Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was an actor. It’s odd because I gave it up over 16 years ago which is getting on for two decades and yet it still seems like it was a huge part of my life. I stopped for lots of reasons but mostly because it wasn’t making me happy; in fact it seemed at the time to be making me desperately unhappy. And so one day I decided I was going to get a ‘proper job’. It must have been the right decision because the moment I made it, a proper job materialised. So I told my not-very-understanding agent at the time I was going to take 3 months off to see if not being an actor made me feel any better about life at all, and would she mind waiting for me. She promptly returned all my publicity which arrived with an unceremonious and rather rude bump on the floor behind my front door the very next day. So that was that; I was without an agent and a couple of days later I found myself walking down to Clapham Junction Station with the rest of the world during rush hour to catch a train to my first proper job.
I knew immediately that not being an actor, for the time being anyway, was the right thing for me. I didn’t earn very much but I had some structure and learnt that I was quite good at organizing things and planning events. So after a few months I decided to get a better proper job and it must have been the right decision because before long I found myself sitting at a desk in an office in The City of London being a marketing assistant. I have to admit I had no idea what I was doing and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I tell you I did very little other than sit and stare at my computer screen for 3 months. (And what on earth was that thing called the internet computer in the corner of the office for?) Thankfully, some internal moves, resignations and rehiring led to me being thrown in at the deep end, at which point I had no choice but to get on with it. I discovered that as well as being good at organising and planning I also enjoyed writing; yes, even about investment funds which I had to learn all about in the first place because I’d never even heard of them when I was an actor. (And very soon after I started we all got internet access on our own screens so the weird computer in the corner was removed.)
I spent about four years in The City and discovered all sorts of things about the world and myself, which I’d never have realised had I not stopped being an actor. And I suspect not knowing those things didn’t help me when acting – how can you play anything other than an out of work actor if you’ve never been anything else in life?
Recently I was very pleased to be asked by a friend, Lucy Barrack, who had written a short film along with her writing partner, Keiran Grant, to do the stills on their production. The film, called The Lights, is produced by Andrea Ferran and Sophie Reynolds and will be part of the Film London festival. I went along and met a fantastically hard working and good natured crew and actors, Bradley Walsh and Joseph Kloska, who from what I saw, were doing some pretty excellent stuff on set. I took a whole bunch of photos documenting the day’s shoot, as well as some stills for publicity. Because the film is being produced based on ethically sound principles everyone on set apart from the director/writers and producers were paid the national minimum wage. That doesn’t sound very much but I can tell you it will have put a huge strain on the budget and it is quite rare for low budget productions. Actors and crew are often expected to work for nothing at that level which I always found really quite extraordinary when I was doing it all those years ago. The company are now looking to raise further funds to ensure the editing process is done as well as it can be. If you or anyone you know are interested in supporting them you can do so here. Forward the link to people you think may be interested if you can’t do it!
I’ve never gone back to acting. Eventually I left The City and looked after my kiddies for ten years, although I did teach acting and drama for many of them to children and adults before embarking on my photography adventures. Sometimes I’d love to get back into it and other times I think, thank goodness I left all that behind. Who knows what the future holds though…
I think however that my time as an actor on sets and in rehearsals meant that I was quite comfortable working on The Lights and really enjoyed my day there. It was certainly challenging given the very low lighting but I think I managed to capture some of the atmosphere they were aiming for. I probably might quite like to do some more film stills so if anyone out there is planning on writing/producing/directing a film and wants someone to photograph it, I’m your woman! In the meantime here are some images from The Lights.