So we had a script. Now we needed to get some actors involved. And get a crew. And decide on our locations. And work out our funding. And transport. And catering. And kit. But first we needed some actors.
The first person we approached was a mutual friend of ours, Matt Noble. He had been in a few projects I had worked on in the past, including the short film Fanatic from 2009 (a mockumentary about James Bond fans). Last year he wrote, produced and starred in Dodgers, a black comedy about instant gratification, the welfare state and the role the media plays in today’s society. The play was showcased at the Landor Theatre in September 2010. As a result, James wrote the part of Ben Holland, the ‘protagonist’ of sorts, with Matt in mind.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding for the series (and the fact that James and Iwanted to save as much money as humanly possible for the shoot itself) auditions were not really an option. Luckily, as Matt has been in the business for a number of years and knows a lot of actors, he already had people in mind for each of the main parts. I had received casting ideas from him in the past and we decided to let him do the initial casting and we organised a read-through for everyone to meet up and see what the group dynamic was like.
The first actor he suggested was Oengus Macnamara for the part of Ray, the grizzled veteran projectionist who has worked at the Obscura for his entire life. Oengus is a founding member of the London Irish Theatre and one of the original members of The Godot Company. He also has numerous television credits, ranging from Play For Today in the 70s and Shakespeare’s Richard III in the 80s to episodes of The Bill and Casualty in the 2000s.
Next up was Sian Breckin for the part of the usherette Sophie, fashion student by day and object of affection for two of the main characters by night (or at least when she has a shift!). Sian has been acting in film and television for the past few years, most notably in Donkey Punch and the upcoming Tyrannosaur.
Another Matt, Matthew Fraser Holland, was his recommendation for the part of Jonny, East London hipster and wannabe coming DJ. The two Matts had worked together on the television series Is Harry On The Boat? from the early 2000s and Matt Fraser has been working solidly in theatre ever since, most recently for the Oxford Shakespeare Company in The Tempest.
It was whislt working on Is Harry On The Boat? that the two Matts met the final actor to join the main cast, Steve North, as science fiction enthusiast and amateur script writer, Marcus. Steve was a series regular on London’s Burning in the early nineties and has numerous television credits to his name, including Eastenders, Midsomer Murders and Doctor Who. He also wrote and produced the feature film, South West 9.
I have to say that having little experience with casting and also working with working profession actors, I was amazed that Matt was able to get these guys to read the script. I was even more amazed when they turned up for the read through!
We met in mid-March and read through all six episodes with a custard cream and cup of tea in hand. I must confess I was bricking it going into the meeting as I knew that these were serious actors who had impressive credits to their names. Now that we had them all in the same room, I didn’t want to mess it up and for them to lose interest in the project. Matt had asked them to be involved and I didn’t want to show him up either. The biggest challenge I had was trying to explain exactly what a web series was. They knew what I was talking about but I could tell by the look on their faces that it was just as new for them as it was for us. Matt Fraser talked about the sub culture of vlogging (which is something his character actually does in the show), Sian and Matt Noble asked who the audience was and how we would reach them, while Steve asked how James and I had come across existing web series for us to even have an opinion on the subject and feel like there was an opportunity to do something interesting with the medium. Oengus, being the classically trained theatre veteran, asked whether his character should have long or short hair. I knew then that he was commited, whether he knew what a web series was or not!
We filmed the read through so that James and I could watch it back later. It was a relief to see that each of the actors had got their characters right about 75% of the time and I knew that it wouldn’t be a stretch to get them to refine their performances.
And with that, we had our cast. They all had experience in very different areas of the acting world, but that just made it more exciting. I couldn’t believe Matt (Noble) had picked out actors for us that suited the parts so well and if it hadn’t been for him, we wouldn’t have had such a great cast.
Below are some pictures of the cast in character as well as a group shot of the four projectionists sitting in the front row of the Cinema Obscura.