Filmmaker In Residence Project: Pre-Production 2 (Casting)

It happened a while back now, but the memory is fresh. We spent the day in London with some really talented actors looking for our cast. 

The day was really inspiring and more than anything so far kicked up the dust and made this heady thing real and right there. One of the most satisfying parts of the day was hearing from actors of their appreciation for our process. We don't really know any other way to do things.

There were four of us. Myself, Justin (director) and two Steves. One is one of the producers, Steve Clarke. The other is an old friend of ours Steve Maclean who was there to help the actors, to guide them through the day and crystallise what was needed. He's mentioned on these pages as the person I go to after Justin for feedback on my writing so having him in the room with actors trying to reach for the characters I had written, knowing the impact they had on him, was positive. 

We read about 12 people. They read in pairs and in fours, sometimes. We asked them to be there for 2 hours each. Over that time we wanted them to read with other actors (not us), to do some improvisation, and just to talk. We wanted to ask them questions and answer theirs. They all appreciated the fact that they got the chance to read with other actors, to develop scenes and come at them from different angles. The result was an intense day with some really eye-opening moments for me as a writer, to see what happened in people's interpretations of my words. I love that feeling, seeing the work go off in different directions than anticipated. 

We cast for four roles from all the actors present, trying all in both the lead and supporting roles and feel like we hit a really sweet spot in terms of chemistry and the group and couple dynamics. As always it is a bittersweet process. One actress in particular brought some really strong ideas and sensitivity and imagination to her reading of the lead woman, Alice. However, seeing our eventual Alice with our eventual John (an actor we dearly wished to be as good as we'd hoped and boy did he deliver) it was clear the direction we needed to take. It's hard and sad though, to see talented people come your way and not be able to work with them. 

Our eventual Alice, Katharine Davenport killed it. She came in 'off book' and just nailed it. Such sensuality, such strength, such sadness. She knocked her John (James Barnes) sideways and really made him work. All day there was one line that none of the actresses delivered as I had imagined it to be delivered. I was at the point of feeling that it was a line that didn't work, which often happens. However Katharine just destroyed the line. Steve M and I kept glancing at each other throughout her audition. A reprise of the looks we had swapped seeing James do his thing. When Katharine left, the room was in agreement, there was our Alice.

The supporting roles will be taken by the actors Sebastian Badarau and Bean Downes (a native of Cornwall) who each took those parts into new and unimagined territory and we just saw them as this couple that John and Alice spend a fractious evening with. 

The experience of the casting stayed with me for a few days after, right there, at the front of my mind. I feel fortunate to have found a group of people to embody these characters and I'm really excited to get to know them as people and to see them work with Justin as we rehearse and shoot. It's getting real. In truth it got really real the day I saw the faces of the characters come to life.