Last week I acted in my second short film. The first, although of merit, was a student project. This time it was the baby of lawyer-cum-producer Derek Parsons. With the amount of time and care put into the project apparent from the start, the stakes were higher.
The plot of the film was enticingly grisly. I play a young woman who has a fight with her overbearing boyfriend and meets an unpleasant end. The challenge of choreographing the fight scene convincingly enough was an instant attraction for me. A few later additions to the script, providing a nice little twist, only made me more interested in the project. That and simply the chance to get more experience on set made the whole thing a wonderfully valuable experience.
When time is so tight, as with most shooting schedules, it became clear how important it was to always be listening and ready. There was no room for messing about, as there often is in play rehearsals. I tried to remain focused and attentive, and did my best to follow any instructions ‘to the T’.
The intimacy of working in a small space with a crew of people all doing their bit quickly turns strangers into friends. I had a wonderful time working with these people, and within a few hours I was massaging fellow actor Cassells’ temples, my stomach was acting as a prop for cameraman Phil’s screen, and I was quite happy to lie there with a duvet over my face while I played dead, surrounded by a room of people. This is the beauty of acting, and of the business itself – it breaks down barriers and builds a bond of camaraderie and trust. You need to get on and get the work done in a short space of time, so there’s no need for the usual social restrictions.
Jackson, the actor who plays my boyfriend in the film, is a fellow member of the Southsea Shakespeare Actors (SSA), but we hadn’t acted together much before the shoot so it was nice to work more with him and get to know him a little better. I also enjoyed chatting with the sound guy Steve, camera assistant Jo, photographer Milos, makeup artist Blaise and actor Cassells, and watching Sam, the DIT (digital imaging technician, but yes, DIT is funnier) at work with the footage. It was a pleasure for me to work with a professional actor (!!), and likewise I revered cameraman Phil. You could tell this guy knew exactly what we was doing, and when he was ready to shoot you shut up and got ready to work. It was fascinating watching him and the rest of the crew work. I feel like us actors have the easy bit to do!
Julia, the production assistant, was an absolute joy, right from the first introduction when she grasped my hand in both of hers, to the hug goodbye. She made sure we were always comfortable, and was always ready with a smile.
My part in the film was shot over one evening and a full day. During the evening we shot two scenes including the fight, which left Jackson and I absolutely knackered. We gave it all we’d got, but were still surprised at how tiring it was just pretending to fight.
During the full day’s shoot I spent a lot of time playing dead, which is more difficult than you would expect! The main thing was to try to hold my breath and not blink while the camera was focusing on me, and then sneak in a blink and breath as it moved its focus elsewhere. There’s a point where I’m under the duvet, which I was rather nervous about as I suffer from mild claustrophobia. However, I didn’t want to make a fuss and be difficult, and knew it was needed for the shot, so I just tried to breathe steadily and keep calm, and got on with it. Blaise, the makeup artist, gave me a deathly pallor, which at first gave me a shock every time I looked in the mirror. However, I gradually got used to my new look! That doesn’t meant to say I wasn’t glad when we took the makeup off and I returned to my usual skin colour – I looked positively radiant!
The whole experience was fantastic, and so useful for a fledgling actor. Getting the chance to be a part of Derek’s creative vision felt very special, and the energy on set left me buzzing and wanting more. I’m so excited to eventually see the final cut!