A couple of months ago I was very pleased to work for the second time with Farrena Films on their production The Other Side with Valerie Hope, written by Lucy Barrick and Kieren Grant and featuring Sinead Parker and Kate Robbins. I worked with the same production team in 2015 and was thrilled to be asked back to do stills for the scenes shot in London. I know they are currently making their way through post production and I can’t wait to see the finished product. It’s really such a clever script! I was so impressed. They did incredibly well with the last film I worked on, The Lights, so I am sure this one is destined to be just as successful. Here are a handful of behind the scene images from my time on set.
When I was a child I was cast as Alice in Alice in Wonderland for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. It may have been my earliest professional acting job and I remember being terrified on the first day in the studio. An assistant walked me along the never-ending corridors, and I followed the whole time secretly wanting to cry with nerves. But when I reached the dressing room door I was absolutely delighted and excited to see my name on it, and I started to feel better about everything. If I allow my memory to take me back in time, I can smell the staleness of the wig which I had to wear and feel the stiffness of the dress and petticoats. I was dressed up and made to look just like the famous drawings. I have a mixture of feelings about that experience but I do remember being quite pleased when some money came my way a few weeks later and I was able to go and buy clothes with my very own hard-earned cash. I bought a big baggy red paisley patterned shirt, a neon pink one, and a pair of black brogues. I’m not sure if I also paid for the tightly fitting long black skirt, the sort that flared at the bottom, and the fishnet tights which I wore with the shirts, but nevertheless, I was really very pleased with the look. I’m pretty sure I also had a ridiculous fringe, which I spent hours straightening and shaped to sweep down in a diagonal, covering half my face. I was more than impressed with the final look! (I swear my mother wore those shirts for about two decades after I handed them over to her. Actually, after reading this she tells me three decades…)
I very much hope that Grace, the young actor in this headshot, receives lots of invitations to audition from casting directors as I know she works incredibly hard and has so many skills; I’m in awe! She can dance, play instruments, sing, act and finds time to do well at school too. I was never that able. Best wishes to Grace and I’m looking forward to seeing her name in lights one day.
My first love with photography is portraiture. It always has been. And since taking up photography I have enjoyed the process of spending time with people, getting to know them relatively quickly and capturing an authentic quality about them in my camera. However, there is something quite satisfying about photographing people I already know well, like one of my oldest friends, Trudi Jackson, who also happens to be a talented actor. Trudi was recently kind enough to let me work with her for longer than I normally do when shooting headshots. Poor woman must have been exhausted after our day, which of course included a couple of breaks, (I’m not a total tyrant!) during which we fetched her daughter from school and ballet. And who, lucky for me, is equally obliging. Working with Trudi for an extended period gave me plenty of opportunity to play and learn, so I was grateful for her time, and her daughter’s too, of course!
Here are a handful of head shots with some very different looks, chosen by Trudi’s agent, followed by portraits for my own purposes including a couple of the future talent that is Ms. L, who may well follow in her mum’s footsteps by the looks of things.
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.
I had so much fun yesterday doing a portrait shoot with a very old friend of mine from university days. Actor and director James Nickerson has always made me laugh and yesterday was no different.
Our shoot started in a local, proper old-fashioned pub that has yet to be homegenised and plasticised. I think our starting venue came as bit of a surprise to James, but I really like the lighting as well as the vibe in there and I’m sure James was rather pleased to start the afternoon off with a pint. The landlord was welcoming and jolly accommodating too – thank you!
I’m sure our location is not the only reason James relaxed into it so quickly — something to do with being professional, experienced and the fact that we know each other might also have played a part, but it was just such a joy to work with someone who wasn’t prone to tantrums, demanding of regular bribes of chocolate and who didn’t have eager parents standing around saying, “If you don’t smile, Father Christmas won’t come!” (Never that helpful, by the way…) Having concentrated on children and families for a bit, that is the sort of thing I have become used to.
Just before Christmas James and I had met and we hadn’t seen each other for years and years so had lots of catching up to do. We had a good laugh about all sorts and I brought him up to date on the tale of woe of my somewhat disastrous marriage/divorce. Which took us onto the subject of Internet dating.
A good friend who shoots weddings had suggested I sign up to an online dating site as a large proportion of her clients meet that way. Since I am no mood to get married again this century, I think I might be avoiding the site she suggested. And I know I’m too old and somewhat disinterested for another site that I’ve heard is really all about instant gratification. I asked James’ advice and he said, don’t bother; you meet too many weirdos on the Internet. Then he told me about some of his friends’ dates, which all sounded very unappealing, I must say.
I remember reading an article in the Guardian suggesting that you should try to avoid being too honest about yourself when you sign up. This particular article was written by a women whose male friend told her she came across as too successful, too intelligent and basically rather daunting for any potential male suitors. So, this is where I have a big problem with the idea of Internet dating, even though I know so many people do meet that way nowadays. (In fact, a potential client of mine told me he and his future wife met via the Guardian. He went that route, he said, because at least he could more or less guarantee anyone he met would have similar political ideas to him.)
My problem really lies with the ‘not really being yourself’ aspect to it all – oh, and the meeting weirdos bit too. Given that I have spent my entire adult life trying to find out who ‘myself’ is and then trying be that person, I think I’d find it all a bit bothersome and annoying. And I’m really not sure it would do to start my little online dating career with the following:
“Woman: slightly moody, often neurotic and definitely needy, but also bizarrely distant and fiercely protective of time alone; occasionally rather slovenly but highly censorious about anyone else’s mess; probably quite intelligent and not really up to pretending otherwise in order to flatter any fragile male egos; no money to speak of; three brats in tow; rather cross and peculiar ex-husband lurking in the background.
Seeks man: Well, maybe she does and maybe she doesn’t;
who isn’t a sociopath and washes properly.”
Yeah… I’m not sure my Internet dating life has any legs…
James did come up with another idea though. Do a long-term project where I go on Internet dates and do a portrait of each one, then write about them on a special blog. “So,” James advised, “You’d tell them, no ongoing dating or sex or anything like that – ‘I just want to take your photograph’’. You see, James is just funny! He did make me laugh – thank you, James, and thanks for being such a brilliant person to work with.
So here they are. I’ve popped little notes about lighting etc. underneath for anyone who is interested.
All photographs (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015
Thanks to the Grosvenor Arms on Garrett Lane in Wandsworth for being so welcoming.
Yesterday David Blair took a brief break from writing and rehearsing furiously for his forthcoming Edinburgh Fringe show, “1 Man, 5 Hats”. David can be seen from the 9th to the 17th August at the Clover, Underbelly.
As always David made me laugh a lot – it’s always a joy to work with him and he sits still without any bribery too!
These shots will be used for the publicity poster and flyers.