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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