Duglas T Stewart on Acting, Wigilia and Independent Filmmaking
Wigilia Co-Star and Pop Star Duglas T Stewart talks about his experiences in acting, working with directors and his thoughts on Independent filmmaking.
How did you get involved with Wigilia? What were your thoughts about appearing in a film?
I got a message on social media from the director Graham and I don't get many acting offers and so I was intrigued. When I met graham I instantly liked him. That's very important for me as a motivation for wanting to do something. Straight away I thought I'd enjoy spending time in Graham's company and because he seemed like a good person I suspected there would be other good people involved too and I was right. Graham told me that he had thought of me when creating the role so it felt like the Dad's Army style of casting where I'd be playing almost a heightened version of me or at least someone not that different from me in some ways. Of course that can be tricky in someways too.
Obviously your background is as a performer in a group but did you have any acting experience prior to Graham getting in touch?
I did quite a lot of acting as a teenager and early twenties. I acted in lots of stage productions and some educational films aimed at school audiences. I had done small bits and pieces since then but nothing for years.
You were involved with the scriptwriting. Tell us about how that worked.
Well there was a rough story and the characters but it was just an outline and the script came out of us, Graham, Iwona and me discussing situations but even more so from acting out the situations, improvising and trying to find out where the situations would take our characters. Iwona was so great to work with, she felt so real in everything she did that it was easy for me just to react to what she was doing and saying. My character Robbie is actually quite different from me in some ways but he's someone who I think is trying his best to be a good person.
How did you prepare for your character?
I tried not to over think it and from Graham creating Robbie with me in mind I sort of knew he was looking for almost a version of me for the role. I didn't want to impose too much restrictions on Robbie as a character and let him go where the situation seemed to take him. I did think a lot about his story before our characters meet and also about what had been happening to him when the characters are apart.
Tell us about Robbie. Are there aspects of him not shown on the screen that you worked out?
I think he's someone who has been scared of commitment and put his dream of being a somebody before other aspects of his life. His lack of success has made him a bit world weary and also led to him missing out on some of the best things life has to offer.
What was the process for Graham directing with you? How did that work? How do you deal with aspects of the story or character that deviate from the director or other writers?
Well Graham watches and listens to everything very carefully and was good at telling me "less" if I was being a bit big with stuff. Robbie is an interesting character to play because he is a bit of a performer and so a lot of how he interacts with other people can be a little bit affected by the fact he is performing a bit for them but there are moments where that is stripped away and the tone has to be different and Graham helped me with that.
I didn't feel there were any points where I felt Robbie should be acting radically different than what Graham felt or from the situations that arose naturally from improvising. There was nothing that came up where I felt I just can't imagine Robbie doing this.
How do you prepare for each day?
I tried to remove myself as much as I could from the stuff going on in my own life unless there was anything in the background of my own stuff that might be helpful to tap into for some of the emotional stuff.
Is it difficult to switch yourself on, in terms of you being yourself and as soon as the cameras roll you are someone else?
Well going on stage as a performer in BMX Bandits I do that all the time. The Duglas who plays concerts and sings these songs is me but I don't let any difficult stuff that is going on in my life affect the performance. As I was saying before the only way the stuff I'm carrying around is allowed to affect it is how it can help make the emotional content more real.
Working days are long, with many moments of sitting around while the crew work. How do you deal or prepare for such long hours?
I think I deal fine with that. I don't really mind periods of just sitting and thinking over stuff. I think that time can be helpful and I like being in the company of the other people being involved. I don't like being alone. Companionship is important to me.
Do you think it's important that there are independent films being made in Scotland? If so, Why?
I think a lot of stuff in life feels like it's becoming less and less individual, more polished but so much that it is over polished and becomes dull. I think independent film or music are places where you can still find original and untamed voices. Sometimes there will be limitations imposed by budget or circumstance. There may be flaws but these days people seems to be frightened of having any flaws and have forgotten that flaws are often the things that make something unique, beautiful and special.
Do you see parallels in your work as an independent musician and working within independent films?
Yes I think there are a lot of similarities particularly in both worlds that's where you often find the people who are doing it for no other reason than the pure love of the form of creating. Of course you will always get people who have their own agenda trying to use it as a pathway to their own glorification but I've been lucky in my experiences of both worlds and met lots of truly wonderful people.
There is often a long delay between finishing filming and the film being released. It's frustrating for many actors (and crew). How do you deal with this?
It can be a bit frustrating waiting to see the final thing but I'm used to dealing with that as it's similar to making records.
What advice can you offer for emerging actors?
Carry on dreaming your magnificent dreams and don't let other people squash them.
Anything else to add that may help would be filmmakers and actors?
Try to always be generous and kind and encouraging to others. You'll benefit from being that way and so will everybody else.