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.


Filmmaker In Residence Project: Into The Wilderness

Don't worry. The title of this blog isn't a bleak prophecy. The film we are making has a a title now. It's called Wilderness.

The whole thing has moved on significantly from where it began. It has shaken itself loose of the shackles of its nucleus and is emerging as somewhat of a beast. The latest entry in the Screenwriting section of the site goes into more detail on the story and the script progress.

What makes this different?

Before Christmas, Justin and I had two good days working on the project. Well, one good day working and one good day reconnecting and talking film and life and the project as a whole. Living so far apart this is necessary as sometimes just ploughing in to the meat of the work without reminding ourselves of our individual lives, traits, insecurities etc. can cause anxiety. 

During the day we spent talking and reconnecting, over lunch at a Pizza Hut buffet (a nostalgic choice for us if ever there was one) Justin asked me a question.

"What makes this different to other films about couples?"

A tough question. An important question. I may have paraphrased him slightly there and I will likely paraphrase myself with my answer, which may read more succinctly than what I said at the time. Although I should say, Justin liked my answer and we moved forward, together, on the project. 

I said that this film was about a couple of things. Firstly it's about getting to an age where you ask yourself a 'what if' question in a relationship that has more meaning than it did before - 'what if this doesn't work out?' The weight of age and past relationships weighs heavy and this moment, with this person, feels like everything and that everything rests on the relationship working. In addition to this it's a film about what you do in this moment, when the space emerges between the real person you love and the projection of them you have created based on your own needs, desires and romantic ideals. That's what Wilderness is about, two people at this point in their lives, asking that question and dealing with that moment.


The casting call is written and will go out next week. We will cast 4 roles from 2 character breakdowns. I will post the casting breakdown here when it is up. We have some people in mind to see and approach. We have updated our Baracoa Pictures website with the film's information and updated biographies etc. We have a plan for when interviews with students who will work on the project are to take place, and applications are coming in. The script sits at 30+ pages (of 60+) and the remainder has been mapped out. It will be complete by the end of January. It's all moving forward. 


I was listening to the Close-Up podcast produced by the Film Society of Lincoln Center today. The episode featured Tom Noonan discussing Anomalisa and Andrew Haigh and Charlotte Rampling discussing 45 Years. Two things stuck with me. The first was Noonan's comment that 'meaning has nothing to do with the words', regarding the screenplay and the film. This is some kind of a mantra for me on this project (albeit versed more clearly than I have managed in my mind so far). I want there to be space for the director and the actors and the cinematographer and the editor and so on and so forth. I want there to be space for them to create layers of meaning that is rooted in there own lives and comes through their craft. The words uttered are to be only part of it. The second was Haigh discussing how 45 Years was shot mostly in sequence and deployed little coverage, with the cast and crew living near the film's main location, close together. The emotional impact of 45 Years is deep and so much can be felt as related to these decisions, decisions similar to ones we are making with Wilderness. If we can get anywhere near that film's cinematic depth and devastation I will be proud and happy.