Joanne Samuel and Lauren Esposito.

After making her Hollywood debut in James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, Lauren Esposito will play one of five teenagers who encounter an ancient relic in Australian fantasy/adventure The Five: Earth.

Veteran actor Joanne Samuel, who launched her career in Mad Max, is making her feature directing debut on the film which starts shooting in the Blue Mountains on Monday, produced by Benjamin Jon Creative Media and JAH Media.

It’s also the first feature for screenwriter Peter McLeod, based on a concept by Samuel’s son Jesse A’Hern, alongside Amy Benjamin, who is also the production designer, and McLeod.

“We decided to self-create a film, we had five different ideas and this one felt right,” says Samuel, who is partnered with her husband Nick A’Hern in JAH Media.

The plot follows the misfit teens as they get caught up in a mystical world and must use their new-found powers to stop an age-old sorcerer from destroying the world.

Beth Champion (A Place to Call Home, My Pet Dinosaur) is playing the antagonist, with Tiriel Mora (the upcoming Book Week, Harmony) as an old man who sees the error of his ways.

Lauren is cast as a loner who moves from the US to Australia with her father after her mother dies. Leigh Scott, who plays one of the students and, like Lauren, lives in Los Angeles, recommended her to Samuel. The other teens are played by Deborah An, Gabi Sproule and Nicholas Andrianakos.

Samuel, who made her directing debut on the web series Stinson Creek, a murder mystery written by Becky Head, and A’Hern raised the budget from private investors.

Ozflix TV founder/CEO Ron Brown has come on board as executive producer and will consult on distribution and international sales. The five-week shoot will include NSW South Coast locations. The DOP is Casimir Dickson.

After appearing in Thomas M. Wright’s drama Acute Misfortune, Samuel has just finished shooting Michael Joy’s Smoke Between Trees. She plays a racist woman in the film which deals with prejudice and redemption.

Esposito, who just turned 21, played one of the children of Frances O’Connor’s character who lived in a haunted house in London in The Conjuring 2. She landed the role just as she had finished shooting Love Child, her screen debut.

Her character Margaret was 14 and Lauren, who was 18 at the time, doubted she could play someone so young. But Wan and Warner Bros. were impressed with her self- tape. “It was a crazy experience; I did not know what to expect,” she says. “James Wan is a genius.”

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