The Smalls, a renowned short film community which supports and advocates independent filmmaking, and visionary filmmaker, Ben Charles Edwards have teamed up to collaborate on a short film starring Sadie Frost, Sally Phillips, Perry Benson and Morgana Robinson. The Actress is a story of a shooting star who refuses to fade away or go gently into that good night, tumbling from genre to genre in scenes taking in the silent era, film noir, ’70s sci-fi sexploitation and ’90s sitcom land, depicting the desperate attempt to outsmart and outrun the apparition of death itself. An intensely poignant short film, The Actress beautifully highlights the transient nature of the film industry from an actresses perspective. Aesthetica spoke to Ben and Sadie about the film and their plans for the future.
A: Please talk us through the story of The Actress?
BCE: The Actress is a touching story of Mabel Stanford, a once celebrated actress of the silent movie days who is now coming to terms with her looming death. Mabel’s last request in life is to watch her favourite movie scenes back to back, her best performances of her career. – We see Mabel tumble through the film genres and eras like a feather in the wind, floating through her first silent movie, her favourite film noir moment, witnessing her career slowing as we see her in some awful 1960s sci-fi exploitation movie and finally her desperation as she demands one last second of screen time washed up in some vile 1990’s sitcom. All the while the apparition of death follows her closely through the scenes.
It is a story of how some of the most talented and beautiful women of the industry fall victim to the changing times and their changing faces. A story of coming to terms, of being able to look back at life and decide whether or not you are happy with your choices, achievements and final destination. To know that when you reach the end of your road you can look back at your burnt speed tracks in the dust and ask ‘It can’t be over so soon?’
A: Ben: What inspired you to draw upon this story?
BCE: The story of The Actress draws on three topics which I have a lot of time for- Women in the film industry and how they may be treated as age sets in. Death and coming to terms with the inevitable end of the road, and lastly, The early and magical eras of filmmaking from silent to film noir. I was watching Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr. (1924) play the projectionist, He falls through different scenes and characters all within a silent movie, I discussed this with Al Joshua (the writer of The Actress) and that was the birth of the idea which Al wrote into a beautiful yet funny story.
A: Sadie: What attracted you to this role?
SF: I’ve worked with Ben on all of his film projects, from his first, and extremely bizarre short film The Town That Boars Me -A 15 minute musical that tells the tale of a ‘pig boy’ with a fetish for high heel shoes- on to his recent and more refined work. Its been great watching him grow as a filmmaker and I loved his energy and imagination from our first meeting and I’ve enjoyed being part of and watching it all grow. Each project has gone from strength to strength along with the characters that Ben has offered me, And Mabel Stanford –my character in The Actress- Is by far the strongest he and I have worked on. Plus I got to wear a Flapper dress in the silent movie scene. How could I turn it down!?
A: The Actress is a very visually compelling film. Ben: Is this stylistic aesthetic a fundamental component to your filmmaking?
BCE: I guess so, I started as a stills photographer and I seemed to develop a fairly strong style early on. My films have always kept a similar aesthetic to my photography and in some cases my films aesthetics have developed further than I could have taken the stills.
A: With the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) coming up, we are hugely supportive and passionate about short film. What is it that particularly attracts you to work with this form and in particular do you feel there is more of a demand for it now?
SF: Yes there is certainly a bigger demand for it, So many more fashion films being made and all sorts of varied online short film content. There are even online agencies like The Smalls (who exec produced The Actress) who have huge online communities of filmmakers and their short films. They offer support and help create and assemble production teams. It’s getting easier and easier for talented filmmakers to create something brilliant and have an audience, be it at a film festival or online.
A: What can we expect to see from you as a collaborative pair in the future?
SF: Ben and I are currently in development of his feature film Set The Thames On Fire – It’s a brilliantly dark comic story of a fairytale London that Al Joshua and Ben came up with together. Al has developed the script into a beautiful and very funny story which Ben will be directing. It will be produced by Blonde To Black Pictures – a production company dedicated to nurturing and developing brilliant new talent- Set up by myself and my business partner Emma Comley.