During the current pandemic, Grace Morgan has written and starred in short film Gone Solo, where she played the character of Ellie, for a project set by the BFI Academy and Somerset Film course, and she is currently working on writing her next short film. Grace has previously worked with Victoria Harwood Kapadia on the short film Orla and will be appearing in an upcoming short film called On My Level. Recently speaking with us, Grace talks about writing Gone Solo, working during the pandemic and disability representation in the industry.
Can you tell us about your short film Gone Solo?
Gone Solo is a short thriller about a girl – Ellie who is talking to her friends about the suicide… or is it murder of her classmate? It is all filmed virtually but I filmed a few of my scenes (I played the character of Ellie) with my own camera.
Was there anything that encouraged you to write it and how did you find the experience?
This film was a project set by the BFI Academy and Somerset Film course. We were challenged to make a short film in lockdown, so we had to do the pre-production, production and post-production. I wrote the script first; I basically had a conversation in my head as if I were these characters and just wrote what I was thinking into a script. After receiving some positive feedback from a professional screenwriter on the course, I made a start on the storyboarding and managed to find some other actors to play the other characters. A week later we started filming which took a full day.
What has it been like to work on during the pandemic?
Honestly, it was quite challenging as I was working with and directing two other wonderful actors through Zoom and FaceTime, so there were a few funny mishaps. It was such an amazing experience though and I learnt a lot from this project. I remember at first when we were told to make a short film, I was really nervous because I had no idea how I was going to pull it off, but I am really happy with how everything went and love the final outcome!
How was it seeing the completed film for the first time?
I spent multiple days editing Gone Solo which was such a fun experience! I ended up spending around six hours just editing the miniscule final touches as I wanted it to be perfect. I had to get my parents to give me feedback on the sound as I often couldn’t hear the background noise. Once everyone on the course had finished editing, we had a virtual screening of all our films. It was great to see what everyone else had created, I was really impressed by everyone’s work. Watching my film with everyone else felt so surreal, it was really great getting everyone’s feedback too.
You have previously played Orla in the short film of the same name, can you say about the character and more about the film?
I really loved the character of Orla; I felt such a strong connection to her and her background. Playing Orla felt like playing a version of myself, just add in some cool supernatural powers! I am not allowed to say too much about the film, but it is such a thrilling and ethereal story. I can’t wait till it’s out!
How did the short film come about and what was it like working with director Victoria Harwood Kapadia?
I first heard of the film through my auntie who sent me the casting. I straightaway felt drawn to the character of Orla so sent in my details to Victoria and Nancy – the producer. Before I went to audition, I had some coaching with my old GCSE drama teacher who helped me brush up on my improv (as we had to do improv for the audition) and gave me some more confidence. At the audition I also assisted Victoria and Nancy with signing in all the other girls who had come to the audition. It was my first ever audition so I remember being very nervous as I was there all day watching the others audition thinking ‘She’s amazing, she’s definitely got the part!’ I got home that evening and received an email saying that I had a recall and to come back the next day. I helped with the signing in on this day too. For my recall audition I did some more improv as well as a scene from the script. A few weeks later, I got a call from Victoria saying that I had got the part. I was so excited!
Working with Victoria was really nice, her and Nancy were both amazing and supportive of me and my disabilities. I remember on the last day we had to walk ages to get to the location all the way up a practically vertical hill too. This was really challenging for me due to my ataxic cerebral palsy, but I was so determined to get to the location and film the last couple of scenes.
What do you enjoy most about working on short films?
I love the connections you make with people as it’s a much smaller cast and crew than on a bigger film or TV set. Everyone was so lovely and supportive when I filmed for Orla. I was so nervous turning up to set on day one but as soon as I got there and met everyone, I was just so excited and grateful to be there.
You recently filmed a music video for college, can you say more about this?
I had never made a music video before, so I was looking forward to this project all year. I was originally going to work with someone else and have them be in front of the camera, but plans changed due to COVID and I had to completely change my idea and song halfway through, so I really didn’t have much time to plan and produce this music video.
I ended up choosing a song by one of my favourite artists – Maisie Peters. My parents helped with the cinematography during filming, and we just went around my local town shooting footage. I also used some footage I took when I went to New Zealand and LA in 2019. After this, I spent a few weeks editing it before submitting it and getting a distinction grade.
Had you always wanted an acting career and how did you start?
I have always been interested in the film industry as a whole and I’m going on to study it at University in September. I believe acting is a big part of it and I would like to continue both in front and behind the camera. Since a young age I took musical theatre classes before making the move to screen acting classes. When I was filming for Orla, it really confirmed that this is the industry I want to be in, and I am so determined to stay a part of it.
Do you have any favourite actors or directors you’d like to work with in the future?
I have always loved Emily Carey‘s work, especially her role in Get Even (such a great show). I think Ruth Madeley would also be a really fun person to work with too! I loved her character in Years & Years. As for directors, I would love to work with Victoria again! Also, this is a bit of a long shot, but I would really like to work with Taika Waititi, I thought Jojo Rabbit was brilliant, I actually self-taped for a part in this film a couple of years ago. He’s also from New Zealand too which is where my dad and his family are from.
As a disabled actor, how is it auditioning for roles and is there anything you’d like to see change in the industry?
So far, I have only ever had positive experiences with auditioning. I have a really great agent who supports me and gets me auditions for various different disabled roles.
Disability representation in the film and TV industry is something I am so passionate about. I think it really needs to be seen more and also portrayed in the correct way, so no community gets offended. I would like to see more films and TV shows with disabled lead actors where the plot isn’t solely centred around this person’s disability. Like yes, it is a part of them, but let’s not make their disability the absolute focus of the film/show.
Have you seen any TV shows or films recently you would recommend?
I have recently finished watching The Irregulars on Netflix, which was amazing! I loved the story, and the dialogue is brilliant. I also watched Killing Eve earlier this year, the casting for that show was just perfect, I can’t wait for Season Four. I really admire Jodie Comer, and loved her in Thirteen too. My favourite film has always been The Book Thief. The characters, storyline and visuals are so beautiful, I went to see it at the cinema when it came out and it’s been my favourite film ever since. A documentary that I like is Amy by Asif Kapadia, it’s a really powerful film which I have so much respect for, it was so eye-opening and just incredible how it was all put together to tell Amy’s story.
How have you been keeping busy during the pandemic?
I’m never not busy, to be honest. I am always responding to emails, taking acting classes, auditioning, running the social media for a small footwear company, training my sound-support dog, writing my next short film, finishing college assignments, shall I carry on? I would much rather be busy than have nothing to do though and I know I am very lucky in that way. When I do have some free time, I like to play guitar or watch Netflix.
What are you hoping 2021 brings for your career?
Auditions, work, anything I would be really grateful for! I already have some exciting projects and work in the near future including filming another short film called On My Level that I’m in the pre-production stages working alongside someone very talented I met on the BFI Academy and Somerset Film course. I will also be working with Siena Castellon later this year on a mentoring programme for autistic youth which I am so honoured and excited to be a part of. This year, I would really like to talk to and meet new people in the acting and film industry too.
Grace Morgan is represented by VLA Talent https://www.victorialepperassociates.com
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