Posted in Acting, TV

The First Rule…

I joined a film club.  The first rule of this film club is we don’t talk about film club.  Sod that, I’m going to anyway!

Actually, I was ‘specially selected’ to be invited to join the film club.  That made me feel quite special, actually.

For two reasons.  One, that they were thinking of me when considering who to invite to the inagural gathering; and two, that I was thought of because ‘they needed some younger females’.

They needed some YOUNGER females and thought of ME!  I don’t really consider myself *old* for someone who’s going to be 40 next year; but in an industry where most casting briefs are for 18-25 year olds; and people are posting in online actor forums “I’m 28, is it too late to go to drama school?  Am I too late to become an actor”; that someone, anyone, remotely linked to this industry considers me a ‘younger female’, is a bonus!

However, just a quick glance through casting directories like “StarNow“, or others of its ilk, where anyone can sign up and ‘put themselves out there’ (There are some that require at least some proof of experience or professional training in order to sign up to); any number of young, good-looking, aspiring-model types list themselves; and jobs such as ‘reality’ shows (You didn’t think Big Brother and Love Island just found these people randomly on the street, did you?) and ‘promo people’, or even ‘normal’ jobs get listed to entice ‘resting’ actors to apply for… there aren’t that many ‘older’ actresses ‘starting out’; nor are there the job listings that are looking for them.  I’ve seen a few more, recently, when you actually look, usually when looking for “Social worker 1” or “Mother of the lead character”. (Strangely, despite being a full-on mum to 3 little boys, I don’t get cast too often as a ‘mum’ – funnily enough, in TV land, even ‘mumsy types in their 30s’ still all look like a size 8-10  catalogue model who’s main experience of childcare is taking her niece to the zoo…)

And, more inspiringly, ‘older’ actresses are getting more press… Shirley Maclaine and Maggie Smith being the coolest characters in Downton Abbey? Diana Rigg ruling Game of Thrones?  Everyone adoring Helen Mirren in pretty much anything she does?  And my favourite person of the moment, who also happens to play my ‘sister’ in ‘medieval times’, wrote this blog piece about how she came to do Acting & Writing, instead of just day-dreaming about it.

The other day, I showed her something I am involved in writing.  And she loved it. Despite the fact that the leads were not necessarily 18-25 year olds.  And it reminded me of something my writing partner had been told, sometime last year, about not waiting for the parts to come up, but writing your own stuff was the way to go (of course…that depends on how well you write…but hey, there are ways around that!) and then…at this year’s BAFTA film awards, it was mentioned how successful ‘older’ women are successful, mainly, when they go out and write their own material themselves…because sitting around waiting for someone else to write you a character, well, may be a very long wait…

And so, back to Film Club… It’s, very basically, a group of people who just want to make stuff.  Some of us get paid to do it, some of us want to learn, some of us can see a huge potential for this group to be a good lerning/teaching base, a forum for furthering causes (for example, mental health is a big focus at the moment, particularly mental health in the arts, and a current project deals with this) or just for producing entertainment; with no requirement for dealing with budgets or sponsors or ‘money-men’ – we have directors, writers, producers, actors, cameramen, sound ops, editors… and anyone at any time can opt to beome a student of any of these roles and learn from each other, depending on the project we’re creating.  Just for the sake of creating. And being able to show something that we created. Just because we created it.

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Posted in Acting, Creative, Home, Life, writing

21600 minutes

21600 minutes.

That’s how many minutes are in 15 days.  15 days since my last blog entry…I’m slipping again.

And the silly thing is….it’s not because I’ve not been doing anything exciting.  I have. 21600 minutes of doing stuff. Good, fun, exciting non-houseworky non-parenty stuff.

It’s just all secret.  I can’t tell you about it.  Although…technically..since this is my secret little blog that I don’t tell anyone about I’m not sure it would count as publicising.

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I was doing housework one day, last week, and I got a message asking “Can you be at *** for 3pm and be free for the next 3 days?” {dun-dun-duuuuuuun how covert is that?}. So that took up most of last week (it was Good Friday on…er…Friday so no-one would have been working that day anyway otherwise I’m sure I’d have been working that day too.) Yes, it was work…of sorts. Filming.  Some people know already (one of those ‘worst kept secrets’ things).  I should be able to talk about it in…er…September.  Statute of limitations on certain types of filming work where one is employed in a certain type of role… 😉

And then…I got specially selected to join an exclusive Film Club.  And since the First Rule of (said) film Club is that you don’t talk about film club…well…there ya go.

Ooooh, I guess it’s not-so-secret that I’m going to be a Doctor Who tour guide.  I haven’t signed the tour-guides-official-secrets-act for that one; however I’m playing with ideas in my head that *I* want to keep secret so that anyone wishing to join my tour will have a couple of nice moments they didn’t know about before…

AND it’s been the Easter holidays from school…although I didn’t get to do much with the children last week due to the top-secret last-minute filming booking (which was *REALLY* fun to do, by the way.)  But, we did get to go and see Dewi & Dwynwen the dragons and their new…er…born (?) eggs at Caerphilly Castle … they’re SO fab.  Someimes I wish they were real…

And we had a BBQ.  Oh, and we went to the rugby!  Judgement Day V .. what a day out that was.  Apart from *some* unruly junior players sat around us, who I suspect lack both the discipline and the self-control to ever really make it to the top of their sport… Luckily, I like to think that my little player, despite being the smallest in the team (he has the speed to make up for it though…) has the the dedication and the passion to do just a little bit well (seriously…he gets REALLY upset when he has to miss even one training session or game…and he’s only in the Under-7’s!) ….and I’m looking forward to my free tickets to the hospitality box when he does… #ProudRugbyMum 

Posted in Acting, Filmmaking, TV, writing

It’s My Shout

Last summer I was fortunate to be involved in the “It’s My Shout” short-film training scheme.

It’s South-Wales based (although I think participants travel from elsewhere too). Industry profiessionals (crews who work on local productions for BBC and others, such as Casualty & Welsh-language soap opera Pobl Y Cwm ) take on trainee crews and even cast, to produce short films, derived from a short-film writing competition ealier in the year.

The first I’d heard of it was seeing a friend on Facebook congratulating a friend of his for making the script shortlist; followed by another friend & fellow actor asking if I’d like to go along with her to the introduction and registration evening being held locally.  After attending that and registering, we went along to a casting session. I read for two parts.  They were talking abotu a third I quite fancied but they didn’t seem to be casting for.  Of the two I read for, I preferred one.  After a few weeks, I got a call back….for the other one I hadn’t preferred! I went down to BBC Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff and met again with the director of the second audition. In the meantime, I’d had a call from the production office asking if I’d take on a completely different role I hadn’t read for!

As it turned out I didn’t get the other role I was called back for, nor the other role I read for.  Chatting to a fellow cast member, someone lined up for the role I’d been cast in, had been asked to play the other role (lost track yet?!)…the one I had been interested in at the open casting but they weren’t getting people to read for that role…

Anyway…fast-forward a few months and the award ceremony (a rather grand affair at the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay); I was nominated for Best Supporting Actress!  Considering I hadn’t even gone for the part initially I was chuffed to pieces (after getting over the shock!).  I scribbled a few notes in my head – just in case of winning, you know; but…this was a comedy role.  We all know that comedies never win the awards, right?  It’s the hard-hitting dramatic roles that win gongs…

It was a tough category…where every other category had been whittled down to 5 nominees (one even had 4…I think they had been struggling to find nominees for that one?); there were 8 nominees in my category. From a series of 9 films. If I didn’t stand a chance before, that was just the nail in the coffin now.  I almost stayed in my seat and didn’t bother to go to the nominees seating area closer to the stage; I was that convinced it would go to someone else.

Have you ever experienced something so shocking that everything seems to come to a standstill? And yet…when they called out my name, I wasn’t frozen to the spot…but my reactions felt mechanical…going through the motions. My mind was pretty numb, I guess my face was kind of stuck in a shocked expression, I managed to go through the motions of getting up, glancing around to acknowledge any faces I recognised, find my way to the side of the stage in the dark, and graciously thank (I hope!) the presenters of my award.  I think I even managed to say something legible that didn’t sound like a) a jumbled pile of garbage or b) a complete shocked silent stare; and then pose for a relatively nice picture with the presenters backstage.

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It’s my Shout scheme 2017 is open for 10-minute screenplay submissions until April 14th 2017, and potential Cast & Crew trainees can register interest now via the “Get Involved” section of the It’s My Shout Website, and follow their Facebook page for updates on registration sessions across South Wales and later on, open casting calls.

 

Posted in Acting, Christmas, Family, Home, Life, writing

Happy New Year

I know, I know, it’s almost 2 weeks into 2017.  Most people have stopped wishing each other ‘Happy New Year’ by now.

So much so that when someone said it to me yesterday I had to do a double take, and was so stunned into silence that a slight stutter in response was all I could manage before they were out of earshot to hear me return the sentiment.

Well, the darling laptop is home! Finally.  I realised, from finding my last blog entry, that it was 6 months ago that she ‘died’ … and I’ve survived that long! I know, right?

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As explained to friends the other day (via messenger chat, on the laptop! Woohoo!) … 2 months for the actual fixing (she had to be sent back to the manufacturer’s regional HQ across the Irish Sea since the repairs were beyond the capabilities of the little local repairman – so much for supporting the local High-street!) followed by 4 months of trying to scrape together enough money to spare to pay him. Yes, it’s that bad. It wasn’t even that much in the grand scheme of things; but to us, me, it was. I even did the Mrs Claus thing again this past Christmas, with all the good intentions that a short-lived regular income would pay off the small list of items I had prepared.  No such luck.  It got frittered away on Christmas luxuries like feeding the children and paying unauthorised-overdraft-charges and late-payment-fees at the bank.  Still, just about managed a couple of Christmas presents; a pile of Christmas cards which ended up never getting posted (Sorry!)

(It’s a whole other story what I think of a certain bank charging £££ for my account having accidentally strayed a whole 70p into the red for LESS THAN 24 HOURS – it was actually about 7 – before I found a little bit of cash to pay in to bring it back to normal)

But, this post isn’t about that.

In all honesty, I’m not sure WHAT it’s about specifically… in which case, I apologise for boring you!

What did strike me, on the school run yesterday, was that when I originally started writing here; I intended to at very least, write a short entry each day.  I even had a handful of titles, themes, trains of thought, to start me off.  I sometimes wrote 2-3 a day and scheduled their publication so there would be one each day.  And…

…as with other ventures, it trailed off.  I began to tell myself it was OK if I maybe only posted every couple of days.  Which turned in to once a week.  If I was lucky… And then, the whole laptop gone thing didn’t help because we do have an ancient desktop in the corner of one room, which is nice and compact for a desktop and it’s surrounded by the computer desk meaning that’s where the printer and all my belov’d stationery happen to reside also; but…it’s ancient (in terms of technology) and therefore is very slow and for the most part unresponsive.

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I barely managed to file my tax return online using it, and that was only after putting it off for 3 months longer than I would have, simply because I lived in hope of getting the laptop back in time to file on there before the deadline of 31 january.

Even though the computer desk in the corner is usually…well, at one point, always was…one of my (very few) happy places; even sitting there once a day/week/month attempting to write a blog on the old PC didn’t appeal.

Concerns such as “The children play computer and other games in this room” or “I can’t curl up comfortably on the end of the sofa, laptop resting on the arm, and write from a position of relaxation if I want to” (Yes, I was that petty.) Besides, I had other stuff, like winning acting awards (YAYYYYY!), looking for somewhere to live, getting a new Christmas Job and such things on my mind.

What the heck, I thought, no-one’s reading anyway.  Well, 2017, that’s not the point, is it?

Then, it struck me…DOH!  There’s all the things I was using as excuses to not keep up the blog (regardless of readership!) and yet…there’s instantly the beginnings of a list of posts.  Woohoo!

So, in case you missed it the first time, and in an attempt to get in my 750 words for today… Happy New Year.  I hope yours has started as you wish it to continue.  Or at the very least, better than last year ended.

 

Posted in Acting, Creative, Life, writing

Where am I…?

I keep thinking to myself “Oh, I have a little time to myself this evening, I really should sit down and write another post; or that short story I keep menaing to start; or … well… just anything, really.”

And then I get a slightly good idea for a blog post, and then… I read someone else’s blog and I think “Shit, that was good, why can’t I write something like that?”, and I get put off, and start emptying the dishwasher and sorting the laundry out instead…

And then, later, I realise I started this with a view to posting at least every day.

Then I let myself slip to thinking once a week, then once a fortnight….was OK …

But that’s not why I started this blog.  I started this blog to log my life (remember…?) ; and at the time was giving “750 words” a go.  And, I looked at my posting history and it has just dropped off.  So sod it, I’m posting uninteresting drivel again just for the heck of it.  Because I can!

In other news.  Remember THIS post? Just in case anyone was wondering, I didn’t get offered any of the parts.  One (in fact, the one who specifically said they’d be contacting everyone with feedback), I heard nothing from at all; just saw the castings posted with who they’d chosen; and two of the other auditionees I know told me afterwards they had both received a no but also feedback.  Not sure what happened there… (not trying to name and shame, just a little confused…).  The other two productions were very pleasant and gave the usual polite spiel .. you know, the “we’d like to keep hold of your details” type of thing.

And … I don’t feel bad.  I survived.  I’m not bitter.  Years ago I’d be in a black mood for weeks, kicking myself, threatening self-harm and all sorts of “They don’t know what they’re missing…I could do that standing on my head…”

Which, to me, is growth.

I’m getting somewhere!  (Just not on to any of those particular sets very soon…!)

 

X

Auditions

…are the reason, at least, so I’ve been telling myself for years, that I didn’t want ‘the actor’s life’.  I mean, who wants to voluntarily continuously place yourself in the position of someone saying “no”.

So, the alternative?  Go to one interview, they say yes, get a job, stay in it for 50 years. Retire. Sit in a sunny conservatory and stare out the window and dream of the things you might have done …

An audition is nothing but a job interview.  I’ve moved around so much over the past few years (well, all my life, really) I’ve had far more than my fair share of job interviews. promotion interviews, transfer interviews …

Last week I had three auditions.  Three.  And the nerves remained at bay. and I actually ENJOYED them!  I enjoyed the experience; which I had thought, 20 years ago, I would dread. I enjoyed them far more than any job interview I’ve had; regardless of whatever the impending job was.

I enjoyed them for the experience they were and the people I met.  I hold out no hope of being chosen for any of them (in fact, I’ve heard back from one that I was unsuitable, but that my audition was great.  Which was enough for me.) but, it’s a starting point.  I went to all three, held my head high and came out feeling positive; and not a gibbering mess!

Watch this space….

Posted in Acting, Creative, Family, History, Life

Careers I could have had…

The book I’m reading on my Kindle at the moment (and have been for a long while…I’ve not had much time to sit down and read since having children!) is called “One more year on Facebook” by Naomi Rettig, and it’s more-ish.  I was sat here on my laptop twittering and being far too disctracted by Facebook and remembered the book; and that I’d been meaning to look up the source – someone in the Extras Facebook group had mentioned she’d written a book and had linked to it so I’d downloaded it; and all the while I’ve been sneaking in five minutes here and there I’ve meant to look her up again and tell her how much I’m enjoying it.

Anyway, now I have (looked her up, not told her yet!), and discovered her blog.  And the most recent blog post was this one entitled “Careers I could have had (if it wasn’t for a few things)”; and even before reading the rest of the post, I thought it was a fab title, and subject.

So, here’s mine…

Actor – Because…  The funnest part of childhood was play-acting.  Make-believe games.  Be other people in other places. Hey, I grew up alone on a cargo ship with no one but a younger brother (and everyone knows how anoying they can be!) for company.  Pretending to be someone else comes naturally to me now.  I went to Youth Theatre (as long as I could get there under my own steam…walk, bus etc).  I wanted to take Drama GCSE.  I was steered away – the old story of “get useful qualifications”; that’s not a ‘real’ subject’; there’s hardly ANY future in that. The only other subject I wanted to do was English, which was compulsory anyway.  So I chose subjects just for the sake of choosing them.  And naturally, didn’t do that well. (OK, well, I got an A in French without trying, but I had travelled a lot, I think that was mainly for my grasp of the acccent!)  By the time I got to A level subject choices, I put my foot down.  The only one I really wanted to do was Theatre Media & Drama.  And they let me.  I suspect it was only because there were only three others wanting to do it and they were trying to make up the numbers.

Sailor – No, really.  even 20 something years ago I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being a female at sea.  Obviously these days more and more stories like this one are cropping up.  But when I was doing my GCSE’s there was a poster up on one of the noticeboard in school about P&O (I think) cargo apprentice crew scheme, or something of the kind; and for a while there, I actually entertained, for more than a fleeting second, the idea of actually going to sea like my father.  I can’t remember what put me off, whether it was the thought of having to do A Level maths, or the fact that it really would put pay to my acting/writing/directing dreams once and for all…

Marine Biologist/Oceanographer – Yeh…fleetingly, this one.  Mainly because I was fascinated at the time by SeaQuest DSV (for that, read, I had a crush on Jonathan Brandis since Neverending Story 2).

Film Director – I wanted to Act. Until I realised that the person in charge of the actors was pretty much the director.  I wanted to be Stephen Spielberg for most of my teens.

So, this, and Oceanographer, were the two things I went with when it came my turn to see the Careers Advisor during GCSE decision time at school.  I think I stumped him.  Now, if he’d said something creative like, “OK, well how about you go into camera work, learn about underwater filming, and become an authority on marine underwater filming for movies and documentaries…and here’s some ideas on how you could start out in being a camera…person …”, well, then, I’d be doing that today.  As it was, he shrugged, and said, “Well, they’re both so different.  Do all sciences for Oceanography.  And there’s not really any university course you can do to be a film director.”.  And that was that.  Most unhelpful ‘advice’ session I’ve ever encountered.  In fact, has put me off asking for advice in general for anything!

Writer – Because I just managed to do that all the time with pretty much no help and got some pretty good responses to stuff I wrote for English assignments (like incredulous looks from my English teacher on occasion as she appeared to be trying to figure out if I really wrote that…); And I realised, that Acting required auditions.  The thought of which terrified me; and so, the Director being in charge of the actors (and not having to audition!) seemed inviting; but that required a set and crew and budget and producers; none of which I had a clue how to get; but writing ….ah…well…..paper, pencil…and you’re away!  Into your own world … write…write….write… and …rely on the same crippling fear of auditions to creep in to take effect in the event of anyone getting close to reading anything I wrote.  Drat.

Midwife – New country, new normal, new career?  I dunno, I toyed with the idea for a bit when we moved back to the UK.  I love babies and the whole pregnancy and birth process fascinates me; but it’s impractical to keep having them yourself.  I love nurses and the angels who do that; but the thought of doing a job where the majority of people you see might be at the end of their life….well; midwifery at least erring on the side that the majority of your patients were at the beginning … not the end…

Air Hostess – It seemed to be everyone else’s goal, dream, when I was working as ground staff, to move ‘up’ to cabin crew.  At that point it never appealed to me.  Later, it occured to me that a job which was a perfect combination of Passenger services AND Cabin crew, you know, like a whole-journey thing, not just cabin service and safety, would be a perfect role.  And just like that, as though someone pulled it out of my head, Air NZ introduced them!  In-Flight Concierges.  On board purely as Passenger services, info point, Liaise between reservations and check-in and cabin crew and passengers, travel with them, be an expert on the destination.  I applied.  Heart set.  Failed . Still wonder what might have been. But the time has passed.

Pilot – Another whim.  While I was working at the airport.  When I was single and carefree.  I did actually start having flying lessons.  Then… rent needed paying, and bills.  And I got distracted.  I’d still love to learn to fly and get my PPL.  That’ll be a ‘if I win the lottery’ thing.  I think I’m way past being paid to do it for a living.

So, what do I do?  What am I?  For all the umm-ing and Ah-ing; and the ‘get a real job instead of pursuing Drahmah …

I’ve drifted.  I’ve fallen into line and had ‘real’ dead-end jobs.  I’ve given up my own aspirations and followed someone else’s around the world.  It’s been fun, but I’ve felt like I was waiting for something the whole time….waiting for the ‘one day’ from ‘one day, I will write and act’ to come around.  Of all the things above I fondly remember that I once wanted to do (and probably could have done any of if I’d set my mind to); the two I want to do and be known for, are writing and acting.  I have the ability to do both. I just need the confidence and the shove in the right direction …

X

Posted in Acting, Christmas, Creative, Family, Holiday

The Christmas Kitchen is open!

Last year, when we were all higgeldy-piggeldy and made the last-minute, unplanned move back to the UK, and O/H was having trouble a) finding work and/or b) holding it down once he’d found it; I saw an ad looking for Mrs Claus for a local large hotel’s Santa’s grotto.  Not sure how I stumbled across it but, well, it just seemed like fun.  I thought, what the heck? I applied for it on a whim. Of course, I expected them to be looking for white-haired ladies with a few more years behind them. So I was surprised to say the least when I was actually offered the job.   Of course, I’m going for more of the “Santa Clause 2” Elizabeth Mitchell version of Mrs. Claus, than the Angela Lansbury or Judy Cornwell version …

It was the first year they’d had Mrs Claus at their Grotto, so it was pretty much a chance to make use of my acting and improv skills … which I hadn’t used in so many years.

Basically, Mrs Claus at this grotto, runs a ‘kitchen’, baking gingerbread.  Children, while waiting to see the big man, come in, sit by a table and get to decorate a gingerbread christmas tree with icing and dolly-mixtures. A far more fun and participatory experience than standing in line, probably in rain, or snow, for ages.  Of course, there are always people who find something to complain about.  But, as in any of my past experinces in face-to-face customer service, we tell ourselves through gritted teeth, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  If someone had a problem with one aspect, it would be corrected.  Very soon, someone would have an issue with that correction.  If someone felt there was too much ‘waiting around’ (the word Queue is banned at Christmas!!), then procedures were put in place to streamline the process; then someone would feel that the new procedures were ‘rushing them through’ the experience…

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This year, there are changes; some of the ‘old’ things I miss; other changes are welcome, to both staff, and more importantly, wide-eyed excited visitors who constantly enquire when they will see Santa.  Nothing like building anticipation!

On Christmas eve last year, Santa asked me if I’d consider coming back {this year}. I thought about it for  a moment, and decided I would.  (Luckily, he said he would too, so, along with two of las year’s elves, I’m not the only returnee!)

For all the difficulties, discomforts and downfalls the job brought with it, spending the month of December watching, smiling and laughing, and interacting with countless amazed and excited children really is the best way of filling you with the Christmas spirit!

That, and watching Elf and Frozen on repeat for a whole month …

“Let it go….let it go….”

X

(Update – amusingly, someone reviewed the grotto on a rather well known review site, part of which stated Mrs Claus didn’t look like Mrs Claus – which amused me since how does one not look like an imaginary character?! – and the majority of the review reduced things the reviewer didn’t particularly like to “stupid” and “boring”.  Yes, just those two words.  over and over again.  Great use of vocab, there, nothing like constructive criticism, is there?!)

 

Posted in Acting, Family, Movies

Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon

Not a long post, really.  Just thought it might amuse a few readers to mention:

I had a night in with my sister and a mutual friend for my birthday this year.  Which is by the by.  But at some point during the drinking, sis mentioned to friend how I was usually pretty good at Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon; based on my random yet extensive film knowledge.  Not sure I can live up to her lauding, but I CAN do 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon with myself.

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Kevin Bacon was in A Few Good Men with Demi Moore, who was in St Elmo’s Fire (which has an awesome title track, by the way); which also starred Andrew McCarthy (who I adored in Mannequin, incidentally), who did a movie called Dead Funny, which was exec produced by my grandfather.

Which I think is 3, or 4 degrees.  Depending on how you count it.  Or 5.  Definitely not 6.

The end.