and asking me if I needed anything. They were great.
When did filming 'Hating Alison Ashley' actually start?
We started in March 2004 and the initial shoot was for 3 months. I then filmed another movie, 'Jewboy' which will be released a little later this year, but I never really let go of Erica. We then had some re-shoots for 'Hating Alison Ashley' and then I had to do some voiceover work for the movie. In between times I'm always reading scripts looking for something new. Now I'm doing publicity tour for the movie, which has given me time to reminisce about the shoot so I never really forgot about Erica. I finish up with the publicity tour next week when the movie is released nationally and then that's about the end of my involvement.
I read an interview where you said, "I can still walk down the street and nobody knows me". I'm here to tell you that's not the case, as my children knew who you were instantly when I said your name. How does instant recognition make you feel?
Thank you, I take that as a compliment! I'm glad they did recognize me because that means that they remembered me and must have enjoyed my performance. Sometimes I have been recognized say in a supermarket and even in toilets!! Initially I used to get a bit frazzled by it but now I am getting used it but I certainly didn't come into this industry looking for instant recognition.
You've done theatre; television, film and now you've had a lead role in a feature film, which is totally wicked for someone your age! (Saskia is 20) Do you have a preference for any of these?
Film. Definitely film. I love television and theatre but I really love film. There is such a tight-knit community during a shoot and it's that intensity which you only get working on films. I also want to become a writer and also do some directing.
Do you have a feeling for working oversees?
If there is a great script, or a great director or a great character I'll go wherever these are. I do have an agent and manager overseas who are always looking out for something for me but when the role of Erica in 'Hating Alison Ashley' came I just had to take it. I will always support the Australian film industry as we have some great actors and I'm not just talking about people like Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman or Russell Crowe. We also have some excellent directors like Phil Noyce and so I really want to support the local industry and keep films here by supporting not just the actors and directors but the rest of the industry as well. But if a great script came along I'd take it no matter where it was.
What's next for Saskia?
I'm finishing up the publicity tour for 'Hating Alison Ashley' and then the public gets a chance to see it. I'm just reading scripts all the time waiting for the one that just hits me.
They really do just hit you?
Yes they do. You just know when a role is right for you. Plus I'm trying to get some writing done and want to finish a script myself.
I saw you on the red carpet walk for the premiere of 'Hating Alison Ashley'. You looked gorgeous and absolutely nothing like Erica!
Thanks! I'm glad about that!