Bringing the Script to life- an Actors opportunity too by James Kirk

“Some people want it to happen; some wish it would happen, while others make it happen.”

I came across this quote only months ago in between another sales call at a very corporate company where I was doing my day job, selling my soul to simply assist in making someone else’s dream come true. The quote certainly complimented my understanding that those of us who want to be successful in this industry, would need to create our own opportunities.

This is where 50 Kisses ticked the box for me, and what a fantastic opportunity, a competition that offers not only the writers and film makers a chance to shine but also actors. As an actor I couldn’t believe my luck knowing that not only could I access scripts from the world’s finest undiscovered writers but also share a process with like minded people who whether working behind the camera or in front , we all share a common goal and enthusiasm for telling stories and making a dream come true. I’m sure plenty of us can relate to negative comments from those around us such as ’when are you going to give up’, ‘why don’t you get a real job’ or ‘are you getting paid for that gig’. 50 Kisses was an opportunity that I had to be a part of and what I think people forget is that we do these gigs purely because we love it!

I firstly entered the competition as a writer and was successful in making the first cut, which pleased me having realised the number of scripts that had to be filtered. Although my professional work has been in front of the camera I wanted to try and appreciate more the craft behind transferring imagination to paper, plus see how my writing skills faired in amongst undeniable talent. Although my script ‘A better Way’ didn’t make it to the final 50 I was not deterred but determined to still be a part of the process and knew I needed to make myself know as an actor to the film makers and stand out against competition to win that role.

Landing the role

Now simply posting on the various media pages and forums with a name such as mine, which is my real name by the way might make you think I would stand out quicker. But after endless posts and countless hours checking for castings across the UK I had heard nothing. Still determined I hung in there and tweaked a few posts and found that I still wasn’t in control of winning a role and so needed to create my own opportunity. They say thoughts become things and by chance a friend of a friend knew some local film makers.

Several Costa trips later we agreed to work together. I had access to some great actors that I had met in previous roles and other crew that I knew shared my passion. Before I knew it I had my mastermind before me and not only did I have a great team around me I now had 50 top scripts to filter through. I obviously chose my suggestions to the team based on characters I thought I had a connection with and ones I felt offered a great character piece.  In between this process  I was also contacted by another film maker who had probably gotten sick of my forum posts, tweets and face book messages and decided to give me a go and audition for his chosen script ‘Close Encounters’.

Now things were looking up and should I nail this audition then I would be working on two 50 Kisses entries and with this in mind I made sure I brought a clear and well thought out interpretation of the character to the audition room- after all this is what directors want. It is our job as actors to bring interpretation to the table and be bold with it. Now after any audition it is wise to try and forget about it as the decision is no longer in your hands- believe me this is not easy especially when you audition for a role that could either change your life or open more doors to a greater career.  So in-between some more sales calls I would check the phone endlessly and to my relief I was later offered that role.

The shoot for both projects was a great learning curve for me and I am so grateful to have worked with two talented teams. The process can be arduous at times but as an actor I think it is essential to have a specific approach to low budget films and an understanding of the process as a whole

Top Tips for Actors on low budget shoots.

  1. Be Prepared- there will be no room for trailers and off set pampering. Keep yourself warm, motivated, fed, watered. There is no room for Diva’s on these shoots- or anywhere in my opinion.
  2. Collaborate- we are all working together to tell the story. Ask questions, share ideas. Be clear about what needs to be achieved in the scene. What is the objective, what do we want the audience to experience. As a team you can then perform, direct, light and set the scene as a company.
  3. Be patient- there will be times when you are waiting around and scenes are taking longer to set up than originally indicated. Expect it. We are all learning and as actors we can utilise this down time. Why not rehearse or go and inspect the space for the next shot, plan how to play the scene according to the set up.
  4. Stay positive and upbeat- the hours can take their toll and you don’t want your performance to suffer. Do whatever it takes to get the energy back up ready for the scene.  The shoot for ‘Jealous Making’ was going well into 4am and the next scene needed energy. We used music to get us going and kept the humour and banter on set alive.
  5. Meet and rehearse with your acting partner- this was vital for 50 kisses, it helps clear any awkwardness and vulnerability that us actors can sometimes experience. You can discuss the characters journey and plan accordingly.  Having around only 2 minutes to reveal this, means performances need to be sharp and every expression needs to be concise and relevant. Plus this means less takes if you nail it.
  6. Be Flexible and adaptable on set- you can plan and plan but often on set our imaginations can see new opportunities. You might be asked to try a scene with a different intonation. This certainly happen on ‘jealous making’ and I loved it- it kept the performances alive and meant we could discover more about the scene. Embrace this and enjoy it.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for retakes- just as a director will want that perfect shot, they will also want a great performance. Sometimes you might feel you didn’t quite play the scene as you feel best. Although time is not always on your side, at least ask for another take, after all it is your job to bring the script to life and interpretation and execution are vital.
  8. CAFFINE
  9. Stay in touch- you will be working with emerging talent and low to no budget films are the perfect place to build lifelong collaborations. We can all help each other on our journeys.

Low budget short films are a great place for an actor to add to their tool box, develop interesting show reel material and essential collaborations. I wish everyone all the best in their projects and look forward to seeing everyone’s hard work come together.

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