Anna Fordham has written her own short film Rivets, about a woman coming out as gay to her father, and is set to star Nenda Neurer as Lena and Tafline Steen as Rosie, with the project currently in the fundraising stage. As an actor, Anna trained at Rose Bruford College and amongst her many roles on stage and screen, she appeared in The Athena as Naomi across twenty-two episodes, and earlier this year, she was part of News Revue at Canal Café Theatre. Answering our questions, Anna talks about writing her new film Rivets, playing Naomi in The Athena and training at Rose Bruford College.
Can you tell us about your first short film – Rivets?
Rivets is about Lena, a gay Austrian woman who lives in London. She has decided to go back to Vienna to come out to her Dad, and is very nervous. Her friend Rosie is with her for moral support, and the two fly to Austria, check into a hotel room, and the film takes place once they enter that room.
How long has Rivets been in the making?
I wrote it in early 2018 so it feels like a long time! A director gave some feedback on the first draft, but ended up not being able to commit to the project. Another director then showed some interest, but ended up being too busy. Eventually, my friend James Morgan (who is a very talented cinematographer) persuaded me that I should direct it myself, and so here we are.
What are your plans for releasing the film and how do you think you’ll feel on release day?
I haven’t managed to think that far ahead yet! At the moment we are still at the fundraising stage, so where we are able to release it will depend on how much we manage to make. My hope is that we can get it sent to film festivals, and then once festival season is over, release it to LGBT+ youth spaces and clubs, as well as online. I think part of me will be worried about whether or not people will like it, but I think I’ll probably mostly be proud that we actually finished it.
Did you always know you wanted to become a writer and how did you come up with the idea for your film?
Honestly no, it just kind of happened one day! In late 2017 after the Weinstein scandal hit the news I was just so angry. I wrote a screenplay called Nut Butter in response, which is a bit darker and more intense, and I think Rivets kind of came at the tail end of my rage! I wanted to write a story about women lifting each other up.
Why do you think the story is important to tell?
Well, I think there are two things in Rivets that we don’t get to see very often on our screens. One is non-competitive female friendships. Think about how many films you’ve seen where the friends are fighting over a guy, or two women are fighting over a promotion. The other thing is queer women written outside of the lens of the Male Gaze. (The Male Gaze is a way of writing things from a perspective which frames women as objects for men’s pleasure). You often find in films about queer women, the film isn’t being made to actually represent the characters, but to make the men in the audience think about how “hot” this is. I was pretty bored of watching films like this, which is probably why I wrote my own!
How did your acting career come about?
I always wanted to be an actor. It was kind of non-negotiable! I remember in Year Six we were doing a musical version of Nicholas Nickleby as our leavers show, and the only girl characters were quite small, so I just put my name down for the biggest one of them. The teacher running it took me to one side and asked me if I would consider putting my name down for Nicholas Nickleby instead. I was shocked that he thought a girl would be able to play it, but I agreed, got the part, and was hooked. So, from then on, I put myself in every school and local play, and ended up going to drama school.
Can you tell us about your training at Rose Bruford College?
I trained on the Actor Musician course, which is exactly the same as the Acting course but you get a little extra singing and you also play musical instruments. It essentially means that the cast of the show are also the band and all of the music happens live on stage. It does mean that there are certain jobs that I am more likely to get, as there aren’t that many female Double Bass player actors out there, but actor musicianship is an ever growing art form, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go more mainstream.
What was Naomi like to play in The Athena and can you say more about the character?
Holly Phillips (lead writer) gave the character of Naomi such a lovely arc on that show and it showed enormous faith in me as an actor which I will always be grateful for. Naomi started out as the villain, and gradually softened as the series went on. She started out trying to be that competitive girl that I mentioned earlier, but realised that it was stupid and it wasn’t making her happy. She adapted, and by the end of the twenty-six episodes, she even found herself cooperating and helping others. My favourite character I’ve ever played.
Do you have a favourite moment from your time on set?
I remember shooting a scene where my character had to cry in the teacher’s office, with Lucy Gaskell, Chris Jenks, and Tafline Steen (Rosie in Rivets). Isabelle Sieb directed that episode, and I honestly could not choose a better team to work with. It was a super manipulative scene, crying at the teacher to get someone else in trouble. We laughed a lot in between takes because I obviously still had the fake tears rolling down my face.
How was it being part of the cast?
They were a lovely group of people. I’ve kept in touch with a lot of them. And given that we are all so young, also some of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. Some of them have already gone on to do big movie roles, and I’m just happy to have met and worked with them all.
Do you remember how you felt booking your first screen role?
Well, it was sort of an accident! I auditioned for the role of Neisha at first, and then the role of Nyela, and didn’t hear anything for ages so just assumed I didn’t get it. I then got a call to say they wanted me to play Naomi, and I was really excited, but also confused to have got a part I didn’t audition for. I did think they might recast the role in between shooting the pilot and shooting the season, so they could hold real auditions for it, but they didn’t and I was incredibly grateful.
You were in the cast of Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2017, how was this?
Oh my god, so hard! The hardest thing I have ever done by a country mile! We were going to be on tour for ten months which is already a hard thing to do. On top of that, I played six instruments in that show, and mostly had to write what I was going to play myself because we weren’t provided sheet music. It was my first job out of drama school, and without being too descriptive, there was someone in the company who seemed to have made it their mission to make my life hell. On more than one occasion other people asked me if I wanted to make a complaint of workplace bullying. I never did, but if it happened to me again I absolutely would. In situations like that you have to try and stand your ground and remember what you’re worth.
Can you say about appearing in News Revue earlier this year?
News Revue is the longest running live sketch comedy show in the world, so obviously that’s quite a large amount of pressure. It’s also never the same show twice, and you end up having to rewrite it on a weekly or sometimes daily basis, as things come in and out of the news. It’s unbelievably hard work, and I have so much respect for the team that put it together. It is pretty cool to be able to say I played the Queen, Nicola Sturgeon, Nancy Pelosi, a cat, Billie Eilish, and Susannah Reid all in six weeks on a London stage!
A Penny Dreadful workshopped last year, which you were part of, what was this like to do?
Workshopping a musical is heaps of fun. You can’t really get it wrong because it’s never been done before! I’d like to see the show get put on soon because I genuinely really liked it. It was a great dark script that was essentially about a cursed Punch and Judy set. Julian Bleach is a great actor who has been on our screens for a while, but it turns out he’s also a brilliant musician. He wrote the music himself and the song I was given was absolutely beautiful.
Do you have any upcoming career plans?
Not yet! At the moment I am self-isolating because of COVID-19, but I am working on writing a new musical with my partner, doing a second draft of Nut Butter, and I recently signed with Beccy at VSA. Hopefully when the pandemic is over, a lot of things will start to happen!
To hear more about Rivets, or to donate, please visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/rivets-short-film
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