As even the most successful of actors know, finding a project with the elements needed to strengthen your reel and help you progress to the next step along your career path is rarely easy, which is why London actor Eric Kolelas decided to craft Fifty Pence, a short which would showcase his talents within a strong, well produced narrative.
“My main activity is acting and at the time I wasn’t getting much of the type of work I wanted as an actor. Since I had only been at it for no more than a couple of years, I really needed something that would get me noticed by the right people (agents, directors, casting directors) in order to get my acting career moving forward. What I was after was something with a compelling story, that looked very cinematic and had an immersive sound design and score in which I could deliver a good performance. So many of my actor friends, and myself, have worked on projects for their reels that didn’t tick all those boxes. Projects where the performances and cinematography would be great, but the sound work and music wouldn’t be on the same level and would drag the project down as a whole. So it was really crucial I find a project that would be strong on all those levels.
Before I got into acting, I completed a film degree at Thames Valley University so I more or less knew what it would take to achieve the type of film I wanted to work on. I soon realised that waiting for that ‘perfect’ project to come along would last forever and decided to try to do it all myself as no one would do it for me. But I needed an idea for a script/story that would be good enough to stand on its own, rather than something that looked as if it had been put together for showcase purposes.”
Searching out a story for his acting vehicle, Kolelas found himself inspired when he came across a camera test video whilst surfing Vimeo in which someone was filmed walking around the Parisian underground and streets, set to an atmospheric soundtrack. Two nights later, his script was complete and his Vimeo search for a Paris based cinematographer led to Guillaume Miquel who liked the script and agreed to meet up in Paris. A month of pre-production and ads for French crew and cast in La Maison du Film Court and it was time to cast the actress who would play opposite him.
“I actually had a really good selection of actresses replying to audition for the part of Karina, I had also invited an old friend of mine, Anoushka Ravanshad, to audition, as I had recently found out that she was also into acting and had been studying for the past few years. Whilst three of the girls that auditioned were really strong and gave me a hard time choosing, I decided to cast Anoushka, as she was the one I was able to communicate with the most comfortably – not surprising as I already knew her – but it made it so much easier to communicate with her about ideas of where to take the performance, which ultimately took a big weight off my shoulders. I didn’t have to worry about how I spoke (formally or casually?) with someone I had just met a couple of weeks before, which would have made me very self-conscious and worried about all the wrong things.”
During this period Kolelas wandered Paris, hunting for the perfect streets (although convenience mostly trumped beauty) and visiting hotels for cheap, non-modern looking hotel rooms which were also big enough to accommodate a crew. With the locations found, the production shot for three days on a Canon 7D with a rented a set of Zeiss Compact Prime Lens. An extended period of post followed:
“Once the shoot was complete I came back to London with the rushes and found my editor, colorist, composer and sound designer with the help of friends, Mandy and ReverNation. Ellie Johnson from Speade did the edit, Mikey Rossiter from The Mill graded it, Amy Smith composed the music, it was amazing to see how she was able to translate the ideas and feeling I described into music and intonations, and Elliot Malone did the sound design which made such a difference to the end result. I had to pull-in massive favours, and everyone worked on Fifty Pence after hours, which made post-production take around 9 months, but I managed to work with such talented people, which made the wait SO worth it!”