‘Sacrifice’ is a traditional love story told from an unseen viewpoint in the eyes of LGBTQ couple James Hunter and Blake Robinson. Created and written by Leigh Smith, the film follows the two protagonists as they enter a new phase in their relationship. James, a humanitarian rights lawyer and Blake a military officer who are continually torn apart by their overwhelming sense of duty and struggle to lead a ‘normal and quiet life’. They love each other unconditionally but their sense of duty is equally as important to them.
The film aims to show that love is the greatest sacrifice of all regardless of race, gender and everything in between. The film also pays tribute to those within the military history of Australia who were unrecognized in their service due to their sexuality prior to the fundamental mind shift in regulations.
We spoke with Leigh Smith and Jesse Everett who star in the film.
Pro Media Mag : Congratulations on the film! First of all please introduce yourself to our readers.
Leigh: Thank You! I am an Australian based actor located in Melbourne but also continue to develop and work in Los Angeles as well. Having worked on Feature Films, Commercials and TV Series as well as training at the infamous ‘Groundlings’ in Los Angeles which has garnered some of the world’s best comedic talent. Most recently with my project ‘Sacrifice’ and othe projects I have expanded my horizons into film making predominantly in the realm of writing, producing and casting. I also work with new performers for Fusion Entertainment Group mentoring them in the ways of the industry – something that I hold very near and dear to my heart.
Jesse: Thank you very much, glad to hear it has been enjoyed by audiences! I’m Jesse, I’m an Australian/Sydney based actor, model and presenter currently working full time in the entertainment industry. I am a drama/music school teacher by trade but pushed in to a career in the entertainment industry upon completing my University studies 5 years ago and have been blessed with opportunities since then appearing on many TV commercials for major International and Australian brands, TV and short film roles as well as a US feature film. I study my craft diligently and am lucky enough to also share my knowledge and experience with aspiring performers around the country by teaching the arts for the Fusion Entertainment Group which is a great passion of mine too.
Pro Media Mag : Who or what inspired you to get into the entertainment industry?
Leigh: For myself, the entertainment industry was something that completely drew me in. I had previously obtained a degree in Criminology and Politics and was attending Law School when I went to work for the Disney Corporation in the USA. It was here that my love for entertaining was ignited. Seeing the complete positive impact that entertaining people had was something that I realised could not be compared to anything else. The chance to create was also something which inspired me to this industry and I don’t think you could ask for bigger inspiration than the Mouse himself!
Jesse: As cliché as it sounds, I do feel I was a performer well before I was born in to this world haha. From my earliest memories as a child I was always a performer at heart, whether it be acting, singing or hosting I was always fiercely passionate about being expressive and performing. As I grew older I immersed myself in the arts as much as possible, studying acting and music, and grew inspiration from the great performers in all facets of the entertainment industry. Even to this day, there is nothing else I can imagine myself doing forever and I know within my heart that means I’m in the right industry.
Pro Media Mag : Tell us about what drew you to the film ‘Sacrifice’. Where did it come from?
Leigh: As the creator and writer ‘Sacrifice’ came from a place of every spectrum of emotion. Pain and heartache were a driving force behind it but above all a sense of love and how much a person can give and sacrifice in its name – no matter the detriment to their own heart. The characters were so very personal and close to me and they allowed me to convey this important message. Regardless of anything race, gender or social status love is love; and before I knew it James and Blake had entered the creative world to prove this with tremendous force. It is a message that has been done so many times before but what I pride myself on with ‘Sacrifice’ is that it targets an area that has otherwise been ignored in mainstream media. My dream is that this has come across through the relationship of James and Blake.
Jesse: Similarly to Leigh, Sacrifice has a great personal and emotional resonance with me as I believe it will also have with audiences all around the world. What I loved about Sacrifice when I first read it was the rawness and the relatability of the story. Everyone on some level has either experienced love, loss, sacrifice or all of the above. To have those human experiences so brilliantly told in a short story was extremely appealing for myself to be a part of. I desperately wanted to be involved in an innovative and highly original story and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity.
Pro Media Mag : Tell us more about the casting process of this film? The chemistry between the two leads is tremendously executed!
Leigh: Thank You again! It was very obvious once the script was in the final stages of completion that the chemistry between James and Blake was the most pivotal aspect of the casting process. Once I had decided that I would play James I needed to ensure that I would feel completely comfortable at ease with the actor who would eventually play Blake. Fortunately, Jesse and I had a strong history through personal and professional circumstances and so when this was given the chance to play out in script reads etc; the feeling of trust and connection was instantly there. There was no sense of force or unease and through the hard work of the insanely talented director Anna Maguire we were able to use this to bring James and Blake’s own connection to life; using this natural chemistry. I am very grateful for Jesse’s commitment to the character and always will be.
Jesse: Well I had zero input in to the casting process, I was one of the many applicants for the hotly contested role of Blake so I’m just stoked Leigh wasn’t sick of me by the time he cast the film haha. We both really appreciate the kind words and the reaction to the chemistry. As Leigh said, we have a strong bond as humans outside of the film so that definitely helped in the building process of these characters. For me, relationship really is the cornerstone of not just life but storytelling, and therefore it was imperative that we spent time in rehearsals continuing to build our characters relationship so audiences were hooked in and invested in the lives of these two men. Above all else we wanted to put on screen love in it’s highest and purest form, so we are proud of what we achieved and forever grateful to everyone’s (including all cast and crew) commitment to achieving this.
Pro Media Mag : Did you have a favourite film moment?
Leigh: I think it’s hard to pin point one moment in the film. There were so many challenges especially emotion wise for James. Coming from a strong comedic background this role pushed me to emotional depths I didn’t even know that I possessed! For me though I think that the lake scene was a favourite as it was such a happy time for my character in comparison to the later developments of the film. He had everything he wanted in that moment.
Jesse: Trying to decide on a favourite film moment is like trying to pick a favourite chocolate, they’re all good! The whole experience was unforgettable and will forever be cherished as one of the greatest projects I’ve ever been a part of. Honestly I don’t have a favourite moment as it was a pure privilege to be on set filming this project the whole time. The duality of the experience was such that singling out a favourite moment would be unfair to the rest of the wonderful moments experienced throughout the film and I think a favourite moment would be best left for the audience to decide!
Pro Media Mag : Can you relate to your characters? How?
Leigh: Absolutely! (laughs) James like myself is very hard when he doesn’t get his way. Some might even call him high maintenance – I think Blake would very much agree with this, don’t you think Jesse? But all jokes aside it was his heart that I can relate to. James loves without constraint and without agenda. He loves Blake with all of this heart but tries to push him away when things get too hard – but at the end of the day it is because he can’t stand the thought of not being with him. He also possesses a playful sense of humour which I love.
Jesse: Of course, I think it’s imperative to find a way to relate to your character in any story otherwise you won’t do the character justice. Fortunately for me, Leigh wrote a character in Blake that I related to straight away which was a huge draw card for me when I first read the original script. It’s very rare as an actor a script comes along and you read it and you instantly find a relation to the character on the page. Not in the obvious senses because my profession is very different, but in Blake’s morals, values and temperament. There were still many challenges for me to play Blake but at the core of him I believe I share a lot of similarities which was extremely calming when it came to working on the challenging parts of character development.
Pro Media Mag : What kind of response it has received so far? How do you feel about it?
Leigh: The response has been overwhelming to say the least! As the creator I cannot really put into words the way this film has been embraced and audience members reactions to it. People have been amazingly moved by the story and their love for the two characters has been a very humbling experience – especially as a writer. We have also been accepted by the world – famous Amazon Prime which through sheer determination was something I could not have expected. I am thrilled for the whole ‘Sacrifice’ team who gave their time and expertise to bring this into the world and I just hope it continues to grow and continue to move people around the world.
Jesse: I’m honestly blown away by the response so far. I always said to Leigh from the beginning that he had created a wonderful story that people will love, but that doesn’t take away any of the surprises of it being received so fondly in the public. As an actor, all you ever hope to do is be a part of stories that move audiences, so to be a part of a story that is doing that is truly humbling and overwhelming. It’s a credit to the entire cast and crew who came together to create Sacrifice, like any good sporting team achievements are only possible when the whole team is passionate and working in unison, and that epitomises Sacrifice.
Pro Media Mag : Is this one of the biggest achievements in your career so far?
Leigh: Everything that I have done has been an achievement for me but ‘Sacrifice’ is certainly one of the biggest for me personally. I think that when you invest your heart and soul into something that it becomes a part of you. I think also people’s reaction to this again personally has been so overwhelming, yet so fantastic in terms of career and ongoing aspirations.
Jesse: Absolutely. For me personally it was a challenge to play a gay character, but I believe so strongly in love in all its forms so to be a part of a story that celebrates all that love is will forever be one of my finest achievements. Whatever manifests from the film will be a bonus, being a part of Sacrifice was the achievement all in itself to me.
Pro Media Mag : Are you working on any new projects?
Leigh: At the moment I am helping with a lot of production work and continuing to push ‘Sacrifice’ where it needs to go. I have a fantastic feature film coming out later this year called TKG: Kids of Grove and I am also extremely excited to see where this goes as I was involved I both the acting side of the film as well as production.
I’ll also continue to work on US projects as well as continue my training.
Jesse: Always working on new projects, continuing to train hard and move forward in my creative ambitions. I have just finished filming numerous TV commercials which are filtering on to our airways currently and gearing up for pilot season over the next couple of months!
Pro Media Mag : Are you active on social media? What’s the best way to follow you online?
Leigh: Of course! You can follow me personally at @l_smith_86 and of course please follow @sacrificeshort on Instagram!
Jesse: I am active on social media, I would love for anyone who is a fan of Sacrifice the film or just interested in our journeys to follow and connect with us! You can find me on Instagram @jesseeverett and of course @sacrificeshort
Pro Media Mag : Anything else you would like to say through our platform?
“Sacrifice would like to thank the entire cast and crew and 88 to 1 Productions for their support in the film as well as the Australian Film Fund Alliance who continue to support the film in its distribution goals.”