Interview with Richard Knox (Actor in Portent)
Above (Ash Linton, applying make-up to Richard Knox)
You have acted in Shakespeare plays and other live shows before making this film, how did making PORTENT compare to those experiences?
Having predominately performed on stage, particularly throughout my Master of Fine Arts in Staging Shakespeare at the University of Exeter, Portent proposed my first real venture into film and with this came not only a great deal of excitement but also a tremendous new challenge. With theatre you can rehearse often for weeks or months, honing and polishing your performance to its best, but with film the acting process is much more fleeting and momentary, where you have only a few takes to get the shot just right. Although I initially missed the lengthy rehearsal time, I soon found the swift turnarounds quite refreshing and somewhat similar to the fast paced nature of performing Shakespeare live on stage. Where dialogue is constantly kept alive with energy, precision and instinct, ‘turning on a dime’ much like every moment of every take. Another challenging difference that I enjoyed was adapting my acting to the subtleties of film, scaling down the boisterous theatrical techniques of projection, vigour and pace into more minute, distilled and potent attributes of naturalism. I found it rather empowering to play the subtleties of performance, even more so with the absence of voice, concentrating and utilising my facial expressions and overall presence as the main source of conveyance. Furthermore, as a director, Justin warmly encouraged moments of improvisation between Morwenna and myself, which I found tremendously beneficial as it allowed us to naturally breathe life into our characters, finding those little special unscripted moments of intimacy that enriched us as a couple on screen.
Above (Portent shoot, day four)
Have you ever used sign language before? What was it like to learn, and in what ways did it change the way you approached the acting in this film?
No, never. Sign language has a great specificity to it, so it was very important to us that our hand gestures and facial expressions were correct and clear throughout. We had a British Sign Language expert come in and teach us our phrases, which like learning any other language, was such an insightful and fascinating experience that certainly enriched our confidence in performing BSL. Once Morwenna and I had grasped our signed phrases we were then able to get comfortable with them, continuously practicing and refining our correspondence with each other, not only as actors, but also as an onscreen couple, implicitly trusting and exclusively relying on each other throughout. Like a secret language, sign language tightly bonded Tom and Ellie’s relationship, a unique quality that simultaneously made them self-reliant yet vulnerable within the isolation of the barren Moors. Some of the most powerful moments of performance that I’ve encountered have contained little or no dialogue whatsoever, silence speaks so many volumes in the imagination of the audience, and so the unique addition of sign language in Portent and its foreboding silence throughout meant that we could really encapsulate the isolation of Tom and Ellie’s journey to a suspenseful effect. A cinematic quality I particularly relished.
Above (Richard & Morwenna playing corpses)
So, what’s next for you?
My latest film, The Search Party – an Exeter Phoenix commissioned short film directed by Timiakindelle-Ajani and Hana Elias – recently premiered at The Two Short Nights film festival where it picked up The Audience Choice Award. The Search Party, which tells the story of a tourist who speaks little English and her experience of being involved within a search party for a missing person on Dartmoor, will continue to show at Film Festivals next year before receiving an online release. Additionally Christopher Williams, the producer of Portent, has once again teamed up with Justin Carter and myself to create, ME, our second Oddhaunts production. I can’t say too much about the film just yet, but I can tell you that I’m incredibly proud and extremely excited about showing it to audiences in the upcoming festivals of 2017. It’s certainly going to be one to look out for!
Above (Richard & Morwenna on location)
Photo credits: Christopher Williams, Julian Kemp & Justin Carter.
I'd like to thank Richard for his time and insight into playing Tom in the film. You can also check out my interview with the director, and my review for the film in my blog. You can watch the film now by clicking the link below.