The Blog

WINDRUSH – FURTHER LEGAL ACTION

I have to say, I find it extraordinary that a body found so grossly negligent be permitted to self-govern and disseminate compensation, when they are the ones found so egregiously wanting in the first place.

 

To destroy the very evidence that proved people were here legally- had in fact been actively courted to come over and rescue the NHS and Transport industries, as British Citizens of the Commonwealth, to then have the rug pulled out from under them and in so many ways, blows the mind. You couldn’t write it.

 

How ungrateful could a country possibly be? To ask people who have spent their lives here, sacrificing so much, paying their taxes, putting up with the day-to-day racism, with hardship, but building their lives, away from their own families, putting their faith and energies into the future of Britain, only to finally be comprehensively betrayed, is grim beyond comprehension.

 

It’s of course some relief that this fiendish, calculated and racist plot was exposed. Good also that the Home Office be brought to book. But to then fall at the final hurdle and allow the HO to be their own overseers has already been proved to be a huge misstep, one which was only ever going to lead to further compounded calamity and repeat offending against those most vulnerable.

 

How did the destruction of Landing Cards by the HO impact those now monikered the ‘Windrush Generation’? Well, in myriad ways: Many who left Britain, be it for holidays, family visits, funerals, weddings, whatever, found themselves barred at the UK border upon their return.

 

Many were refused the right to work in the UK, despite having worked here for decades in service to the building of the UK, paying taxes, mortgages, bringing up families. Others were refused any Benefits and also (so ironically-) refused NHS services. Others were actively deported. All of them were asked to prove they had a right to remain in the UK, but if they hadn’t already applied for a UK Passport and received it, the proof they were desperately scrabbling around for had already been destroyed by the very entity that was so innocently asking for it. Unforgiveable.

 

So many lives the HO crushed, all the while knowing the sordid truth: That they were responsible, that they were asking the impossible, in the belief that they were untouchable, above Justice not caring how many lives they destroyed. Not only those directly Windrush, but their family members, descendants and partners.

 

Jobs lost, marriages smashed, parents sick with worry, children losing parents, unpayable debts racked up, savings spent, pensions destroyed, due to loss of earnings. The knock-on toll to health… the stress, the mental health, illnesses like cancer left untreated, due to the barring of NHS care. The list is incalculable both in scope and in the deliberateness of the cruelty.

 

And here we are, two and a half years since the scheme was implemented and just a tiny fraction of those affected paid. Not only that, but initially, the paperwork was so complex, the amount of ‘proofs’ requested almost impossible to fulfil, and then we find that claimants who have been through extraordinary duress and hardship then being offered insulting sums, enough to traumatise all over again.

 

250 quid for being locked out of your country. Even more recently; imagine losing 11 year’s earnings and being offered 7K as compensation. How can that ever be regarded as compensation? How is it nothing more than salt in a wound?

 

On top of this, what the HO are doing now is yet more spin, singing its own praises far and wide about how well it’s doing, how much it has learned. But that hasn’t helped me or those like me who were the guinea-pigs at the front. The article I link at the bottom talks of claimants waiting over 300 days for their claims not to be paid. I’ve now waited over 880 and I’m by no means alone.

 

If I didn’t know better, I’d believe the HO were bent on a cost-saving exercise, making it as difficult as possible for claimants to fill the form in in the first place, then taking forever to make an offer (such that some claimants die beforehand). To then offering a piffling amount, in the hope that by then, you’ve given up the will to fight and will take it just to have the whole sorry affair over with. I’m not sure that was what was in mind when the judges decreed the HO in flagrant contravention of the law.

 

It’s so brilliant to see the fight back. To see people stick to their guns and hold the HO to account. It should of course have been an independent body overseeing the compensation and one in proper conversation with those affected, thereby creating a process fit for purpose, rather than this sorry, racist, pathetic charade.

 

They did it to themselves. I mean how ungrateful can you possibly get? The war was won with the help, with volunteers (not conscripts) from India, Africa, the Caribbean.. the Allies would have lost without these people. The NHS would not have survived without the same.. And this is how they are repaid?

 

But if the education system in schools insists on keeping the general populace ignorant of these facts, is it any wonder that Caucasian Brits continue to believe the lies?

 

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/21/windrush-victims-launch-legal-action-over-compensation-delays

 

 

 

Onwards…

Having spent an intense time writing the first draft of my new novel, grateful indeed for the space that the Arts Council Award afforded me, I decided, in the interim, before turning back to face the manuscript afresh, I needed to get something else going. This became a two-pronged attack and one that took far longer than expected, in getting ‘Greys Inbetween’ updated, transferred to Pro-Res, the requisite deliverables and onto the FilmHub shopwindow for TV distribution worldwide: It felt time. With #BLM, it felt that there was an avenue open to me as a non-white filmmaker, with a Black female lead, to get it out there and to an audience that is hungry to see themselves reflected on the screen.

 

But I also decided it was time I made another feature film. To this end, I took another look at Mental, I did another draft and set about creating a mood board and pitch deck for it. These days it seems, these are prerequisites. It makes sense. No one knows who I am and I need to illustrate how far, how deeply I’ve worked on this project already, not just in terms of the script development, but also the design, camera, lens, lighting, soundscape, soundtrack, cast, set, directing process and budget. I was going to need to think about a casting director, about finance, a producer, and how I approached them.

 

Making a film, any film, you’re going to have to love it, because you’re going to be with it a very long time before you come out the other side. Years, quite possibly more than a decade, as in my case. ‘Offending Angels’ was seven years of my life. Greys, after being ripped off by the initial distributor, but still tied into a contract, has taken 13 years to finally achieve distribution.

 

It’s a long, lonely trail, with the job transmogrifying beyond all recognition from how it starts out. It’s a ultra-marathon, not a sprint. But all any filmmaker wants in the end is for their film to find its audience, whatever that takes.

 

Mental had a rehearsed reading at the Pleasance Theatre. Great cast: Tony Rohr, Sandra Voe, Danny Sapani as the eponymous lead, Marene Miller and Julian Rhind-Tutt doing the stage directions. It was then workshopped by RADA first year actors. I was relieved to find they could find no holes and were in fact pretty enthusiastic, putting the characters through their paces.

 

One actress chose a speech for her Beerbohm-Tree Agents Evening and the youngster playing Mental -possibly unknowingly- went a great way to saving his place at the school, cutting loose and delivering a superb, volatile performance the tutors hadn’t seen in him, prior.

 

It was stirring stuff. It was this, plus the realisation that the dedicated page I started on Face Book had been shut down that made me realise I had to make it. All I had done was paste stories of Police brutality- iniquities, deaths whilst in custody, or at the hands of the Police.. all this of course long before the murder of George Floyd. We shall never know whether Chauvin would have been convicted without the searing, unblinking footage so bravely captured by Darnella Frazier. There are many more who never will be. 


But to be shut out from my page, when I’d done nothing inflammatory, written no copy, just pasted a horrifying and rapidly growing list of transgressions by police here and abroad.. it was sobering.

Wish me luck…

 

Nik Raised The Bar

Sunday Sept 5th was the 50th anniversary of the National Film & TV School, celebrated by a barbecue and blessed by excellent weather.

 

When I attended back in 2005-7, what is recognised as the Film School now was actually the carpark back then. I was there at a time of great ferment, out with the old and in with the new, the Chosen helmsman being erstwhile producer, Nik Powell, a man who could see the film school was in dire need of new blood, new energy; to be dragged like it or not, into the new millennium.

 

For all its myth, its great training and star-studded alumni, it was still a motley spread of prefabs, scattered around the periphery of a large vacant lot. The focus on the training, not so much the facilities or how it might appear to the rest of the world. Just an ancient, timid two-storey white-wash skulking at the back and a studio barn to one side, the last vestiges of what used to be a bustling film studio to John Mills et al, back in the day.

 

But once installed, Nik galvanised the Industry, the network, the Great and the Good. He could see what needed to be done. He also opened the annual student intake out from what used to be just six per discipline when I was there, to as many as twelve, bringing in far more revenue, on top of the burgeoning short course roster.

 

One of the new HoD’s he brought in was Corinne Cartier as Head of Screenwriting, someone I knew well from her days running the Performing Arts Labs for screenwriters, down in Bore Place under Susan Benn. A great hotbed of learning and nurturing for fledgling screenwriters in its own right, I’d been on the course as an actor, workshopping the nascent screenplays.

 

I’d met Nik whilst in Post on my first film, the doomed ‘Offending Angels’, a Rom-Com picked up in Cannes Market, only to fall foul of the Sales Agent (Ardent International) going down with all hands and then the Tax Man erroneously believing I’d made the film for purely cynical purposes, having undertaken a Sale & Leaseback tax break enabling me to complete the movie, only for Angels never to make a sale when the Agency then died on me. A long story, for another blog.

 

So between these two, I felt in very good hands. They for me, for my experience there, were the heartbeat of the place, underpinning all that happened as I undertook my two-year MA. So, it was with no small amount of sadness that my return for the Anniversary be tinged with a fair amount of trepidation and melancholy, that neither of them should be there to see the magnificent fruits of their labours. Corinne dying too early of cancer in 2015 and then Nik soon after, in 2019.

 

The new building resplendent, energetic, studded throughout with markers, celebrations, nods to those who had gone before and made it all possible. And, of course Nik’s Bar in full swing. It was unrecognisable even in the short time I had been absent. I’d no idea how it must have been for those that graced its hallowed grounds back in 70’s, when it was a Director-Only pursuit and as a free and easy pursuit of Art, students sometimes stuck around for years before graduating.

 

It was good to catch up with some familiar faces, tutors and grads alike, as well as meet more, previously unknown to me. All of them with interesting stories, all of them driven. I attended very late in comparison to the vast majority, turning 40 whilst a student, having been an Engineer and then an actor first. So it was interesting and scary to see the latest crop looking so young, even though I’d only graduated myself 13 years previously. It did make me feel old.

 

But above all, my sense was it was vibrant, excited, lively and optimistic and with good cause; as any school should be. Hats off to Nik, for surely, more than anyone, that is down to him. A glass raised at his bar.. and here’s to the next 50.

 

Lessons Learned as a Low-Budget Auteur

One of the things that happens as a low budget filmmaker is that you often end up languishing in an overlooked corner of the process, one that is usually dealt with by paid experts in the field. This can be the logistics of pre-production, the niceties of daylight vs. artificial light and how the camera will cope, to the true labyrinth of post-production. Many a filmmaker has gone in there and never been seen alive again.

 

‘Foley’ for instance -recreating the sound of footsteps, of someone chewing, of the rustle a particular coat might make as someone shifts their arm. Very often the sound that works is a million miles away from the materials that might create that noise in the first place.

 

An aspect of this journey raised itself very recently for me. I’d got horribly ripped off by a pseudo-sales agent when I first made my last film and it took a long time to recover from that, emotionally as much as financially, it happening at the same time as my birthmother passing.

 

But with the recent transformation in distribution avenues, with the whole landscape altering beyond all recognition, it felt like the time to reappraise ‘Greys Inbetween’ and see if I couldn’t find a way to finally get it out there. That is after all, the goal of most that go into making a film in the first place; that it find its audience.

 

It’s also a unique kind of torture, that of being so close to a film, having formulated a story, written the script, rehearsed it, shot it, reshot it, then gone over it frame by frame in the picture edit ad infinitum, followed by all over again in the sound edit and then in the online. It takes a particular kind of application to be able to continue to look at the screen and absorb with new eyes what you’re actually looking at.

 

Even a computer gets bored, worried about retinal burnout when the picture doesn’t change for any length of time, switching to a screensaver as being more interesting and less likely to cause madness. But a filmmaker has to reach beyond that, leaving behind first the pen, then the actors, then the editor, the sound mixer and online editor, staying with the same thing, over and over.

 

These days, on top of those processes, a new fiendish addition to the torture: Closed Captions. Of course, a laudable, welcome and necessary addition, allowing more people to enjoy the film in more ways, as well as make the movie accessible to the hard of hearing.

 

But before I had to tackle the CC’s, I first needed to get my film into a format that was anything approaching acceptable to todays platforms. Shot in 2008, it was nowhere near up to speed and after several abortive attempts, I was forced to reach out to my storage facility in the deepest recess of Cambridgeshire for a Digi-Beta Master, in the hope that I could create an image that not only was uncompressed, but also offered a fast enough Bitrate to satisfy any potential TV channels.

 

The Digi tape allowed me to employ a Post House to create a Pro-Res HQ version, almost doubling the size of the film from 21GB to 41GB. However, I still failed to pass muster as the ‘Pixel Aspect Ratio’ was unacceptable. At first, I thought this was merely the Aspect Ratio.. I’d shot on Anamorphic lenses and worried that any distortion to the pixels lay there. I’d no idea whether this was something I’d even be able to fix, leading to sleepless nights.

 

But yet again, after an intense deep-dive online into the finer points of pixels, I worked out that PAL, the UK standard format, actually uses oblong pixels and the distributor, FilmHub, wanted square ones. The US use NTSC and NTSC has.. you guessed it.. square ones. But this took 6-weeks of scrapping around with substandard versions to get to. Calling every Editor I knew and a few Post Houses I didn’t, in order to decipher my situation to a point where I understood it.

 

I liked working with actors… that was my background and my interest, this really wasn’t territory I wanted to understand. But -beggars can’t be choosers. The life of the film stood or fell on the decisions I made here and now, about how determined I was going to be to see my film get out there. It cost time, money and most of all patience, in a way that really tested me.

 

Closed Captions, you can employ a company to do. This I did and then they allow you to go in and view the film, with the CC’s alongside, just to check it. It was bad. I’m not going to bore you with the extraordinary story here, taking three goes to still get it wrong, but this was the ultimate test.. going through that same film, watched, heard, digested countless, countless times before, but forcing myself to pay attention to every single beat.

 

Because, in the US at least, there is a set of regulations, created I believe in the early 90’s, to which the CC companies adhere. And it may well suffice for dry, official documents and infomercials, but it falls Waay short when it comes to fiction. Sentences might start, but take a while to finish, carrying with them the intrinsic drama that entails. Words may be accentuated by the actor, imbuing specific meaning.

 

But the rules dictate that a sentence be typed out, not last more than a few seconds and not have to be timed at all to the way the words are actually spoken. Caps are never used, not even in the everyday, like the ‘Houses of Parliament’, let alone to accentuate a line, like ‘I said, I Kill Him.’

 

So, I found myself past 4am, poring over my film a yet again (the first version I fixed got lost somewhere in process, a month earlier), cutting lines up so they happened the way the actor spoke them, fixing spelling errors, typos, misinterpretations of words (Sort/Sought, threat/thread, fun/far) and writing out aural descriptions (church bell tolls, police siren). It was Absolutely exhausting.

 

But it was also so worthwhile. Having laboured for so long on this film, getting it written, then shot, then edited and mixed, it made no sense to allow for shoddy CC’s, however deeply I didn’t need to view it again.

 

To fall at the last hurdle and have your film judged adversely, because you couldn’t bring yourself to go through it to find those key stumbling blocks that would come to define an audience member’s experience of your story, that felt criminally negligent. The last viewing as important as the first, despite your ears, eyes and sanity telling you different.

 

Having failed six times with picture and three times with Closed Captions, I wait with bated breath as to whether it has finally been accepted for sale to the TV world.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1339598/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0 

Lies, Damned Lies and Acting

 

I’ve got one for you. I was asked to do a series, BBC 8-parter and I was in 3 Eps of the latter half- perhaps 5, 7 and 8, if memory serves. It was a nice enough role, a baddie, but ok.. What the Hell. It was a messy, disorganised shoot with an absent director; at one point I was riding around with another actor, camera strapped to the car on the outside, filming the two of us inside.

 

We were meant to be following the 1st AD in the car in front, standing through the sunroof waving a flag, for reasons best known to himself. But, arriving at a junction, the driver pulled out into fast-moving traffic, with no possibility to follow. By the time I’d made the turn, there was no sign of the 1st.. they’d not even pulled over to wait for us, simply driven off. So we switched on the camera and rode around, running the scene a few times for safety and then I headed back to base.

 

But I digress… I’m on set, having already shot a fair amount, when I find out through casual conversation in the Hair & Make-Up wagon that my character appears in Episode 1. I swear blue in the face that I don’t…

 

Nonplussed, I make further enquiries, finally tracking down a copy of the script.. I’d only been given 5, 6 and 8. Well, what d’ya know? It turns out, in Ep 1, my character is hiding in a park with a paper bag over his head, to jump this girl, drag her screaming into the bushes and rape her.

 

But No One Told Me.

 

I mean, seriously.

They got a ‘Supporting Artist’ to play that bit. They KNEW I wouldn’t take the part. The company themselves were ashamed of the role, of the part they’d commissioned and agreed to. So ashamed that they hoodwinked, they actively lied to get the part filled, employing an unidentifiable Extra to do the dirty deed. Complicit, with a few notable exceptions, top to bottom.

 

Can you imagine what would have gone down if that’d happened to a known actor? Seriously. Heads would have rolled. Lawsuits. Probably make the news. As I said in my previous post, as an actor of colour, you really have to think twice about what you’re portraying, when there’s such a dearth of work out there anyway. Don’t actors have every right to take care of their careers? To make a choice about how they are portrayed? I mean, isn’t the central point about rape all about consent? Giving consent?

 

But me, a two-bit Asian actor? Who cared?

Yeah. No ‘protection’, no comeback.

I sacked my agent over that one, but the only one hurting was me.

Lenny Henry –

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-583219

Indentureship is the principal reason there is an Indian Diaspora across the globe, from Fiji to Trinidad, Mauritius to Brazil. How it came about was due to the end of slavery. Just because slavery had ended, didn’t stop the demand from Europe for the coffee, tea, cotton and above all sugar from the colonies. And the British didn’t have to look far, already having sacked India and plundered it of its riches and workforce from as early as 1498. 

 

Indentureship officially meant that Indians were contracted to work for a period of 5 years, at which time they would be free to return to India. But the conditions they were to work under proved in many cases to be little better than slavery. Many died on the ships to far-flung places, some were even tricked into going, not knowing they’d never return to their families. 

 

These ‘Coolies’ took over the day-to-day labour of the sugar plantations all the way up until 1917, but very little is taught of this forgotten, shameful chapter in Britain’s path to wealth. But this huge movement of workforce spanning the globe helped Britain in a myriad of ways. 

 

Shipbuilding, sugar presses, engines, civil engineering, alcohol distillery coppers, chains, pots, quay workers, Steelworks, coffee shops, transportation, sugar refineries, canals, railways and the cotton industries all flourished back home. And all this, quite apart from the cheap workforce in far flung corners to make it all happen. This is my heritage… India, to Trinidad, thence to Windrush Britain. Remarkable really, when you think about it. 

Let’s start telling ALL the stories.

 

 

 

 

‘Reading Lenny Henry’s findings, it feels kinda weird talking about it all now. It’s been a part of the wallpaper -a given- for so long that for it to become newsworthy now feels strange. As a British Asian actor leaving drama school, it soon became apparent what you would and wouldn’t be considered for and you would have to sit and wait for a more-often-than-not stereotyped role to rock up in order to be seen for anything. I tried to make it a point that I get seen for anything, for everything – that suited me as a British male of a certain age, but that really cut down the opportunities for me to work. I’d worked out though, that I preferred to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning, knowing I had done the right thing, done the thing that I could live with, rather than add to the problem I saw, running like a rash across the industry. Being on TV is a big statement. It’s in the living room and in the playground the next, day, like it or not. So.. If you are going out and playing a negative or stereotyped role, with no re-balance, no opportunity to redress that in the meantime, then you are reinforcing what is already the prevalent sentiment and feeling as to what Asians are, what they are capable of, so they remain figures of ridicule, or worse, of threat and nothing moves forward in terms of representation and perception in an already divided country.. For me, it started out as portraying  drug-dealers, then moved on to rapists and inevitably, terrorists. For others it was as figures of sadness and ridicule and many bought into that, as it was the only way to pay the bills, put food on the table. I mean, as an actor, who doesn’t want to play a baddie? But when you contemplate how rare it is to see an Asian face on the telly, you are forced to consider the wider impact of so doing. When there aren’t commensurate, counterbalancing three-dimensional roles to compensate and provide a fuller picture. 

But this stance made me very unpopular with my agents and our partnerships tended not to last very long, as they began to regard me as a liability in terms of refusing auditions, or work. Rocking the boat didn’t do, regardless of the fact that it was a point of principle, not simply being arsey for arsey’s sake. As an actor of colour, whether you liked it or not, you became an ambassador and you were faced to a greater or lesser degree with a decision as to whether this was a role that furthered our cause, or hindered it. None of my white colleagues ever needed to consider this when looking at jobs. And that was before one began to deal with the racism one was facing both in the audition and on the job.

Lenny Henry –

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-5832193

Right to Remain

The Windrush Scandal and Me

Windrush is a distressing thing to talk about, for several reasons. Mostly when thinking about those who were affected by the Home Office Hostile Environment policy, where, under Theresa May, they destroyed the landing cards of several hundred thousand Brits, invited over to help with the ailing NHS and transport systems in the 60’s and 70’s. Knowing that, in destroying this evidence, they removed any official proof that these Commonwealth people were legally allowed to stay in the UK. Having removed that key evidence, they then set about asking the very same people for the very proof they had destroyed. When the bewildered taxpaying UK resident failed in this request, they lost their rights. Right to stay in the UK, right to free NHS treatment and right to work.


To compound this extraordinary string of events, the HO was then permitted to police itself, effectively allowing the very people found guilty of creating the situation in the first place, to then decide who was deserving of recompense and how much. This inevitably created a secondary slew of injustices, as applicants had their claims channelled into endless requests for paperwork that again didn’t exist or was too hard to find, dating back as it did to the 70’s. Some claimants, having lost livelihoods and residency, were awarded piffling sums in the low hundreds of pounds, not even covering the losses they accrued. Some died of illnesses, unable as they were to find NHS treatment. Some remain abroad, unable to re-enter the UK, and having been away for so long, are now no longer counted as UK residents anyway, regardless of the fact they may have had homes and brought up families here.
My birthmother was Windrush, coming over in the early 60’s to work for the NHS. Falling pregnant, she was thrown out of nursing. She was terrified of being found illegal, despite being invited over. She’d heard stories. From the early 70’s she pursued UK Citizenship. She was refused, all the way, up until 3-weeks before she died of undiagnosed cancer (see earlier para about NHS treatment). She shelled out a quarter of all the savings she had, to buy a UK passport she was rightfully due, the day she arrived in the UK. She never actually received it before she passed in 2009.

‘Losing Heart’ coalesced in my brain over a couple of years, borne essentially out of frustration, more than anything. Coming out of drama school four years earlier, I’d trained in the Classics… at drama school, you’re kind of spoilt. You start to believe you can play anything. ‘Give me a part; a 9-year-old boy, a 90-year-old woman, I’ll do it’. Of course, reality says different and once you leave the sheltered, heady confines of your training, the harsh light of the industry comes to bear.

 

As a British Asian actor, this meant that I wouldn’t work until a role asking for an Asian- Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi -landed and that was all I would ever be asked to do, in an accent that, as a transracial adoptee, really wasn’t something I that would come easy. But it was more the restriction, the notion that I couldn’t play anything simply male, my age and British, that stuck. There was an inherent limiting, not to mention a racism that meant roles would be few and far and what there was would most likely be a disappointment in terms of portrayal.

 

Even on radio, I would be employed only to be asked for an accent. An endless, insistent, pernicious stereotyping. The roles tending to be negative, reinforcing tropes I had no interest in maintaining.

 

Racism was bad enough without it being reinforced, restated over and over on the box in the corner of everyone’s home. How would things ever change, that being the case? I felt I had to make a stand, even if it took food off the table. I waded through what became a bunch of agents when they realised I was prepared to turn work down, rather than accept something I regarded as backward, or insulting.

 

So, by 1997, I was ready to step out of the shoes of being merely an actor for hire and attempt perhaps to control a little of my own destiny, but also attempt to create work I actually wanted to do, sparking my interest as an actor, rather than just paying the bills.

 

I was interested in Master Improvisation and knew long-term Mike Leigh collaborator, Marion Bailey from a corporate video we’d done. She agreed to come aboard and direct the four actors, so long as I took care of everything else, camera, lighting, organisation, money, etc. So that’s what we did. I found a two-flat converted house in Lewisham we could hire, filming downstairs with the office upstairs and then swapping over for the other couple.

 

The first bloke I turned to was my great mate Alan Brooke. Too good not to be working, as far as I was concerned. We’d done our three years together at Guildhall, perhaps bonding because we’d come from something else before we arrived at acting, he Dairy Farming and me Mechanical Engineering. Two actresses I admired from the year above, Paula O’Grady and Lehla Eldridge and we were in business.

 

It was a brilliant experience, a great, fun shoot though, I remember having flu and a terrible lung-wrenching cough for the duration. But we shot Kodak Super16mm over a long weekend, having spent weeks developing our characters under Marion’s careful tutelage.

 

There are so many stories, as there always is when making a film. Originally, the Arts Council refused me the money, but Guildhall Tutor, Ken Rea got in touch and changed their minds.

I also managed to land some cash through Guildhall from the William and Eva Fox Foundation. It was enough at least to get the film in the can, but not enough to cover the huge expense of film processing and blowing up to 35mm.

 

The film was actually, technically never completed. Although I found a small amount, from Stanley Fink, then the FCO at City firm called E,D & F Man, a place Paula worked at when she wasn’t acting, I never found that last lump sum. Shorts didn’t sell, so no investor was ever going to get their money back

 

So what exists is in fact what’s called the ‘One Light’, which I later transferred to DVD and finally, preserved digitally. A ‘One Light’ is the original film-stock that rolls through the camera, usually used as a guide for the final product, stuck together with tape, not made beautiful in post with colour-balancing, etc, so it’s incredibly rough and grainy, with tears and all sorts. It also financed my first feature film..

 

And, as my first film, it will always hold a special place.

Not least because, just 6 years later, the life-force that was Alan was gone.

Ken Rea’s New Edition

It’s almost a guaranteed thing, whenever you bump into a fellow Alumni from Guildhall, should you mention tutors of yore, their face always lights up when you say Ken Rea. All of his teachings were infused with warmth. All he kept demanding was warmth, generosity and a sense of play from his students. And over the years, a great many household names have passed through his class. From Ben Chaplin, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Joseph Fiennes, Dominic West, Orlando Bloom, Michelle Dockery and Lily James.

I always felt a little sorry for all the actors who had never had the chance to work with him, inspirational and supportive as he was. There’s certainly a whole generation of actors who remain thankful for his teachings. Well, the good news is, having taught for as long as he has (three decades), he recently wrote and released a book about acting published through Bloomsbury Methuen, it’s called “The Outstanding Actor – Seven Keys To Success”.


It’s an outstanding insight into the workings of an actor. And not just any actor, but good actors, with input from the likes of Dame Judy Dench, Al Pacino and Nicholas Hytner. The seven chapter headings read: Warmth, Generosity, Enthusiasm, Danger, Presence, Grit and Charisma. I mean, forget about acting, who doesn’t want to get a handle on all that!?


However the landscape of acting changes, be it theatre, radio, film or television, the means of telling any given story well remains paramount. It’s the storyteller we invest in, with whom we are asked to relate to. I think it quite telling that whenever anyone talks about the greatest, the most famous lines in movie history, no one remembers the poor writer, only the actor. 


‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’. ‘Say hello to my little friend’. ‘I’ll be back’.
I’d recommend The Outstanding Actor to anyone really, it’s an incredibly interesting read, whether you have aspirations to act or not, but especially if you are an actor. Ken also periodically runs seminars open to anyone not training under him at The Guildhall. You can find out about these by going to his website www.kenrea.com

New Chapters

A while since I blogged, but a fair amount has been going in in the background. I’m very surprised and pleased to announce I have received a grant from the Arts Council with which to write my new novel, more about which will no doubt follow over the coming months. 

With the many downsides of Covid, I’m relieved to report that it has proven fertile writing territory, in the absence of anything else to do. Since February, I have completed a memoir about the making of my first feature film, Offending Angels and also a children’s fairy-tale called Amethyst. On top of this, I’ve written two feature scripts. A good daily rhythm of walking, watching a film and then settling down to writing, uninterrupted.

After twelve solid years, I had to wave goodbye to my trusted steed, my 26-yr-old Mercedes 190E. With the incoming ULEZ (Emission Zone) restrictions happening next year, it was no longer a viable option, despite the miles it still had in the engine. 

I hope this missive finds you all well and promise not to leave it so long…