Local Focus - Cameron Jones

Cameron Jones is a local actor whose play High Rise will be performed as part of the Festival this year, he answered a few questions about his upcoming performance and the development of the work.   

What was your inspiration for this piece?

This piece began 7 years ago at Toi Whakaari. In your third year of training, the last performance you do for graduation is a 20 minute, completely self-devised solo of original work. I was, and still am, infatuated with the story of an anti-hero. I have never liked pure heroes and villains because I don't think life is as black and white as that. One of my biggest inspirations is Martin Scorsese, and I approached the creating asking myself, "If Martin Scorsese made a piece of theatre, what would it look like?" So that was my tone. I was also really interested in the world of business and finance, corporations and corruption, greed and success. So with that, I watched countless documentaries on wall street or corporate greed (Four Horsemen, Enron; Smartest guys in the room) as well as films that had the tone I was after (Wall Street, Goodfellas, Social Network) and began to explore themes.

I was aware of a true NZ story that I had a personal connection to, so I began investigating that. I knew the guy who had developed NZ's first high rise apartment tower in Auckland, and he was a bit of a hot shot developer in the 1980's so I interviewed him for a year and wrote down all the stories from his glory days. His story was very much aligned with what I had been exploring, and so from there I had my story, I just needed to discover how I told this in a compelling and interesting way for theatre form. 

I fell in love with the story because I didn't hate the character. He had come from a middle class family, had some strong ambitions and dreams to be rich, and reached that mountain top. What interests me, is what the moral sacrifices he took to get there, and that it made me question what we as humans are willing to do to get what we want. He was neither good or bad, he was ambitious, and like the Greek myth Icarus, he just flew too close to the sun.

The location of the piece is an interesting choice, why not in a traditional theatre space?

I have always enjoyed and created better theatre in site specific work. I think it adds a layer to theatre for the audience. As much as I love realism in theatre and fourth wall etc, to me theatre has to be magical and do things that TV and film can't. Otherwise people will just go watch another film. It creates a mood straight away that would not be created in a typical theatre setting. The audience walks into an abandoned industrial building, and subconsciously they begin to feel a certain way. Their senses begin to work in a different way. They feel less like an audience and more like a voyeur. For me, the site specific work also gives me creative freedom and liberates me from the normal constraints of theatre form, which doesn't have to be explained. I want the audience to feel what they feel, and I don't want to treat them like idiots. That's what art is. It can be whatever you want it to be?!

Tell us a little about your experience living in LA.

I have a love hate relationship with the place. Some of my best memories happened there; the work I did, the achievements, the parties, the people I met. The energy there is insane. It is unlike any other city. You feel the hustle. And you are surrounded by top talent which makes you lift your game. I loved the acting classes I was taking, and the romanticizing of being a struggling actor in Hollywood. On the flip side, it is also an incredibly fake place, with plenty of fake people. Lots of false promises and being let down. The culture shock was pretty severe, and I really struggled to feel settled there. I'm a pretty straight up guy, and I am a man of my word, it turns out that's not how it goes in Hollywood. I think the hardest thing for me though, was the Visa issues and not being able to work, so I put way too much pressure on my auditions because I was living off savings.

If you could perform with anybody, who would it be?

Robert DeNiro or Christian Bale

Who were your inspirations growing up in Hawke’s Bay

If you are talking about actors, it was Brando, James Dean, and Heath Ledger. If you are talking about local inspirations, my father always inspired me to be the hardest worker in the room.

Where did you first perform?

Outside of the high school classes, my first 'big break' was at a small theatre in Hastings for the Hastings Operatic Society. 

When creating, where do you get your inspiration from?

As mentioned earlier, Scorsese has a big influence on me. Tarantino is also a big one for me, as is David Lynch. Theatre practitioners that inspire me are Red Leap, The Wooster Group, and The Yes Men

What has been your biggest achievement so far?.

Attending the 69th Emmy Awards for Best Television movie. Nominated but didn't win.... 

Do you prefer performing for — film, TV or stage?

Theatre is an actors medium and I love how creative I can become on stage, but I tend to enjoy the subtlety of film. My bank account definitely enjoys film a lot more.

Throughout your career as a performer, what has been the most challenging hurdle you have had to overcome?

Periods of making little or no money. Having no stability or knowing where I will be and for how long. The highs are high and the lows are low.

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