What Do The Critics Say?

"The story is not so much a coming of age film but, ultimately, one of family dynamics, friendships and finding yourself and your own potential. Not a bad directorial debut."
"Newcastle, unfortunately, sometimes feels like several back-to-back episodes of an Australian soap. From its title to its end credits (which feature the actor’s names superimposed on character clips), the film has the look and feel of television."
Matt Ravier INFILM
"This film follows an interesting story line with very engaging subplots. And trust me-there are more than enough attractive actors to keep every audience member entertained! The film also has incredible shots of the water and surfing sure to leave everyone in awe."
Sarah Creegan HOME AND AWAY
"Newcastle's surfing beaches are the standouts of American writer-director Dan Castle's teen drama with a cast headed by 21 year old Caloundra local, Lachlan Buchanan, playing a 17 year old troubled teen, Jesse Hoff."
Des Partridge COURIER MAIL
"The first five minutes of this new Australian film are very promising indeed, from the quiet vistas of the sun rising above the shipyards to the silent first moments of Jesse’s day. Newcastle, unfortunately, sometimes feels like several back to back episodes of an Australian soap."
"It's more a classic coming-of-age story wrapped in Australia's perfect weather and dazzling beaches. A glossy, vibrant episode of "Home And Away" with better actors and cinematic values. The story is simple but there's something iconic and fresh and joyful in Newcastle."

What Director Dan Castle Said
Newcastle the town inspired "Newcastle" the movie. As I drove through the streets on my first visit to Newcastle in October 2001, I knew I was in a very special place. The town, the beaches, the seaside pools, the community of surfers and the nearby Stockton Dunes all resonated with me and inspired the story and script that became "‘Newcastle". The town of Newcastle is as much a character in the film as it is the location. The story rotates around a group of teenagers going through huge identity issues and life changing experiences that mirror in many ways what the town and community of Newcastle are going through. Cinematically, Newcastle the place is a dream come true. The lead character, Jesse, has dreams of breaking out onto the world stage as a pro surfer. The countless coal barges that line the horizon represent the wall of resistance Jesse faces every day as he bounds out to the surf, trying to perfect his technique in the days approaching the Junior Pro Surf Championship. If Jesse doesn’t make it as a surfer, his fate is certain to be like his older brother Victor and his father Reggie, working on the dry dock that sits in Newcastle harbour servicing the coal industry. Jesse’s pal, Andy, sees Newcastle as a surfer’s paradise: great beaches, great surf, mates, and skate parks. What more could you ask for? But Jesse sees the town at the end of a rail line as a trap and a dead end. Fergus, Jesse’s geeky, fraternal twin brother is not sure where he fits in or even who he is yet. But Fergus manages to overcome his fears and mix in with Jesse’s surf mates and girlfriends on an overnight trip to the Stockton Dunes. The wide open space and abandonment of the dunes and the surf near the famous 'Shipwreck' just off the beach represent the detachment the characters feel in themselves as they move through a weekend trip where virginity is lost, fears are conquered, acceptance is granted and a tragedy unfolds. Given the subject matter and setting of the film, it was crucial that strong actors who were also great surfers play the characters of Jesse, Andy, Scotty, Nathan, Billy, Jake and Victor. At all times the audience will know they are watching real surfers in real waves and real situations. The goal was to create a film that audience members, both young and old, would identify with and experience as true and real to what they feel they are going through or did when they were teenagers.
The Production Team
Dan Castle (Writer/Director). Newcastle marks the eagerly anticipated debut feature from award winning writer/director Dan Castle. Dan has written and directed a number of critically acclaimed short films, including "The Visitor", starring Barry Otto, which received awards at national and international festivals including an AFI (Australian Film Institute) nomination for Best Short Fiction Film in 2003. ""I think one of the cool things about “Newcastle” is that you have these young guys and girls out there in the surf and elements where they feel so free and alive, representing the best and worst of what it is be seventeen."
Naomi Wenck (Producer). Naomi is an independent producer of Australian drama. "Newcastle" is her second feature as producer, having recently completed Ten Empty with director Anthony Hayes. Naomi has an extensive background in both film and television drama with numerous credits as post production supervisor on features including "Gettin’ Square" and "Somersault". "Newcastle the movie offers all the attractions of a trip to the beach on a glorious day: and more. The surf action is blistering, the romance is sexually charged and the message is powerfully life-affirming."
Richard Michalak A.C.S. (Director of Photography). Richard first worked with Dan on The Visitor: it was then that they first started discussing how they would work together again on "Newcastle". Richard regularly shoots in Australia, India, Indonesia and China. He has shot all over New Zealand and much of North America, Europe and recently in Africa. "Shooting Newcastle was the best experience of my life. Dan and I understood the film’s aims completely to the point where discussion was almost unnecessary. Everyone involved was completely prepared and after five short and very happy weeks it was in the can. The edit, mix and grading were a dream. I am very, very proud of this film."
Rodrigo Balart (Editor). . Rodrigo Balart entered the film and televison industry in 1999 as an in-house production assistant for television commercials house @radical.media, Sydney. Eighteen months later he was an assistant editor at Mustard Post, assisting award-winning television commercials editor Drew Thompson. Rodrigo continued to assist on features ("Somersault", "Candy" and "Clubland") and in 2006 cut his first feature as solo editor, the low-budget crocodile thriller, "Black Water". "Dan would walk into the cutting room and say “this film is a teenager”, which was at once incredibly exciting and intricately challenging: we weren’t cutting a surf film or a drama, nor any kind of genre; we were cutting a personality."
Michael Yezerski (Composer). Michael Yezerski is fast establishing himself as one of Australia’s premier young composers. With major credits to his name and a host of industry awards, he was recently referred to as "one of the rising stars of Australian composition". Michael’s screen credits include "Newcastle", "The Black Balloon", "Kenny" (additional music) and "Crosslife". Michael studied musical composition under renowned composers Peter Sculthorpe and Ross Edwards at the University of Sydney graduating with first class honours. "Writing the music for "Newcastle" has been a fantastic experience marked by unique and wonderful collaborations with everyone involved: from the amazing musicians to the production team and of course Dan, who is like a brother."
Meet The Cast
Lachlan Buchanan. Lachlan Buchanan has been performing in theatre productions since the young age of eight. His most recent film credits include "Leader of the Pack" and "Seize the Day". Recently, Lachlan was signed as a regular on the popular ABC TV series "Blue Water High". His other television credits include "Soulkeeper" and "Mortified". Lachlan first started surfing when he was 12 and was also a Nipper (Junior Surf Life Saver) for several years. "What appealed to me about playing Jesse was that he’s so multi-layered and so misunderstood. Apart from scoring the dream role, it was like scoring the dream director as well. Dan has an ability to bring out the best in anyone. The shoot was pretty grueling. It’s amazing shooting and acting out in the water. It’s so cold out there and it’s supposed to be summer and we’re shooting in autumn/winter in board shorts and not much else. But anyway it was really an experience of a life-time."
Xavier Samuel. In 2007 Xavier received the Filmink Best Australian Newcomer Nomination for his performance in the feature film "2:37" and went on to play the co-lead in the first Tropfest Feature, "September", which has been selected to screen at the Berlin Film Festival, 2008. "The film is a very complex film - it’s not just about surfing, it’s about family life and growing up and the hardships that you go through as a teenager as well and also about lost dreams."
Reshad Strik. Reshad graduated from Australian Academy of Dramatic Art (AADA) in 2004. His most recent feature film is "The Hills Have Eyes II" and he has appeared in short films "Sleeping Dogs", "Dragon Ball Futon", and "Stank". "I started surfing when I was eight years old. One of my brothers taught me to surf and it’s been sort of a family thing. I grew up on the beach. Surfing is in my blood: the beach is in my blood, so to me, doing a film about surfing, you don’t need a stunt double: I can do that. I wanted the character to be raw and real. I didn't want to play the character, I wanted to be the character."
Shane Jacobson. Jacobson began his career at the tender age of 10 in amateur theatre, performing in Australia and overseas. His comedic talents were evident early on. At 18, he began his comedy career with regular theatre restaurant, stand-up and MC gigs. Playing the title role in Kenny, Jacobson won the 2006 AFI Award for Best Lead Actor, the 2006 Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role and recently won the 2007 Film Ink Magazine Award for Best Newcomer. "With Reggie, comedy isn’t a part of his character at all; he has suffered loss and pain through his life and has had no real way of showing it or the tools to deal with it emotionally. To play Reggie I have to constantly take myself to a different place emotionally. The great part about Reggie is that he still has a heart of gold. I have loved working in Newcastle. It’s one of those underestimated cities, it’s a big place, yet it has that small town beauty."
Joy Smithers. Joy is a seasoned Australian actress whose credits include appearances in many top rating TV programs including "All Saints", "Secrets and Lies", "Wildside", "Home and Away", "Water Rats", "Heartbreak High", amongst many others. "Portraying people who are working class, not in a negative way, is a huge responsibility in this country because historically a lot of feature films depicting working class people from Newcastle have tended to portray the women, in a bit of a negative light: like a 'bogan'. And this is not that kind of a family, they’re just very real and so trying to keep it real and Australian."
Barry Otto. A veteran multi-award winning Australian actor who has appeared in films, on TV and the stage, Barry Otto’s credits are seemingly endless and his experience across these mediums is breath taking. Film credits include "Australia", "Rogue", "Oscar and Lucinda", "Lillian’s Story" and "Cosi". He says, "A lot of families in Sydney and capital cities head for the beaches, head for the kind of places where beaches are, for holidays, so they have enormous, kind of memory pull. All those parents out there with teenagers, that’s a demographic that will come to the movie. Not only the young, because it’s about them, but also the parents come too to see what this story’s about: It’s not easy growing up today in the 21st century."
Sunsets on Newcastle ©2008 Matt Lauder - All Rights Reserved
Merewether Baths ©2008 Matt Lauder - All Rights Reserved
Newcastle Baths ©2008 Matt Lauder - All Rights Reserved
Nobbys Beach ©2008 Matt Lauder - All Rights Reserved
To see more beautiful pics of Newcastle & Australia visit THE MATT LAUDER GALLERY - These images ©2008 Matt Lauder - All Rights Reserved
Set in the coastal town of Newcastle this visceral action drama is a coming-of-age tale of elusive dreams and the eternal wave. Combining sublime surfing beaches with sex, the raw energy, music and rebellion of teen culture, Newcastle tells the story of seventeen year old Jesse who lives in the shadow of his older brother Victor’s failure to become surfing's 'Next Big Thing'. Even when he's in his natural habitat of magnificent surf breaks, Jesse’s blue-collar future is reinforced by the coal barges that constantly line his horizon. Jesse has the natural skills to surf his way out of this coastal town and make it onto the international circuit, but can he overcome his equally natural ability to sabotage himself? A momentous weekend away with his mates and a couple of surf bunnies leads to his first sexual encounter. But a tragedy in the surf will lead Jesse to discover what is really important in life.
The Verdict
"Let's make a distinction right from the start, Dan Castle's "Newcastle" is not a surfing film. By that I mean it's not a surf film in the pure sense, that is, a film which is driven by only surfing and little else. In fact "Newcastle" is a film for 'surfies', wanna be surfers, 'posers' and beach-lovers, which is not a bad thing. Filmed in and around Newcastle, NSW, Australia "Newcastle" is a film best described as a 'try-hard'. It tries to hard to please a wide audience. By doing so it has placed itself in a grey genre, somewhat in the shadows, caught between a made for TV film and a crossdressing feature film come arthouse product. The cinematography by D.O.P Richard Michalak is excellent and the storyline generates interest, even though we get the feeling we have seen it all before but dressed in a different disguise. If you're going just for the surfing let me warn you, it never gets 'gnarly', and the best moments come from the small crisp waves at 'Shipwreck', which are shot with great clarity. Cast standouts are Reshad Strik as Jesse's troubled, bullying brother; Xavier Samuel as Jesse's gay twin brother (yes it's obligatory to have at least one gay person in a film these days); Joy Smithers as mum, and Barry Otto as the boys Grandfather. The rest, including Lachlan Buchanan (the lead actor) and Shane Jacobson play character who are fillers in an reasonably interesting film about coming of age and family. Some may find the films final moments frustrating: it ends without resolution and so abruptly. Despite its glaring faults, "Newcastle" isn't all that bad a film, but it could have been a whole lot better. 3 STARS."
Who's Who
Lachlan Buchanan
Xavier Samuel
Reshad Strik
Anthony Hayes
Shane Jacobson
Barry Otto
Joy Smithers
Gigi Edgley
Ben Milliken
Israel Cannan
Debra Ades
Rebecca Breeds
Jaymes Triglone
Kirk Jenkins
Christopher Naismith
Woody Naismith
Run Time 107 minutes
Rated M [AUST]
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