Workshopping by Leanne

Hello! Director Leanne here. With the key element of our film being authenticity, I knew early on that I wanted to work with non-actors on this project. I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t a daunting prospect as a director. Getting the performances you want from actors with years of formal training and experience can take time and skill, so working with people who have never acted before can potentially be much, much harder. But, when its done well, using non-actors can achieve performances that feel incredibly real and powerful — precisely because they are not ‘performing’ in the same way that a trained actor might. And for a me, it’s pretty exciting to imagine capturing that in our film.

But who to cast? It’s a tricky one. After extensive research (Talking to over 80 women, as Sophie detailed in an earlier blog post) and beginning to build our story, we knew the character that we had in mind. But beyond her age, we had no strict ideas of the kind of ‘look’ we were going for in our main character. As with so much of directing, it comes down to a nefarious thing of what ‘feels’ right. And so, yesterday began the process of workshopping with several of the women that we thought might have what we were looking for.

Commendably, the women seemed unfazed by a sunburnt Mzungu asking them to stand in a circle and ‘pass the clap’, among several other exercises, and after a while everyone was relaxed and having a laugh. We tried out a few test scenes, and I was able to observe how the different women worked together and how they reacted to acting out scenarios. I was impressed with many of the women, none of whom had acted since primary school, and can confidently say they all did a much better job than I would with improvisation. But that’s why I’m a director, not an actor! Now its decision time, and I’m excited to say, I think our workshops have provided us with our lead…

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