Award winning actress Lara Lemon (SIFF Best Actress in a feature & Chelsea Film Festival Best Supporting Actress – Off-Piste – Jack in the Box Films) is experienced in film, TV and Theater.
In our interview we discuss Lara’s inspirations, experiences and her approach to working in film and on stage.
What or who was it that inspired you into a career as an actor?
I always loved being on the stage but as I was a painfully shy child, I only ever really played statues in school plays (true story). It was only once I’d joined a youth theatre at 17 that I seriously considered a career in the business. I have my parents to thank for being hugely supportive too.
Are there any actors that influenced your approach or style?
I’m forever seeing performances that make me feel a mixture of pure inspiration and ‘well, I could never top that’! I have a theory about the actors I love watching; I believe you can tell when an actor loves what they are doing as there is a sense of play. Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Helen McCrory, Denise Gough, Kate Fleetwood, Billie Piper, Julie Walters, Maureen Beattie, Zawe Ashton, Olivia Colman, Parker Posey, Daniel Mays, Rory Kinnear, Leonardo Di Caprio, Stanley Tucci. I know I’ve missed so many actors off this list but it’s a start…
What’s the best bit of acting advice you’ve been given?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented actor and directors who have shared invaluable advice. Most practically it would be learn your lines for auditions. But more personally, be honest and take risks are the pearls of wisdom I try and live by. And I love this quote from Gustave Flaubert – “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work”
What do you look for in a director?
Sensitivity and honesty. I want to be challenged by a director to bring out the best work possible and if something is not working, I’d like to be told. We are all, after all, working towards the same goal: a great final product. For me, sensitivity in a director is important; to the script, to the cast, to the crew. I’ve worked with directors who have been dictatorial, bordering on bullying, and I’ve always felt like they haven’t got the best out of people. Trust throughout the team is important and this comes from the director.
What do you look for in a script?
A great story told well. I am often sent scripts to play ‘the girlfriend’ or ‘the wife’, and it can grow a bit disheartening to read parts where the character’s only purpose is to serve the man, but saying that it does appear there is a movement towards more rounded female characters in the industry. I have been lucky enough to work with some wonderfully talented film makers who are helping this shift.
You career is on the rise, with Best Actress awards on the festival circuit for ‘Off-Piste’. Would you like to discuss your career trajectory and how has it affected your creative life?
‘Off-Piste’ gave me a great platform and I’m over the moon with the awards – more than anything, it was such a confidence boost. However, I’m still working hard to secure projects I want to work on. I hope that I continue to work on exciting and challenging projects, film and stage, with as many talented people as I can.
You are a big supporter of fringe theatre and the no-low budget aspect of that arena is comparable to zero budget film. Having experienced both, would you agree with this and do you think, to allow creativity to flourish, there needs to be an attitude shift towards viewing zero budget filmmaking in the same bracket as fringe theatre?
I believe that collaboration in this industry is hugely important – not only are you able to practice your craft (whether it be acting, directing, designing, cinematography etc) but you are able to meet and work with like-minded individuals and build a network. I do think that fringe theatre and the no-low budget film industry have similarities and both face similar challenges. Unfortunately people are easily exploited in this industry which is giving true collaboration a bad reputation. It’s important to know your worth and recognise what is worth your time. I am hugely grateful for experiences I have received from fringe theatre and low budget films (‘Off-Piste’ was made for a mere £25,000!) but I’ve become a lot pickier when it comes to these projects.
What are the different challenges you face, comparing theatre to film? Do you have a preference?
I couldn’t choose one or the other – both come with different disciplines. In theatre voice is key. You need to share the story truthfully while being heard by 800 people each night. There is also the pressure of getting it technically right each night – you have no editor to make you look better! But then the beauty of stage for me is that you can return to the world and scenes night after night to try new things. Having an audience in front of you is energising and running through the play in one go builds a momentum which certainly helps with the character journey. Plus, you have the luxury of three weeks rehearsal. Filming in a non linear fashion and starting & stopping scenes are aspects of filming I find challenging, but in comparison to theatre, I love film because of the collaboration between different departments.
What’s next up for you?
I’m back into the world of theatre for a while on a tour of ‘Strictly Murder’ by Brian Clemens. It is directed by Brian’s wonderfully talented son and film maker, Samuel Clemens, and we will be travelling all over the country from Swansea to Inverness to Eastbourne to Lowestoft. It’s a great thriller set in France just before World War II begins. Then, who knows what’s around the corner…
For you, what would you identify as the ‘art’ in acting and what’s your personal philosophy towards your work?
I suppose, like most actors and creatives, my belief is that the art is finding the truth in the work you do. And in terms of my personal philosophy towards my work, Judi Dench got it just right: “I think you should take your job seriously, but not yourself”.
Would advice would you give to any young actors starting out?
If you can deal with the lifestyle, stick with it – even with the lows, it is the best job in the world! Take risks. Say yes. Know your worth. Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. Don’t beat yourself up. And be kind to people, it costs so little but means so much.
Tour dates for “Strictly Murder” can be found here… Strictly Murder Tour
You can find more information on Lara here…