Interview by Chris Olson
Having recently interviewed the director of Woodfalls, I was also lucky enough to interview one the indie film's actors - Michelle Crane. In her exclusive interview for UK Film Review, we discuss representing travelers culture, Greta Gerwig, and the getting out of her comfort zone.
Can you tell us a bit about your acting career thus far, and specifically in Woodfalls?
Woodfalls has definitely been a highlight for me. Working on Woodfalls instantly felt very collaborative and I've carried on working with David Campion, Anthony Abuah the producer and Ian Fielding the editor on their other projects since.
Prior to Woodfalls I’d worked on short films and Vacation Hunter an indie feature by Daz Spencer-Lovesey, which was an amazing experience and a huge insight into filmmaking for me. A lot of the films I’ve worked on the directors have self funded, there’s a great sense of amalgamation, commitment and passion towards the work as a result of that, when people have quite literally given it their everything.
David Campion's film is a meaty dissection of cultural differences. Did you feel any pressure representing such a heavy topic in your performance?
Absolutely. I'm playing a role from a culture that I personally have no connection to, there's something very scary about attempting to portray that and not wanting to get it wrong. With the sensitivity of my character Rebecca's final scenes I spoke a lot to charities offering help to those affected, in order to try and understand as much as I could about what she was going through. It was important to me to be respectful with those scenes. Despite making Woodfalls a few years ago, its themes are increasingly relevant with the current political climate.
The way travellers are portrayed in popular programmes such as 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' is misleading, so I consciously wanted to stay away from this image as much as possible. I loved reading Mikey Walsh's books about his upbringing and found them hugely helpful. Although I didn't want to necessarily label her as a traveller, because this is a story about prejudice in any form and also about her challenging the expectations of womanhood she has grown up with. Is drama your preferred genre? Are there others you have done or would like to try? I have worked predominately in drama but that's just the way it has worked out for me so far. Wherever there's a great story I'll follow! I just made a horror film with David, which was a great challenge and it took me out of my comfort zone. I'd love to do more comedy. Who doesn't love comedy? Although I think it's probably the hardest genre to do well. What was the atmosphere like working on Woodfalls? Were there any highlights? Anything that was particularly difficult? There are the obvious difficulties when working on low budget films. I think we all felt the pressure of limited time. It was a small cast and crew but we all became like a big family, which was lovely to work with and created a supportive atmosphere. If you had any advice for a new actor, what would it be? It's important to be yourself as that's what's interesting and essentially what only you can bring to a role. Don't compare yourself or your career to anyone else, you've got your own path to make and there's no set way to success. Work hard, be nice and stay passionate about your work, but don't forget to live life outside the acting world.
Good advice! What are some of your favourite performances of all time? Anne Baxter and Bette Davis in All About Eve is timeless. Anne-Marie Duff is one of my favourite actresses. I saw her in a production of St Joan at The National Theatre about ten years ago and she absolutely blew my mind. I've never seen a stage performance compare. She's a master on screen too, The Magdalene Sisters is one of my all time favourite films, her performance breaks my heart in that film. All of the performances do. Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha is hilarious, it's such a lovely story- I have a lot of respect for actors who write and create their own work. Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler is extraordinary.
I'll stop as I could probably go on and on! Do you have anything lined up next? I've just finished making another feature with David -She Lived On Franklin Avenue. I play a serial killer who has to return home to the place she hates most and confront her past.
Also I've worked with Ian Fieldin making his film Dead Unicorns. I play an art student who becomes a private detective in order to discover what has happened to her missing teacher, but ends up unravelling a lot of her own past which is unexpectedly connected. It has been quite a journey and taken a few years to complete, so I'm excited to see what happens with these this year.
I've nothing else lined up at the moment, but I guess that's the joy of acting, you don't know what's next. What would you say if you were a dolphin?
Hmm. Could you please stop throwing all of your rubbish into the ocean. Thanks. Was that a really crap answer? Maybe that's why I don't do much comedy!