Just a couple of weeks ago I was back in Ireland, for a number of reasons. Firstly because I hadn’t been to visit in quite some time and my family were threatening to visit en masse if I didn’t come home! This, I assure is not a threat I take lightly.
I don’t know how many of you have first-hand experience of an Irish mammy – they are not to be messed with, and I speak from personal experience.
There will be masses said, novena’s chanted and much wailing and gnashing of teeth about how the irish youth have been scattered to the corners of the globe while their poor parents, who have sacrificed everything, I repeat EVERYTHING, are left behind, discarded like old used newspapers blowing in the wind! Of course I exaggerate (slightly) but I find it is always easier just to visit when the summons have been issued!
I have to laugh because I know as soon as my mother reads this my life won’t be worth living! I jest mum!! Honestly, it is always a pleasure to go home for a visit! Erm, erm!! I had a lovely couple of days seeing them and I only ever remember how much I miss them when I see them, if that makes any sense.
I did have another reason for going home to visit, however, namely to appear in a feature film that was being shot in Ireland! I know what you’re thinking because it isn’t anything I haven’t thought myself, and that is, ‘what in heaven’s name would posses anyone to ask me to be in a movie?’
It all started with an innocent enough email from an old acquaintance of mine in Ireland.It read simply:
‘Hi Miceal, Louise here. I'm casting a movie here in Ireland, there is a part I think you’d be perfect for. Let me know if you are interested.’ That was it, and I, being flattered by this fired off a reply saying, ‘sure just let me know what you need from me.’
That was it, I didn’t even ask any questions about what the movie was about or who was in it, because, to be honest, I genuinely thought nothing would come of it. She replied to say that she had shown my ‘showreel’, which is on my website, to the directors (a Spanish couple) and they liked me and the part was mine if I wanted it! I said, ‘great, just let me know where and when.’
That was it, I was going to be in a film. I have to put all this in context by saying that I worked for many years as an actor in Ireland before moving into TV Presenting. In all those years I had done a lot of stage theatre, quite a bit of TV commercial work, some regular TV work and NO film work.
In all my time as an actor I had never ever been offered any film work. I got seen a lot by directors casting films. I even had a meeting with, and read for, big Hollywood directors like Oliver Stone, but still I couldn’t quite seem to clinch a part in a movie.
Now, however, many years later, when I have no thought of acting or appearing in a movie this is how simply it fell into my lap. The film is a ‘feature length’, I’m not really sure what that means, I think it means it has a running time of at least 90 mins, so a proper film you might say.
My part is a very small and incidental one and in fact I am pretty much playing myself as a TV host who is interviewing the lead character and the scene only lasted for about 5 mins, so not much acting skill required on my part but it was still a great experience.
It was only the day before I went on set when I was meeting with the wardrobe dept that I suddenly thought, ‘Oh no, what have I agreed to? I am going to make a fool of myself!’ But as I have learned in the last few years, we only have one life to live and life is for taking a few risks! (besides it had been an ambition of mine for years).
I turned up at the Wardrobe Dept. the day before filming and the Wardrobe Mistress had selected 3 suits with some shirts and ties for me to choose from. We tried them all on and decided on the one that she liked best. She then took the suit away to be altered because I have short legs and arms and all suits I buy have to be altered! So, I’m well used to it.
Next morning a car turned up to pick me up and drive to set, ah the glamorous life of a film actor, I thought to myself. We were filming in the TV studios of a TV channel in Ireland. I arrived to find a trailer with my name on it. Let me just repeat that because I felt like some Hollywood star to arrive and find, yes, a trailer with my name on it!! I went in to find my suit from the previous day hanging up, perfectly tailored to fit me and freshly pressed. It was hanging in my wardrobe in my trailer (I’ll never get tired of saying that!) along with shoes, shirt and tie. There was even a down filled coat for me to wear the 20 metre walk from my trailer to the set – just in case I felt a little chilly! (I felt totally pampered).
I sat in the trailer going over my lines in my head – it didn’t take long as I didn’t have many. I started to get a little anxious as the enormity of what I was doing started to hit. The 2nd Assistant Director knocked on my trailer door and told me she was taking me to make-up. Having down that the 1st Assistant Director (I’ve no idea why directors have so many assistants?) came to meet me. I was then taken towards set.
My footsteps started to ring louder and louder in my head the closer I got. Then I realised it wasn’t my footsteps it was the pounding of my heartbeat as I got more and more nervous. I stepped onto set where there were a lot of people, lights, cameras, wardrobe assistants, make-up artists, assistant directors etc and it was very dark. I then heard some in the darkness say, ‘Make way for the talent’, and, I kid you not, I stepped to one side with everyone else, until I saw someone wave at me to move forward.
The sudden dawning realisation that they meant me when they said that almost made me snort nervously, but inside I kept saying to myself, ‘you’re a professional, you can do this!’ As I emerged from the crowd I saw the set and realised that it was a proper TV studio and immediately became more relaxed, this was an environment I knew and was comfortable in. I was seated in position and they put a fake Microphone on my jacket to make it look like it was a real TV interview I was doing.
In reality there was a guy standing just off camera holding a huge furry microphone over our heads (called a Boom), it looked like The Cookie Monster hanging off the end of a flag pole. A hush descended and I knew this must mean we were nearly ready to get started. My co-star (I’ll never get tired of saying that either!) entered the set and said hello but I could see he was trying to focus on his lines and delivery, and it was his 3rd scene he had shot that morning so I kept my conversation to a minimum.
The directors asked to do a rehearsal, which they filmed just in case it was perfect (which often happens apparently and then the subsequent scenes go awry). I had to start the scene, so had to speak first, and I had to start by speaking ‘down the barrel’, which means straight to camera and then turn to my ‘co-star’ and address the rest of the conversation to him. All I could think in my head was, ‘don’t say anything until you hear ACTION, don’t do anything until you hear ACTION’. We did the whole thing in 2 takes (2 attempts, to you and me!) plus the rehearsal.
Next thing I knew the Directors and the crew were giving me a round of applause (I’ll take that thank you very much!) and that was it, all over! Unfortunately I was not permitted to take any photos on set at all so I have no evidence as yet but the film is out sometime next year and if I haven’t ended up on the editing room floor I’ll let you all know.
By the way, because my suit for the film was tailored to fit me and as I was shooting on the last day of filming they told me I could have the suit for a small donation to the Temple Street Children’s hospital in Dublin. So this is what I did and I have subsequently worn this same suit on air at QVC. It is one more thing I can tick off my list of things to do before I die.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and was so pleased to be asked. It really had been a dream of mine for many years as an actor. What has occurred to me is that sometimes when we want something really badly we can probably push too hard to get it and maybe that puts others off from helping us.
When I wasn’t pushing and striving to be in a movie it just fell in my lap. I don’t know how true this really is but it is what I feel. Maybe it is just another of life’s lessons that I am meant to learn.
Whatever the truth of it, I had a great time and all I know is I am very thankful for it.