Nurturing the next generation of creatives
All images used with permission.
Some students juggle university with part-time gigs as baristas or bar staff. Xanthia Marinelli performs death-defying stunts on the sets of Hollywood blockbusters.
The second-year arts/education student has worked as a stuntperson on big-budget films like Godzilla v Kong and Mortal Kombat.
Creating movie magic
Xanthia is one of a growing number of stuntwomen in Australia, braving fire, high speed car chases and gravity-defying falls to create movie magic.
“I was 18 and fresh out of high school when I got my first job on Godzilla vs Kong as an officially graded stuntperson,” she said.
“I was one of the lead doubles for Eiza Gonzalez – a Mexican actress who’s been in movies like Baby Driver and the Fast and Furious.
“I got flown up to the Gold Coast and felt like the biggest movie star ever. I came off the airplane and there was someone waiting there with a sign. I was staying in a five-star hotel. The whole experience was incredible. And then I got on to set and had the chance to do all these big stunts – it was insane.”
Pursuing her passion
Xanthia’s path to stunt stardom started with a childhood passion for parkour. The discipline involves travelling from one point to another at lightning speed by running, vaulting, jumping, and climbing. Developed in France in the late 1980s, it was popularised in television commercials and feature films like the 2006 James Bond movie Casino Royale.
“I started parkour when I was eight years old. Before that, I was always the kid who was running around climbing trees and jumping off stuff – my parents were always worried about me.
“Parkour really blew up in movies and advertising, so I started going to auditions, met other stunt people and started training with them.”
By the time she was in high school, Xanthia was training five nights a week and working weekends to fund her training.
Xanthia and Mortal Kombat actress Matilda Kimber.
Concerned about juggling study and her work in the stunt industry, Xanthia was going to put university on hold. However, she was able to enrol in a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education at ACU because of the support provided by the university’s unique Elite Athlete and Performer Program (EAPP).
Supporting the stars of tomorrow
EAPP supports high achievers from the sports field to the soundstage and beyond.
“The movie business is very unpredictable, and even more so with COVID, as stunt people are brought in at the last minute for jobs. I've had a lot of calls during semester where it was like, ‘Oh, are you free tomorrow?’ she said.
“I have to drop everything and go with it. So being part of EAPP has been a lifesaver.
“When I first decided that I wanted to go to uni, I didn’t think there was a way to make both things work at the same time.
“But EAPP keeps things flexible for me and helped me manage my time, which is what I've really struggled with in the past.”
Xanthia is studying design technology and education – something that will provide her with a career beyond the film industry.
“I've always been a really practical person and I want to move and create things and pass on those skills to other people.
“I’ve never been the kind of person that wanted to sit at a desk all day.”
Reconnecting through song
Fellow arts student and First Nations singer-songwriter Charlotte Orford is also a member of EAPP, which allows her to juggle university commitments with her burgeoning music career.
The proud Kuku Yalanji artist has just signed with a recording label and is planning an album launch and East Coast tour.
“It’s great to see creatives recognised at ACU and being supported through EAPP,” she said.
“It allows performers to get an education and chase their dreams – it’s given me the flexibility to fly to Sydney for studio recordings and gigs without falling behind.”
Charlotte penned her first song in Year Six and has sung her whole life. But after being bullied in high school, she lost her self-esteem and identity.
It was only after reconnecting with her Indigenous heritage that she rekindled her love of music.
“When I discovered my Aboriginal identity, everything made sense,” she said. “My great-great grandmother was taken from her country in Far North Queensland and brought to Melbourne to work as a domestic servant. Her children were taken from her.
“Connecting with mob and sharing our experiences helped me understand myself better and it’s opened up a lot of doors.”
Charlotte has big dreams for her life after graduation.
“I’ve just played my first sell-out gig, and I’m working on my first album and looking at touring,” she said.
“My parents always wanted me to come to university to have a fallback option, a Plan B, but it’s actually given me the confidence to double down and pursue a creative career.”
Interested in pursuing your passions? Learn more about EAPP and the courses available at ACU.