There is a particular feeling that accompanies the portrayal of someone who actually lived. It’s difficult to articulate. It isn’t quite so grandiose as to merit the label of “responsibility”, nor should it be cheapened with the label of “challenge” or “thrill”.
Perhaps the best way to describe it is to reference a child walking in to an antique shop filled with fragile items of a bygone age: intense curiosity accompanied with a sense that if you aren’t careful you might find yourself face to face with a lot of very angry adults.
That feeling was with me throughout my preparation for Siegfried Sassoon in The Burying Party.
The thing is, being overly careful means you are more likely to break something, as the child in the antique store is probably able to confirm, so at a certain point in time you have to let go as a performer and just do your job.
It’s a fine balance to strike, and one that no actor can achieve on their own. As with all productions, there comes a point in time where a leap of faith in to the director’s vision is required. Sometimes that leap of faith is justified, sometimes not, and all the actor can do is their best.
Every so often, a project comes along where the leap of faith happens almost without one noticing, so total is one’s belief in the team of people surrounding you.
The Burying Party is one such experience.
From the first read-through, the sense of apprehension all but vanished, and I was able to enjoy the ride. What a ride.
I am not prone to superstition, but film is not unlike sport in that one can train and prepare for every minute detail, and the ultimate difference between success and failure will be entirely outside of your control. As such, over time one comes to notice the moments of chance during a production, and whether they seem to be aligning in one’s favour or not.
To say they aligned in our favour would be an understatement. It was the sense of every slight bounce and ricochet of the ball going our way. It is hard not to feel as though success is somehow pre-ordained under such circumstances.
It is a joy to be able to say that chance seemed to favour a story in which I have become so invested. These lives mattered. These people and their viewpoints mattered. As I have said before, we are living in alarming times, and turning our eyes to a century ago when the shortsightedness of nationalism led to the decimation of a generation seems advisable.
We know where these roads lead. We have been told by those who have walked them.
Perhaps we should listen.
- Sid Phoenix
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A film production company wouldn't be able to achieve much without the support and hospitality of various external people and organisations. As well as our regular status updates to recognise the help of our kickstarter and crowdfunder donors, we wanted to compile a blog post dedicated to those locations and individuals who have so far helped us along the way in order to accomplish what we wanted. So without further ado, a huge thank you to:
In a strange way, it is sad to think that if I had not had the wonderful opportunity to be part of this film, I would now be poorer without the insight into the untold story of an extraordinary human being. Moreover, before The Burying Party my knowledge about the life of Wilfred Owen consisted of, as I imagine also for a handful of people, a collection of ‘useful quotes’ half - learnt, and in no particular order, hither and thither, the subject matter ultimately crammed in, trimmed at the edges, left colourless and under a subject heading, WW1.
My role in The Burying Party was to portray someone who had lived, fought and endured this unimaginable period. I had, as we all did working on this project, a responsibility to truthfully portray the world that surrounded the lives of these remarkable people. It was a true gift to have been given the freedom to research and develop the character as I felt was right. I was only one, small part of Wilfred Owen’s life, but it felt no less important.
Richard is an incredibly inspiring Director that I feel very lucky to have worked with. To have a Director on board that has devoted endless hours into the research and development of the material, continually taking more and more on board to make a film Worthy of the Life Wilfred Owen had bravely led, had been more than enough evidence for me to know this project is going to be something special.
The first day on set was a mixture of nerves and anxious excitement to create this vision. We were all in it together, and this camaraderie endured throughout the whole filming period, despite the usual bumps in the road, the spirit was always high. Such a talented cast and crew made the whole experience feel meaningful and always professional.
The fragility of circumstances when performing in front of a camera, on location and to the attentive eyes of the crew can be a daunting process. I can happily say that on this occasion, this was most definitely, not the case!
It is extremely difficult for an artist of any medium to do justice to the sacrifices and bravery of servicemen and women both past and present.
World War One was one of the bloodiest conflicts ever to have battered our planet and for me there is a distinct lack of understanding of a world so far removed from the comforts and luxuries I take for granted today- in spite of the books I read, the films I watched and places I visited in an effort to research life in the trenches and the impact that had on one’s sanity.
While as an actor I can never truly feel what these people felt, it is so important to me that it is never forgotten and I believe ‘The Burying Party’ supersedes many other films of its kind in portraying that world for how it was- with no romantic or melancholic sentimentality but grittily with the acrimony and trepidation that pervaded the zeitgeist of Britain in the 1910s.
Despite the intensive hours and daunting challenge we had taken on, the process was hugely enjoyable and not only am I immensely proud of the collective effort that has gone in to the project, but I believe at this early stage as though we’ve got something very special on our hands in this film.
- Will Burren, October 29th 2017
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Meurig Marshall (DOP), Richard Weston (Director), Sid Phoenix (Siegfried Sassoon), Matthew Staite (Wilfred Owen), Will Burren (Robert Graves)
Wilfred Owen films are hard to come by and it is difficult to see why. Perhaps the question should more be why aren’t there many films about World War 1 period? As the marketers busily rewrap the rather excellent Dunkirk for the DVD market place, it is apparent that WW2 seems to be a better economic risk for mainstream film-makers.