Jason Stevens, a former NRL star turned filmmaker, is about to make his directorial debut with a coming-of-age comedy drama called Finally Me.
Stevens was known for his hard-hitting style of play on the footy field, playing for teams like The St. George Dragons and The Cronulla Sharks, and for his appearances on TV shows like The Footy Show. Off the field, he has worked as a presenter on shows like Sydney Weekender and Big J's Place, and has pursued a passion for film, producing and writing Chasing Comets and, most recently, directing his upcoming film Finally Me.
Launching into selected cinemas and Fan Force from 14 March, the much anticipated Finally Me movie draws on Stevens' Greek heritage and his own family's story of coming to Australia with nothing and working hard to build a life.
Described as “'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' meets 'Bring it On' and 'Hairspray'” by Stevens, who wrote, produced and directed the movie; ‘Finally Me’ tells tells the story of Soula Mitsos, a sixteen-year-old who dreams of cheerleading for her school, Westend High, despite her father's wishes for her to take over the family-owned souvlaki store and marry a Greek boy named Jimmy. All Soula wants to do is cheerlead for her school Westend High.
Despite being a complete novice at cheerleading, Soula’s dream becomes a reality when she is unexpectedly chosen in the team.
The film follows Soula's journey as she faces opposition from her teammates, including the affluent Taylor White, and struggles with self-doubt. Jazz Laker, a newcomer and NIDA graduate, stars as Soula and is joined by Tiarnie Coupland, Josh Heuston, Alea O'Shea, Naomi Sequeira, Rhonda Birchmoore and Rhys Muldoon. Stevens, who is directing and writing the film, sees storytelling as a powerful tool that can make people laugh, challenge their thinking, and inspire them to be better.
“Essentially the movie tells the story of the dynamics of young girl going toe to toe with her dad about her dreams,” says Stevens.
“Not only in Greek households, but in a lot of European households there is a whole dynamic of loyalty where chasing your own dreams can be seen as going against your family.
“Soula deals with all of this and also with her own fears within herself."
Although a familiar face on Aussie TV screens for years, something that most people may not have known until reading this, is that Stevens is proudly of Greek heritage.
Although Steven's grew up in Brighton Le Sands - what was the then Greek capital of Sydney, his Pappou Angelo Papadopoulos, was Cyprian and also his Yiayia on his Father’s side was Greek.
Stevens’ family grew up very much influenced by European culture – the food, the jokes, the loud talking.
He explains that Greek culture has always a big part of the family – from the tradition of dyeing and cracking of the eggs at Easter, to the often animated style of communication between family members to which Greek families are often accustomed.
He laughs as he remembers introducing his wife Beck (who was his girlfriend at the time) to his family and she was left often confused as to whether they had just had a fight.
In reference to the casting of Tony Nikolopolous as Mr. Mitsos, a character loosely based on Stevens' own grandfather, Stevens notes the significance of garlic in the film, much akin to the role of Windex in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Stevens reveals that the inspiration for the garlic came from his pappou, who used to eat a clove of garlic every day and would walk into the house smelling of it, claiming that it kept him from getting sick.
Finally Me is in selected cinemas and via Fan Force from March 14 2023.
Resplendent Pictures Presents Finally Me
In selected cinemas and via Fan Force from March 14 2023
Written, Directed and Produced by Jason Stevens
Cast: Jazz Laker, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Josh Heuston, Alea O’Shea, Naomi Sequeira, Tianrnie Coupland, Felicity Price, Rhonda Birchmoore, Rhys Muldoon, Gary Eck
Read also Jason Stevens: Finally Me