Category Archives: Casting

Love Thy Neighbour

My latest collaboration with local filmmaker Stanley Mackrell is a short film called “Love Thy Neighbour”. We’ll be shooting over the weekend and I’m really excited to now share some details about the project.

“Love Thy Neighbour” is a thriller set in the flat of a couple (Kelly and Rob). After an altercation upstairs, Michelle bursts into their lives shaking in terror. Dealing with an unprecedented situation Kelly and Rob’s must act fast before the situation escalates. The film will be shot in real time as a continuous take. The film will be a co-production between Midnight Show Productions and Ferny Films.

I’m also pleased to announce the cast:

Melissa DaltonMelissa Dalton/Kelly
Melissa really impressed us in her auditions bringing out a side to Kelly which wasn’t written down on the page. Being a teacher, Kelly is someone who likes to take charge and is used to being the calming influence in stressful situations. Perhaps the biggest mystery is why she still puts up with Rob (it must be her mothering nature). For more information about Melissa visit here or follow her on Twitter.

Louis BernardLouis Bernard/Rob
Louis brings an element of charm and warmth to the seemingly ineffectual Rob. Rob’s is like a contented house-cat. Whilst he isn’t entirely lazy, he is perfectly happy coasting through life and isn’t anywhere near the ‘go-getter’ his partner is. Under pressure, Rob tends to crumble – so thank goodness he is partnered with Kelly. For more information about Louis visit here or follow him on Twitter.

Natalie MartinsNatalie Martins/Michelle
Playing Michelle is Natalie Martins who some of you might recognise as “Emmi” (it’s great to be collaborating once again). After an apparent one night stand gone wrong Michelle finds herself at the door of Kelly and Rob pleading for help. Whatever happened upstairs has made her scared and  unpredictable. For more information about Natalie visit her spotlight page here, her personal website here or follow her on Twitter.

Daniel EpihDaniel Epih/Harv
Playing Harv, the intimidating tenant in the upstairs flat is local Oxford actor Daniel Epih.

To follow how things progress during the production please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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The Production Process

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a talk about covering “The Production Process” at Film Oxford. Like many I feel nervous talking in front of an audience. They say you should do something each day which scares you, so I agreed to give the talk for an hour or so. One of the problems creating the talk was knowing how experienced the audience would be and how much information to cover. I decided to fall back on earlier experiences of filmmaking and focus predominately on pre-production.

The Production Process
If pre-production is well planned then hopefully the rest of the production should all go to plan (at least until post production). There was a dazzling array of talent in the audience (many who were specialised and had years of experience). I tried to overcome my initial nerves to deliver a candid and hopefully useful talk. Whilst some of the context may be lost I’ve included my slides here. I hope any other filmmakers reading will find some of this information useful.

Download The Production Process Talk Slides by Andrew Carslaw

The Choice: The Cast

Following on from the previous audition post, I’m delighted to announce our wonderful cast for Emmi:

Amy Harris

Amy Harris

Amy Harris is a recent graduate at Drama Studio London.  She has worked for a number of different companies in various productions including Robin Hood, A Christmas Carol, The Emperor’s New Clothes and You Are Special.

Amy will be playing Sarah who is a kind but nervous person who wants nothing more than to have her own children. Now approaching her forties, she feels the chances of this ever happening are starting to slip out of her grasp.

Gillian Kirkpatrick

GillianBW

Gillian Kirkpatrick  is a versatile actress and singer who has played a broad spectrum of roles, from comedy to tragedy. In particular Gillian has amassed a wide range of Theatre work, her most recent theatre role being opposite Doctor Who actor Matt Smith in the stage version of American Psycho at the Almeida. She will soon appear in BBC medical drama Holby City.

Gillian will be playing Janine who is Emmi’s mother. Janine was young when she had children and almost certainly regrets the decision. She gave up her college education and career only to end up as a single mum who is struggling to cope. She is finding it particularly hard coming to terms with her daughter’s transition from sweet girl into temperamental teenager.

Natalie Martins

NatalieBW

Natalie Martins is a BA (Hons) Drama graduate from the University of Greenwich who has played a number of leading female roles in feature films including Get Gone, Cruel Summer and the award-winning comedy The Better Man. Natalie won the London Independent Film Festival Best Actress award in 2013 for the film Miracle Grow.

Natalie plays Emmi who is a bright yet unmotivated teenager. Emmi surely comes across to others as overly aggressive and rude which masks her more insecure and vulnerable side. She’s naturally perceptive and can be very funny or rip someone to pieces verbally.

Rachel Pooley

RachelBW

Rachel Pooley trained at The London Bubble Theatre Company, The Young Vic Theatre and Southwark College Performing Arts Department. She has recently appeared in the feature film Hi-Lo Joe and short film Too Young Too Soon.

Rachel is playing the part of Ali. Despite the fact she is only a couple of years older than Emmi, she looks down on her as an immature brat and the two occasionally quarrel. Ali is a nice girl who is a young single mum, but most people think she only had the child to get the flat.

Method acting: Auditions

For over a month we have been searching high, low and seemingly everywhere in-between for the cast to our new production Emmi (formerly known as The Choice). Casting is exhausting and rewarding in equal measure. The good news is that we have now found our all female cast (very exciting!). Before we announce our cast members, I’d like to dedicate a post to our auditions.

For the first time we decided to hold traditional auditions as well as inviting online submissions. There are a few clear benefits with online auditions:  no need to worry about scheduling woes, securing venues or travel arrangements. No need to calm any nerves beforehand, actors can perform their audition in an environment they are comfortable in (and get the chance to re-film if they are unhappy with the results). Like everything there can also be downsides: you can’t really direct  effectively and there are some technical hurdles to overcome.

Auditions

Then there are the traditional auditions which are more personable and dynamic. In particular I want to single out one audition where I gave an actress my keys as a prop to help the performance. She played the scene beautifully, pretended to unlock the door, put her keys in the bag and pushed a pram through the door. It wasn’t until later (and finding myself locked outside of the house) that I realised the keys were still in her bag. Thankfully she was local! To me there was something incredibly endearing about this, some distinctly human element largely lacking from some of the online efforts. But this isn’t to say the human element is completely absent: one audition worked in some lovely improv whilst the actress was babysitting her little niece.

Another discovery whilst doing our “practical auditions” was just how good one of our production team members was acting against the other actresses. In fact she very nearly got the role! If nothing else this helped to highlight a particular character trait no-one else was bringing to the role (one we will definitely try to expand during the workshop process).

This has been the most extensive casting process I’ve experienced on any project to date. Picking who to play the roles has been agonising and I’d like to thank everyone who applied via whatever method. And I take away from the whole experience the belief that there is a place for both online and traditional auditions.

Casting Choices

It’s been a while since my last update but things have been anything but quiet:

1. For the first time in 13 years I’ve changed jobs. The new role will be more creative and I’m moving away from a largely male environment to a place where this won’t be the case.

2. The Production Group have all been working hard on our short film The Choice (title now renamed “Emmi”) and the team have nominated me to direct. Aside from the story, one of the attractions to this project will be the fact that the characters are almost exclusively female. The characters feel genuine without ever playing to any “Hollywood Female” stereotypes. We are now looking to workshop the characters with actors who will bring them to life. If you know anyone in the Oxford/nearby location who would be interested in auditioning for a part – please pass this on:

 

ACTING OPPORTUNITY

We are looking to find actors for four female parts:

  • CAZ (aged 16)
  • ALI (aged around 17-19)
  • SARAH (aged 35+)
  • JANINE (aged 40+)

For Short Film “THE CHOICE”

Produced by Film Oxford Production Group (www.filmoxford.org)
Written by local screenwriter Susie Stead (www.susiestead.com)
Directed by Andy Carslaw (www.fernyfilms.co.uk)

TheChoice-WP

“The Choice” is a 15 minute drama which follows three women who live in a block of flats, over the course of one night. Sarah is single and desperate for a baby. She’s recently moved in and suffers anxiety after being mugged. She helps Ali, teenage single mum, carry her pushchair up the stairs. At the top of the stairs they meet Caz, a 16 year old girl who plays loud music late at night. Sarah tries to complain but is met with deaf-ears and abuse. Later that night there is a scream. Sarah hears a sound outside and mewing. Surely it’s a cat? Finally Sarah unlocks her door and stands on the threshold but does she have the courage to cross it? And what will she find?

AUDITIONS TO BE HELD IN EARLY JULY

For further information please contact: choice@fernyfilms.co.uk

 

We will be advertising this on various casting sites soon, so please check back for further details.

UPDATE:
Further information about the characters and how is now available on the StarNow site.

Casting Doubts: Batman

Last Friday, the world awoke to the news that Ben Affleck will be the new cinematic incarnation of Batman. This was to largely inglorious and negative  backlash. I’ll be the first to admit I am not Affleck’s greatest fan (plus he is a better director than actor). Does anybody remember what happened last time he played a super-hero in Dare Devil? Yet despite this, I am still going to give him a fair chance.

WidescreenBatman2

There is no doubt that this is not who I would have picked for the role. But then neither was Matt Smith as The Doctor. Neither was Daniel Craig as James Bond. And look how those turned out. Even in Batman’s own Universe –  both Michael Keaton and Heath Ledger were derided at the start. Poor old George Clooney frequently goes on record and beats himself up over the Batman and Robin saga. Again he wasn’t a casting choice I would have made, but the problems with that movie shouldn’t be attributed to Clooney (in fact I would even argue he was one of the better things about the whole sorry film). Sometimes going with an unsafe choice is interesting, especially if the actor has something to prove.

I suspect if anything the success with this new Superman vs Batman project will hinge on having a decent script. If I am honest, the story concept is the thing I have the biggest issue with right now (although this might ultimately prove unfounded). Benefit of the doubt! One of the more intriguing questions for me is whether Hans Zimmer will return and mix in some of his Dark Knight motifs to the Man of Steel. That could be interesting.

For me, the work of Danny Elfman (and to a lesser degree the largely underappreciated work of Elliot Goldenthal) take me to the heroic swirling gothic world of the Batman comics. I find Hans Zimmer’s Batman music mostly generic which could be used in almost any action film (even if it does fit the “everyday” tone of Nolan’s films). This said there is one theme he composed which never fails to rouse me. Last night, I decided to take the keyboard and create my very own take on that theme. This was great fun to make and the part just after the minute mark is the rousing bit I refer to:

Differences

Things have once again been horrendously busy this week. I keep hoping to slow down soon, but that isn’t necessarily going to happen for a while yet. Quite why I leave it to blog so late on a Friday night I’m not entirely sure, I should definitely get out more!

There has been some editing happening behind the scenes on Etiquette. Unfortunately because of a graphics card failure we are slightly in a limbo state before things are able to resume. Please be patient, the Apple guys are on it!

I was going to cover a little bit about what I see as the key differences between the shoots of “Etiquette” and my debut “Gardening and other crimes” (which I will refer to as GAOC from now on).

1. Shooting time

The shoot for Gardening and other Crimes (GAOC) was longer. To be fair the script was at least twice the length. To be unfair one “fixing” scene was shot almost a year later. To be fair again, it was filmed whilst I had a very understanding pregnant wife and I had a few other distractions to contend with after the shoot. Conversely we only had two days to get the whole of Etiquette finished. In some ways this was great as it focused the mind. In others, it was nice not having the pressure of losing any locations or cast/crew if we didn’t finish on time.

2. Casting

For GAOC, I was already a friend of Brian Conroy who played Samaritan. He suggested his friend Frazz Jarvis as Daniel. Originally we had an actress in place suggested by Frazz (see what was happening here). Unfortunately this actress had to pull out at the 11th hour. Thankfully Zinta Gercans came to our rescue at very short notice and was thrown in at the deep-end! These were all local actors who were mostly from a theatre background. With Etiquette, I had Sherilee’s prior experience as a casting director/assistant to fall back on. So rather than word of mouth we advertised and auditioned everyone. The other key difference is that Etiquette has twice the number of characters. A comedy about a person with a social phobia meeting people who doesn’t meet any people would have been quite dull otherwise.

3. Crew

The crew had expanded on Etiquette. In “almost” the same words as wise old uncle Ben in Spiderman “With expanded crew comes greater responsibility” (and management). With GAOC I had mostly people I knew helping me and we kept the crew to the bare minimum (which was mostly the fab three – Jim Gwilliam, Sybil Mayard and Quentin Morrissey). In terms of sourcing for Etiquette, I still had friends involved (Jim Gwilliam again, this time with Adam Radley), Sherilee also did the same on her side (Adam Evans, Rachael Ballard). But for the most part this was a different and larger team than previous. Thankfully they were all great.

4. Sound

With GAOC Sybil Mayard was a constant being the sound-recordist and I have to say this was extremely comforting. Sybil has since moved from Oxford, and our original recordist dropped out at the very last-minute (you have to learn to deal with these things when dealing with unpaid work. I was readying myself for this job worst case). Thankfully we did manage to find two separate sound-recordists (Hannah Shaw-Williams and Peter Hudston), although both had differing styles/personalities. It’s not easy to tell what the full impact of this might is at this stage, but I’m curious to see if some scenes have a different “sound” because of this.

5. Directing actors

There was a noticeable shift in my directorial style between GAOC and Etiquette (hey even I noticed it!). GAOC was very controlled and static – which is pretty much what the script called for. We stuck to the script pretty rigidly. To be honest I was probably somewhat daunted at how I should be treating actors and worrying more about the technicalities also. This time, being a comedy I was happy to let things be more spontaneous and dynamic. I’d like to think I spent more time working with the actors this time and letting them put their stamp on their characters (no idea if they would agree – but they are all still talking to me!). But it seems strange that on the film where I *did* know the actors I spoke less to them than on the film where I didn’t! I’m curious to see how the performances differ between the two. I haven’t entirely settled on a directing style yet, but would definitely say I was happier directing actors on Etiquette. This is almost certainly a confidence thing.

6. Cameras

GAOC we shot on Sony HDV Camcorders. It gave the film a somewhat “Security Cam” look which worked nicely for that project. We also used a lot of synthetic lighting. On this one I wanted a more “fluffy” warm natural look, I think I said to Adam Evans “a bit like those Richard Curtis romantic comedies” (eg. Four Weddings and a funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jone’s Diary). It was shot almost entirely using natural light. One of the benefits of using HD-DSLR Cameras is their ability to shoot in lower light. This said, it could equally be a curse as it was also very sensitive. We had to watch the lighting levels and white balances very carefully – especially when switching lenses or angles. The majority of the film was shot on 28mm and 50mm Canon lenses.

7. Less bloopers

Expect a radically reduced Blooper reel this time. I’m not sure if we got my favourite “self-inflicted” blooper recorderd from Etiquette, so I will share it here. We did a take where Trevor (Alex) meets Alison (Hope) who is dressed up in horse-riding gear as part of her character. We start the take and Alex goes “Good neigh, I mean day”. I shout cut! Obviously feeling slightly sleep deprived and suffering director overloaded, everyone looks at me – why did he cut? I respond “The line was fumbled” and then the penny dropped with Alex’s little improvisation. Needless to say I suspect “Good Neigh” will be appearing in the final version.

8. Workflow

On Etiquette we had people copying off memory cards frequently, batteries being recharged systematically, footage being reviewed. GAOC we didn’t have this luxury as we were shooting on tape (we did manage to get a Sony MRC1 for one weekend) which was a Godsend, but after capturing the majority of our footage in realtime, I vowed never to shoot on tape again!

9. Untimely set-ups

One thing which worked better on GAOC was the fact we had a two (and occasionally three) camera set-up. I personally love these as it saves so much time and continuity just flows between the two angles. On Etiquette we had one only one Canon EOS 5D and a Canon EOS 550D. Now a Canon EOS 550D and a 7D would probably cut together fine, they both share a cropped sensors. But the 5D is superior with a full-frame. It became apparent after a few tests that this was going to look a bit off. So whilst we still used the 550D for second unit bits and bobs, we shot all the actor angles on the 5D. This cost us a lot of time setting up reverse angles and doing re-takes.

10. Hey, I have a Producer!

The biggest and most welcome change with Etiquette was that I didn’t feel like I had to do everything myself. I still stepped into the producer role occasionally and Sherilee also did more than just being a producer also. To be honest with GAOC I felt like I was spreading myself too thin, doing too much (which I also believe shows in the film). Having a producer to back me up took a huge weight off my shoulders. It was great knowing that I could trust Sherilee completely and hand things over without needing to worry. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but already I look back at the Etiquette shoot very fondly. There was a great cast, a great crew, we had tremendous fun, we are all keeping in touch and want to work together again! So in terms of the actual “production” filming, this “starter” project between Sherilee and myself has been a resounding success. Whether this also translates itself to the short itself remains to be seen, but let’s say I’m feeling optimistic and hope this is the start of something even bigger!

On a side note – not that I’m expecting too much now, but we have entered the final 24 hours now for sponsorship on the film on IndieGoGo. It would be great to go out with a bang, especially being November 5th! We will still need to soundmix, grade and add a soundtrack. Plus we have already paid for many of the expenses out of our own pocket already. We aren’t going to make the target, but if you would like show us some last-minute support, we would massively appreciate it. 🙂  http://www.indiegogo.com/fernyfilms?a=202297