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Tim Bryn Smith on TAWN-19, The Actors Workshop Nottingham's new, socially-distanced film

27 November 20 interview: George White

Our Screen Co-Editor George White speaks to Tim Bryn Smith, founder of The Actors Workshop Nottingham, about their new, socially-distanced film, TAWN-19...

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc for many industries across the country, and the film sector is no different. Cinemas have been forced to close, shooting schedules have been pushed back indefinitely, and actors have had to dial into press junkets from their own living rooms. 

Yet a national lockdown wasn’t enough to stop The Actors Workshop Nottingham from celebrating their 10th anniversary in style, their determination to produce high quality entertainment helping them to overcome some difficult circumstances. 

Initially aiming to produce a full, feature-length film throughout June, Prime Minister Johnson’s command to stay at home earlier this year brought the Workshop’s plans to a screeching halt – until they had an idea. As Zoom became a regular buzzword in everyday vocabulary and entire workplaces began to operate remotely, director Tim Bryn Smith and writer-in-residence Sara Bodinar decided their film could still go ahead, albeit in an entirely new format. 

Using a screenplay completed by Bodinar, over ninety local actors were asked to film their scenes from home, with Smith and the Workshop team orchestrating things online. It was certainly a challenge, but a welcome one. 

“We helped the actors by providing virtual tutorials on self shooting and cinematography. It was amazing to see how much they developed their skills as filmmakers in the process. Actors are constantly called on to ‘self tape’ when auditioning, so it’s been a brilliant learning experience for them,” Tim says. “Our screenwriter Sara Bodinar did an incredible job of formatting the script so each actor could film their lines in a way that we could piece the film together in post-production. Editing it was a massive task, the first cut was three hours long!” 

Globally, there’s a huge demand for content. Film and TV pretty much got the country through lockdown

Joining the abundance of Nottingham talent was Kyle Secor, known for the likes of Veronica Mars and Grey’s Anatomy. Not only did he help to raise the profile of the film, but he was also a fount of knowledge for the other aspiring actors on the project. 

“He ran a fantastic online workshop for us and then also agreed to be in our film,” Tim muses. “He is such an inspiring actor and director. We couldn’t thank him enough.” 

For Tim and his team, TAWN-19 is a prime example of the resilience of the film industry, which he believes will continue to thrive despite the current obstacles in place. “Globally, there’s a huge demand for content. Film and TV pretty much got the country through lockdown,” he claims. “Content providers will keep producing as long as there is money to be made.” 

Following a group of conspiracy theorists aiming to sabotage the UK government’s efforts to vaccinate the population against the ‘TAWN-19 virus’, the film uses satire to inject a bit of humour into the drabness of current social discourse. 

“Sara and I decided very early on that the film should have comedy elements,” Tim admits. “We knew that generally people were depressed enough without having to be reminded how severe the global health situation was.”

Ironically, though, some of that satire started to ring a little too true. “Certain ‘conspiratorial’ elements were popping up on the news and on social media. Sara and I were constantly messaging each other in disbelief. The whole process felt a little Black Mirror at times.” 

TAWN-19 is available for free at theactorsworkshopnottingham.com/productions

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