#18 Interview with Zoe Cunningham

zoe cunningham outward film networkZoe Cunningham is an award-winning technology professional and currently Managing Director of Softwire Technology, one of the Sunday Times “Best Places to Work”. In 2013 she was named as one of the 100 most influential people in Tech City, selected by the BBC as the Brightest Woman in Britain and she accompanied Prime Minister David Cameron on his trade delegation to China. Zoe also works as an actor, recently playing the lead role in Marianna Dean’s award-winning short film Symptoms and an award-nominated role in seasonal short The Christmas Movie. Zoe has published three books, her most recent entitled “An Actor’s Life” detailing her journey as an actor.

What or who was it that inspired you into a career as an actor?

I was working as the CEO of a tech company and I read a book called The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, for unblocking creative people. I didn’t think I was a creative person (or blocked) but… With The Artist’s Way, you do exercises and read essays each week and on week 8 they asked “what do you really want to be doing?” and BAM I realised that I wanted to be a film actor.

Are there any actors that influenced your approach or style?

I find that acting is quite an internal process so I try not to watch other actors and mimic them. The actors I respect most are those who are versatile and draw your attention.

What’s the best bit of acting advice you’ve been given?

Oh my goodness, there is just so much. I think the best is the one that I am always trying to strive for, which is to “not act” but instead to let the work “act you”. It’s an extremely risky, terrifying and hence difficult way to go about it but you get results like nothing else.

Zoe Cunningham Look of Love

Zoe Cunningham in Look of Love.

What do you look for in a director?

I started acting in theatre and worked with two incredible directors, Peta Lily and Jeremy Stockwell. They both pushed me a long way out of my comfort zone, while only challenging me with what I could cope with. It’s really easy to either “break” a new actor or to let them be lazy about stretching themselves so I appreciate what a difficult job it was for them to get this balance right for me. In film I have a fantastic working relationship with the award-winning female director Marianna Dean. She has this unbelievable vision for the films that she directs, which means that as an actor you look great because you fit into a well-orchestrated whole. She also has a lightness of touch in directing actors. She will get the performance that she needs by working with you, not by fighting you. Every actor I know loves to work in this way.

What do you look for in a script?

Selecting scripts is a tricky business. I’ve read a lot of scripts now and things that immediately put me off are poor spelling or grammar, unrealistic dialogue or tasteless use of difficult subjects (you’d be surprised…!). Having said that it is also very personal, so anything that hits my personal passions (sci-fi, fantasy and strong female leads) can get away with a lot more J

zoe cunningham outward film network

You have experience in both acting and producing, how do you find balance within these roles during production?

Producing fits well with acting as a role. I know some people who act and direct in the same film, which seems impossible to me as I can’t imagine being both in front of and behind the camera at the same time. Production is mostly done in advance of the film starting, so prep is quite stressful but once I am on set I can hand over to a line producer and just focus on acting.

An Actors Life For Me zoe cunningham outward film networkYour third book ‘An Actors Life for Me’ is available from April. What motivated you to write the book and how did you find the experience?

My third book was inspired by my acting coach Jeremy Stockwell. He couldn’t believe that I was starting to learn to act, aged 35, without giving up my job and going to drama school. Drama school followed by a sole career as an actor is increasingly an unfeasible choice for many people, and Jeremy saw the potential in working my way, alongside a day job. He encouraged me to write down what I was doing in order to help a wider audience.

You’ve found a healthy relationship working within both technological and creative environments. What’s been the key to successfully maintaining this balance between roles?

Technology is a fantastic environment to combine with a creative one. Jobs in technology tend to be modern (the company I work for didn’t exist 20 years ago!), well-paid and flexible. Creative work is poorly paid and you are often called on to do something with very short notice. At Softwire we have many creative people as well as me, including semi-professional musicians, authors, games designers and graphic novel writers. Balance really is the key word here – you need to make enough money that you are not drained by the lack of it (so many artists quit their art because the living conditions are just too draining year after year) but dedicate enough time to art that you are fulfilled as a person and not let all your energy get sucked into your day job.

Is there anything you’d change in the film industry?

Oh goodness yes! But I’ve just started re-reading The 7 Habits of High Effective People by Steven Covey and one key principle is to work within your Circle of Influence rather than your Circle of Concern. In a nutshell that means you will achieve more by focusing on what you can change rather than fretting about what you can’t. I don’t have enough clout to impact the film industry in general, but I can make fantastic feature films featuring kick-ass women, so I’m going to focus on that instead.

Would advice would you give to any young actors starting out?

Have another way to earn a living, and make it a career, not just a side job. I get so many more things from my job than just money – connections, self-esteem and knowledge and skills. If I’d started as an actor in my 20s and waited tables to make ends meet I wouldn’t have had the chance to develop any of these skills. Don’t rely on acting for your income and make the time you spend in a second career count for you.

Website: www.zoefcunningham.com


Twitter: @zoefcunningham

Facebook: facebook.com/zoecunninghampublic

IMDB: www.imdb.com/name/nm6147111/


Outward Interview With ScreenBrum

‘Victor’ Web-series casting and rehearsals.


Our new project ‘Victor’ has officially been cast and is about to begin rehearsals. ‘Victor’ is a web-series written and directed by @MovieGeek director David Woods.


July Ates as Esther

Liza Callinicos as Jess

Mandi Chivasa as Tamsin

The production will be based in London and rehearsals start on Friday 7th April.

More information to come including behind the scenes stills.

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Desert Island Flicks – Episode 1

Inspired by the popular Radio Four show, we take into account film lovers and what they’d need if they ever ended up on an island with only a Beach Ball for company, an ice skate for a tool and an un-opened package they need to deliver.

What eight films would you simply have to play on your waterproof, solar powered blu-ray device?

We’ve given you some rules though to help our castaways shape their choices.

First up is Neil Parmar from Red Mosquito Films…


Film 1 – The film you’ve seen more than any other
You’ve watched it countless times, but it never tires and you could watch it many more times and it will still have an effect on you.

NP: I would imagine its Goodfellas (1990) Scorsese, M. Only because I can remember that film so well and can quote a lot of the film, much to the annoyance of anyone else in the room.

goodfellas -Scorsese

Film 2 – The Classic you’ve never seen
We all have classics we’ve meant to watch but haven’t…yet. Which one would be top of your catch up list? Why haven’t you seen it? What would make you put it on?

NP: Casablanca (1942) Curtiz, M.  Never got round to it, plan to watch it one day. I’ve watched ‘Play it Again, Sam’, where Woody Allen plays a film critic obsessed with the film – really liked that.

Film 3 – The film that will definitely give you a lift
It can be sad and depressing when you’re all alone. Which film would you put on that is guaranteed to lift your spirits.

NP: Back to the Future (1985) Zemeckis, R. Seen this 80’s classic countless times. It’s my ultimate feel good film. A bad day is always bettered with a viewing of BTTF.

Film 4 – The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit
Sometimes everyone seems to love a film but it doesn’t work for you. Maybe being on an island will enable you to try and see what everyone else was seeing.

NP: Close Up (1990) Kiarostami, A. I have seen and thoroughly enjoyed ‘Ten’, ‘Taste of Cherry’ and ‘The Wind Will Carry Us’ (the latter I consider a masterpiece); therefore I was very much looking forward to watching Close Up. Something didn’t translate well in with the narrative and style of this film for me to enjoy it. The film being so highly regarded, I think it does deserve a re-watch – maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.

Close Up - Kiarostami
Film 5 – The film you wished you’d made
Either as writer, director, actor, editor, D.P. or in any other role, which film do you wish you’d had a hand in and what role do you wish you’d played?

NP: Chungking Express (1994) Wai, Wong Kar.  I adore this film; it has an excellent vibrant energy to it as well as being sombre and philosophical at the same time.  The characters have great arcs and the film has a unique mood and feel that only a great director like Wong Kar Wai can portray. Wish I made this one!

Film 6 – The film that had the biggest effect on you
Which film influenced your life, either personally or professionally, the most?

NP: Amelie (2001) Jeunet, Jean-Pierre. By this point I’d seen some pretty great films but world cinema was an area I had not sought. Watching Amelie floored me; a perfect film that opened up a whole new exciting alternative of cinema for me. World cinema made me fall in love with cinema therefore Amelie was where it all started.

Films 7 & 8 – Wild Cards
Pick any other two films that you’d take along and tell us why

 NP: Apocalypse Now (1979) Coppola, F – Probably my favourite flick of all time. What can I say that hasn’t already been said – it’s a bonfide masterpiece, everything cinema should be. The anniversary Blu-ray box set has a copy of ‘Hearts of Darkness’ bundled in-am I allowed to take that too?

True Romance (1993) – Scott, T – It’s like a fairy tale in a blood drenched, drug filled, gangster world. Fantastic characters mixed in a rollercoaster of emotions. I can’t imagine not watching Clarence and Alabama try to find peace at least once a year for the rest of my life.

The rogue disc – The film you wished you’d never seen

Even bad films can teach us in some way, but there are some that seem to be without any merit at all and you wish, like Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you could erase them from your memory. Which film, if it somehow made its way onto your desert island, would you gladly throw out to sea?

NP: Batman & Robin (1997) – Schumacher, J – I might need a coaster for my coconut milk.

About this weeks castaway

Chief of Red Mosquito Films, Neil has adopted the role/s of producer, director, cinematographer and editor on various productions for the company. Red Mosquito Films is a West Midlands based indie film production company that specialise in short films and documentaries. Inspired by a wealth of cinema and the zero-budget filmmaking of the DSLR generation, films are produced on a frequent basis and vary in style, content and narrative. ‘The Mad Jicks’ (2017, directed by Parmar) and ‘Working Girl’ (2016, directed by Nick John Whittle) are currently being entered into festivals. All other Red Mosquito films are available online, in particular ‘Reflexions’ (2016, dir. Neil Parmar) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bly7brPKIsM & ‘The Southwest’ (2016, dir. Neil Parmar) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOvnbNnmYhQ

#16 Interview with Scott M Wagstaff

Scott Wagstaff Interview with Outward Film NetworkScott Michael Wagstaff is an actor born in the West Midlands. After growing up in Wolverhampton he dived into the world of Musical Theatre training in Leeds & London – furthermore working on tours around Europe, Cruise Ships & shows around the world.

Scott has also appeared in various independent films, including The Time Of Their Lives featuring opposite Joan Collins and 6 Days featuring opposite Abbie Cornish.

Scott continues to develop his own projects alongside auditioning and is represented by leading talent agency Mondi Associates for the London, LA & NYC & markets.

What or who was it that inspired you into a career as an actor?

I guess I’d be expected to say De Niro in Taxi Driver, Brando in The Godfather or Pacino in Scarface and those guys are very inspiring acting geniuses & I’ve learned a lot from watching them. However, if I’m going to be super honest I’d have to say my Mom was the person who inspired me to be an actor. She was quite the entertainer herself, full of life, love, fun and certainly kept me interested in the arts in my youth.

What inspired me to be an actor is presenting an innate ability to feel and furthermore putting that message out to audiences locally and worldwide that as humans we need to feel and it is ok to. A message that resonates with me most right now off the back of the ‘what got me into acting’ is exactly how Viola Davis said it in her Oscar speech this year:

“I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” – Viola Davis – Oscars 2017

That is exactly how I feel and have always felt about acting.

Are there any actors that influenced your approach or style?

I’d say James Galdolfini, may he rest in peace. Watching James gave me a great sense of what it is to be vulnerable, even in those ‘tough Italian mob’ roles there is a beautiful truth present in him. He was always human. Always himself. You can see a main with pain, joy, rage, love, seduction, literally everything and anything the moment asked of him in any performance he had to deliver. He taught me what it is to be rather than what it is to ‘act’.

What’s the best bit of acting advice you’ve been given?

Definitely from Anthony Meindl (AMAW Studios) – that acting isn’t acting, it is being. It has to be me in the situation not a ‘character’ because if I’m playing a character then I’m most likely playing an idea. If I’m playing an idea then I’m not truthfully giving myself over moment to moment within the circumstances handed to me. I’m removed by an idea of it being ‘someone else’ other than me. It has to be me. How am I in an argument over betrayal. How am I in a game of seduction and so forth. Then character is built by the audience watching me on screen in those situations with a different name and attire but it’s still me!

Yep. Still feels the best advice to date. It helps me to trust me and the people I’m working with all at once to know that.

Scott playing role of Izaak in Final Reflection 1

Scott playing role of Izaak in Final Reflection

What do you look for in a director?

Someone with a clear vision but with an openness to discovering the unknown, oh and a lotta heart! It’s really exciting to meet a Director who can visualise their creativity and can talk about their vision in an awe-inspiring way, but even more so when they admit that when rolling into production it could change. That sense of openness is important to me, it also tells me they understand actors as we all prep but then let go & have to discover our journey as it’s happening, we can’t predict the future, such as life.

What do you look for in a script?

Humanity. I’m currently filming a sci-fi where the top layer is essentially about a man who unwillingly got passed on the ability to heal with his hands. However, all the themes within the film including the healing of hands were symbolic and all connected to a father letting go of the death of his 11 year old son. Don’t get me wrong, I love action, sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, myth all that stuff, I mean hand me my cape and I’ll meet you on set! However, when there is such truth embodied within those genres that tug at the heart strings then those are the scripts that get me.

How did you find the experience of working on Time of Their Lives alongside actors such as Joan Collins and Pauline Collins?

Such fun! It was all too short lived that film. Joan and Pauline are such great artists to work with, they give you everything, even in the smaller moments they are fully there ready to deliver and willing to collaborate with you. Joan started improving with me on a couple of takes, we had just had fun, that’s all there is to it and I believe Roger Goldby is probably one of the nicest men on the planet.

Time of their lives

In addition to Time of Their Lives you also worked on the psychological horror The Dare directed by Giles Alderson. Having worked on two very different genre films, do you find working in different genres develops your ability as an actor?

Absolutely. That’s the great thing about working in different genres, the situations can become more radical in which you’re placed in & that helps growth occur. I truly believe as an actor it’s important to accept that I am everything, every part of me is available with no judgement so there isn’t any genre, role, situation that I’m unavailable for.

Is there anything you’d change in the film industry?

More film investors for more films to be made please!! 😉

Scott playing role of Gwilym in Pendulum

Scott playing role of Gwilym in Pendulum

What’s next up for you?

I’ve just finished up on a lead role in a sci-fi film then onto shooting a Major Guest Lead role for Doctors BBC next week. I also have several film projects of my own in development that I’m continuously working on around jobs/auditions also.

What advice would you give to any young actors starting out?

Any way you can. Literally any possible way. Just find a way to truly embrace who you are. Find yourself and take ownership of self. Don’t be apologetic. Be unapologetic for who you are because that is what everyone in this industry is truly interested in. You. Goes the same for your acting work, if it’s you in the moment then there is no question. Keep digging deep!

You can find Scott via the links below 

Website: http://www.scottmichaelwagstaff.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/scottmwagstaff

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScottMichaelWagstaffOfficial/