ASHLYN Louden-Gamble's favourite thing about acting is it allows her to live other lives beyond her own.
"I'm not me, I'm acting as someone else," said Ashlyn, 13.
"Sometimes you sort of get a bit bored and every day feels the same, especially just going to school, but with acting you can be someone else who is maybe travelling to a different country and trying to steal gold, or something like that.
"You can be them and they have a different family and a different back story.
"You're in different places and different lives.
"Sometimes I look at people and go 'What is their life like?'
"With acting I can be in someone else's life."
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For the Salamander Bay teenager, who is in year eight at Hunter School of the Performing Arts, acting has allowed her to step into the role of Monday, a terminally ill nine-year-old who believes Uluru, or the 'Moon Rock', will heal her.
Her story is told in the independent Australian film Moon Rock for Monday, which was released on April 22 and also stars Aaron Jeffrey and George Pullar.
After an unlikely encounter at a train station, Monday befriends a wanted fugitive and they embark on a road trip to the red centre.
Ashlyn will attend a May 2 screening at Event Cinemas Kotara.
"I'm a bit nervous but really, really excited for everyone to see it, especially people I know like family and friends and even people I don't know," she said.
"I could walk past someone and they might say 'I saw her in a movie'. It's different, it's not like your average every day life."
Ashlyn won the role in mid-2019, five months after attending her first NIDA short course, in screen acting.
A teacher told Ashlyn's mother, Rochelle Louden, that Ashlyn may want to pursue acting.
Ms Louden mentioned this to a friend, who put the family in touch with United Management's Trish McAskill, who spoke to the family about the industry and suggested Ashlyn audition for Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.
Her sixth ever audition was for Moon Rock for Monday.
"I was really excited, it was just really quick too," Ashlyn said.
"When I was doing all these auditions I was feeling 'Am I going to make one?' When I got Moon Rock for Monday I was crying with happiness."
Ashlyn said she was drawn to the spirit of adventure in the script, how it combined elements of different genres and how it introduced the audience to a variety of interesting characters.
She said she could relate to Monday in some ways.
"I liked the fact she wanted to make friends with everyone," she said.
"She was very kind and caring to people.
"She didn't get to go out much and I love that she valued life and just wanted to go places and experience it.
"She was accepting of other people and I try and do that too."
Ashlyn spent about two months filming from August 2019, first in Sydney and then two weeks in Coober Pedy, including in a Datsun without air conditioning.
"The outback was really hot but it was amazing, it was like you were in the middle of nowhere, you'd look out and it was just red rock... you felt like you'd gone to a different country," she said.
"Working with everyone, the cast and crew, they were really nice. They became like family and friends."
Ashlyn said she learned a lot about film-making that she hadn't expected, including that the scenes are not shot in chronological order, that a large number of cameras and crew are involved and how filming outdoors means having to be flexible and change plans depending on the weather.
She said writer and director Kurt Martin was supportive and consultative and allowed her and other actors to improvise.
Ashlyn attended O'Grady Drama for three and a half years before her NIDA course, but had no other acting experience.
She had joined in year two at her mum's suggestion, to help her overcome shyness and unleash her creativity. It worked.
Ashlyn spent 2020 making her own short films and has since auditioned for more projects. She's completed another two NIDA courses, in special effects and horror film making.
As well as school, Ashlyn attends Young People's Theatre Newcastle drama improvisation classes, singing and silks classes, and has an accent coach.
"I'm trying to do new things and see what I like," she said.
"I feel like I want to be an actor, it's more creative than sitting at a desk and typing.
"You can be you - but different ways of you, happy you, sad you - and you meet new people and go to different places, different countries.
"You feel like you're living life. You're moving around, you're doing things you want to do and you're enjoying it.
"I want a job I can enjoy and acting is what I enjoy."
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