Barry Shepherd “Nigel McLean” & Assistant Director
Q 1. What did you think of the script?
Previously, I had worked with Gerald on a couple of films. And when he approached me with this one, it was not only a matter of reading the script and saying “Oh yes, OK”. He also said: “How would you like to come on board as Assistant Director, as well as having a role as an actor?” Then we spent quite a bit of time looking at the script and discussing that too. Gerald was still the script-writer, but I thought, here’s an opportunity to not only do some performing on camera, but to look at the script and do some assistant directing. So, it was an opportunity I could not pass up.
Then he said “Well, how about working with Henri Szeps?”. That was another big plus. He’s a consummate performer and that made it really great to come on board.
One of the things I really like about what Gerald has done, is that he has given opportunities to local performers and Hunter-based performers. I suppose “Suburban Mayhem” was a film that came through, which involved a few actors. But we have very rare opportunities to pursue those skills. So to be asked: “Barry, would you like to do these jobs?” – how could I refuse?
Over the three projects, it’s been fantastic to see local performers come in, and see, in just about every case, an improvement along the line. So that’s been really good.
Q 2. How did Henri Szeps contribute to that?
There were a couple of occasions when he and I would have a bit of a natter about what a performance was doing. And he has a real knack of saying “OK, let’s make these suggestions to the performer, but let’s not go too far, because we’ll probably spoil the performance”.
Q 3. Who is your character in the film?
I play the role of Nigel McLean , and we’ve got Dad (‘Edward’ – Henri). Mum died some time before the action took place. Then there’s the three brothers. Dad has a particular relationship with each of us, a slightly different relationship with each of us. But the three of us feel that in some way or other, we don’t live up to his standards.
Q 4. What’s it like working in a low budget film?
Newcastle is not new to film-making. We’ve had instances where crowds gather to watch Superman up on top of a building in town, and all the Hollywood hoopla. And that’s really a Block-buster film.
Now people possibly got an appreciation about a couple of things from that – when you’ve got a block-buster, you can come in and do all sorts of incredible things, such as blocking off streets.
But there’s also the sense that there’s a real drive to get the project finished, because the longer it goes, that means more money they spend; and studios don’t like that.
And so everything has to be in place to begin with, and away you go.
In this particular instance, Gerald’s films are low-budget, without studio backing, and this means that there was a very different approach to the film, in that we shot scenes at particular times, and tried to get as much done as possible in a week. But demands on people’s time, and availability of the budget meant that we would come back at a later stage, and do some more scenes. Now for me, that was a doubly interesting process, in that there was the original script that we started with, and we would do the first lot of shooting. Then in the period in-between the next shooting date, we’d be thinking; and I’d get on to Gerald about “this bit here, and this bit there”. And so we’d talk about it. Sometimes it didn’t change, – Gerald might say “No, I’m happy with that.”. But on other occasions, he’d say “Yeah, let’s re-visit that” So a couple of times, the writing was actually changed. Which meant that scenes that we hadn’t yet shot were improved by that process.
But it also meant, from the acting point of view, that because of the time period between shoots and changes to the script, as actors, we had to sit back and think: “Now OK, my character – oh yes!”
There was one particular scene that involved Henri and myself – (Dad and son), which we shot.. And it was fine. We did a couple of takes, and it was ok, everybody was happy with it. But as time went on, we came to think “Hang on – what we did as performers didn’t inform the story well enough”. So after a long period of back and forth, and after looking at the rough edit of that scene, we said : ”That’s a bit wrong in terms of their relationship”. So eventually, we decided to re-shoot it. And we were able to, because the shoot period was spread out over a long period of time. And not just Henri and I, but Gerald and everybody thought: “That scene now makes more sense.”
You sort of feel that Low-Budget means there are some things you can’t do. But on the other hand, because it did take a period of time to shoot, there were other things that we were able to do, that really enhanced the film in the end.
Q 5. How does Gerald work as a Director?
The approach that Gerald took to the project was “OK, I’m in charge, it’s my script. I’m the director, as well as the producer, as well as a whole lot of other hats”. But at the same time, he was very good at taking suggestions. Now those suggestions might have been rejected in terms of saying “No, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do, let’s stick with what we have.” But on many other occasions, he would take those suggestions, and run with them. And that was one of the joys about the group effort process – that you can take the best suggestions. Because to me, the whole thing about performing, whatever it may be, on stage or on film, is that there is no one right way to do something, there is only a better way of doing something. And the only way to get to that better way is for everybody involved in the project to talk together.
Q 6. People say that making a film is the easy part?
It’s a really interesting thing to contemplate – you’ve made the film, now what are you going to do about it? It’s one of those things that not many people appreciate, the process of what has to be gone through, to get a film on to a screen or on TV or onto DVD or whatever. And I’m glad Gerald’s the producer and he’s the one doing it, because it’s a tough job.