For rising actor Nicole Pastor, having agency in place of an agent has proven no barrier in taking the next steps in her career.
The Sydneysider has had a bumper past 12 months, going from the lead role in Alex Proyas’ horror short Box to working alongside Jacqueline McKenzie in Michael Budd’s multigenerational drama, Ruby’s Choice.
She will next be seen in a trio of Australian features that are in different stages of development, including Matthew Holmes psychological revenge drama The Cost, Heath Davis’ family drama Christmess, and Matt Norman’s debut feature Shackle, alongside Wilfred star Jason Gann.
The purple patch is made all the more noteworthy by the fact Pastor is without representation.
She told IF that while she had someone acting on her behalf when she started out, the quieter periods of her career had led her to make direct approaches to filmmakers, writers, and directors, resulting in “a reasonable stream of initial work”.
“Eventually, you start to get noticed by filmmakers, probably for your perseverance, and I think that’s how things have changed and shifted for me over the last few years,” she said.
“By just doing it myself and getting to know people in the industry, I started to get to know Australian directors well, and bit by bit, found my way into their psyche.
“I kept my eye on upcoming films, researching who is casting, writing, producing, or directing. Some of the directors I knew well, others I didn’t, so I would ask if there were any suitable roles that I could self-test for, and that’s how things started to progress for me.”
After starting out doing extra work on productions, such as Not Suitable for Children, Home and Away, and Love Child, Pastor was Jessica Marais’ stand-in on the 2014 telemovie Carlotta, an experience that allowed her to observe “it all coming together”.
During this time, she was also a student at various acting schools including NIDA and Screenwise while also receiving private tuition for screen and accents.
The hard work paid dividends, with Pastor securing her first feature role as part of Jennifer Van Gessel’s 2020 horror mystery Waterhorse.
She would gain further prominence playing an adult version of Coco Jack Gillies’ character in Ruby’s Choice, a poignant portrait of three women in the same family that starred Jane Seymour as the titular grandmother with dementia.
Pastor was encouraged to audition for the film, released earlier this year, after being suggested for the part by hair and make-up artist Helen Tuck.
She identified sharing a scene with McKenzie and spending with Seymour as highlights of the production, adding it was a blessing to be part of “something bigger that creates awareeness”.
“When I was told I would share a scene with Jacqueline, honestly I could’ve died,” she laughed.
“Whilst Jane and I don’t share any on-screen performances together, I did have the privilege of chatting with her and observing her bring Ruby to life, which was very special. Jane’s body of work and the diversity of the roles she has portrayed is something that inspires me.”
Of her upcoming roles, Pastor is set to play a supporting role in Holmes’ The Cost, a psychological revenge drama that is being produced by Blake Northfield of Bronte Pictures, in association with Holmes’ own Two Tone Pictures and Russell Cunningham of RLCMotion Pictures,
Currently in post-production, the story centres on a tale of vengeance that spirals out of control across a 48-hour period, with the ensemble cast including Jordan Fraser-Trumble, Damon Hunter, Kevin Dee, Clayton Watson, Nicole Pastor, and Cait Spiker.
Next up will be Davis’ Christmess, which is in pre-production ahead of a NSW shoot. While details of the project are still under wraps, Pastor is confirmed to play the supporting role of Noelle.
She steps into a lead role for Norman’s Shackle, a horror film set to shoot in Western Victoria in the summer of 2022/23.
Pastor will play Paula, the love interest of central character Ronny (Steve Le Marquand), who is sentenced to life in a mental asylum for killing his mother as a young child. On his death bed, Ronny’s father admits to the crime, sending Ronny to live out his days with his Grandfather on an outback property. However, all is not as it seems. Written by Norman, who is also set to direct and produce, the film will also feature appearances from Pippa Grandison, Myles Pollard, and Steve Bastoni.
Pastor said she was honoured to be included among the cast for the film.
“I fell in love with the script before I even read it,” she said.
“Matt and I had a couple of phone call conversations before I read the script, he had offered me the lead role ‘Paula’, and I just knew I wanted to say yes right there but I thought I’d better read it first.
“I was blown away by the script and story and her character and we zoomed the next day.”
Following Shackle, Pastor could be set for a reunion with Van Gessel via a new project that is in development. She is being eyed for the lead role of travel blogger Bronte in Fable, a horror film that explores perceptions of lesbian relationships.
Pastor said it was an example of the type of roles she would seek going forward in her career.
“I am interested in telling stories, particularly the stories of people who are often under-represented in the movies,” she said.
“I appreciate well-written scripts with characters that have depth and layers, characters who evolve and who are raw, complex, and flawed.
“I love a good drama, psychological thrillers, anything that I can really sink my teeth into.
“Oh and horror movies of course.”