In our last post, A Summer Hamlet : How it started, we found out how the film came about. In this post we further explore how director Helen Lawson got on with the cast and how they reacted to having a camera alongside them all the time.
A Summer Hamlet is a very honest and open film; how did you win the cast over given you only met them the day you started filming?
They were a little dubious when I showed up with a camera at the dress rehearsal, as they only knew I was coming the day before. I just introduced myself and said I would try to be very unobtrusive. I think my words were “you won’t even know I’m here”. Two minutes later I fell backwards off the stage. I was wedged upside down between stairs and stage holding the camera aloft, and I had to be rescued. I think after that they just thought I was more of a danger to myself than anything, and that they should probably just look after me. So that sort of broke the ice… After that, getting to know them was just a gradual process and it happened more quickly with some than with others. I didn’t have to use cake or bribes, but I would have considered it if I’d had to.
Did you travel with the cast, or did you come in and out of the journey?
I travelled with the cast, for a few days at a time initially, and then in the last month I was with them pretty much all the time.
Did you feel the actors acted up to the camera?
I don’t think they did! It would be disingenuous to suggest they forgot the camera was there, but I think they got so used to me that they weren’t behaving any differently than they would have been without the camera there. Occasionally they obviously are talking to or about the camera, but most of the time they were just going about their lives!
Did you feel part of the cast or more like an outsider ever? Was it important to maintain a distance in order to get the material you wanted?
I wanted the cast to feel comfortable having me around – it must have been strange for them to have someone unexpectedly following them with a camera. I wanted them to be confident that I was there to observe and tell a true story, rather than manipulate things for dramatic effect. People are often wary of fly-on-the-wall films being a bit machiavellian, but that was never the intent for this film! I didn’t want them to second-guess everything they were saying. So I did put the camera down and get to know everyone. It took a while but I very much felt like part of the gang – to the extent that when I was filming conversations part of me just wanted to join in! It was a question of striking the balance between being part of the gang and still being an observer rather than a participant.
Did you have a favourite location on the tour, or moment from the film ?
My favourite section of the film might be Austria and Norway. The company were really good friends by then, and everyone was just having good fun together. I enjoy the arrival of a new face when we meet Simon’s 3 year old son, little Dylan, and the little romance that develops between him and the assistant director, Caitlin – it’s nice to have a love story in a film after all… In terms of backstage footage, I enjoy the second visit to the Globe itself, when we see both their 67th show, and the midnight matinee. You get a sense of the repetitive nature of touring, and the fact they know the production inside out at this point. Then, in the midnight matinee, you really get a feeling for how tiring it is.
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