A young actor from Sunderland is taking a break from making films down in the capital to start a new acting collective here in the North East – set to champion local creatives, producers and filmmaking in the region.
With a wealth of professional experience, close links to the local film community and an overriding desire to move into film production, actor and scriptwriter Daniel Lemon has decided to step behind the camera and channel his creative energies into his new outreach venture: the Actors Forge.
‘The Actors Forge is a regular networking event where actors, writers and producers can get together to try and move the needle forward to more forms of production in the North East,’ explains Daniel. ‘The key thing was that there’s a lot of opportunities for kids here, but there’s nothing really for adults. And there is a whole industry on our doorstep – there is a diaspora of creative people who are all working in acting and films in the North East – so I felt like there was so much potential. It became a case of thinking: how do I knit this all together into something that is focused and that can move the region forward on the creative map?’
Having most recently worked as part of a northern cast-driven audio drama of best-selling North East author LJ Ross’ The Infirmary, (alongside Alun Armstrong and Kevin Whately, amongst others) Daniel’s drive to set up the Actors Forge was fuelled by his disenchantment with feeling as though he needed to live in London to make the necessary connections within the industry, while constantly being asked to travel back up to the North for filming.
‘London’s crazy, there’s no doubt about that,’ says Daniel. ‘But from a creative point of view, being from the North East means you’re not introduced to the skills and the network that you require to really make it in this industry. It’s difficult. It got to the stage where I was starting to really question how to make this work – having multiple jobs and still making it happen in London. I came to realise that, to be honest, I’m not quite sure it’s all worth it. The competition is massive, and you end up taking a lot of parts that you’re not really interested in.
‘Because I’m a North East actor and I speak with a northern accent a lot for parts, I was coming back to the region constantly to work. So it was a case of thinking: why don’t I just take the plunge and build my network and my creative future here, where I belong?’
Currently taking place every second Saturday of the month at Space 6 in Newcastle – although Daniel is seeking a more permanent creative space for the sessions – the Actors Forge provides a safe creative space for both emerging and established actors and writers in the region to rehearse, perform and, perhaps most importantly, meet other like-minded individuals. Covering improvisational forms of acting, as well as script work and rehearsed monologues, Daniel is also seeking to engage with industry professionals who, he is hoping, will offer seminars as part of the workshops – and he has already been approached by renowned producer Julia Berg, who has worked on films such as American Honey and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
‘I’m not for a second pretending that I’m the most experienced person in the world, but I have worked on a few big projects and with a few big people,’ reasons Daniel. ‘I don’t know everything, but if I can give you access to any information that would help, that I wish I’d had when I was 18 years old – whether it be about applying to drama schools, or how the film industry works, or how you get your script to screen – then here it is. We’re going to meet once every two weeks to start, and hopefully that will migrate to once a week and then, if the demand is there, I’d love to do it every Saturday and Sunday, week-in and week-out.
‘The whole theory behind this is to empower actors and creatives in the North East to create more. So the great, long-term goal is to have a production wing of the Actors Forge that can really champion the creation of films.’
The Actors Forge meet every second Saturday of the month at Space 6, 39 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle
For more information, visit www.theactorsforge.com