It takes an incredibly great person to play the part of another great person. Here on the show is the leading actor of Wish Man, Andrew Steel. A NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) trained actor from Australia, Andrew landed his first leading role upon moving to Los Angeles in Wish Man, portraying the founder of Make-A-Wish Foundation, Frank Shankwitz. In this episode, Jen Du Plessis talks with Andrew about his breakthrough into Hollywood and his story about becoming an actor. He also talks about Flicks4Change and how he is providing a platform for filmmakers to have their hearts exposed to the world and create a positive impact. Moving forward, Andrew then shares how he is looking forward to the future and the breakthroughs he is yet to achieve.
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Playing Wish Man And Creating A Positive Impact On The World Through Films With Andrew Steel
I am delighted to be interviewing Andrew Steel, who is a great guy. He’s the leading actor of Wish Man, which is a story about Frank Shankwitz’s life who is the Founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He’s got many great stories in his life. What a privilege for us to have that opportunity to have you here with us. I want to start by saying welcome to the show, Andrew. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us.
Thanks for having me. I’m excited. I’m in good company here with you and your other guests. I feel honored and humbled that you would think of me as worthy to be on your show.
We can tell everybody how we met. We were at City Gala and you were walking down and I’m like, “I’m Jen. Who are you?” That’s how it started. It’s been great to be involved with you over in the premiere of Wish Man in Arizona and subsequently here in Washington DC. I don’t know if I had told you this story or not, but one of the people who attended is an Ops man for the military. He does some very secret stuff. He had to get special permission to come into the Australian embassy in order to see Wish Man. I was like, “You had to? We’re in Washington, DC.” He was like, “Technically, we’re not.” They did get special permission to do that. That was fun. I know that this is your first film in the United States. This is your breakthrough and that’s what we’re all about on this show.
You are classically trained. You’ve done all kinds of wonderful things in Australia. You’re very well-known in Australia for all of your roles in a lot of series, movies, and whatnot. I want to hone in. I know that you and Kym have moved to the US, but you’re now over in Australia, so you split your time. I want to focus in on Flicks4Change, which is the company that you have Cofounded and is the President, and what that breakthrough is for you. If you could tell us a little bit about your story on why did you become an actor? What happened in the life that brought you to that point? We’ll get further down the road here talking about this passion that you have and Flicks4Change.Andrew has a heart of Gold! Click To Tweet
I’ve always been drawn to telling stories and making people laugh. With regards to acting, I’ve always done the school plays and went through school. I enjoyed the opportunity to become somebody else and to play, which is why my hair is this color at the moment. I have a project, which they were like, “We’re only seeing people with blonde hair, blue eyes.” I’m like, “Yes.” I got back a couple of hours with my hair now like this. I’m saying that because there’s a big spring with my face talking back to me.
When I first saw you, I go, “What’s going on with your hair?”
I went through acting school and did six years of full-time study. I was trying to break through to that next level. I got a bunch of stuff in Australia, but always the US is where it’s at. It was the Mecca of film and television. I packed up my stuff and head over to the big smoke in LA. When I got off the plane, I had these dreams of successful acting and all that stuff. I saw how many homeless people there were on the streets. I felt pretty helpless. I was worried about getting an audition and I worried about something to eat or some somewhere to sleep. I felt small and powerless. It was through that and it was within a few months that I thought I wanted to do something bigger than just be an actor. I had this idea to create a platform for humanitarian filmmakers to have their voices heard. The way that looked in my head was to create a film festival where you could show a whole range of different short films that would talk on issues that spoke to a positive change throughout the world.
Flicks4Change was born. We invite all the nonprofits that work in the spaces that the films talk about to come and be part of the panel discussion so that our audience can be inspired by the films on the screen. They can be given the tools to take action by connecting with the nonprofits. That’s something that’s been a big passion of mine. It’s been beautiful to introduce myself to these people, to not only the filmmakers, the actors, and the people involved with the movies, but to get to know the hearts of these people that are forward-thinking that they’re running nonprofits. They’re donating their time, money, and energy. That’s what I’ve found. Flicks4Change has transformed me. I had an idea and I went with it. Through the process over the years that we’ve been doing Flicks4Change, I’ve noticed myself pick up my vibration and improve as a human being. It is amazing because I’ve definitely still got flaws and had flaws and certain things I’m doing in my life to change who I was or the idea of who I am. It couldn’t come at a better time now that I’m getting opportunities in film and being introduced to the world. I’m glad it’s happening now and it didn’t happen a few years ago.
I’m curious about a couple of things. One, is there homelessness in Australia or not? What made you pick up on this homelessness? Is it that LA has a lot of homelessness? If you’re going to be homeless, be homeless someplace where it’s not cold. Was it a culture shock for you? Where did that come from that it made such an impact?
There might be better welfare in Australia. People have Dole. If you don’t have work, you can go to a place called Centrelink and they give you money, portable housing, and all that stuff. Potentially because LA, it’s a warm place in the States. If you’re homeless, you can get on a bus and get to LA and anything can happen. That might be an idea that people have. LA is particularly due to the climate and due to this positioning and how people see it. More people probably go there. Also, the population of the US is a lot larger than Australia. If there’s one place that all the homeless are heading to, it’s probably LA.
I commend you for that too because many people could have the blinders on and say, “I’m here for me. I’m going to be successful. I don’t care about anybody else.” I commend you for that. Talking about Wish Man, because I know Wish Man is a Flicks4Change kind of movie. It’s that humanitarian and where people have worked their butts off for years and years to make a difference to people and make an impact in the world. Did you get introduced to Frank and all the producers of that movie because of Flicks4Change? Or was that afterwards where you’re like, “This aligns with this and this is neat?” How did that fold unfold as it relates to what you’re doing in Flicks4Change?
Believe it or not, I was at an event called City Gala. It was one of the precursors that was happening at a smaller venue and it was introducing some of the speakers that were going to be on that year. Greg Reid was hosting it. Greg is the producer of Wish Man. Frank Shankwitz was being interviewed and they were talking about Make-A-Wish. I had the idea for Flicks4Change and was in the process of getting a team together or talking to people about making the idea more than just an idea but a thing. I find that once you start telling people that it’s going to happen, your word is your bond, it got us moving on that.
I met a lot of incredible people that night. Three of note. The first one was a filmmaker who I told about Flicks4Change and he told me about this film that he had called LEAP, which is about taking the leap of faith and changing your career or changing anything about your life. He submitted his film. I thought it was great and I ended up taking him to lunch. This guy is called James Hawthorn. As you know, James is now my Cofounder and Festival Director of Flicks4Change. I met him and I also met Greg Reid, who’s the producer of Wish Man, and I met Frank Shankwitz on that night. With Frank, the creator of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I started talking to him about Flicks4Change and I said, “I’ve got this film festival.” I didn’t say it was an idea at the time but in reality, it was happening. It’s the same thing with James. I told them about Flicks4Change and wanting to create a platform for the filmmakers that have good in their hearts to be exposed to the world and do something about it. He liked the sound of that. It helped that I was his height. He was like, “Somebody like you should be playing me in this movie. Do you ride a motorcycle?” I’m like, “Yeah.”Once you start telling people that it's going to happen, your word being your bond, you start to get moving. Click To Tweet
He was like, “Greg, this guy should play me in the movie.” I’m like, “Who’s Greg? Greg, how are you doing? I should play him in this movie about his life.” I was able to take that opportunity and run with it. I followed up with them and I went to a couple of events with them and took it seriously. There are many opportunities that come pass and people say, “You’re going to be a star, kid. You’re going to do this and that.” You never know which one is going to show up for you. Through the grace of God and the universe, I was able to hold onto this role even though I’m looking for more and more money for the film. When you list a limited amount of credits, you don’t want too much money coming in because then the people giving them money is like, “Why have we got this person? Why don’t we put Matt Damon in the lead?” He was offered the role as well. Thank you, Matt, for turning that down. That’s how I met Frank. It was at City Gala and everything has changed in the last few years because of that.
I love how the universe pulls everybody in. It’s wonderful. I didn’t know how that story all came out. In fact, I remember when I met you, I kept saying, “Can you do the voice?” I wanted to know but you were like, “No, I’m not going to share the voice.” I was like, “How are you going to talk like Frank?”
I haven’t done it for a while.
I know that you did a lot of lessons. He talks with such a draw and he talked so slowly. That’s what’s crazy too. Now that you have done Wish Man, are you seeing that you’re being approached for and being stereotyped into the roles for these independent films and things? Is this opening up every single opportunity for you?
A $25 million film still technically could be an independent film. Things have changed a lot. An independent film is a great place to be. It’s definitely opened up a lot of opportunities and coupling that with being president of Flicks4Change. I’m seeing a lot of fantastic filmmakers talking about issues that I want to be involved with. Flicks4Change is focusing on short films, but most directors that have a short film have got that feature that they’re working on or it’s in the back of their head. What I’m trying to do is draw that out of them or give them an opportunity to approach Flicks4Change to co-produce or produce these feature films. It’s a bunch of opportunities for some fantastic content that I’m producing and acting in. Now we’ve got pilot season coming up. There are going to be a lot of opportunities and my manager has got some great ammunition now to say we’re on Netflix. We’re trending globally. We’re in consideration for Best Picture for the Oscars and all that stuff, which unfortunately we didn’t get. People say it’s great to be nominated, but it’s pretty great to be considered even so.
Especially your first film in the US and a film that struggled to get off the ground to produce. I know there were many challenges financially with it and look where it’s gone.
Trying to get somebody to hand over a couple of million dollars for anything is tricky. Hopefully, that’s not necessarily something that’s going to bring a great return. Greg Reid said he learned the lesson of if you want to be a millionaire in filmmaking, start off as a billionaire.
That’s true because then they have all the control. Maybe some people know and maybe they don’t know that Kym was also in the movie as well. What happened to her? When I met you, you had only been married for a couple of weeks. As an older woman, I gave you an earful, “What are you doing here?” You said, “She’s with me.” What’s happening with her? What’s going on with her these days?
She’s fantastic. She’s busy with a lot of auditions. We got married. Since then, she got cast in a serious regular role of a show called Triangle, which is set in the Bermuda Triangle. ABC Network and Studios were putting that together. This was a $14 million pilot episode. She plays the queen of the Vikings, which is fantastic. Unfortunately, there was a network head of the executive shuffle as Disney+ took over ABC, and all of the people that were making the decision on the pilot all got fired or what have you. Everybody that was championing the project, they were no longer there to make the decision for the series to go ahead. The series didn’t go ahead, which is very unfortunate because it was definitely a career change, but it has put her on the radar of all the networks and studio execs. I have very high hopes that she’s going to book another series very soon.
What’s on the docket for you as it relates to Flicks4Change? What are you doing? I know several times we’ve talked and you said, “I’m coming to DC,” and you’re bringing a film with you. Everybody’s been calling it the Roaring ‘20s. I’m calling it the Soaring ‘20s. This decade is going to be big for a lot of things. What’s on the docket for you so that my readers can say, “I want to help and support Andrew in what he’s doing?” What are some of the things that are coming up that people could be looking out for?
We’re going to have festivals in Los Angeles, which we have every year in Washington, DC. This will probably be in August, September, probably those months for those two cities. We’ve also been asked to go to Athens, Greece, which is very exciting. We’re organizing the sponsorship to head over there and that’s very exciting. We’ve got strict instructions to get Tom Hanks there because he’s become a great citizen and national. We’ll be heading over there after the Cannes Film Festival at the start of June or end of May. That’s very exciting. We’ll probably be doing a festival in Sydney as well. I’ve got to figure out the timing of that.
Flicks4Change, we have the festival, which is focusing on short films, twenty minutes. You can go to Flicks4Change.org and you can check out how to get involved, whether it’s submitting a film or buying a ticket or donating. Any nonprofits, if you want a film potentially made about your cause, feel free to reach out to us and we can either connect you with filmmakers or give you some suggestions on the best ways to move forward with that. Also, looking for feature film scripts that we can help you produce and put together and raise the vibration by telling impactful stories.
What is the breakthrough that you think you’re about ready to hit? We all have this place where we’re saying we have a trajectory and we’re tapping up against that ceiling, which will become your floor at some point. What’s your breakthrough right now?
The success of Wish Man and finally, after a decade of auditioning and going out for big roles and not getting it, losing out to Jake Gyllenhaal or whoever. Now, the self-belief that I have from the success of Wish Man and having a leading role in a film that’s been so well-received, that’s given me a lot of confidence. As you say, the Soaring ‘20s, this decade is going to be massive. I’m changing my perspective of my potential and how people see me. A lot of that comes through you need to have that belief in yourself. Every time you’re meeting a new person, you have an opportunity to reinvent yourself and to change who you are to them. It’s easy to get caught in your old ways and hanging around the people that aren’t challenging you or staying in your safe zone. If each time you meet somebody and finding the high vibration path not only with the way how you’re treating people, but who you’re surrounding yourself with makes such a difference. I’m excited to continue to raise my integrity. I methodically go through my life and figure out what’s serving me and what’s not. It’s not like I want to do some meditation. There are many things that you often say you want to do, but you don’t, but what we need to do is start doing it.
The whole premise of my program that I talk about is lifestyle business mastery. It’s finding out what fulfills you, increasing that awareness and then building everything else around it. Instead, what we tend to do is look at life through dollar signs. We try to be massively successful and trying to squeeze our life in. Life goes fast and we look back. When you think back about this, take yourself back to Andrew who’s twelve years old and he’s like, “I want to be an actor.” Did you ever think that this would have taken this particular route for that?
I always thought that there was something like this, but I didn’t know it was going to be acting. I thought I might be playing rugby, to be honest, at that stage. I always had the excitement of something big. I’m pinching myself because I have a decade of questioning yourself and saying, “Am I on the right path?” You then get these wins. The sliding doors of meeting Frank that night and meeting James that night and Greg, that one night changed everything. That was years ago. Now I’m set up for a massive new decade. I’ve got blonde hair. Anything can happen.
Darren Hardy, he’s a like Tony Robbins, he’s one of my mentors and he says, “It’s these seemingly insignificant changes that can have the biggest impact in your life.” He always shows a picture of an elephant asking, “Has anybody been bitten by an elephant?” Everybody’s like, “No, I haven’t.” “Have you been bit by a mosquito?” “Plenty of times.” “It’s those little things that can change things.” That’s what you’ve done here because someone listening to you says, “I can make a change and I can move from being successful and it’s all about me,” into the significance of helping and make an impact in other people’s lives and being happy and fulfilled all along the way.It is so easy to get caught in your old ways and hang around the people that aren't challenging you. Click To Tweet
I want to say thank you so much for taking the time and sharing that story. I love what you said at the very end as well and how it’s changed you and how we grow. We are constantly growing. I want to say thank you so much for taking the time with me and sharing this with my readers. I want to tell the readers to go to Flicks4Change, see what you can put together to help him. What I did was when you were coming in town for Flicks4Change, I corralled people to come to fill the room for you. If that’s all you do to help Andrew and his efforts, that’s going to mean a lot to him.
Also, check out a Wish Man on Netflix. It’s already there.
My husband and I watched it and I said, “I’m interviewing Andrew.” He’s like, “You are? Now I want to watch it again.” It’s so fun to watch and it’s such a great little story and there are all kinds of little innuendos there and it’s wonderful. I want to say thank you so much. I wish you all the best and all the best success. Hopefully, I’ll run into you this year at Flicks4Change or someplace else. I won’t be at City Summit Gala. Hopefully, I’ll run into you someplace else, but I wish you all the best. I hope you get this role with that blonde hair.
Yes, fingers crossed. Thanks so much for having me. It was an absolute pleasure. I look forward to bumping into you somewhere soon.
About Andrew Steel
Leading man Andrew Steel is the latest of the Aussie invasion to join Hollywood. A classically trained actor, Steel is NIDA (the National Institute of Dramatic Art) trained and has been heavily featured on the Australian stage – namely with the acclaimed Australian Shakespeare Company. On-screen he’s wowed audiences in the cult hit show’s “Home & Away,” “Wonderland and his award-winning portrayal of Batman in two seasons of the wickedly sardonic hit comedy “The Justice Lease.”
Upon moving to Los Angeles Steel landed his first leading role in the soon to be released theatrically nationwide, US feature film “Wish Man.” Steel stars as the enigmatic creator of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Frank Shankwitz in the inspiring biopic “Wish Man.” Steel was handpicked by the real “Wish Man” for the role and is himself the President and Co-Founder of the International Film Festival with a social conscience – Flicks4Change.org. “Wish Man” theatrical release was released in the US June 7th, 2019. The film qualified for an Academy Aware for Best Picture Oscar.