Is the WEB the new fringe theatre?
Doing a ‘web series’ is similar to when I was working in rep, and touring. Fun! It has put the fun back into acting! That is why there are so many. The web is an unstoppable change.
From life in the West End Theatre
When I was in the West End I was very pampered, dressers and assistants. But even on tours in number one theatres, we had to be responsible for our own costumes and make up and personal props. Going a step further when working in Edinburgh at the festival, and then touring my own show and when touring in children’s theatre we had to make our own set, set our own props, and do our hair and make up in sometimes impossibly small dressing rooms (The Kings Head in Islington comes to mind and that is a trendy place to get to).
Playing Doris in Shades of Bad is the most exciting, most rewarding, but also the most challenging thing I have ever done.
Frankly there are parts of the job that I dislike, probably because I know I am not very good at them. I have never been good at selling but I know every actor now needs to have a Twitter following and a Facebook presence. My husband, who regularly attends film markets, tells me actors are judged by their pull and following as much as their talent. That is tough.
I certainly could not call someone on the phone to push my product but when performing in Edinburgh, you are expected to leaflet up and down the Royal Mile. Yes, as actors we have to sell. Just like the stars, doing rounds of TV interviews or sitting in hotel rooms seeing a different journalist every 15 minutes.
Leafleting Edinburgh, Tweeting, and interviews are hard, excruciating for me but how else can you get people in through the door to see the results of your hard work. Let us not even suggest how do you get a casting director to see you.
The unstoppable Web
But the web is crazy. It puts you right in front of anyone who will watch for 3 minutes. Everything is viewed on the web, so, why not a web series.
With the web series we are using social media to get it out there. Before I started on Shades of Bad I didn’t even have a Twitter account and only really used Facebook to keep up with my “children’s” adventures. (They are actually no longer children, one married, one about to be married!). So this is a learning curve for me, which I resisted at first. (Fear of the unknown). However, I am starting to enjoy it more now I am getting to grips with it, and like in the theatre you connect with the audience. Though the audience is getting larger and time is an issue.
Now we get to the part I love, the acting. I chose acting because I believe your job should be something you love. When I first started working in the theatre and getting a wage at the end of the week I couldn’t quite believe how lucky I was getting paid for something that I would gladly do for free.
Trying to get our web series off the ground is therefore a mix of love and hate. Not unlike promoting a show in Edinburgh. Apart from the marketing there are other responsibilities. As well as the obvious, learning our lines, we are our own costume designers and wardrobe ladies like in the theatre. Ensuring continuity by making sure our costumes, jewellery and accessories match the filming from the day before certainly make you far more aware of the whole playing field. Thank goodness for my ipad. At the end of filming I photograph the location and then make sure everything is in place the next day. We use my kitchen so I am often washing the kitchen floor late at night, trying to remove the residue from the masking tape that has been put down to help us stand in the same position for each take. All personal references, photos etc have to be removed to make the kitchen belong to Doris, who is very different from me.
An army marches on its stomach and as the cast and crew are arriving at silly o clock, breakfast has to be provided as well as lunch and snacks to keep up energy and morale. My daughter says I am a feeder so I like this task! We have to think ahead. Props have to be ordered way in advance and as time is precious there is no room for error. Everything has to be ready as we need it. This is a bit of a stomach churning responsibility for me, as you can badly let people down; very similarly to theatre. In the theatre, if you forget to set a personal prop in the wings, someone goes off to get a wine bottle for example and it is not there; then you have to improvise with no thinking time. On camera you can stop, reset, or postpone, as we are quite a few episodes in front of release now.
At the moment we are building an Eco friendly coffin in our garage!! – for one of Doris’s victims. Yes, she is a serial killer.
Playing Doris is a treat. It is rather like playing Cruella Deville, or the witch in pantomime. She is never boring, oblivious to other people’s sensitivities and will shock you to the core and provoke guilty laughter. You know you shouldn’t laugh but you can’t help yourself. You have to watch Shades of Bad with your tongue firmly in your cheek.
I hope I have intrigued you enough to give it a try. It is only 3 mins an episode, or you can watch all the episodes together. Eventually we hope they will be cut into half hours for TV, but only if we can get the audience through the door or in this case watching their iPad.
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