Sunday, 6 October 2013

Fifty Shades of Green: Part 6 – Karl the Actor

In the past I’ve appeared in various school productions and student videos. And so in this blog post I’m going to trawl my brain to try and remember as many of these as possible...

Third Year’s Play (1988)
Not sure if there was a more descriptive title for this one. Back when I was in First School, the third years (now commensurate with Year 2) would be made to put on a play. I can remember very little about what it was that my year group actually did when it was our turn, but I can remember what my part in it was. I played one of a group of teddy bears, and we had to do a dance – probably to “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”. One key memory I have was when they were sorting costumes out for us. The teachers had gathered together every piece of children’s brown coloured clothing that they could find, and then tried to find the ones that best fitted us. Unfortunately, I was the last in line. Part of my costume was a pair of brown tights – which didn’t quite fit me, but they had to do, for there was nothing else left.

On the night of the show, sure enough, as I was skipping around, the tights started to fall down. But the show had to go on, and so I just kept on dancing! At the end, as I pulled the tights back up, I could hear some laughter behind me from the audience. My acting career could have ended there and then, but I wasn’t put off.

(And, before you ask, yes there are pictures of this. And, no, I will not be sharing them with you!)

Fourth Year’s Leaving Play (1989)
At the end of First School we were made to put on another play. Again, I can’t remember too much about it, only that I was playing a member of a band. I think I got to play a triangle.

I remember the play had Thomas the Tank Engine in it. I loved Thomas the Tank Engine! But I wasn’t allowed to be Thomas the Tank Engine. This made Karl sad. :o(

Year 4 Assembly (c. 1990)
Throughout middle school we would often be made to put on assemblies. I can’t remember too much about ours, but have a look at my previous blog post about Mr Godfrey, where at one point I talk about such an assembly, where I played a homeless boy in one scene.

Square One Television (1992)
Read one of my previous blog posts, where I talk about giving myself the role of “Annoying Kid in Background”.

Year 7 Leaver’s Play – The Perils of Prince Percy of Pomegranate (1993)
Back in the day, in Harrow, we all did Year 7 as the last year of Middle School, before starting High School in Year 8. At the end of Year 7 in my school we were made to do another show. For my year group’s leavers show there were three short plays – one set in a train station, one set in a vet’s, and a big finale play, The Perils of Prince Percy of Pomegranate. The show was put on for two nights, with a different cast on each night. I was cast in the role of the arrogant Prince Percy on the first night of the show.

I remember the role well – it was one of my finest. I can even remember one of my speeches, regarding a gate to the castle that had been taken away to be gold plated: “UNNECESSARY! Did they say unnecessary?! Of COURSE it’s unnecessary! But it’s pretty. Just wait until the gate comes back and the golden sunlight shines off of every golden spike... *sigh*.” (To get the full effect of this, you need to remember that I was only 12 at the time, and my voice hadn’t broken yet...)

In the play my character turned out to be one of three identical triplets. The other two were played by a girl, and an Indian boy. Seriously, you couldn’t tell us apart... *ahem*

I remember that not all of the rehearsals went smoothly for this one. There was one rehearsal where I was very off form, making just about every mistake possible, and taking ages for us to just get off of the first page. But everything turned out well in the end, and it all went alright on the night.

(And, before you ask, yes, there is video footage of this play! And, no, I’m not going to upload it to YouTube!)

A Play for Drama – Year 9 (c. 1995)
Once in High School, when we had separate Drama lessons, I quite liked them. I can’t remember every single play we did, but a few stick in my mind. There was on in Year 9 which featured a character that I created previously – the Ultimate. (You can read more about him here.) The play went on for too long, and I was a little carried away, with the teacher saying that I was a “selfish actor”, as it was mainly about my character fighting the Ultimate, and I stole every scene. Fair enough, I was only 14...

A Melodramatic Play for Drama – Year 10 (c. 1996)
One time we were studying melodrama, and had to come up with a melodramatic play. I can’t remember the plot of ours, but I do remember that we used music from Final Fantasy VI in it, which was just right for melodrama...

Another Play for Drama – Year 10 (c. 1996)
During my Drama GCSE years, in most plays we did I was normally cast in one of two roles – a businessman or a father.

(Sidepoint: This reminds me of a popular Jewish joke. A kid comes home one day really excited, and tells his mother that he’s got a part in the school play. “That’s wonderful!” says the mother. “What part did you get?” The kid replies, “I’m going to play the father!” Then the mother says, “You get back there and tell them you want a speaking part!”)

In one of the businessmen plays, my character was a lecherous boss who was sexually harassing one of his female employees. (Note: I’m not like this in real life!) At one point in the play the female employee slaps her boss around the face. When we decided to do this in the play, I told the girl who was playing the employee that she could slap me for real, rather than us trying to fake it. It was fine, I could take it. When we performed it for the rest of the class they were amazed at how realistic it looked. When we revealed that we did it for real the teacher said that we shouldn’t have done that, as things could have gone wrong, but it was all fine.

Many, many years later, when my year group at school had a reunion, the girl from this play was there, but she had trouble remembering me at first. Then I reminded her of this play, and it all came back to her...

Drama GCSE Exam Play (1997)
When it came to coming up with something to do for our Drama GCSE Exam play it took my group a while to come up with something, but we eventually settled on a play set in two time periods – the present day, and World War II. I mainly appeared in the present day segments, playing the role of a father (albeit one with lines!). The play was about a British woman who had secretly harboured and fallen in love with a German soldier during the war, and everything was coming back to haunt her in the present day.

Whilst the bulk of my participation was in the present day segments, I did appear as a different character in one of the World War II segments. I played a British soldier who discovers the illicit couple just as they are about to kiss. This necessitated me doing a quick costume change, but, during the actual performance the zip on the jacket I had to put on got stuck! The timing of my coming on stage was crucial, as I had to stop the kiss just before it happened. Fortunately, the zip got free, I got the jacket on, and made my appearance on time.

I ended up with a grade B for my Drama GCSE, and our group was asked back the following week to perform our play again for the Year 10’s.

Steel Obsession (1998)
When I moved on to do my A Levels my interests were moving towards film & TV, and what went on behind the camera. For my Media Studies A Level my class were all told to make a video of a murder scene. (The brief was later changed to making a video about a crime due to concerns about telling a load of 17 year olds to do murder scenes, but pretty much all of us stuck with our murder scenes.)

In my group, I was selected to play the murderer. I don’t know why I was selected to play the murderer, but I don’t remember there being much debate about it...

Our victim was played by a girl called Tara Keatley, who had done some acting professionally. Shortly before we made this video she had appeared in an episode of the BBC sitcom Chalk, which was written by a little known writer who went by the name of Steven Moffat. She played an Sixth Form Student in the episode “Exam”.

Tara was a really, really good actress. I mean amazingly good. In the video my character had become infatuated with her character, and was following her around everywhere, much to her displeasure. At one point her character confronted my character, telling him that she wasn’t even remotely interested in him, and that she thought he was ugly and weird. In this scene she was really convincing! Her character felt real! She had me and the audience really believing that she absolutely meant what she was saying! (This just, er, goes to show just how good an actress she was... Yep, that was it.)

Apparently I was, um, also convincing in my role. After we had finished the video and shown it to the rest of the class our teacher said that if anyone saw me walking around the college with an axe they were to inform security immediately...

But, all joking aside, the video turned out really well, and our teacher said that it was worth “beyond an A” grade.

(Some years later, I went on to adapt this video into a short story – one which has had mixed reactions over the years...)

Ne Me Mori Facias (1999)
This was a video which I made for my Film Studies A Level (and probably the less said about this video, the better). I only made a brief appearance in new footage, just walking towards camera, and doing some voiceovers. And singing. But there was one notable part of the video which did turn out quite well, and that was a re-edited version of Steel Obsession – it was about half the length of the original, and set to some music from Final Fantasy VII, the timing of which worked out perfectly.

The Stalker (1999)
In late 1999 I moved on to university, specifically, the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, where I studied Film & TV. In the first year I did a video production course, where we got to make a short video. We were asked to film someone going from A to B with some dialogue in it. All of the various groups had their own interpretation of this.

My group did something that was, erm, based on a true story (don’t worry, no axes feature in this one!). It was about a guy who liked a girl, but didn’t yet know what her name was. When he sees her walk past him, he starts to follow her, before eventually building up the courage to go up and talk to her. There are no prizes for guessing who played the guy in this one...

(Oh, and for the record, I didn’t choose the name of this video!)

Our video was filmed in and around the Old College in Aberystwyth, and we stuck to the real geography of the place, ending up by the sea front. The musical choice for the video had also moved on from my earlier productions to, er, Final Fantasy VIII.

Overall, the video did the job, and I got a Distinction for this module.

Little Red Box (2000)
In the second year of my degree we got to do two video productions, the first of which wasn’t formally assessed. For the first one my group did something called Little Red Box. A gangster is coming to town to deliver some guns in a little red box. There was also a visiting lecturer (who was played by me) coming to town, who also had a very similar little red box.

One of the gangsters is sent to the station to collect his man, whilst someone else comes to collect the lecturer. However, there was a mix-up, with the lecturer ending up with the gangsters, and the gangster with the guns ending up standing in front of a lecture hall full of students...

I didn’t get any lines in this one, I just had to walk around with the red box – which was a little disconcerting. In real life the box contained a load of knives – it belonged to a member of the group who also worked part time as a chef...

(Unknown) (c. 2001)
At uni I didn’t just appear in my own videos, I also appeared in other people’s. One of these saw me reprise my role from Little Red Box. My character, who had apparently somehow managed to escape from the gangsters, was walking around a piazza that we had on campus, before one of the gangsters comes up behind him, and shoots him in the back of the head. Not one of my more pleasant roles, but I suppose I had it coming to me...

Closed Eyes (2001)
Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t really include this one in this blog post, as I only make a Hitchcockian-like cameo appearance in it towards the end. This was the assessed video production that I did for my second year of uni. For this one I really wanted to focus on doing things behind the camera, and so I was the writer and director, but I roped various friends to appear in it rather that star in it myself.

The story is about a guy who has closed his eyes to what his friends really think of him, and has got it into his head that they all hate him. He then meets a mysterious figure who shows him the truth...

(I would also go on to adapt this video into a short story as well.)

The Devil Drives a 2CV (2002)
For my final year of uni I opted not to do the advanced TV production module, opting instead to do the advanced scriptwriting module instead. But I still helped out a friend by appearing in his video.

I can’t remember too much about the plot. My character’s girlfriend was dissatisfied with him, and ends up sleeping with another guy – which my character spots from a distance. He then acquires a “naughty” video, and somehow gets injured (I had to walk with a limp in one scene). Eventually, whilst walking along the promenade, he gets shoved over the side, and is killed on the rocks below.

For this production I was starting to get fussy as an actor, and was demanding changes to the script. For example, the “naughty” video was originally meant to be porn, but I was uncomfortable with this. And so I came up with the idea that my character would say something like, “Come on, show me some leg!”, and then we would see that he was actually watching the Antiques Roadshow, featuring an antique table – with notable legs. We filmed the bits with my lines, but, in the final video, the director had me perving on the Teletubbies... (For the record, I would just like to say that I have no sexual interest in Teletubbies! Or antique tables...)

But that wasn’t the worse of it. I didn’t get to see the video until its official screening, which took place in the Arts Centre Cinema in Aberystwyth. Whilst not a large cinema, it did have a large screen, and it was packed out. It was screened alongside many other videos, and shortly before the screening I had chatted to a girl who I had met that year, and had quite liked. I told her that I was in one of the videos, and she said that she was going to look out for me...

I took my seat, and waited for the video that I was in to appear. When it was eventually shown, it was so bad, and I could not have sunk lower into my chair if I had tried. There was one part of the video where, suddenly, the whole screen was filled with an image of a less-than-fully-dressed woman. At first, it wasn’t clear what we were seeing, but then there was some movement in the bottom right hand corner of the screen which confirmed that the director (and my so-called friend) had decided to insert a clip from a porn film into the video.

Afterwards, I didn’t get a chance to speak again to the girl that I had liked, and so that video was the last thing that she ever saw of me...

Needless to say, e-mails were sent to the director, and the lecturer for the module (who said that they hadn’t had a chance to watch the videos before they were screened), and, at graduation a few months later, I didn’t approach the director...

And so, after that, my acting “career” has been on a bit of a hiatus. Not that I would be opposed to doing some acting again, if the right role came along. (Just please, no roles of fathers, businessmen, murderers, or stalkers! And definitely nothing featuring Teletubbies...)

Next Week: My Favourite YouTubers

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