Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Jess O’Brien who is a young writer, director and actor from the Pauline Quirke Academy (PQA) in Leicester. She’s beginning her first film outside of the PQA and with mentoring from Bad Shoes’ Keith Allott, plans to go into production soon, as well as screen her film using KickStarter funding.
Mike asks this young talent about her background, hopes and plans for the film as she plans the long journey to festival screenings.
MM: Hi Jess. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your current project
Jess: Hello. My name is Jess O’Brien and I am a 13 year old girl who has been acting locally for around three years before joining Leicester’s performing arts academy PQA in early 2013. My current project, Coping, is something I wrote independently mainly to challenge myself as I will be acting and directing. It is a short story focused around a girl who loses her two best friends while she watches. It shows the main character, Ruby attempting to deal with the whole situation, proving that getting over something as big as this can’t be done alone.
MM: How did you come up with the story idea?
Jess: I don’t really know how the idea came to me, I have always loved writing and as I started to get more and more into the acting career I wanted to challenge myself. I felt that I wanted to write something quite deep that wouldn’t only test me but also the actors. I started off by writing down notes which I then turned into a rough script. I sent it over to Keith Allott who directed my first two films Flawless and Atonia and is the Film and TV teacher at PQA. Over the next six months I developed the idea more and more, storyboarding it until I was completely happy. I had to research a lot of the impacts and emotions which an event like this would cause as thankfully I have never personally gone through this.
MM: Thank you. And what were your influences on this film?
Jess: I think the thing that influences me to act and write is being around people that are like me. They understand how I see things from a film point of view. Also, after acting in my first two films, Flawless and Atonia, I saw their success and it just gave me the urge to just try it myself.
MM: And what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome?
Jess: While I was writing it, I had a lot of chats with Keith and realised a vital point. In a situation like this, showing the emotion won’t so much be in what they do, more about how they do it. This meant I had to be very specific about the small details and how to play certain parts. The idea of the film could be taken in a very different way if the emotions aren’t right. Ruby could just be seen as a teenage girl acting out for attention instead of being in real trouble and other characters could come across as being menacing which is not right. Therefore, I had to work really closely with the actors so they could understand my thinking.
MM: And what kind of thing are you hoping for when you finally start shooting?
Jess: The main I’m hoping for is that it will be fun and not too rushed. Also, we have had a few rehearsals which were mainly talking about dialogue and the script. We did do run-throughs of the whole script, but not too many as I didn’t want to over rehearse and not get a full performance on the day. I’m looking forward to getting the other actors opinions and changing things around and doing it differently. A lot of the scenes I have left to the actors to improvise which will be fun to play around with.
MM: Do you have any heroes in the film industry?
Jess: Keith is the person that inspires me to act as he got me into screen acting and is the person who got me into writing my own film. I look up to other actresses like Hetti Bywater and actresses that started acting young and made it their career - like Lindsay Lohan whose films I watch a lot.
MM: And what has been your greatest achievement or success?
Jess: My biggest achievement is being given the opportunity to be involved in Flawless. The director could have chosen anyone because there are some incredible actors out there and being asked to do something like that is really amazing. Without all that, I wouldn’t be where I am today so I am so thankful to the makers and everyone that made that possible. Also, Flawless has been very successful, getting into 16 festivals and winning awards and that’s mind-blowing to think that I was involved.
MM: What are the future plans for the project?
Jess: In the future I’m planning to collect funding to pay for any expenses - like the screening I am planning for soon after filming takes place. Also to put Coping into some festivals to see peoples’ thoughts and learn things from the professionals that judge.
MM: And finally, what advice would you give to others thinking about making a film?
Jess: What I would say to someone thinking of being involved in filming is dream of being good at something, not of being famous. If you do become famous, it’s a bonus for being good at something. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks because that’s the reason I didn’t get into acting sooner and I regret that. To be in the acting/filmmaking career I think you have to be willing to look stupid and be embarrassed so just go for it - that’s what I did and it got me here. Life is full of risks anyway so you might as well just take them.
Thank you for your time Jess.
Find out more about Flawless and BadShoes films at this link: https://www.facebook.com/badshoesfilm
And the Pauline Quirke Academy Leicester here: http://pqacademy.com/academy_locator/leicester/?ccm_paging_p_b6550=7