Hello avid readers! So today I have for you another exciting interview with Liam Hughes, an actor/model/writer/director studying and working in London! Liam has a pretty interesting background being born in Scotland and then brought up in the US in the San Francisco Bay area. Liam studied undergrad in Scotland at the University of Edinborough, He decided to apply when his father and him were attending the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Liam unfortunately did not get in to his top school choice in the States, so off he went to study in Scotland! Liam studied in Edinborough for 2 years, studied Spanish in (where else) Spain for 1 year and graduated early with a bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Social Sciences.
After earning his bachelors, Liam went back to San Francisco and began performing. Liam had studied acting all throughout High School and has been in some productions in Scotland as well. Coming out of Edinborough, he knew he wanted to be an actor so he began looking at different acting programs. He finally decided on Drama Center London. I met up with Liam this past week, to ask him a little about his experiences studying in London and to talk about his most recent project: a short film by the name of “GREED.
A: So you’re going to Drama Center London, What made you pick your specific school?
L: My first show in San Francisco that I did was called, “Almost Maine” and I had a cast mate and really good friend who knew I was applying to drama schools and asked if I had looked into drama schools in the UK. After that suggestion I began visiting some school’s websites and saw that Drama Center had a screen-specific program and started in January. So, it was partly a timing thing and partly based on the high recommendation from my friend, and partly the screen-specific course that got me interested.
A: What was the audition process like?
L: The audition was one day. First thing was the actual audition and then the interview in the morning. It was a very informal chat-type interview. Then in the afternoon, they had recalls, and the recall was a bit more challenging. There were groups of three. We had to take our monologues and deliver it to the other people in our group. The other people could improvise and interject, but we had to stick to our lines. During this they had the students on camera, seeing how we played to the camera. There were also writers and directors that had to go through this process because Drama Center really believes that writers and directors should know how actors work and vice versa.
A: What are your classes like?
L: The program is technically two years but it just continues throughout the summer with 4 breaks. For the first 20 weeks, the structure of our classes consisted of intense core training. Themes like movement, Meisner, Stanislavsky, voice, speech (accent work), screen technique, improvisation, movement psychology, and a critical studies class where we made our short films. Classes generally started at 9:30 and could go as late as 8:30. It was a lot to take in, in 20 weeks. They tried to teach us everything that the BA Actors learn in 2-3 years in just 20 weeks. You could say they were skimming the surface to give us different tools that we could use. Drama center has a rich history of what they teach and how they teach it “try this and if it works for you use it, if not, that’s cool don’t worry about it.”
A: Any tips for people applying to drama schools?
L: Be very open. They want people that they feel they can train. Training as an actor you have to be open. There’s this stereotype of drama schools. That they want to break you down so they can build you back up. I’m not necessarily saying that needs to be done, but they want to see that you are open and direct-able. For example they will take your emotional monologue and tell you to spin it in a totally different way. They want to see that you are willing. My three best bits of advice I can give are…
1) Choose your audition monologues well and have people help you choose them. Cast yourself in monologues. Don’t do a monologue that a 60 year-old woman traditionally does. Be you
2) Be bold with your choices
3) You want them to remember you. It’s about coming in and “wow-ing” them
A: Studying and living in the UK, Have you noticed any prominent culture differences??
L: My dad is from Scotland and my mom is from England. Because of this, coming to the UK wasn’t much of a shock for me. I’ve been over here traveling and what not. That is a hard one for me to answer.
A: What inspired you to write GREED and then produce/direct it yourself?
L: This course has demanded so much more of us than being an actor, that I’ve done things and learned things I never expected. In my critical studies class (project class) over the course of 15 weeks, we made 4 short films spanning from 2-9 minutes long. We’d get into groups of 5 with a writer, director, camera guy, art dept. etc, and were asked to make short film. I wasn’t just an actor in them either; I filled other roles like writing and directing. By the end of this, I had learned how to edit in final cut pro and a bunch of other skills.
From day one, I learned so much. In the fall, we had certain time aside for independent study and I got idea for a short film and asked a fellow writing student if he would work on it with me. Before Christmas, we had a solid draft. Originally, I was going to play one of the parts, but as it progressed, I felt the character needed to be older and so I just directed and produced it.
At Drama Center, we had people coming in telling us to be prepared for an ultra competitive business. We were really encouraged to go out and make our own work. So I guess I took that advice.
A: Do the characters or events in “Greed” relate to any real people and/events in your life?
L: No. My original idea came from an add on the back of a metro newspaper. There are always ads for the lottery in newspapers and this one was for a 95 million pound jackpot. I was intrigue so I went on the website. I noticed a post that said there was a 65 million jackpot still not claimed. Apparently a winning lottery ticket had been purchased in the spring. Someone either lost it or it had been stolen, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t claimed. I remember thinking that would be the worst thing that could ever happen to you. It would just be crushing. Then I thought, what if it was stolen? And the idea grew from there
A: Can you describe the process you went through to put together this play?
(Hiring actors, directors, securing spaces, etc.)
L: First, before anything, I hired 3 different credited script consultants. I think before you do anything, it’s important to have your script as close to perfect as you can. Then, I got a casting director on board. I sent out emails to a bunch of agencies and got 0 responses for my character breakdowns so I realized I needed a casting director. I emailed twelve casting directors and out of the twelve, I got one positive response. A week later, I had 45 suggestions just for one of the characters. It was frustrating in a way to see the necessity of middlemen. That was the first thing I learned; you have to use the middlemen.
Next I got a director of photography named Anthony Dias. I had worked with him before on a previous project for school. He is a really good DP, was super into the project and had really good ideas. He also got some crew members on board and recommended an editor that I ended up using. I also hired a sound recordist who had worked on previous drama center projects.
Then there was the casting session. The casting director I worked with, sent 45 initial suggestions for protagonist. I went on spotlight and saw the show reels. I initially wanted James Darcy (actor recently in ‘Cloud Atlas’) who wanted for the role. Made a straight offer to him for Lloyd (main character), but he couldn’t do it. I also sent an offer to Leo Gregory that didn’t work out. I eventually saw 3 actors for the role and casted Stephen Beckett as Lloyd.
It got to the point where I had all the people I needed, and no locations. I had a production designer on board to create a set for the office scene, but didn’t have an office. I looked into office rentals and found one. Just a bare room with a desk and phone. Then, for the car scene, I wanted to avoid an overnight session so I started looking around for an underground car park so I could do the shoot in daytime. I finally found it at the last minute. It was a NCP car park. I called the park and haggled with the car park people for a great price. That’s another thing I learned. If you ask the right way, there are people out there who are willing to help. So it all fell into place in the end, with a little bit of hustle and a bit of dumb luck.
The actual shoot took 3 days. I sent out call-sheets before shooting, to map out how things were going to be carried out. It all went surprisingly smoothly once we got to the shoot. Most of the crew, especially the veteran actors, were all very surprised that we wrapped on time every day. Then I just sent it to the Post Production House to do finishing and it was done. The pre-production started in the beginning of January and the film was finished by March 5th. It came together pretty quick, but it didn’t feel that rushed to me.
A: What are your plans after you graduate?
L: We have our Graduation Showcase coming up, where the school sends out invites to casting agents, and we show a screening of our short films. Then it’s just taking my show reel and sending it to 15+ agents to get some meetings asking them to represent me as an actor. First step is agent; second step is getting a job. I’ll stay in London initially. I’ve met a lot of friends and working connections here that I wouldn’t want to leave right away. I’d say I’ll stay at least through Christmas.
In the meantime, I’ll be doing some more writing and developing projects. I’d like to shoot at least one more short film before I leave London. Also, in a couple of weeks, I’m Going to Canne with a student program called ‘Creative Minds in Canne’ for film students. Hopefully it will be a great opportunity to network and if everything works out “Greed” will be there too.
A: Let’s talk a little bit about current films and TV. What are some of your favorite shows and films out there now?
L: Hmm.. T.V. shows. Lost. Lost, changed my life. My roommate and I watched the finally episode together and at the end it took us a moment to realize we were both crying at the end. I also like Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and I’m just about to watch season 1 finale of Homeland.
For films, I generally like drama and thriller genres. Heavy drama like, “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Fight Club,” and “Grand Tourino.” I also like Martin Scorsese old films like “Mean Streets.”
A: Any favorite actors/directors you look up to and why?
L: I love Brad Pitt. Not only is he my man-crush but also I think he is one of the most under-rated actors of his time. Also, I like early days Nicholas Cage (Raising Arizona). I also like Alan Arkin, and Ben Affleck.
If you got to the end of this interview phew! good for you! A lengthy read but totally worth it! Thank you Liam!! Also, if you are so inclined to read more about the making of the film, check out Liam’s blog @ http://greedfilm.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/meet-the-filmmaker-liam-hughes/
Till Next Time!