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.

 

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Posted in Art, Creative, Filmmaking, History, TV, writing

Happy due South Day

Just because…

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This is what happens when you combine the fantabulous Paul Haggis, the Amazing Leslie Nielsen and the breathtaking Canada, mix in a little Shakespeare, in one little TV show …

A few months ago I wrote this post about online fandom.  Even without online fandom that there was at the time, I would have fond memories of this TV show.  Anyway, since the episode containing this speech (Swansong ep “Call of the Wild”, in case you’re wondering and want to go back and find it) aired, the random date chosen to feature in this speech has had a place in many DS fans’ hearts as ‘Due South Day’.  So, here it is.

Click here for Buck Frobisher’s 11th March Speech

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Happy March 11th.

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Posted in Creative, Filmmaking, Movies, writing

Just The Ticket

I was driving to, um, somewhere, a few days ago, and suddenly struck upon an idea that may make a nice (sad, sorry, but short and nice) short-film type script.

So that is this week’s obsession.  Well, apart from Christmas officially beginning in my head, since induction and training for the place where I will be Mrs Claus has started this week (well, last night), also.  And something to immerse myself in when trying to distract myself from sh*t that isn’t Christmassy, or generally nice.  Except, this starts off in a funeral type setting.

Cheery, eh?

I know the premise.  And pretty much the story. And the title. (It’s the title of this post, also).  I’m pretty confident I can craft this into something nice.  Or as nice as it can be, considering it begins with death.

Pretty good idea of who I’d like to cast, you know, in an ideal world.  Any takers who might be interested in having a read and maybe producing … let me know …

 

Posted in Acting, Filmmaking, Life, Movies, Social Media, TV

Random connections…

So, Twitter has been my fad of the moment.

I mean, I signed up for it ages ago, and tweeted a little;  but up until now, it’s been one of those things I could have taken or left.  I use Facebook a lot … living in other countries and having children meant FB was good for keeping in touch with family and friends and sharing the children growing up. Twitter, I never really got.  People said “It’s what you make of it”, “It depends who you follow, and what you’re interested in”.

I have the odd convo with people I’m also friends with on FB and in real life. someone told me once they use Twitter for saying things they wouldn’t say on FB.  Fewer connections, a little more anonymous, I guess.

Sometimes I’ll check it in time to learn some big piece of breaking news.  Other times, I’ll search a hashtag to see what other people are saying about stuff (like #Casualty when they did those double eps at the end of August!). Generally, no. Generally, Facebook is my go-to society.

Except something strange happened.  A couple of weeks ago now.  I got an availability check from an SA agency.  (This is when they put out feelers to people who might suit  a particular role they’ve been asked to cast.  They choose the people who fit the bill from their database, then contact those chosen to see if they’re available for the dates required, before putting them forward to the production).  Anyway, over hurdle #1 before I even knew about it – I sort of must have fit the bill ‘they’ were looking for.  #2, I was available for the filming dates, and could possibly make the suggested costume fitting schedule.  Next thing I know #3 – I’ve been shortlisted for “the part” -( i.e. a named part, meaning this was no ‘random passer by’, this was a particular role.  Not necessarily speaking, but what is known as ‘featured’. ) but ‘they’ wanted to see a video clip of those of us on the shortlist; to see how we are on camera.

By tomorrow morning.

And I was on set, dressed for the 1980’s.  Green eye shadow and hairspray and everything.

ETA at home, possibly after 10pm.

So, I get home, dig out the tripod and the remote for the DSLR, and realise from what other SA’s had been talking about who’d done some of it, this is a period thing they’re casting for – no eye shadow or hairspray type of period.  Wipe off as much make up as I could; disguise the fact my hair has been backcombed to within an inch of its life; try and get the lighting as right as I can, in the dining room, alone, at night; and film myself talking random gibberish to camera for a minute or so (trying to not wake everyone in the house); edit it slightly to add my name and a little title screen, so it looks relatively presentable; and email it back to the agency.  Phew.

After all that excitement, my mind starts wandering to what it would be like to get this part.  That I hadn’t considered even  existed before today, let alone wanting, or chasing, or applying for.

I hadn’t considered being on this particular production.  I’d heard other SAs talking about it – about how days they’d done on it had been enjoyable.  For a lot of period work, well, anything earlier than the 1970s I suppose, they rarely put anyone with a fringe forward. (Along with no dyed hair or obvious piercings, etc etc)

My fringe was still growing out.  I was in such a mindset that I had a fringe, I hadn’t realised that by now, it’s really long enough that it can be pretty much styled to not be seen. Up until now, I had not even considered being put forward for anything other than contemporary stuff.  So, this sudden turn of events had peaked my interest in this production they’d all been talking about.  So I googled it, and IMDB‘d it, and scrolled down the cast list for the character to whom I would have been related.  Interesting … portrayed by an interesting looking actor, who happens to be originally from the same locale as me!  So, I look up said performer on twitter and, purely out of interest, you understand, click ‘follow’.

Next day, more excitement … I am down to THE LAST TWO!

It’s me or someone else.

O.M.G!  Two days ago I didn’t know anything about this production nor did I have any inclination or need to go anywhere near it.  By now I was pretty overly invested … damn you internet searches!

Hurdle #4 – can I get down to (secret location) to see the costume and makeup departments ASAP.  Hell yeah I can! Hot foot it, leaving half a cup of tea.  Nice chat the the hair lady who loved my hair but worried it was too short, and mentioned she was under the impression I was the only one left in the running, and advised what to do with my hair before shooting day; and the costume team, who measured pretty much everything…

So, you can guess how this is going to go….

Step #5, the next day, they have to wait to see the other girl …

And… she got it.  Apparently, they ‘Luuurrved me, dahling’ … and there were arguments over me.  But in the end, I wasn’t chosen. Ah well, two days work, at a higher rate than your regular random background blur.  So near and yet so far. On a brighter note, from what I could gather from write-ups, there are regular gruesome endings for certain charcaters of this show.  Chances are I might have only had one scene – the one in which I died. Plus, another SA who was in 1980 with me (see above) said she’d had a similar near-miss experience of being offered a featured part – she saw it as a bonus – one day featured, or a couple of weeks as a regular background later on … good point, I suppose.

Meanwhile, the point of this post is not the excitement of this particular casting process, but it leading me to Twitter.

Ah yes, Twitter.  So, the feeling of rejection, insofar as I hadn’t courted the role at all up until a couple of days ago, really got to me, for a couple of days at least.  (At least it took my mind off other things going on in my life, for a couple of days).  I consoled myself by following the cast and crew of my new found ‘must see’ production on Twitter.  Particularly that original cast member. Who was having various Twitter ‘conversations’ with other followers, mostly in the U.S.A. I randomly started participating in one of these conversations; and eventually, fell in to conversation with one of those other followers, completely separate from cast and crew.  And blimey, this complete stranger from the other side of the world turned out to be amazingly interesting – living such a different life from anything I’d been used to (Which, I’ve mentioned in other posts, is quite a lot, really).  I mean, for one thing, she goes prospecting for a few months of every year – I never knew people even did that anymore!

Prospector_dance

Now I’m having notions about going on a writers research trip and following her on a prospecting trip, and writing about it – maybe an article, or a book, even a movie.  Now there’s something I’ve not done before.  A bit fanciful.  No, EXTREMELY fanciful; but still …

Apart from this new pen-friend, a few other random conversations seem to have happened from simply participating a lot more there.

In amongst the drivel and the drudge, I’ve come to realise just how wonderful is this interabyss that it allows us to just connect, and share, and find those we need to talk with or just share with, to help us feel right again; just when we need them, to take our mind off things, to connect over something.

Posted in Acting, Filmmaking, Movies, TV, writing

How I became an ‘Extra’

When I was in school I chose drama (or, more specifically, “Theatre & Media Studies”) as an A-level subject.

I’d been ‘steered’ away from choosing it for GCSE and regretted it for that entire 2 year period.  It really was all I had any interest in doing anyway, apart from English, which was a given, set subject anyway.  But, it was a subject that led nowhere, I should choose more academic subjects, learn skills and choose more useful courses. I’m sure you’ve heard that excuse before.

When it came to choosing A level subjects,  I probably could have had the choice of a number of GCSE subjects which I’d done pretty well at, with little (or no, now I come to admit it) effort in revision or study; but I really didn’t have the heart to pursue any of them.  I always wanted to act, and/or make movies. (I still do, but that’s a whole other story.  Although it’ll probably crop up once or twice during this post.) when it came down to discussing it with teachers, and then mum, once they gave me cause to hope it was possible to choose this having not studied it to GCSE.

Looking back since, I think it was pure desperation on their part to make up the numbers – there ended up only being four of us on the A level course anyway.  Which, for any other course with practical aspects might have been a hindrance.

But for us, it worked out fine.  Any theoretical classroom based work was quiet and studious with no distraction.  And the practical aspects…well, we produced a ‘prospectus video’ for the school, which with just four of us as a tight knit production team was easy – fewer of us to argue the toss, to storyboard, to direct.  We were able to all get hands on experience with the camera, and the teachers got us a day in an actual editing suite, learning to use the equipment and again, all getting hands on experience editing our actual video.  Being only four of us, any practical acting presentations (as a group or sometimes two pairs) we did showcased each of us far more than larger groups might have had the opportunity for. I went to a Welsh medium school. Because the 1st-lanuage Welsh speaking community in South Wales was so much smaller than in other parts of Wales, a lot of welsh-speakers had, I suspect, friends and acquaintances in different professions in the area.  In this case, Welsh speaking drama teachers have a number of contacts within the world of Welsh-language drama and TV production.  Therefore, a small group of drama students could be offered ideal experience in TV and media production (to benefit their studies, of course) and at the same time benefit the production company by being a bunch of free extras for various productions.

Off the top of my head, an S4C drama called “Er Mwyn Tad” whose main character was a teenage girl, and so, for certain scenes, required a group of teenage friends…Voila; and Welsh-language soap opera “Pobl-Y-Cwm” – still alive and well today – where a contemporary story line involved an underage schoolgirl getting involved with one of her teachers.  Hence, scenes regularly being filmed in and around our school and some of us being required to populate halls and classrooms for scenes; and, when said character left school and went to college, she still required friends/classmates for certain scenes set in said ‘college’.  It was fun, it was an experience, and I doubt everyone who ‘did drama in school’ can say they had such benefits to learn from.

Fast Forward twenty-something years; and, even though it had crossed my mind a few times in the interim, ‘being an extra’ had never really occurred to me as something one does.  Over the years I’d watched stuff – TV and movies, and it had struck me how some people in the background seemed to be acting very very nonchalantly, as though they hadn’t noticed a movie being made, and a Hollywood A lister walking around right in front of them.  On other productions, (sadly, the majority) some of those in the background seemed to be over-acting, or just generally very bad at ‘acting normal’.  In most instances, I assumed that someone on the crew just went round after they’d cordoned off the set and grabbed some people on the street and said ‘hey, you, come and walk along this street and pretend you don’t see Mel Gibson crashing a car behind you, OK?’.  Or words to that effect.

On one occasion, someone who drank at the same pub my parents did, got cast in a movie they were shooting locally (yet another period piece, so using the castles an landscapes of Wales), and his tales of being on set were pretty inspiring…and tales of getting paid for it as well, even more so.

Years later, when I’d moved to the other side of the world, and was expecting #1 and contemplating maternity leave, I saw an ad in a local paper, I think, looking for people of all ages and looks and races to sign up to be TV and movie extras.  I toyed with the idea for a bit, as a hobby or a part time thing, but for some reason it slipped my mind, and to be honest, I’d not even thought of that until writing this now.

Then, all change again in my everyday life, and finding ourselves back here, and finding it difficult to find work of any kind, let alone full time, to fit around the OH and his shifts, and the children and their school and other commitments; I settled for a hotch-potch of casual contracts, for now.  One, the first one, really, was one of those ‘Seasonal’ jobs that comes up around Christmas time.  No, not your general extra checkout people at M&S or the supermarket; or extra sorters at the local parcel depot; this one was the cream of the crop…well, short of switching gender and growing a long white beard…but if it’s Christmas and you’re a woman (especially one who, when it came to castings in the past, always got cast as a matriarchal-type figure); where better to be but at Santa’s side playing Mrs Claus?!

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And so, this was my first foray into public performance, acting, since all those years before, in school, (and extra-curricular drama club). Back in the saddle.

The grotto would close so we could all have lunch together; Mrs Claus, Santa, the elves. during one of our lunch breaks, during the “What do you do when you’re not doing this” conversation that one generally has when participating in something short-term, concentrated, like this; Santa let on that he was pretty much a full time Extra (Or ‘Supporting Artiste’ – generally referred to within the industry as an ‘S.A.’.), and, contrary to what I’d always assumed in previous flirtations with the idea, made quite an O.K. living out of it.  Well, Full Time and able to make some kind of living off it?  Now there’s an idea.  And with all the ‘hanging around’, time in between to get on with writing; not to mention absorbing more production experience while it was going on around me.

So, in the new year, I looked into it a bit more.  Of course, in the years before when I’d toyed with this idea, there was no internet.  Now, all the information is far more accessible.  For everyone.  And there are so many more trying to get in to this line of work. The agencies are full to bursting of people vying for work.  And they’re always happy to take more – the more versatile and full their books are the more chance they have of placing someone on a production and therefore earning commission from the fee.  Easy to find the information and sign up.  Not so easy to get offered the work …

All in all, I’ve been quite lucky in my first year as far as amount of work.  Of course, far from being full time, it’s still more along the lines of interesting hobby which pays a bit. Although from what I can gather, some of those who treat this as a hobby or a sideline, sometimes don’t see any work at all for the whole year (most agencies require the people on their books to re-register annually.  If for nothing else, this means that photos are always up-to-date, a requirement since productions cast on the way you look and fit in to their background/set), so I’m one of the lucky ones I think.

This year, I’ll be back being Mrs Claus again for December, with the same Santa too, so we can swap stories.

I did read a blog post recently about someone’s life as an S.A.; but do you think I can find it again to link to?  Nup! So, one day soon I’ll write a bit more about the ins and outs of it; within the parameters of the rule-book of course !!! (Yes, there is one of those too!).  Don’t expect insider gossip or pictures of ‘the stars’.  If I had any, if there’s any sure fire way of getting kicked off the books, that would be it! Don’t expect show-stopping glamour or tales of how anyone got their ‘big break’, either.  It’s none of those things.

On the other hand, there’s a great bunch of hard-core ‘regulars’ on the circuit, and we do get to play with memes like this …

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