Twenty-two-year-old Cameron Utiger is in post-production for his debut feature film, titled Cooked.
A coming-of-age story set in Newcastle, one of the lead roles is portrayed by Mudgee actor Jacob O'Neill.
Mr O'Neill said he was excited to portray 'Haz', who acts as a kind of grounding force between the seven main characters, which are based on Mr Utiger's experiences growing up in Newcastle.
"My character is Haz and in my opinion he was the morale compass out of the seven main characters - he won't take sides just because he's your mate, he'll pick the right side ... he's justice in a way," Mr O'Neill said.
It's a comedy film inspired by the likes of Lady Bird, Superbad and Dazed & Confused, grounded in Mr Utiger's own past.
"The film is inspired by these stories. When I was around 16, I began to write down these stories in my notebook thinking eventually they would translate well to film," Mr Utiger said.
And the title speaks for itself he said: "It's something that was thrown around, especially in my teenage years, and I thought it was the perfect title for an Aussie coming-of-age story. For a definition, look no further than the Urban Dictionary."
The film is set around the final HSC exam and the start of adulthood.
"What better way to commemorate the end of this chapter than indulging in an 18th birthday party," Mr Utiger said.
"We follow Ethan and his group of best mates as they throw themselves into their last big night together as a group, before they all go their separate ways. The coming night will test their friendship as everything, inevitably, doesn't go exactly to plan."
Mr O'Neill said it was a great experience sharing laughs with everyone on set and through the film, while it also explores some real world themes.
"It's about those seven friends and their last big night before entering adulthood, mateships are put to the test," he said.
"It was a really different experience, it's a lot more easy going in that there is more rehearsal, if you get it wrong you just take again and do your best, it's a bit more relaxed that way," he said.
Mr O'Neill said he had a religious upbringing and was largely sheltered from drug culture so it was an eye-opening experience.
"It's a comedy, but it's tackling some really good themes and I was quite sheltered from the kind of shenanigans some of these guys were getting up to," he said.
A number of the actors, including Mr O'Neill linked up with the project on the free casting website StarNow.
"It was a great experience to audition over a couple of months," Mr O'Neill said.
Some of Mr Utiger's own friends joined the crew, but it was still a challenge for a young team to take on.
"The filmmaking process was challenging, but the most gratifying experience of my life. Working over a year and a half to a goal, and the final product turning out how you envisioned, is the best feeling in the world.
"I learnt so much and hope to bring this experience to the next film."
To finance the film, he spent more than a year working and saving until he reached half the budget. Crowdfunding helped raise the rest, with the overall budget about $31,000.
The film was shot and set entirely in Newcastle at locations including Bar Beach, University of Newcastle, The Obelisk, Newcastle Beach, Watt Street, The Grand Hotel, Newcastle Grammar School and The Junction.
"Our goal is to have the film edited and completed by the end of the year," he said.
Mr O'Neill said he had been planning to make the move to Perth to be part of another feature-length film, but border closures and lockdown challenges meant he would be at home in Mudgee for the rest of this year.
A trailer for Cooked releases this weekend at the website www.thefilmcooked.com.
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