Off to Cornwall

After a week at Bletchley, I now have a week off. David was in this evening with his notepad and pen, joyously shadowing my Dilly so he can remind himself of what it might mean to be Alfred Dilwyx Knox. I was ebullient after a lovely review, and was spouting ancient Greek and flouting my French to the francaudients. I was likely more full of waffle than usual. I’m looking forward to reciprocally watching David, as I suspect he will bring equally ridiculous energy but in a different direction.

David was there because a few of us are job-sharing. It means we can go off and do other interesting things. The Illicit Signals crowd are just bloody marvelous humans, so you’d be mad not to want to play with them when you’re available, but when filming calls we are helpless but to answer. David is stepping into the breach for a week and I’m off to Cornwall on an early train in the morning.

The Germans have been my enemy for a week as I’m codebreaking at Bletchley Park in London. Not from tomorrow. Tomorrow the Germans will be my best friend. Them, and Rosamund Pilcher. I love the strange thing that has happened here. Over 100 Rosamund Pilcher stories, beautifully and efficiently filmed in wonderful Cornwall over many years. I first did it in 2019 just as I felt that sense of momentum kicking in. I’m thrilled they asked for me back when I want that momentum back.

I’ll only be two nights in Cornwall, but I’m off Bletchley the whole week for safety. Filming can sometimes be jiggled around because of the weather. All my scenes are indoors, but they were indoors the last time and I ended up getting a few extra days as the weather was good so they had to catch up on some exterior shots.

I just got my call sheet through. It gave me an emotional reaction. A call sheet is a very specific document and has a certain look to it. It crystallises things. It reminds you that you’re part of a huge enterprise with so many individuals. Also it was my first call sheet since I had that lovely small role in The Crown, which we filmed in bloody March/April 2019. What happened to time? Too long. I felt I was just hitting that fabled momentum. I honestly did. Fantastic relationship with an agent that understands and supports me. Snowball of work opportunities. Things were sharp. Then … COVID.

Back on the horse and off we go again. A very different me from before the world-wedge. I love a film set. The bustle and the care. So many humans building a thing. My job is simple and refined. I have to have done enough prep to not have to search for my lines. That’s it. That and don’t walk into the furniture, as they used to say. Click out nerves, click in learning… Nerves aren’t an issue these days. In 2013 I was flown to Thailand and filmed a complicated scene with a man I greatly admired from Seven Years in Tibet – David Thewlis. We were working alongside Michelle Yeoh who I also had enjoyed in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and we were directed by Luc Besson – I grew up with Nikita and Leon. David and Michelle had blobs drawn all over their faces because they were gonna CGI map them younger. The whole scene never saw the light of day because of CGI vs budget. If I was ever gonna get starstruck, that was the moment. I don’t think I’ll ever be ruffled on set again as a result of that experience. Besson though – he was being protective of his work. Despite all my attempts to get some idea of what I would be doing, I never had a script until it was put under my hotel room door at 5am on the day I was filming. That was a lesson in doing it fast. I prefer two sleeps on a line learn. The voice coach, Mel, was an actor and she thankfully understood the pressure and helped me drill. I had a few hours for a reasonably long scene. I didn’t really know how freely Luc worked. I wish I could get the footage. “Hmmm and now I think you need to make a joke…” His script is a frame and then he throws things in the moment based on what he sees. Somewhere there’s ungraded footage of me with Michelle and David both sporting dots all over their faces. It would have been lovely for my showreel a decade ago, but I’ll never see it now and the movie didn’t get enough traction to pull a director’s cut. It was a learning job though, hugely. I nicked David’s grace on set. Michelle was active, as I was used to being. She was talkative and fun and personable. David just sat there and stayed focused, and was polite when addressed. My observation of him helped me save tons of energy and time on subsequent sets. Switch on for the shot, rest in between. Great lesson from a great actor.

Anyway, I’m all packed. But I’ve got to go to bed. Early train. Last time they flew me! Lines one more time. Then bed.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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