Luca Sardelis looks to move behind the camera with short ‘The Night Bus’

Luca Sardelis.

After roles in A Perfect Pairing, The Hunting and Nowhere Boys, actor Luca Sardelis is game to try her hand at telling her own stories as a writer and director.

In May, the 21-year-old received a $10,000 grant to develop her short film The Night Bus (working title) from Adelaide-based arts organisation Carclew.

The 12-minute short is described as a romantic coming-of-age drama that is an “ethereal ride through the afterlife and a young woman’s subconscious”.

At its centre is a young man who has died, who from the afterlife must mourn the life he could have had. Yet a young woman he met once continues to meet up with him in her dreams, where she uses him to avoid her reality and he in turn uses her to avoid his grief.

Director Goran Stolevski, who worked with Sardelis in Nowhere Boys before shooting his features You Won’t Be Alone and Of An Age, has agreed to mentor her throughout the project.

While still passionate about acting, Sardelis is diving into filmmaking as she is curious to learn more about every part of the process.

“When you’re acting… you’re jumping on board something that has been in development for years before you even enter the picture. I wanted that extra perspective and to be involved more the entire production.”

The Carclew grant presumes at least 25 emerging cast and crew from Adelaide will be employed on the production. Sardelis is currently re-drafting the script, which she initially wrote at uni during a screenwriting elective, with hopes to go into production later this year or early next.

Producers include Ashleigh Knott (The House That Hungers, The Normals, The Recordist) and Maddie Grammatopoulos (Which Made This Place Home, Maggie Makes A Cherry Pie).

Unlike many actors who move behind the camera in order to create vehicles for themselves, Sardelis isn’t necessarily interested in starring in The Night Bus.

“I want to be able to focus wholeheartedly on the directing side and building a new skill set.

“I don’t think I want the added pressure of having to then look into it as an actor as well, and I’m really excited to see what someone other than me can bring to my own writing.”

Having worked with leading directors like Robert Connolly, Sophie Hyde, Ana Kokkinos, Rowan Woods, Catriona McKenzie and Stolevski, Sardelis has some ideas of the kind of director she’d like to be.

“I think I’ve learnt what I like and what I don’t like in a director, and how to best get a performance out of actors – especially my friends who I’ve helped self-tape before and things like that. We’ve got like this language between us as actors to pull from; an understanding of each other and our processes.

“I want to be like an empathetic director. I want to be someone who can inspire, but not tell you how to do something. I want it to be very free and I want to put trust in my actors to do what they see fit.”

Named one of the Casting Guild of Australia’s Rising Stars in 2020, Sardelis is perhaps best known for SBS’s The Hunting, in which she played Zoe.

Her career began at age 11 when she was discovered via a casting call for 10’s children’s series, Sam Fox: Extreme Adventures. She was then cast in Nowhere Boys, with other roles to follow in Barracuda and Deadlock, as feature film Storm Boy.

More recently, she has starred in The Tourist and A Perfect Pairing, the latter of which was the no. 1 film on Netflix worldwide after its release – something Sardelis refers to as feeling like a “fever dream”.

She is passionate at this stage of her career about acting in a diverse range of roles across various genres.

“I don’t want to be typecast and shoved into one box,” she says.

“I love working in an ensemble cast. I think that’s so much fun and I really want to do a young adult drama, because I don’t think there’s enough for the 20s-age bracket. I’d also love to do a period piece – put me in a corset and have me speaking in a British accent. I’m so open minded and I just want to do everything.”

Sardelis is repped by Helen Pandos Management in Australia and Lincoln Entertainment in the US. While she has done two trips to The States, she is more than happy working at home at the moment, and is completing a degree at Flinders University in psychological science and criminology. She argues her studies are not as unrelated to filmmaking as they might seem on the surface.

“I call it my roundabout film or acting degree because you’re learning about society and people, but at the most scientific and base level. Then you’re able to apply that knowledge over into whatever creative endeavours.”