June 19th 2013
A Reunion with Luke Phillippo
Magnetic Islanders who knew, former Islander, Luke Phillippo will be fascinated to see he has been producing a very clever little series of shorts on Youtube titled "Reunion". In it he plays a kind of excruciating version of himself catching up to some supposed old school friends on Skype. The results are brilliant so we decided to interview Luke to learn more about Reunion and what he's been up to since his Magnetic times.
MT: How did Reunion come about? Was it your idea or something devised with friends?
LP: I've always had the intention of attending my high school reunion and whenever I see a reunion-themed TV episode or a film based around a reunion I find myself picturing what my own will be like. But then, in late 2012, a horrible bout of realism struck and I was forced to acknowledge that even though my 10 year reunion is in 2016 I may not be able to attend. A fleeting thought that planted itself in my brain and slowly began to grown and form what Reunion is today. I discussed it with a few writer friends just to feel out the concept and they urged me to churn it out if I had the time, so I made the time and now I'm uploading new episodes every Sunday.
MT: Your character is hard to watch as he preens himself in front of his old 'pals' so is he based on somebody you have come across?
LP: Jared is an extreme manifestation of my inner child - sure he's a brat, but an inner child nonetheless. The important thing to remember is that at the root of it all, Jared is completely harmless and doesn't realise he's this socially awkward lump of expression. I think if you took away everything I've learned as I grew up, just stripped back all my life lessons and logic, you'd have Jared.
MT: How many episodes of Reunion are you making?
LP: I am making eight episodes of Reunion, all covering different aspects of Jared's high school experience. The fourth episode, entitled 'Murder', will be up this Sunday.
MT: Are there any real school friends among the characters you catch up with?
LP: There are not, but each and every week I get to have a mini reunion of my own. More on this in question 6.
MT: Are the Reunion characters based on real school friends and observations of their lives lived now and or imagined?
LP: The characters are not specifically based on anyone in particular, but I like to think that parts of every character exist in all of us to certain degrees, that's what makes them relatable. I suppose what the characters were/are based on people, the roles they played in my own schooling being reflected in the history of the characters, but from there I just like to think, "What then?" and I run with it. The story of the first episode, where Jared has a very different understanding of his friendship with Tom, is based on an instance from when I would have been in grade 6 or 7 and I told this kid that he was my best friend and his response was "Well I might be your best friend, but you're certainly not mine." But, now I can laugh about it and hopefully others can too as they watch. The third episode with the Scottish boy however, is just because my friend is Scottish and his accent is cool. So you see, the impetus behind each episode varies.
MT: Tell us about the other actors. Who are they? How did they become involved?
LP: So, I mentioned that I get to have my own mini reunions as I go through this process. Well that's because all of the actors are from my drama school (bar Scottish Duncan). So each week I get to reminisce on what it was like to work with the actors from my degree and get that real rush of collaboration once more. There are nine other actors involved in the project, six were in my class at drama school and two were lecturers there.
MT: Do you see yourself moving more towards writing and producing films now or are you still more interested in acting?
LP: I do enjoy writing and have found myself producing more and more of my own writing, it's very satisfying to put all of your energy into a work that you're passionate about and see the end result take shape and receive good feedback. Acting is most definitely my main passion though. I've written a one man show and this web series and although I love the writing stages, nothing beats performing them.
MT: Living in London must be pretty tough to work in as an artist since the economy dived. Has this been the case for you or is it providing lots of opportunities?
LP: I have been living in London for just over a year and a half now. I think there are always opportunities you just have to be willing to seek them out and apply yourself. When I was eleven I made the firm decision that I wanted to act and my parents never created an illusion of wealth as an artist. I had a realistic upbringing in relation to my chosen career path and while's it can be tough economically at times, it's what I signed up for and at this stage, I wouldn't have it any other way.
MT: The ubiquity of Youtube has made it possible for everybody to be filmmakers of sorts. Is it your intention to use the profile you build with this to create your own momentum as an actor/film maker?
LP: YouTube is a great tool for gathering momentum and spreading your work. Everyone is familiar with the site and if you have work to show, it's the best place for it. I constantly have people asking about my web series and it's just a simple keyword search away. I would of course love to use Reunion to build momentum as an actor and a writer, it's a just a matter of getting it out there. When the series is further in I'll be utilizing Twitter as well to try and reach celebrities that greatly influenced the project such as Lisa Kudrow (Web Therapy) and Rebel Wilson.
MT: Has your childhood on Magnetic Island been important to you developing as a creative artist?
LP: Magnetic Island was the best place I could have grown up and definitely shaped me as an artist. How lucky am I to have grown up in that artistic hub, hidden in the pacific ocean? Maggie is a very accepting and nurturing place and it not only helped to shape me as an artist who respects the work and the product, but it also helped to shape many aspects of my personality and overall demeanor.
MT: Sadly the Magnetic Island Film Society is no more. How important was the Society's Mango Film Festival to you developing as an artist?
LP: The Mango Film Festival was absolutely brilliant! I will always remember watching everyone's films on the tennis courts at The International Resort and being thankful that all of us mad passionate people had the opportunity to run around the island putting together these mango centric films, most of the time thinking that we were perhaps being a bit too out there, to then convene and have everyone approve and laugh and forget their troubles in our films. It was truly magical.
MT: Do you have any advice for young Island readers who want to become actors or film makers?
LP: Love what you do, always respect the work and it will exceed your expectations, don't be afraid to dream big (all the while remembering that it's a long road, but if you're truly passionate, it's never arduous) and stay true to yourself, your art will be unique if it is flowing with that which makes you, you.
MT: I know you have been doing lots of things since you were here but it would be great if you could give us a short potted history of your movements/work since leaving Magnetic?
Well after I finished high school I went to America and worked in a summer camp teaching art, at the time I had next to no honed artistic ability but I soon taught myself to draw. I now have a side income from drawing commissions. In 2008 I went to drama school at the University of Southern Queensland where I graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Theatre Arts (Acting) and at the beginning of 2011 I got a job touring shows around Italian schools which was a great stepping stone before I moved to London. Since having moved here I have appeared in several shows, mostly musicals (off West End), and am looking forward to the next opportunity. The current goal is 'get noticed' and I'd like a role on the West End.
MT: There are five episodes of Reunion currently on Youtube and you can see them (here)