Feel The Fear, Do It Anyway, F*** Up Forward: A Conversation with Grace Blackman
Born in South-East London, Grace Blackman has trained with the National Youth Theatre, Loughborough University, Arts Educational and National Youth Film Academy. She graduated in 2016 and is best known for feature films Eleven, Deep Breaths and web series Tour Girls.
Grace most desires to play strong female characters created by inspiring female filmmakers and is very passionate about using film to cause positive change. She’s never played the same character type twice so the future of her career is somewhat of a mystery.
In our interview, Grace tells The Fan Carpet‘s Marc Jason Ali where it all began, moving from theatre into film and her upcoming releases…
If we go back to the beginning, was there a defining moment for you to get into the Film Industry?
I first made the transfer from theatre to film in 2015 with Outsiders; a short film produced by Slenky, BFI Creative Skillset and Sony Professional. The talent in the cast and crew was incredible; Stefan Boehm has since gone on to act in feature film Blackbird, TV series Line of Duty and Cleaning Up, Tom Moutchi who has since worked on feature film The Hustle and known for sketch show Famalam, editor Hannah Leckey has gone on to join teams on feature films Artemis Fowl, Holmes & Watson and Mission Impossible Fallout, legendary stunt woman Fizz Hood has since worked on Wonder Woman 1984, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Solo, The Last Jedi & Rogue One – a truly talented team across the board and I learnt a great deal from them. I will always be so very grateful that the team took that chance to cast me without any screen experience and it’s where my professional film career began.
You’re most recent film, The Programme is in production, what can you tell us about the project?
It was my first time working with writer and director Antony Spina and it’s a completely unique project. Filmed in the same vein as documentaries such as Making a Murderer and The Keepers, it’s a hypothetical depiction of a world in which prisons are oversaturated with inmates, are desperately understaffed and the ramifications that could occur should extreme penal systems be implemented in an attempt to compensate. With violence increasing day on day, contraband flows filtering through prisons almost openly and gang culture thriving; The Programme questions how far could things go when the only solution is extreme intervention, taking inmates’ liberty but also their humanity to create the ‘perfect prisoner’. Once completed, it will be submitted to various film festivals towards the end of the year.
You were Pfani in The Angel of Auschwitz, is something with a historical context something that appeals to you?
This was my first project with a historical context and because of the delicate subject matter, I was so grateful to be working with Terry, Courtney, Sam and the Cobra Films team. The script, work ethic and sensitivity on set produced a very special film. It was a blessing to work opposite Hayley-Marie Axe and Noleen Comiskey; their dedication into the research process of their characters was second to none and this transferred into their powerful performances. The Angel of Auschwitz has never been more needed, particularly because recent publications have revealed one in 20 Britons ‘do not believe’ the Holocaust took place. It is so important to keep our history alive on film to remember stories such as that of Stanislawa Leczenska’s selfless bravery to save countless lives. Audiences are always hungry for new subjects, platforms and technology with film, but extraordinary deeds from extraordinary people will never become dated – that is what appeals to me about historical context films.
What is your preferred genre, and do you have any favourite films?
To watch; I absolutely love action films – nothing beats an adrenaline rush! However, my individual favourite films, have absolutely no consistency in style or genre. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Infinity War, Jurassic Park, Forest Gump, Chef, La La Land, Drive, 500 Days of Summer, Hot Fuzz, Gladiator, The Social Network – I’ll remember countless more after I’ve sent this off I’m sure!
Favourite genre to work on; I am still making that decision.
Are there any other aspects of the Film Industry that you would like to pursue?
I’m currently writing a short film and very much enjoying the process – but keeping my cards close to my chest! Having co-produced a play at the Tristan Bates Theatre last August, I’m very interested to see how this skillset might transfer to producing in the film industry. But I think that is what’s so wonderful about this career; the paths and possibilities are endless.
I first became aware of you when you played a mermaid in Knights of the Damned, what can you tell us about your experience working on the film?
It was my first feature film role, first experience working with CGI, first time playing a mythical creature… it was special for so many reasons. The location was breath-taking and so was getting into the freezing water! Plus I met my fellow mermaid, Samantha Smallwood, currently my colleague at Handmade Mysteries Escape Rooms. Picking up my first DVD in HMV with my dad and my sister was a feeling I’ll never forget. An adventure beginning to end.
You have an eclectic range of credits from Short Films to Feature Film, are there any genres that you haven’t done yet that you’d like to?
Looking through this interview it often starts with ‘first experiences’ because everything has been so different, which is incredible; comedy, drama, fantasy, historical, war, sci-fi and horror – I’ve been bloody lucky! As I mentioned earlier, I love an action film and the branches of it (Adventure, Crime, Western, Epic etc.) but they’re tough to create at an independent level so those opportunities more commonly arise with an established reputation later on in a career. I’m looking forward to building different branches on my current combat training skillset, perhaps learning to ride or dabbling in some martial arts – who knows.
You’ve worked with a great crop of talent, do you have a wish list of who you’d like to work with?
How much time to you have?! I would love to work with Andrea Arnold, Patty Jenkins, Kate Herron or Josie Rourke simply because they’re incredible female directors – Christopher Nolan can be an honorary member simply because he was the first director I was truly inspired by. I do have quite a large list of people I want to work with that I keep in touch with as much as possible – time will tell.
Who inspires you within the industry?
If you work relentlessly hard and are kind to others that’s a massive thing for me. I think that’s why I fell in love with Olivia Coleman, Richard E Grant and Lady Gaga this awards season; all three are ridiculously talented, have worked tirelessly for years but are also wonderfully kind. I find that very inspiring.
Fandoms are a big part of the industry, who or what are you a fan of?
I’m a massive Marvel fan – I should probably leave it there before I get carried away (It’s bordering on a problem). If anyone starts a conversation about the MCU I will never stop talking.
With the emergence of streaming services like Netflix, what do you think the future of Cinema is?
Fantastic – it means films will be more accessible for those who previously couldn’t but would need leave the house. It means diversity can be better represented in a huge range of stories in every home. It means a black and white independent feature film not in the English language such as Roma can have a much bigger audience like never before. It means independent filmmakers can get their foot in the door by distributing their short films on a household platform – that’s a great future for cinema.
Yes, it means DVD sales are going down and cinema attendance will lower at a steady rate (though I always feel a cinema viewing can never be beaten) and therefore profit will be harder to obtain. However, if you entered a creative career to be rich, it’s not going to fulfil you in the long term. Making projects that you’re passionate about and express what you want to say or what you want to change is the best part of being a ‘starving artist’; after earning enough to live on, profit is a bonus of doing a job you love.
On the other hand, if cinema doesn’t branch into VR films I will eat my hat.