The Importance of Great Actors

There is a very clear difference between a good actor and a great actor. For me, this became very apparent after my jam-packed yet fruitful film shoot on the 7th February. A good actor comes in and does the job as requested. There is a script to be learned, a performance to be unlocked and scenes to do. They arrive on time, stay until the shoot is done and hit all the right marks. There is nothing wrong with that – in fact, for most directors, this is ideal. However, great actors take those core ideas and raise it a level. They embody the character and come up with small characteristics and quirks that the director hadn’t even thought of. Subtle mannerisms that you don’t realise even happened until the edit.

I am not going to beat it around the bush. Call Me Church has great actors. Really great actors. I knew this guys were talented as they were performing the scene in front of my very eyes, but maybe I didn’t fully appreciate the tremendous work they put into every detail of their performance, until I sat down, put the footage onto full screen on my laptop (rather than watching it through a tiny monitor on the Nikon D5300), and saw the scene as the audience will see it. And the characters hit a whole new level. It is the smaller reactions, subtle flickers of the eyes. An expression one can only conjure when totally embracing the character. I can’t really go into detail about exactly what each actor did to impress me so much without leaking plot details (there is one outstanding piece of acting from Christian Dalton that I am dying to discuss, but cannot because it is very spoilerific), but take it from a guy who is looking at a scene from Call Me Church right now: you are going to want to watch this show.

I’ll sign out with some rough stills ripped right from the footage. I will post some amazing BTS photos from my talented photographer, Ed Sillence, when he has graded them, but see a few ungraded teasers of his work over on the Facebook page.

Day of the Dalton 6

Day of the Dalton 5

Day of the Dalton 4

Day of the Dalton 3

Day of Dalton 1

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Day One of Call Me Church – Reflecting

Today was a very important day for me. It was the day I finally got Call Me Church off the ground and on its feet. I guess I have technically been a director for the last two months. Ever since I finished the writing side of things and focused on how to film it. I suppose when I was storyboarding each scene or casting each character, I was technically assuming the role of director, ‘directing’ how I wanted the script to look on camera. Maybe even before that, as I subconsciously planned the theme, look and style of my web series. However, personally, it wasn’t until this afternoon, as I had my cinematographer, Stan White, on set, discussing each individual shot or supervising Chelsea Marie’s transformation into the titular character, that I felt confident to begin referring to myself as a director.

The day in itself was quite easy. I had two scenes planned, both comprised of non-dialogue montages. Both scenes were essentially written as an introduction to Kate Church, something to not only help Chelsea introduce herself to the character, but also, to a certain extent, myself – she has only ever been words on a page until now. The minimal amount of shots needed for today would also help me take my time with this initial step into directing. I could slowly plan each shot, help myself fully understand exactly how I wanted my web series to look like and find my feet as the director of this exciting, new project.

And I am happy to announce the day went smoothly. Chelsea Marie took to the character like she had secretly been making years worth of seasons behind my back and with Stan White’s ever-helpful supervision, I was able to get exactly what I wanted from the day. As with every filming project under the sun, timing was a slight issue meaning my poor cat’s cameo will have to wait another day and there are a few pick-ups to be collected when the time arises. However, on the whole, I am delighted that Call Me Church officially wrapped on its first day and the next few shoots look like they will be a lot of fun, with some quality material captured along the way.

Snapshot 1 (03-02-2016 18-59)kate 1

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Who is Sam Peters?

The first shot of Sam Peters is a fleeting yet prominent one. He passes Kate Church, the leading hero, as the pair of them go about their daily routine. No connection, no prior relationship with one another… yet their eyes meet and instantly they get a bad feeling about each other. Without no knowledge of who Sam Peters is, Kate gets the impression he is threatening, dangerous and not to be trusted.

This first impression is an accurate one. Sam Peters is one of the primary antagonists in Call Me Church. He is a client of Monty Henderson, the same producer who found Jasmine Spacer, the murder victim, fame through her Youtube channel. With his fame and celebrity, Sam Peters has made good use of the power his platform gives him. While according to the media, he is the perfect idol, a ‘do-no-wrong’ flagman for the underdog, the truth is far more sinister. While those around Sam Peters get corrupted by the world of fame around him, Sam takes to it like a fish in water. A lot of this is to do with his past, before the web series starts, which is just as sinister as his lifestyle in the Youtube celebrity circle.

10178085_10152390618767287_1279468754493249848_nSam Peters grew up in Outer London. His hometown was under-developed and in need of some good employment oppurtunities. It got to the point, where kids Sam’s age assumed there was no point in trying to get themselves an education. No one from that area made it big or got rich. It was just the way it was. As a result, Sam fell in with a bad crowd. It was less being corrupted by the criminal lifestyle and more Sam accepting that petty theft and initimidation were the only two things he had going for him. He started out as a reluctant bad egg, shoplifting milk and essentials for his family. By the age of 15, he knew no other lifestyle. He was unwilling to even try another way of life. He upgraded to mugging, intimidating teenagers his age for protection money and, on occasion, selling drugs. What started out as a means to an end turned Sam Peters into a nasty piece of work.

Then Monty came along. Sam Peters, while not much good when it came to academic skills, was a good footballer. He never made it to a football academy, because of his lack of teamwork skills, but his ball control was second to none. To kill time, he bought himself a cheap video camera and began making trick shot videos. Footage of him kicking a football from one side of a road and into a bin on the other side. One of his videos went viral, audiences all over Youtube amazed at his trick shot skills. That was when Monty Henderson pounced on Sam Peters. Monty was looking at turning his hand to producing internet content for a new career and Sam Peters was just the kind of man he was looking for to kickstart his new venture. Untapped talent. Monty didn’t care about his background, only his potential.

Sam Peters shot to fame overnight. Monty gave him a series of videos and Sam lapped it up. It was easy work for him. Turning up once a week to kick a football about and then sitting back and raking in the views and cash that followed. Monty even hired someone to do the video editing and admin side of it for Sam, something that frustrated him to no end. Sam’s life became easy in seconds. Sam didn’t stop his criminal ways out of an enlightening moral turn-around, but simply because there was no need to be a thug anymore. Why sell drugs, when he was being asked to model famous sports brands for thousands of pounds at a time? The media lapped up Sam’s story. Monty hid the more nefarious details of Sam’s early life and as far as the internet was concerned, Sam Peters was the dreaming kid from a poor area, who shot to fame through persistence and chasing his dream. Anyone could be Sam Peters. Sam wasn’t just forgiven for his crimes, he was celebrated as a role model. All the suffering he caused over the years was forgotten, simply because it made a good news story.

10378526_10153862602782287_8582937484377005744_nBut underneath Sam is still the same nasty piece of work. He might be rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, acting like an angel for the cameras, but behind those eyes is a calculating, manipulative mind. He has never had to learn that his actions have consequences. He has been brought up getting everything he considered wanting. He hasn’t met someone who could stand up to him. While he looks untouchable and, with all of his heart, believes he is untouchable, deep down, he is still that same thug who grew up in a rough area. Maybe Kate Church can bring him down a peg or two…

Sam Peters will be played by Christian Dalton. Filming commences in February.

The Casting Process: Why Did I Cast Who I Did? (Part 1)

Casting is one of the scariest parts of film-making, in my opinion. As a writer, the script-writing process, while not the easiest part of production, is definitely the safest. You are comfortable writing the script. You are 100% in control of the project. Most of the time you don’t even let on you are writing something (I kept Call Me Church secret until I had finished the first draft for every episode), no one looking over your shoulder or judging your project. As soon as you begin casting, the production starts to become more real. In selecting an actor or actress, you are taking a leap of faith. The best actors are the ones that are able to creatively dissect your literary heroes and add to them, but in doing so, the writer has to be willing to step back and let them do that. It is important for the success of the direction, as no audience member wants an actor do restrained by a writer who keeps their hands tied behind their backs. At the same time, it is terrifying casting. Your project suddenly stands up before your eyes and, if you haven’t done the groundwork correctly, this can be a very intimidating moment.

Becky Louise and Midge Mullin
Becky Louise and Midge Mullin

As a rule, I try not to fantasy cast while writing the script. Most writers who have a fairly good idea of the actors they like working with the most or the ones who more accessible, cast first and write the character up second. This isn’t a bad idea in retrospect. For one, this makes the casting process easier and more reliable. It is a very quick process and the intimidating factor is almost null-voided, if you know what you are getting into, before you even start the process. However, at the same time, I didn’t want pre-casting limiting the characters and script. Sub-conciously, the character often bleeds too much into the casting. For arguments sake, let’s say I wanted to cast Emma Stone as Kate Church. If I knew that from the start, what happened if I started writing the character as Emma Stone rather than Kate Church? This is bad for both the story, but also the actress, who might want to push herself in another direction with this project. How can she do that if the role has been so carefully tailor-made for her? Also, problems can explode if that actress isn’t avaliable (this wouldn’t have been a problem for me, because me and Emma are such close friends). Suddenly the character you had spent so long picturing as Emma Stone is falling to pieces, because Emma isn’t avaliable due to other acting commitments. Suddenly no other actor works for the part. You end up casting someone not quite right and forevermore, your project feels stagnant… like it is missing something. I went with the scarier option of writing my characters first, and diving into the process of casting second.

Christian Dalton
Christian Dalton

The first confirmed cast member was Christian Dalton. This, in itself, was a gamble. I had never met Christian before. As a first time director, I was anxious about working with new people. While I am being slightly hypocritical of the previous paragraph, I had a fair idea of who I wanted to work with. A select group of actors who I knew I could easily communicate with and express my ideas. I am new to being in charge of my own project and I had worries about Call Me Church falling down around my ears, because I had a personality clash with one of the actors. Christian Dalton, however, is a hard man to ignore. Backed up by this article on the man, he has an interesting career and a even more interesting one ahead of him. His social media following is staggering and he is always shining with positive messages and encouraging pick-me-ups. It was one afternoon, I was storyboarding an early scene and a show-reel of the actor popped up on my news feed. Intrigued, I gave it a watch and was impressed. I looked down at the storyboard I was writing and one character in particular: Sam Peters. Lean, muscular, threatening… I had a few nerves about the character, because I was struggling to imagine anyone I knew that could fit the part. However, timed with that show-reel, Christian became Sam Peters. Right there on the page. Of course, casting Dalton seemed fool-hardy. He was a big actor on his way to LA. Surely I wouldn’t be able to land someone like that. However, film-making is all about risks and gambling – Christian will tell you that himself – and I summoned up the courage to drop him a message. He replied fairly quick and asked a few questions about the project. To my excitement, he accepted the part if we filmed it in a certain time frame. This is also a lesson to all actors out there who don’t see social media as a powerful tool for casting. If Dalton hadn’t dropped that Tweet and if I hadn’t been using Twitter at that exact moment, this casting might not have happened. You might call it chance, but at the same time, using social media we improved that chance. Sell yourself as an actor or director online – you never know who is watching. The casting of Christian Dalton helped in more ways than one. I wasn’t planning on starting the project this early, but his enthusiasm gave me the drive to get Call Me Church out of pre-production and onto the marketing and filming stage. Who knows? I could still be pottering around on Draft 8 if it wasn’t for Christian. For that, I am eternally grateful.

The very next day, I decided I might as well properly go for it. I launched into casting. That afternoon, I had managed to secure the parts of Harry, Monty Henderson and Amanda. All three of those actors (Midge Mullin, Jason Collins and Becky Louise), were people I have worked with before and I knew their talents would be invaluble to the project. Jason and I met on the set of A Fool’$ Game and I have also worked with him on horror short, Fragments: Tale of the Vampyre. Both times, he filled the room with his character, mentally filling the role and bringing the part alive through his performance. It is astonishing to be in the same room as him when he is in character. I knew that Jason was great for the character of Monty. Monty Henderson is a very complex character and I needed someone willing to dive into the mentality of him and find a very real, grounded performance. I was thrilled when Jason said yes. Midge and Becky were also very great for the cast. They are both wonderful performers, but I wanted to push them in directions that hadn’t gone before. I knew Becky had the energy to play Amanda, but the energy is going to be channelled in a very different way than I have seen it channelled before with her other roles. Midge has also made a career out of playing the hard men – gangsters, gruff bartenders. I wanted to dial this back and show his softer side as Harry, one of the more interesting characters in Call Me Church. It had only been two days and I had four amazing actors attached to the project. It could only get better.

The thought process behind the casting will be continued in another article.

Who is Kate Church?

Kate Church is the main protagonist of Call Me Church, but who is she? The following featurette will answer all questions you might have about the character.

Kate Church is a 22 year old, living in the Devon area. In her early years, she was a bright, resourceful young girl. She was brighter than most of her class-mates, born with a keen sense of connections. She could figure out things that no one else could with a strangely acute sense of the bigger picture than kids her own age, even her teachers to some respects. This meant that she was mainly alienated by the kids she went to school with. They were threatened by her intelligence. It was at this early age, Kate Church learned that there was little point in putting faith in people.

Her first true friends, she met in secondary school. Louise Murphy was a shy, young girl who was attracted to Kate’s fiery personality. Through Louise, Kate met Jasmine Spacer, the school’s popular girl, who had grown out of the Queen Bee scene. The three of them became really strong friends. They spent most of their childhoods together. For fun, the three of them created their own mock private detective agency, where they would track down missing pets or spy on potentially cheating boyfriends for their friends. For Louise and Jasmine, it was just a silly distraction from exams, something glamorous they pulled out of a movie. For Kate, it was an awakening. She was unusually good at it, her ability to access the bigger picture and draw connections shining. The passion of it died out, but Louise and Jasmine never forgot how Kate seemed to come alive when it came to chasing down a case.

Then life got in the way. Louise and Jasmine were accepted into Universities, while Kate never bothered to apply. The usual promises about staying in touch and seeing each over other the holiday periods were made, but never kept to. Louise and Jasmine found themselves careers that demanded most of their time and Kate was trapped in a life that wasn’t going anywhere. She got herself a string of dead end jobs – just profitable enough, so she could rent her own place, away from her nagging parents. She found herself drifting through life, without a care in the world. She turned to drink, not out of any sense of need, but just so she had something to save money for – something to schedule in for after work. She was functioning, but barely…

Then she turns up from work one day to find Louise Murphy waiting outside her door. Jasmine was found dead and Louise wants Kate’s help to find the killer…

Kate Church will be played by Chelsea Marie.

Who am I? The Director of Call Me Church

It’s the third day of the Call Me Church blog and it has occurred to me that while you have a strong idea about my series and what Call Me Church is about, you have very little idea who I am. After all, I am the person asking you to vouch for him, place faith in my project… It’s only fair you can put a face to the web series.

My name is Luke King Abbott. I have been an actor and movie producer for the last couple of years. Since leaving University with a 2:1 in Drama and English, I have drifted from project to project. I landed my first role with A Fool’$ Game, a wonderful feature film, directed by Ed Sillence. I play the lead, Derrick Hughes, and also produce. I also have starred in Rewind, a web series based on the Life is Strange video game. There will be five episodes, three of which are live right now, so if you want to see me in action, follow this link. While producing, I learned a lot about the film-making industry. I took part in several independent movies around Devon, in the South-West of the United Kingdom. I watched carefully, learned as many tricks as I could and eventually decided I was ready to make the leap to director and start making my own project.

Cue to now. I am fast approaching the first filming day of Call Me Church. And I am trying to squeeze in some non dialogue scenes in first, at the very least a photo shoot, so I can bring you all some early images of Kate Church, in costume, for you all to get a taster of. Exciting times are ahead. Stay tuned…

The Cast of Call Me Church

Every web series needs a great cast. 90% of them have been selected and I will show them off for you below. If they have Twitter, I will include links to their pages, so why don’t you give them a follow!

Kate Church

Chelsea Marie is Kate Church. Kate is an introvert, hiding from a world she has simply stopped caring for. Working a dead-end job in the day, drinking herself to sleep at night, Kate is letting a vital talent go to waste: she is a great detective.

Jasmine

Kathy Towns is Jasmine Spacer. Jasmine is a rising star in the Youtube world. Her home-grown cooking tutorial show was discovered by Monty Henderson, a skilled producer who hunts down local, talented entertainers online. Jasmine’s career was taking off… until she turned up dead!

Louise

Natasha Wise plays Louise Murphy. Louise is an old friend of Kate’s and Jasmine’s. When Jasmine turns up dead, Louise is determined to avenge the friend she lost touch with. She hunts down Kate, a woman she knows has the skills to track down Jasmine’s killer. But the challenge is motivating Kate to begin the hunt…

Monty

Jason Collins is playing Monty Henderson. Monty Henderson is the producer who discovered Jasmine Spacer. Impressed by her talents, he showed her to a wider audience. Somewhere on Jasmine’s rise to fame, she was killed. Does that make Monty a key suspect?

Harry

Midge Mullin plays Harry. Little is known about Harry. What is clear is that he is currently Kate’s only friend. Despite their differences, their bond is unbreakable. Harry could be the only thing keeping Kate together.

Alan

Louis John Brzozka will be playing Alan Memory. Alan is Jasmine’s biggest fan. When she turns up dead, his love-struck comments suddenly became less sweet and more threatening…

Sam

Christian Dalton is Sam Peters. Sam is one of Monty’s first success stories. A street thug turned poster boy thanks to a few football trick shot videos.

Amanda

Becky Louise is Amanda Leighton. Amanda is a shy movie fan who delivers the latest movie news, via a podcast. Monty discovers her and motivates her to take her channel to the next level: however, does this bring her into the path of the man who killed Jasmine?

Siobhan

Emily Carding is Siobhan Spacer. Emotionally destroyed at the loss of her daughter, Siobhan is a shell of her former self. As well as finding Jasmine’s killer, Kate and Louise need to salvage Siobhan’s mental health.

Joseph

Tom Menary will star as Joseph. Joseph is a fixer for Monty. He gets the clients what they need, when they need it. Did he have a hand in Jasmine’s murder?