What’s up, November?

These past few weeks have been all about The Curious Voyage, a secret immersive theatre show crossing continents! Indeed, it is being produced by Talk is Free Theatre, a company from Barrie, Canada. Canadian guests start a three-day immersive experience in Barrie ending in London, UK. Others are free to only do the London day, starting at 1pm and ending at 9pm in various London locations. You can read reviews on Broadway World or Londonist.

With only five more shows to do this coming week, I wanted to tell a bit more about my experience on the team, without revealing anything about the show of course! What I love about my part of the show, directed by Daniele Bartolini, is that the audience members really are the most important. They are the life of the show, as opposed to the actors.

In fact, I don’t feel like I’m acting at all. I have a script to follow, but also need to react to the groups I am leading through the “Voyage”. This has made the experience very freeing and I plan on taking this element into future shows.

I also have to point out the amazing people I’ve been working with: our director Daniele, the actors (Nikos Brahimllari; Rory de Brouwer; Gianpiero Cognoli; Magdalena Korpas; Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin, Ninad Samadder, Danielle Stagg) and our incredible producer Raylene Turner. I believe the nature of the show has opened us all up to each other’s quirkiness and originality – every crew member is an artist in their own way and it’s been a treat to meet them all. I will miss them when this is over.

Speaking of, after this show, I will be renewing my actor headshots and hopefully jumping on the audition train again.

Thanks for reading!

Toodloo and good night.   

Dear Mum: in the can

Every filmmaking experience is unique. It depends on the people you are working with, the chemistry between them, and the story that is being told. Working with my friend Donovan Swart over the last six months to prepare for Dear Mum has been a wonderful creative experience. What I felt I brought to the table was my experience on multiple short film sets as an actress, and also producer on Der Gugelhupf earlier this year. What he brought was this tremendous short story of grief, family and human connection. As we quickly noticed, the characters that he wrote were so full of life that what happens after or before the events of this short film could go in many directions. Donovan’s love for films, books and storytelling as well as excellent people skills were the fuel supporting our experience.

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Acting wise, this has probably been my most challenging role due to the emotion it required. However, by being a producer, I feel like I’d been living with my character Katie for months. This helped me take my time to research her life, make personal decisions and, once the other actors were cast, develop her relationships. Once we got on set, I think the culmination of it all was a big help. In fact, a few days before we started, I was really itching to GO!

I had the majority of my scenes with Daniel Barry, a generous and very friendly actor who I got to know a bit before shooting. He played my husband George, and it was great to have him as a partner. My daughter was played by Lucy Allwood, who had been perfect in the audition already, and I wish I had had more than one scene with her! It was great to act alongside people of different ages on this project. My father was played with so much focus and generosity by CJ Barton. Without lines, he still stole the show in my opinion. My mother Fiona was played by Chrissie Grech, who I acted in flashback scenes with. I became attached to her and it was fun imagining some of our past together.

During the five-day shoot (four in a house in South West London and one in Botany Bay), I often had to pinch myself that people were working tirelessly for this one story. We had a great crew, starting with the brilliant director of photography Ariel Artur, who brought along his great camera team Steven Fairman, Felix Dembinski and Clare Brittain. Our assistant director Andrea Ratti is out of this world, so organised, sweet and strict when needed. The skill of developing a stripboard is a mystery to me. Andrea was assisted by the lovely Rama Amkie. Our sound technician was Lee Viesnik, and our make up artist Joan Karimi, who I was happy to have interesting conversations with, especially on our last day. Continuity was handled by Valentina Marciano (also a runner), Hannah Rogers and Sandra Tomalka. I had not realised early enough during pre-production how important this role was, which is why we couldn’t find one same person for all days. Better next time! Our super duper runners were: Orhan Toprakci (also producer), Cat Scambler (also executive producer), Liam Bland (also acting as the barman and assisting Donovan on script work), Marina Lacoste and Valentina, mentioned above. On set photography was handled by Luisina Fascendini and Ivan Troopa.

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What I care about as producer is that: nothing broke and no one died! Seriously, I feel that that’s the job of the producer: make sure everyone shows up and stays healthy, and that things get done. A film team is a house of cards. Take one away, and it all falls apart. I am so pleased that I could play this role in Donovan’s first film. As a director, he was a great leader and this is definitely only the beginning for him.

Post production has now started, and I will be keeping you updated on edits and more photos. In the meantime, I’m now in rehearsals for an immersive show called The Curious Voyage, so I’m out of here! Toodloo.

It's September!

Temperatures have cooled, international film festivals are in full swing, and we are approaching our shoot for DEAR MUM. With the help of the wonderful producing team Don, Cat, Orhan and Andrea, I feel we are on the right track. Our 2nd AC and gaffer have been locked, which is great news!

Rehearsals: To prepare, I have been taking in text, audio and videos about mother-daughter relationships and bipolar disorder over the summer. I met my fellow actor Daniel Barry this week, and am so pleased that he is even more of a character geek than me! I've been chatting with Lucy Allwood (playing my daughter Lily) and Chrysanthe Grech (playing my mother Fiona) about memories. This is wonderful, and I am in the process of writing my full life backstory as Katie. Next week, actors will be meeting with director Donovan to work on scenes. 

Costume: the next week will be about tone and locking down costume. This is always a tough one for me: you don't want your own taste to get in the way. I am happiest when someone just hands me what I have to wear (this has only happened to me twice thus far) - is that lazy?

Set design: we are meeting with set designer Sunny Jeon this week at the house, the location where we will be shooting for four days.

Catering: apart from the fact that looking at websites of catering menus is mouth-watering, this is an important part of our budget. As an actress, I notice the disappointment when you are simply served supermarket sandwiches and soda - no go!

Toodloo!

Casting almost complete

Yesterday we had our audition day, meeting ten candidates for the various characters. It was an incredible learning experience for me and the other producers Cat, Donovan (our director) and Orhan. We asked the actors to read a specific scene, and then chatted with them. I was very grateful have two friends Tony and Elena coming in to read with the actors. We now have confirmed three out of the four actors we were looking for, and are still deciding on the last one. The casting announcement should happen soon though!

We have now also hired a make up artist and... a 1st assistant director! This is wonderful news, as they are a great addition to our team, have an excellent eye for detail, and I can now focus more fully on the acting - yes!

Next week we will be traveling down to Margate to scout two more locations, and our cast rehearsal will happen in September.

Thanks for following our progress! 

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Dear Mum: two months to go!

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In acting news this week, I met a wonderful group of actors for the rehearsed reading of Romiette + Julio (a rewritten version of Shakespeare's play by Lauren Morley) at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre on Wednesday.  

In other news, notably DEAR MUM, please forgive the silence, the last three weeks have been all casting-related for me. While writer-director Donovan is working on his shot list for the film, he's also been deep in the casting process as self-tapes for four roles have been coming in. I am happy to say that we have now picked our FIONA, and that the actress has accepted the role!

In three weeks, we will hold our face to face auditions with our favourite candidates for the other three characters in London, some of whom have already scheduled their audition slot. I would say I already have my favourites for each character, but plan on being surprised.

With a little over two months before we shoot, there are still many questions to be answered, such as who will be our set designer or which beach we will choose to shoot one of our scenes at. 

Meanwhile, here is our poster for the film! It was photographed by Luisina Fascendini Gatti and designed by Marc Sargeant and shows my character Katie contemplating which words to put down on the page as she writes to her mother. 

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Dear Mum: 3 months to go

We just had a great week-end of meetings on Donovan Swart's film DEAR MUM. With almost three months to go before we shoot, things are cooking.

- Casting: today, Don and I sat down to sort through the large number of talented actors who applied for the various roles in the film. I will play Katie, which leaves us with the roles of my mother, father, husband and daughter. In the next 24 hours, I will be sending out self-tape requests. This will be a great way to see how the candidates look on screen while speaking a particular part of the script. Our decision on self-tapes will lead to the next step of face to face auditions. 

On my last film DER GUGELHUPF, I only had one actor to find. Now that we have four people to cast, and that family chemistry will play a huge role, the challenge is strong. Being on the other side of things here (instead of being the actor), I notice how vital it is to have an up to date headshot and not to show images that are too dark or where a face is covered in blood. In addition, you notice the immediate impression that a first showreel clip gives. I would say that when it comes to showing acting skills, it is better to show a monologue with a plain background than a very dark clip.  

- Production: fellow producer Orhan and I sat down yesterday to make an estimate of the budget. Some funding opportunities are still open, but we are working while assuming we will work only with our money. We are still within budget, but as you know, last expenses can also pile up, such as insurance, food or costume. However it's great to notice that we have not passed our set budget. 

Greetings from HOT London.

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House and dates locked

Today is all about DEAR MUM, a short film written and directed by Donovan Swart. I'm happy to announce that this week the production team locked the house we will be shooting in for four days in late September.

Indeed, the story, which involves five members of a family, mostly takes place in a house with its living room, kitchen and bedrooms. I don't think we could have found a better place to shoot in, and most importantly, this news helps everyone move towards the next important step: casting. 

We've been receiving many applications for our characters, and Donovan and I will be meeting this week to create a first shortlist that we will request self tapes from. This is another essential stage which involves emotion and human chemistry - a great challenge!

Have a great week everyone!

 

Another door opens

Me again! 

Following the completion of the German-language short film DER GUGELHUPF, I am now turning this page into a diary about my life as an actress slash producer!

My film has now been sent to a few festivals. There is one I am hoping will accept to screen it, but otherwise it has been difficult to decide which places to send it to. Submitting can end up costing quite a bit, so for now I will submit to only a few per month while waiting for first selections from my choices.

On the acting side of things, my Spotlight now has three reels in my three languages: English, French and German! I was pleased to receive the full film of THE INK SLINGER, shot back in February, and used a scene from it for my English reel.

In terms of what is in the pipeline, there is a theme which will define this summer: mental health. First, I will be involved in Scott Lyus's OUR SONG, a sci-fi story about dementia. I look forward to playing the daughter, as I am always happy to be involved with Scott's work. This piece will be a very personal one to him, and you can support his film here

Second, I am part of the production team of Donovan Swart's short film DEAR MUM, a family drama which takes place following a suicide. I will be playing the lead Katie who has lost her mother. We are currently locking our principal location and will soon start the casting process as well. I'm pleased Don has also found a cinematographer he likes, and that collaboration will be very interesting to watch. Watch this space!

As we approach the longest day of the year, I am excited to start working on roles that require me to dig deeper into myself. 

Until next time!

Watching yourself

As I wait for the last few adjustments to the 5-minute short film DER GUGELHUPF, I wanted to put on my actress hat and tell you about what it feels like to watch yourself acting on screen.

Let me tell you something: I've never been as self-critical than with this film. Is it because it's a product of my imagination? Because I was involved on more levels than in other projects? Probably!

So far, the first viewings of my films have come with some difficulty - sometimes with my inner voice screaming "stop overacting!" - but in subsequent viewings, I settle in, watch the other actors, notice the camera movements, and take more and more distance from it. I haven't lived with it as long as the director has, so I am able to take a step back and enjoy the story.

People find it strange that some actors don't like watching themselves. However, it actually makes a lot of sense. Screen acting is such a younger craft than the millennia-old discipline of the actor. The original job of the actor is to perform to a live audience. Words are said, audiences react, actors react to the audience, everything's immediate. What's more, the power of the moment means that you have the luxury of not watching your own performance. Therefore, I understand that when you are watching a film six months after actually shooting it, you may feel like some of it is fake: you have evolved, you've done other things, and you are now looking at something that you felt all those months ago. Perhaps today, you would have reacted differently.

Back to DER GUGELHUPF: I'm actually quite grateful, because I've finally found out about a very important habit I have and which appears on screen here. I've either not had it come out this much before, or directors didn't mind it, but I have been watching it multiple times over the last month and it definitely caught my eye. I see it as a lesson! If you want to know what it is, you'll have to watch the film!

On that note, I wish everyone a good week, and thank you for following!

Post-production

And we're back! Things are cooking again for DER GUGELHUPF, which has now been fully edited by Marcell Feher. The short film is just a little over five minutes long. The next two stages, which should be completed this month, are colour grading and sound mixing, which are now in progress.

Colour grading: as we shot outside and that the light changed over the course of the day, we need to adjust colour and light in the film in order to it all to look fluid and real.

Sound mixing: I will know more about the impact once it is fully finished, but this is to make sure all sounds that occurred during our shoot are nicely combined in order for the audio experience to complete the visual one.

There is much less for me to do at this point, apart from coordinating progress with the post-production team.

Next week I will be going into my first impressions of the film.

Thank you for following! 

 

We came, we saw...

We did it! The past two months of work have led to one magical day of shooting in Central London with a cast and crew of 11 people. In the week leading up to it and during the day itself, I had to keep pinching myself that it was happening: 10 people coming together for me, to make something out of nothing - the beauty of filmmaking.

The call time was 9am at a private square that we were extremely lucky to use. Snow had been falling all week, so I was worried about a storm, but the snow had already started melting by the time the day was finished. There will be snow in the film, which is hopefully going to add an extra flavour.

As the camera crew started setting up, our make up artist Sarah D'Cruz worked on Maria and I. This is my third time working with Sarah, whose input and professionalism I've enjoyed since the first minute of knowing her. By 11am, everyone was outside to prepare the first shot - a wide shot of me, Character A, coming into the square to sit on a bench before Character B appears. As the film is just one scene, we were able to act it out from start to finish many times, which I think we actresses appreciated. The camera crew, led by the amazing and award-winning Barbara Van Schaik and assisted by Donny Johnson and Clem Nachbauer, were top notch and I'm so glad I had them. I met Clem at the same time as Sarah, and I believe that even when we are sixty years old, I will still be telling people "he's so young and so talented!". Pablo Valverde was recording sound, thanks to a boom and individual little microphones for the actresses, and did an amazing job. Sound people are always intriguing to me: they are quiet, almost invisible, and so focused. We also had a continuity person called Eleanor, a photographer called Alexi, and a runner called Orhan. Finally, there was Hannah Rogers, our co-director, calm, collected and completely on it. As we had met many times before the shoot, I trusted completely that she knew what we were going for, and often didn't need to check the shot on the monitor. 

We broke for lunch after filming various slates - I served my Gugelhupf cake for dessert - and then we finished shooting the scene before it got dark. As I called it a "Wrap" and joined the camera crew for a drink, I felt quite sad, perhaps lonely! Shooting is incredible, but this was the first time I realised how far from finished the product was. Somehow, I felt that I still had mountains to climb, so I couldn't quite relax. What awaits now is editing by Marcell Feher, sound mixing and colour grading.

In the meantime, you can check out our page on IMDb

Los geht's!

Last night, I had a dream that I was the leader of a spaceship and that I was taking my crew up into space. When we got up there, a hole got pierced in one of the windows and I had to block it with my hand. I blocked it all the way back down to earth. 

Der Gugelhupf is all around me. This week, every time I got a call from anyone involved in it, I thought they were cancelling on me! However, it didn't happen! I think this project is happening! And - you may not realise how great news this is - we know where we can use a toilet!

What I really need to do now is take a step back and be the actress. I count on this week's Triyoga classes as well as morning walks to keep me sharp. 

In the next few days, I will also have last rehearsals with Hannah Rogers (co-director) and our actress Maria, confirming the story's visual and emotional progression with the help of a storyboard that can serve everyone. Our DP has also asked for visual references, which were fun to research. 

After the shoot, I will recap on everything I've learned leading up to it (including the B word: Budget!), and describe everyone's work in more detail. I am quite pleased that almost everyone on this shoot is someone I have worked with in the past in one way or another. Being on many short film sets over the years really does create friendships and bonds. 

We will have two co-directors, three camera crew, four production assistants, a make up artist, a sound recordist, and two actresses! 

See you on the other side, and thanks for following! 

Sandwiches

It's been a great week in the land of the GUGELHUPF (see homemade almond gugelhupf on the right)! 

It started with a directors meeting with my co-director Hannah Rogers. We went through the first shot list draft (our decision on where to put the camera during the scene) and it's been great to have her help with this. The scale of this film is quite small, which is why this first time, I'm relying a lot on my instincts and my experience of watching films. 

The next day, I met up with Maria Hildebrand, our actress. Talking to her was fantastic and I am so happy that we will be bringing characters A and B to life together. Without spoiling anything, there is a special bond between our characters, and it will be very interesting to keep rehearsing them together.

My hard drives have arrived and I strolled through the area of our location again today to spot any cafes and shops we may need. It has also been decided that our cast and crew will be eating home made sandwiches made with love! 

That's it for me today! This coming week I'll be acting in another person's film, doing what I love best and focusing just on the performance, phew! 

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Three weeks to go

Today, I'd like to introduce two important partners on DER GUGELHUPF: our actress and our co-director/co-producer!

Say hello to Maria Hildebrand! She is bilingual in English and German, and will be playing "B" in our short film alongside myself. We are having our first rehearsal this week and I can't wait!

Next, here is Hannah Rogers, who I am so lucky to have beside me to co-direct and co-produce. All photos I have of her show her back, but I wanted to show you this one as it's from FOOL'S GOLD, a short film she directed me in. This week, we visited the location together in order for her to do a risk assessment, which will prove helpful when applying for insurance. Next week, we will be going through the shot list. 

Our budget is on my mind daily, as new elements keep coming into play such as food and hard drives. This article assures me that whatever budget you had, just add $1000. Not that I'm quite up there (yet), but it's reassuring to know everyone faces this! 

Tshüss!

On to the creative

I believe we did it! We've fulfilled most of the administrative tasks that come with producing a film: we've found the perfect actress, have organised camera and liability insurance for the shoot day, and I've now hired a sound technician as well as our 2nd Assistant Camera - two fellow filmmakers who I've worked with before.

Now it's time to move on to the most exciting part: the creative side of things.

In the next four weeks, I will be meeting with my co-director, our cinematographer and our actress for rehearsals. We will also be organising our film shots line by line, which will be a new learning element for me. I already know this process will be a collaboration, which I'm so pleased about.

In the meantime, I'm going up to Manchester this week for a corporate job as an actress, and have also been cast in another short film that will be shot later this month.

You may remember that Gugelhupf is the name of a cake, so expect a photo of a home made one on this page soon!

Keep building

Working on a creative project means building a house of cards every day, only to see it fall over again and again. However, the more this happens, the more you know that it will be built up again, and that it's just the way it is. What's more, that feeling when it's built up again is priceless.

Last week, I didn't have a director, a DP or a location. This week, I have all those things, plus a shooting date, a make up artist and a stylist!

The last very important piece of the puzzle is my fellow actress. As dates have kept changing, this has been a challenge. My aim is to have found her and agree with my co-director Hannah that she is absolutely right by Sunday.

Five weeks to go!

 

Hurdles

Well, folks, as this article's title suggests, this week I was faced with a few hurdles. 

Firstly, the director I had in mind is no longer able to work on Der Gugelhupf. This made me pessimistic at first, but Hannah, my producer, and I are now the new co-directors of this little film! I am excited about the challenge, and am happy I can still rely on a second person for some important directorial decisions.

Secondly, the cinematographer I have in mind is currently unreachable, which faces me with the question of whether I should wait for her to get back to me, or start hunting for someone else. 

With regards to casting, I now have two favourites, so my decision on who will act opposite me is imminent!

Finally, in addition to the parks we had in mind, it looks like the private garden that I was hoping for may well become our location! This makes quite a few processes easier, and more importantly, it is a quiet and very pretty area.

Stay warm!

Location, location, location.

This week took me from Peckham to Mottingham and from Victoria Park to Hilly Fields. My legs appreciated being out more than usual, and I’m happy to say that after today’s stroll with producer Hannah Rogers, we’ve narrowed it down to four potential parks for Der Gugelhupf! By the way, we found a peer on a pond that would be so lovely and romantic to film on, but then we realised that this would mean our cinematographer and all the equipment would need to float on water - or stay balanced on a paddle boat - so that crushed my dream!

Self-tape requests have been sent out to actresses, with deadlines for next week-end, so this coming week promises to be more administrative, with date-locking, video-watching and hopefully some more crew-locking in store.

The cinematographer I have in mind for the shoot is the key to the next step of pre-production. She will confirm the dates at which we can use her and her camera, which will then help us fill out applications to local councils regarding the parks. The precise date will also matter to the cast and crew, including the make-up artist, sound recordist and runners.

What will follow will be financial: once the council confirms, we will have to pay them for the permit! 

What I realise I could have done differently:

-        I could have locked the date before asking actresses to self-tape, in case they turn out to be completely unavailable on the chosen date. Fingers crossed that they will be flexible, and not too annoyed at me for this!

Toodloo!

 

Origins

Gugelhupf: a light, yeasted marble cake.

When you are developing your acting career, you often hear how important it is to make your own work, to not wait for it to come to you. A little over a year ago, I started feeling the itch of wanting to be more involved in the film process, more creative, especially in between acting roles. An Austrian fellow actress inspired me to write a short two-person dialogue. The scene takes place in a park which could be anywhere in the world, and two women meet. What’s more, I wrote it in German. I have been involved only in English-language projects since I’ve been in London (naturally), and it’s very rare to see any auditions for German parts in independent projects in England. I felt this would be interesting, going in the direction of my personal heritage and being an opportunity to meet other German-speaking artists. Don't worry, the final piece will have subtitles!

And so, I wrote a first draft and called it Der Gugelhupf. I didn't want it to be longer than 10 minutes, and I knew what kind of scenes I like to watch. Surprisingly, after taking many scattered notes for a few weeks, the writing flowed. I wrote to a few directors I knew, showed the script to a friend for input, but never took that step of really pushing it. As 2017 came to a close, I knew I had to stop talking about it and just move forward. What’s more, who hasn’t noticed how urgent it is to have women writing and behind the camera? I was very lucky to meet director Charlotte Atkinson, also a producer and a really talented young woman who’s already achieved so much! She lived for a while in Germany, and was interested in directing in German. Her interest and input meant so much to me and motivated me even more. When you are alone sitting on your project, it can feel quite lonely, and of course there is the fear that it’s terrible! Subsequently, I got in touch with a talented director I had worked with on a short film last year, Hannah Rogers, and she accepted to produce! Now we’re cooking – well, baking!

My goal is to shoot this 5-10-minute short film before the end of the Winter. The stages we are in right now are 1. Location scouting, and 2. Casting.

1.      Locations: this is one of the aspects that is making me quite nervous, as we will be filming in a public place and need permission from the local council. We have a lead on a private garden, so fingers crossed!

2.      Casting: oh my goodness, there is so much talent out there! Not that I doubted it, I’ve just been pleasantly reminded of it this week! The casting notice is out since last Thursday, and I’m giving myself a whole week to make a shortlist by looking at various profiles, showreels and images. I have a few favourites already. I sympathise with casting directors who need to find actors within 48 hours or less, that must be so stressful. What if the chemistry is wrong, what if their picture doesn’t show who they really are? This process is really enlightening and humbling.

Tomorrow will be a big day as I will be out scouting more locations, and then putting my acting hat back on as I attend a workshop.

Current mood: excited, confident, but also aware of many unknowns! However some will say "Be the unknown". 

Until next time!