It's no secret, we have some very talented people here at City Academy. From our tutors, who share their knowledge and expertise, to our students, who we get to see grow and develop. There are so many exciting stories to share, and this is one of them.
In 2016, Rymel Samms signed up to a City Academy Screen Acting course, run by Toby Wharton. All of our tutors are working professionals in their field and Toby has appeared in many lead roles both on and off screen. In addition, he is a writer and director.
So, fast forward to 2018 and Rymel plays a supporting role in Toby's acclaimed short film Master of Ceremonies. The film is written and directed by Toby, and was nominated for Best UK Short at East End Film Festival. When we heard the great news we, of course, wanted to know more! Toby and Rymel sat down to interview each other about their experiences making the film...
Toby: So what do you think the differences were when working with me as a student, then as a professional actor on set? Do you feel it became a different dynamic?
Rymel: To be honest, for me there were more similarities than differences. I felt the techniques you were teaching us all in the classroom, you went full throttle with on set! When working in the classroom there was time spent getting to know everyone’s individual capabilities, then when you cast me in the film you already knew my strengths and weaknesses so it was more a matter of pushing me even further out of my comfort zone.
This time the focus was more on the job at hand and the character I was playing as opposed to my personal development as an actor. And I just found it really interesting watching you in your element, putting all these pieces together and working in such detail.
T: Yeah, in an actual working environment there are so many more people and elements to oversee, therefore it becomes a far greater balancing act in terms of where I put my attention. I need to make sure you, the actor feels comfortable and clear on what you’re doing, whilst at the same time looking at lighting and composition with the DOP, production design, sound, making sure everyone’s been given enough coffee etc! So for me it was very important that I could treat you as a professional collaborator and not as a student, which in a way is something I try to gently bring to my teaching as I feel that’s the best way to make someone feel empowered and help them realise their own potential.
Did you feel at all nervous being the only cast member with no previous professional experience?
R: Maybe not knowing what to expect made me feel a little cautious, but being on a film set is always something I’ve been excited to do and acting has always felt like a natural thing for me and something that’s embedded in my personality. And the whole cast and crew instantly made me feel like I fit in and that I was part of a big team of people all focused on making this piece as good as it could be.
T: Actually looking back now, I don’t think I told anyone you hadn’t acted professionally before. I remember feeling really happy about how at home you seemed with everyone. And the reason I cast you in the first place was during our course you showed a great deal of raw talent and your work felt effortless and unpolished, which are the qualities I’m always looking for when it comes to casting. I’m never looking for a polished, controlled performance.
R: Okay, you need to tell people what this film is actually about!
T: That’s a good point. Essentially, the piece looks at what happens to an isolated young man who doesn’t know how to address and confront his own issues of mental health. He has very low self-esteem and to combat this he has created a false, grandiose version of himself, like an alter ego. But what happens when a person actually starts to believe in this false version of who they are? And then what happens when the alter ego ceases to function, what will the real person be left with? In many ways, the feeling of this film is like a very bad trip that refuses to end.
R: And what do you want the audience to take away from the film?
T: I guess for them to have a sense of how it might feel for a person who is in such a difficult place, and for the film to serve as a reminder of how important it is to talk these complex issues through, how necessary it is to reach out to other people. At the same time I’m a big believer in never hammering home a message with your narrative and allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions of what the film means for them.
I’ve got one last question for you… would you work with me again?!
R: Well… Of course! To be honest Toby, you’re the first person to give me a job on a professional film. You were the first person to see that potential in me. It was an amazing experience. I remember calling my fiancé as soon as we finished shooting and saying ‘this whole experience has just been amazing, I don’t want to leave!’ I’d definitely do it all over again.
T: Okay great, I’d say that was the right answer!