Kate Davies Speak is a British thesp hailing from sunny Bristol, who has been busy making a name for herself in several genre pictures and tv series as a bona fide ‘Final Girl’ and all round kick ass heroine. Her recent credits include the VOD alien invasion series HORIZON, the dark fantasy romp KNIGHTS OF THE DAMNED and three exciting upcoming releases from new British production outfit Dark Temple Motion Pictures – ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM, THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE and THE BARGE PEOPLE. As well as all this, Kate is a qualified Personal Trainer and fitness instructor and is the founder and manager of ‘Showreel Share Day’ via Twitter (@ShowreelShare) an initiative set up to aid her fellow actors in finding work.
In between fighting off marauding cannibals and mutated amphibians, Kate graciously agreed to talk with The Stricken Land about her career in film.
TSL What gave you the acting bug? Is your first love theatre, or film?
KDS Thanks for your questions! I originally got bitten by the acting bug many years ago when I became interested in musical theatre (prior to that I had wanted to be an illustrator and creator of video game characters). I was just finishing my A-Levels at college when I joined a production of West Side Story, I fell in love with performing and decided to embark on a career change. After performing on stage for roughly 10 years, I then decided it was time to chuck myself into working in film, I started on lots of small projects to gain experience and to fundamentally understand the difference between stage acting and screen acting. From that point onwards I became obsessed with screen work, I adore the film industry and literally love every second of being on a set. I sometimes miss being on stage but for now I am happy to work mainly in film.
TSL I’ve always been fascinated by the process behind making films and how actors approach material. What are the big differences between film and theatre acting?
KDS In the theatre the actor must perform to a huge space, therefore every ounce of energy they use must go into projecting their voice, movements, intentions, expressions. Everything appears pretty ‘big’. When you work on screen you have to pull the performance back so much, internalise everything, think the thoughts of your character without necessarily showing them. It’s the eyes of the viewer who will really decide what is going on in your character’s mind, much like real life when you read the emotions and expressions of the people you interact with. It can be so delicate and enjoyable to do. I love it. Working in horror is a little tougher as you are in such extreme and frankly ridiculous circumstances yet you must find an element of truth in order to tell your character’s story. Within any acting (theatre or film) it’s really all about listening to the other characters, whether you chose to show that is a different matter but it must always be done. If you’re truly listening, you are acting.
TSL As noted in the intro you’ve starred in several horror/sci-fi/fantasy pieces. Are you a fan of these genres yourself? What attracts you to these kinds of projects?
KDS I have many genres that I enjoy to watch but I have always been a fan of horror, sci-fi, action and thriller. Some of my favourite movies of all time are films in those genres from the 80s/90’s such as THE TERMINATOR, ROBOCOP, ALIEN, HALLOWEEN, SCREAM… Too many to mention! I am mainly drawn in by my love of simply being involved in the types of films I would go and watch at the cinema. If I read a script and I know that it’s a film I would wish to see, there’s every chance I will accept the role. I am also a sucker for a tough female lead, with idols such as; Lara Croft, Sarah Connor and Ripley – it’s often important for me that the women I portray show a toughness or strength (not just physically) that I hope will go on to inspire a new generation of young women. Not all horror films have to have weak women in them. I really enjoyed THE DESCENT for the fact that it was a great horror with an all-female cast and some really interesting characters.
TSL It’s often noted that the horror genre in particularly puts its women characters at the forefront, and the best examples feature believable, well written characters (Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Laurie Strode), usually placing them in very extreme situations. Jessica Harver in ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM and Kat in THE BARGE PEOPLE look set to join this pantheon. What do you think it is about the horror genre that makes it lean towards female characters fighting against the odds?
KDS I think people genuinely like to see a female protagonist put through her paces and hopefully survive and come out fighting. I think that many of the classics (HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, CUJO) do focus on victimising women more, I remember really enjoying Sidney Prescott in Scream as she had an edge, a toughness to her that stood out at the time. We learn to engage and connect with these characters, then they are in peril and we truly want to watch them survive so it’s very cathartic when they get the better of their enemies. I can’t wait to see Laurie Strode return to take on Michael Myers once again this year. I hope that people enjoy both of my roles that you mentioned, both are very different; Kat is certainly more of a victim than Jess but I tried to make her as believable as possible, she doesn’t do stupid cliche things (like falling over when running away) but at the end of the day she’s scared, vulnerable and has no experience of confrontation. Jess is broken, damaged and a bit unhinged, she counteracts her victim status by turning the tables and losing an interest in doing the right thing.
TSL I have to ask; with you being a qualified personal trainer fitness enthusiast, do you do your own stunts? Have you ever had any near misses or anything go wrong during a shoot, a lot of your characters find themselves in physically demanding situations?
KDS I always do my own stunt work so far, most of the time my combat sections are given quite a good allocation of time for me to learn the moves, meet the other actors, rehearse loads and refine until we are all happy. Over the years I have had a couple of mishaps, my first ever short film involved me and another actress fighting and we (foolishly) decided to keep practicing when the crew had gone on their lunch break, we moved too fast and got a bit sloppy, I accidentally punched her square in the face. That was definitely a lesson to me to be more cautious. I hurt myself last year shooting THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE when one of the cushions that had been set in place for me to land on when I had to fall backwards down the stairs was moved by a crew member as it was intruding into the shot, I just hadn’t been aware and ended up cracking my head against a brick wall, that hurt and definitely taught me to be more careful. I will have lots of stunts in my upcoming film OFF GRID, I will therefore be having several meetings and talks with the film stunt team before we do the shoot. I think sometimes I forget that you get a bit more fragile as you get older it’s only when I hurt myself I remember to take it steady lol!
TSL I remember Emma Thompson responding to the criticism of the film industry not offering interesting roles to older actresses, by telling her peers to go out and write their own films (I seem to remember that she was promoting her self penned project NANNY MCPHEE at the time.) Have you, or have you ever been tempted to put pen to paper and write your own screenplay with a role for yourself in mind?
KDS I prefer not to write as it’s not my greatest skill (although I used to when I was in my teens) however I often have a ton of creative ideas which I love to talk over with filmmakers, I love nothing more than to meet up with my screenwriter friends and bounce ideas around. I often meet with Christopher Lombard (the writer of THE BARGE PEOPLE) and talk about our next film projects including ideas for a sequel to the film…They are all just ideas right now but then again THE BARGE PEOPLE started out that way originally so who knows?
TSL Social media and the internet seem to be revolutionising how creatives make and market their material to the wider world. For instance, platforms like YouTube and Vimeo give indie and DIY operations a way to channel and promote their films. As a working actress do you see this as a big positive, in that it lowers the barriers to entry into the industry for filmmakers, special fx people and performers themselves?
KDS I think that although it can be a good way to open a few doors and get people on the radar I also think that it makes it a little harder to really establish the difference in quality for projects, it seems that almost anyone can go out and shoot a film now, which is of course both good and bad. I believe that a valuable way for anyone to learn their craft is to go out and work at it so it’s important that people are able to do so. I know that when the team I worked with on HORIZON set out to make the show we were just thankful that we were able to have an online platform to generate an audience, it would have been tough to do all of that work and not have a way of sharing it with the world. The audience was more important than the revenue, a true passion project.
TSL Tell us about #showreelshareday and the work you do helping to get the word out there about your fellow actors and actresses.
KDS #showreelshareday happened almost by accident on a day when I was sharing my showreel on Twitter. I had finally made myself a reel that I was happy to share (I’d always been very insecure about sharing my acting work) but on this occasion I think I’d figured that after all of the work myself and the filmmakers had gone to creating it that it deserved an audience, but I still felt a little awkward about just putting it out there for all to see. So I tried to make it a little more inclusive by inviting friends and followers to join in with the hashtag #showreelshareday. The next thing I remember was friends saying to me ‘do you realise that your tag is trending on Twitter?’ I couldn’t believe it! Thousands of actors were coming together to join in. It was brilliant – actors, agents, casting professionals all joining forces in sharing and watching each other’s work. It generated a real positive energy of creativity and I loved every second of it. I have now run 5 of the #showreelshareday events and will continue to do so if the actors are still enjoy themselves…
TSL Your IMDB profile states that you have a hashtag trending on Twitter – #katedaviesforbatgirl that campaigns to get you an audition for Joss Whedon’s upcoming addition to the DCEU. Have you had any comeback on this? The Stricken Land thinks you would make a fine Barbara Gordon, are you reading this Mr Whedon?!
KDS Aw that’s very kind of you! That whole thing was such a wonderful example of what can happen when you get a nice bit of support from friends and followers. It was doing well for some time however sadly even Joss is no longer attached the movie, it’s all gone a little silent. I can always take the traits of Barbara Gordon and many other iconic ladies and implement them into my future roles.
TSL Finally do you have any upcoming projects that you’re allowed to tell us about?
KDS This year I am looking forward to the releases of THE BARGE PEOPLE, WINTERSKIN, DEAD AIR, season 2 of HORIZON, MINDING MAMA, THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE and the UK release of ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM. My next film project will be OFF GRID (I’m so excited to be working alongside acting legend James Cosmo), and several more projects with Dark Temple Films… Watch this space! 🙂
TSL Thanks for taking the time to chat, and all the best for the future!
KDS Thanks for taking the time, much obliged, stay cool x