You may or may not already know that about a year ago I was fortunate enough to hang out on the set of Crossing Lines Season 3 in Prague for a week. It was absolutely anÂ amazing opportunity for an aspiring young actress like myself to learn from someÂ of the industry’s most successful and talented individuals.
The set was located in Barrandov StudiosÂ which is one of the largest studios in Europe. And believe me, when they say its big… IT IS BIG. It’s also had some pretty big films shot there too: Mission Impossible, Les Miserables (1998), Casino Royale and the Chronicles of Narnia to name a few.
Before visiting Barrandov, I had never been to a TV Studio before. I had imagined it to look like Walt Disney Studios Park, full of important looking people drivingÂ around on golf buggiesÂ because TV/Film sets are like that in the movies, right? Well I was wrong. Barrandov is pretty basic, oldÂ and could do with a lick of paint.
After arriving at Barrandov I was shown aroundÂ and I was absolutely amazed by the size of the place. We entered the set of the The Musketeers which was essentially a huge room (approximately triple the size of aÂ school sports hall) with a set built in the middle of it. Now I’m not sure whether this was just my naivety but personally I was shocked to hear that they build the set from scratch- I thought the location spotters would have found a castle locally to film on. But nope, they build parts of a castle in a giant room. Shortly after I was shown the set of Crossing Lines which just like the Musketeers set, was a big room with an office set built in the middle of it. Before this, I genuinely thought that production companies rented out offices for the duration of the filming, my mind was completely blown by the fact they BUILTÂ an office. This has totally changed my perspective on TV series like Dexter and Homeland.
Now, this wasn’t just any office. Everything within the set could be moved and adjusted, including walls, doors, windows, cupboards. It was explained to me that this is to ensure that the director can get the angle of the shot that’s required without anything getting in the way.Â Although acting is my passion, I find all of the behind the scenes work fascinating too.Â Throughout my week, I was lucky enough to talk in depth with a lot of the back stage crew to find out the ins and outs of their job roles and find out more about the business.
I spent the majority of my time shadowing the director Ashley Pearce, talking to the actors and observing how the actors worked on set.Â Donald Sutherland stood out in particular to me as I was watching on set, I was absolutely mesmerised by him. Each take he managed to improve his performance just that little bit more until it was perfect and he requested another take until he felt comfortable with the standard. I still can’t quite put my finger on what it was that he was doing to improve his performance so subtly yet so effectively but I hope that one day I’ll know,Â my only wish is that I asked him about it.
To be honest, I was surprised at how nice and welcoming all the actors were. I had a thousand questions for them all. As an aspiring 18 year old actress, eager to kickstart my career, “Where did you train?”, “How did you start your career?” were my main two questions. The majority of them had some sort of training, mainly drama school but Naomi Battrick who played Ellie, explained how she got into the industry through getting an agent and working her way to where she is now. Naomi is lucky enough to beÂ represented byÂ Curtis BrownÂ (one of the top agencies in the UK) but pointed out to me that due to her lack of training, she struggles to get work within theatre and all of her work is TV/filmed based. It put it into perspective for me that if I choose to go down the non-training route then I may have to sacrifice theatre.
Towards the end of the week, I was invited to go to Berlin to do some location scouting and filming. This was when it dawned on me how much money the production had to spend.Â I couldn’t believe that the production booked and paid for a nights stay in the Hilton for me, I was over the moon! I spent most of my time in Berlin speaking with the MUA,Â Pavlina ZdanskÃ¡ as I was allocated as PA for the day which was extremely stressful to say that I had no experience what so ever in being a PA on a TV set. I think I handled it well, however I won’t be applying to be a PA anytime soon…
The most valuable piece of information I took back with me from my trip was when the director told me that acting isn’t just about what is being said at face value, it’s about the subtext of the scene. I had never thought about it like that before but it opened my eyes to the difference between ‘acting’ and being ‘real’. Now when I read a script, I think of the subtext that can be playedÂ in the scene. Subtext is what makes good drama.
I learnt so much on set and it was such an incredible experience. I urge anyone who wants to go into the industry to write to Directors/Producers asking if they can shadow them for a day or two. Putting yourself out there is the only way to learn and grow as an actor. TV isn’t as glamorous as you think it is, there’s a lot of waiting around, early starts and not everyone gets a fancy trailer…
Do I still want to pursue a career as an actress after this experience? Absolutely, if not I want to do it more than ever.