‘Valleywood' came calling recently for two young actors from Cardiff. Both Carlton and Martin attend the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama's Young Actors Studio, which provides talented young actors with pre-degree training in acting skills, and also The Workshop, a Cardiff based enterprise specialising in training young actors for the film and television industry.
It was through The Workshop's agency, ATSLI Casting Ltd, that both were approached and cast in Ironclad.
“The director was looking for boys of the right age who worked well together,” says Peter Wooldridge, Co-ordinator of The Workshop and a Director of ATSLI. ‘They were looking for a certain vulnerability for the characters of King's aides and kitchen hands. We also knew that the boys' performances would translate well on camera.”
I had to stand in front of a green screen and pretend there was a massive army attacking us
They joined an army of stars including Oscar nominated Paul Giamatti and the College's own Aneurin Barnard, who graduated in 2008, on set near Cardiff. The filming of the legendary story of the Knights Templar defending Rochester Castle against the tyrannous King John and his army in thirteenth century England, gave the boys the chance to learn their craft first-hand while watching actors they've always admired.
“It was all very quick once we'd been chosen,” remembers Carlton. “I went to the studios to have my costume and wig sorted out on the first day. Then we filmed on and off for about a month.”
Most of the shots were taken just down the road from the studios, based at a former open cast mining site near Cardiff, he reveals.
Some of Carlton's filming called on all his acting powers. “I had to stand in front of a green screen and pretend there was a massive army attacking us when really there were only a few actors playing mercenaries. As a king's aide I was holding a banner, and so had no weapons at the battlefront.
“It was easy to be terrified. I just went into the zone and got on with it. Although it was tough waking up at five o’clock in the morning and wearing an uncomfortable wig, acting with amazing actors like Paul Giamatti and Charles Dance made it all worth while,” he enthuses.
Martin also had a tough and bloody time of it on set. If the pre-publicity is anything to go by Ironclad has some of the most brutal, bloodiest, gory and realistic battles seen since Private Ryan. “I only had a small part,” says Martin, “but I had some interesting scenes, including one in which I was tortured and had my hand cut off by King John (Paul Giamatti) and his mercenaries. That was pretty much the most fun I've ever had acting. It was great just watching the other guys act.”
Battling against the Welsh weather, apparently it rained for 39 days in all, just added to the starkly realistic, mud-soaked look of the film. “It was very demanding filming in that weather,” recalls Martin, “but I sat down after we ‘d done the torture scene and thought, wow this is what it's about.”
“The director Jonathan English had a very simple and understandable approach to directing,” he continues. “It was really helpful because I didn't have a clue how it all worked. I certainly learned a lot for when I get another audition.”
Watching these actors work has inspired me to do everything I can to become as successful as them.
Carlton agrees. “Watching these actors work has inspired me to do everything I can to become as successful as them. I'll use all this to help my development as an actor.”
Launched in September 2008, the Young Actors Studio's Acting Courses provide an opportunity for talented young actors to prepare for training at degree level and Theatre Workshop provides any young person, regardless of whether or not they intend to train for a career in theatre, with an opportunity to develop their creative and life skills.
“YAS was set up for young people who are passionate about theatre and drama,” says Erica Eirian, actor, director and the Young Actors Studio Co-ordinator. “Our Acting Courses provide talented young actors with an insight into full-time training and an opportunity to develop and improve their Acting, Voice and Movement skills. Our Theatre Workshop provides classes for young people of all abilities and an opportunity to develop their creative and personal skills.
“All our tutors work in the profession and are passionate about sharing their skills and experience in an atmosphere which is friendly, supportive and fun! A number of our students, such as Carlton and Martin, attend both YAS and The Workshop and together we provide them with a great introduction to actor training and also to the film and television industry.”
Kimberley Nixon, who graduated from the College in 2007 to go straight into acting alongside Dame Judi Dench in Cranford, and performing in films such as Cherry Bomb and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, advises, “The earlier you start the better. I think it's amazing that when you're 15 you can use the facilities that real training actors are using. ‘I wish that Young Actors Studio had been around when I was younger!”
Young Actors Studio is auditioning in March for places on the 2010/11 one year Acting Courses. YAS Theatre Workshop is open for admission throughout the year.
For more information on Young Actors Studio go to www.rwcmd.ac.uk/yas