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Article – Karen Gillan On Her Big Screen Directorial Debut

 

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Posted September 13, 2018 by

Karen Gillan on her Big Screen Directorial Debut

Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy actor Karen Gillan has moved behind the camera for her feature film directorial debut, The Party’s Just Beginning. The film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival this year to strong reviews and will be released on December 7, 2018 in the United States. Dates for the United Kingdom and Canada are still to be decided.

Gillan, who has directed short films in the past, spoke during a panel session at Fan Expo Canada about the film and her directing process.

The Party’s Just Beginning is set in Inverness, Gillan’s hometown in Scotland. The actor admitted she was concerned about telling the story of her hometown in her own unique way. “It’s about the suicide rates in the highlands of Scotland, which are pretty high. The film is an exploration as to why that might be the case. It’s sort of a very strange, twisted, love letter to my hometown with a very dark subject matter. But, it’s a very real subject matter and I think that it can only be positive to highlight that, and if it can help some people that are going through a situation like that, then I think that’s the best possible outcome.”

Karen Gillan

Karen Gillan and Lee Pace in The Party’s Just Beginning

Speaking of the choice of subject matter, Gillan said that she had “always had a taste for weirder, darker things”. She grew up enjoying horror films more than others, and knew that whatever film she made, the subject matter would “be on the darker side but hopefully a little bit funny, as well, darkly funny. My movie is more of a serious drama but there’s definitely some comedy in there, as well.”

The film was shot on a shoe-string budget and filming was completed in just 18 days. A stark contrast with the Marvel Cinematic Universe films which often take five months or more to shoot. But this was hardly the biggest challenge Gillan faced on the film.

Instead, Gillan found directing herself to be quite challenging, though she had had some experience with it before. “As actors we have to make self-tapes for auditions that we can’t get to because we’re somewhere else in the world. So, you sort of get used to directing your own acting a little bit. I’d taken my experience from that, applied it to the movie and, it initially was kind of weird, because we thrive off of the reassurance we get from directors. I wasn’t really getting that from myself!” This elicited much laughter from the crowd.

Gillan’s directing-acting process was to generally do five takes of a scene. For each take she would do things differently so she had plenty to choose from during editing. Despite her lack of experience, Gillan said she didn’t rely on an Assistant Director to help her decide on the best takes. “I kind of trusted myself in that situation. My producer was on the monitor more than she would have been… She kind of just left me to it and it was great!”

Karen Gillan & Lee Pace

Karen Gillan and Lee Pace in The Party’s Just Beginning. Source: IMDB

Talking about directing her fellow actors in The Party’s Just Beginning, Gillan said she mostly just left them to do their jobs. She said she would never do a line-read or interfere in their process. The most she would do would be to give them something emotional to work off of. She felt that her years of experience as an actor helped her direction because she knows what actors need.

Gillan also spoke of the intensity of being in the director’s chair. “It’s a really intense job, to be honest, because you don’t really switch off. I’ve worked in movies for years and, as an actor, you sort of turn up, you do your part, and then you can leave work and go home and everything is organised for the next day. But, as a director, everybody’s looking to you for an answer, like ‘this one or this one?’ ‘red or blue?’. And, that’s fine because it’s fun to make those decisions, but it’s just that sense of responsibility and you have to think about it the night before for the next day, and plan in advance, so your head is just all over so many things. It’s like the ultimate form of multi-tasking.”

The stress of the job was somewhat compounded by the fact that Gillan was coming off of doing three films in a row. “The Party’s Just Beginning overlapped with the end of filming Jumanji. At that point I was like, ‘I have nothing more to give!’. So, that was challenging, but somehow you always find a way to get through it.” She was only able to rest after the film was completed before heading into Avengers: Infinity War.

But, the experience of being in the director’s chair has made Gillan an easier actor to work with, she says, because she understands the importance of supporting the director’s overall vision for the film.

Gillan ended the session with words of encouragement for aspiring female directors, especially as there are so few in the industry at the moment. She also professed a desire to direct a superhero film, though nothing is yet on the horizon, despite rumours suggesting otherwise. Hopefully the actor-director will get some much-needed rest now before promotion for The Party’s Just Beginning starts in earnest later this year.

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Louis Skye
@LouisSkye77
bloggingatwarp10.blogspot.com
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