On Acting. Never thought I will be doing comedy! But it's where I started!
Do you remember your first acting job? The first Director who gave you your first chance? Some of you may have started many, many years ago, but I bet you're still fond of the memory about your first days filming.
What was it? A music video? A small role on stage? Drama? Comedy? Well, in my case was comedy. Sketches and short comedy films :). And this piece is not only about recalling, but also an insight on the fears and insecurities every single one of us has. Especially in the beginning.
There is this Director by the name of Jack Walters with whom I have worked since September 2014. Now, this man is the first one who replied to my very first application, on my very first day of applying for acting jobs, in 1 hours’ time! It was August 7, 2014 and he had listed a casting call for a silent, black & white, "Benny Hill" style short film.
That day I had received my NINO, and happy that I can finally work in my newly adoptive country (UK), I started applying for acting jobs on a very well-known / not always loved / or seen as great website by the name of Star Now (which by the way worked for me). My application said the following "Hi, my name is Carmen and I love Benny Hill. I am petite (5’1; 52 kg), cute, funny and love a good laugh. I would absolutely love to be in a production like this. I am just starting my career in this business and I am willing to work, learn and develop! Thank you for your time! Hope you find my photo/profile interesting. Kind regards, Carmen". Yes, I actually said "cute". I think he found that funny. Or maybe my phone taken headshot, or my first ever monologue "I ate the divorce papers" which was not bad and got me a few other roles, but now after almost 3 years I can definitely say it can be done better. And he said "Yes".
Later that day, it was Nicholas Tsang. I applied also on the 7th for his casting call regarding a comedy web series. It was Thursday. He replied the same day too. Same web site, nothing fancy, no pay or expenses (Really? Where do you think we are?). Did not use the word "cute" this time. We exchanged a few emails, and here I was booked for filming for the first time in my life ... you wouldn't guess in a million years when this happened!
I took it as a sign! It was August 25th. My birthday! Yes!! Not inventing, I got as proof a lot of pictures and a lot of birthday wishes on my Facebook page. And it was not raining, it was pouring! I will never, ever, forget that… and the fact that I was scared to death.
This is how my work in acting started. With comedy. The one thing I never really focused on doing. Always felt so dramatic (rolling eyes) and usually comedies just get some sort of a weird smirk out of me.
On August 25th, as I was saying, I filmed for the first time. The web series is called "Laugh Out Loud Sketch Show" by New Wave Comedy. That day we were filming for episode 3. I was playing Jay Gold-Digger and well, the name says it all. I was all posh and pretty, and all into... and I quote: "a large, big, gigantic, humongous, enormous... wallet!". I had a few more lines besides that, and I remember feeling stressed not by the camera, but by the thought I might forget my lines. I was really focused on looking natural, not speaking too fast as I usually do, not moving too much (yes, I read all the possible advice on acting for screen versus stage - not that I ever did theatre but grew up in a family who did, and I know all about large gestures and loud talking – don’t get agitated, I know it’s more than that!). I had totally forgotten about the camera! And that was exactly what I wanted. Not to fear it, not to be intimidated by it. Now?? Oh, there is no way to express my love for the lenses!
Then September arrived and Jack started filming for the "The Day Out". It was my first short film. I played a few different characters amongst which a nun and a soldier (had the outfit, had the moustache!). It helped that there was no dialogue. I know it must sound strange, but it was the physicality of it, expressing the comic situations only by using body language and facial expressions, but also being careful our gestures would not take it beyond the screen and turn it into “way too much”. It was good training. And Jack had already had years of work on all of us, and it really helped. I still remember being scared. I felt lost, maybe even out of place, and feeling I had no clue on how to tackle a situation but, I just kept on going seeing that whatever I was doing was somehow fitting in. And it got easier. Plus, Jack knows how to explain something. We all know from school this makes a whole new difference.
The rest of 2014 went on and I kept on working with Nick and his team on the sketch show. Did two more episodes, including a Halloween Zombie Special and a Christmas Special. Nick’s comedy style is radically different from Jack’s. And this is a very interesting aspect. In Nick’s projects, I went from gold-digger to horrible boss and to killer. And I loved it. I just loved being the nasty bitch with no regards for anyone but herself, while being surrounded by the comic of the situation and actions of others. And as yet I had not gotten to do the work I would be doing with Jack later on, like this year for example when I tackled various funny characters, I pretty much remained under the impression that I cannot really be comical but just be a phenomenal bitch.
In between my comedy roles, I begun to receive at first, featured extra roles in short and feature film, then steadily moved onto speaking parts in short films and finally in feature films. It would be another whole year until my first lead role in a drama, a featurette (39 minutes) and about two years until my first female leading part in a feature film. But about this some other time.
In April 2015, New Wave Comedy filmed the last episode of the series (6). A feature film length episode where I personified Bella Rose the Killer (or “cleaner” however you prefer). Again, as said before, I don’t remember having too many funny lines to say, just ruining everyone’s fun. And as I always have been a weird one with comedy, I probably missed the point that… that was exactly… the point. :-D
In May 2015, Jack & The Team filmed "Crew Low Budget", a TV pilot where I played the very short sound girl, with my bust always in the frame, who always complained about "height-ism" in the industry, and never satisfied with anything; the “eye rolling, no fun girl”. Again… exactly the point :-D :-D. Come on, I was starting to get it! Don’t forget that at that moment I was only about 9 months into my acting career while being a person with a very strange sense of humour (not much existing as some would say).
Then I did Lady Frampong for a series called “There’s No Place Like Holmes” by Ross K. Foad! I actually got the fun in there!!!! As all my roles in comedy sketches or short films until then were either non-speaking or playing the nasty one, I finally, at that point, found something which made me laugh while watching me. ME! Not the situation itself, not the entire episode. No. Me! Basically, Lady Frampong is a cat obsessed lady who lost dear Mr. Fluffaboo and terrorizes Sherlock Holmes with finding him. In this particular scene, the cat is dead but someone stole its ashes… and there she goes in a wave of sobbing while trying to speak, from a squeaky to low voice drama, from some loud crying to whining, while fancy dressed, with fur collar, pearls and gloves… and a tissue to hold and make use of it.
This was it for funny stuff in 2015, and nothing happened during 2016 either. I played “the usual stuff” like friend, mistress or teacher, then moved towards the more interesting dramatic and action driven roles, going from grieving mother to gangster, from former prostitute to assassin, from spy to vampire and demon.
Then finally came the spring of 2017, when Jack wrote again, happy to have some time on his hands and finally produce a series of comedy sketches he was planning for a while called "How Absurd". He was in need of a couple of actors and actresses ASAP to start filming. And this is what we did in the following days. One thing is sure with Jack, you will receive your script very short notice (so learn to learn lines fast!!), definitely some new pages right there on set (yes, you must adapt) and one must be able to play different characters and look as different as possible. If one can do accents even more brilliant! Different voices? Hell, yeah! I can only do Eastern European next to my normal way of speaking English, and I can sound like a kid or like those video games voices that tells you what to do... thus this is an area I must improve - advice got straight from Jack. But I got to play funny people with funny lines, so different from Nick's characters, because obviously they have different styles. This time Jack had a wider array of characters to choose from. And I did it, and loved it!
We first filmed "How absurd: Life in Absurdity" and "How Absurd: Short Change" then later on we continued with the short film "How Absurd: Not the 10 O'clock News". I remember reading the lines and laughing. I wrote him and asked how am I supposed to learn if I can’t stop laughing? After all this time, I finally could see the comic of the situation, I was imagining the timings, how much I should wait before saying my line, or how should the other actor wait… or when either of us should just cut in. I laughed and seen all of it in my head. I am telling you, Jack can write one hell of a funny sketch.
The truth is I am trying to develop my comedy sense. I like watching stand-up comedy from time to time, there are brilliant comedians out there, but never really been my thing. I like Rowan Atkinson’s “The Thin Blue Line” and I really feel the British humour there, although “Mr. Bean” sometimes leaves me pulling my own hair while having a traumatised looking grimace.
There are phenomenal comedy actors out there and I won’t start on giving names, for I am never going to finish this! I love watching their films but I do not laugh like other people… the ones that almost suffocate with laughter! I so rarely do that! So, my question is, because this is a story about acting, if the people who enjoy it so much would possess the acting talent, would those people be good at comedy??? Would they just inhabit the role? The situation? Would they just figure it out? Just get it? Do the great comedians laugh like that while watching comedy??
Am I over-thinking it? Personally, I find it so much easier to play the suffering mother who just lost her child, and whose husband gets estranged, or the woman who once was a teenage girl sold into prostitution hunted by the memories; I do not mind the intensity of pain which must be conjured, the being broken and then being strong part of it. But comedy gets me puzzled. Am I really doing well what I am supposed to be doing, even if I am not the “laugh until you die” person? Don’t get me wrong, I do laugh but is mostly in conversation with other people, I have fun, I enjoy life but when it comes to film… I just sit there most of the time and when someone asks me if I don’t like it, I say “I laughed inside”… like it is not enough to get out. Or get little laughs out. But not like them. Truly, must be amazing to do that often. I get that rarely.
The truth is, after writing this piece I am more confused than ever. What I just cleared up in my head, is that I am starting to get it, feel it, sense the beat. Should I remind you that I am Romanian, and this is mainly English humour we are talking about?!? Meh, not going there. We have a Merry Cemetery in Romania… Yeah, not going there. …I like cemeteries… Okay, no! No …what? Not going to a cemetery or talking about humour? :-D
That is me being funny.
I still find it confusing when I get called to do do comedy.
Why do people laugh at pranks? They’re horrible! How is that amusing????
Never, ever, call me to be part of a prank!
© 2017 Carmen Silva