By Carmen Anderson
Richard Buck, Olympian, speaker, actor, producer, writer and film director, arrived in Gibraltar at the end of May to hold a 4-day short film workshop. The workshop, organised by White Light Theatre with funding from Gibraltar Cultural Services, included casting sessions, introduction to screen, reading film scripts, rehearsing for filming and holistic approaches to filming scenes.
Richard had previously visited Gibraltar in 2017 to hold workshops based on his experiences as an athlete. Here, he met Jackie Villa of White Light Theatre and in conversation mentioned that he was an actor and a film maker. The idea of a film-themed workshop was born.
During the first workshop session, the participants focused on casting; “They looked fantastic on film, they brought the material to life, and they were really good sight-readers which is a compliment to their training. I was so impressed!” Richard told The Gibraltar Magazine.
“I didn’t want to box anyone into a part that they weren’t comfortable playing.”
The biggest surprise to the participants was realising the pace at which work is done in film; “Once you get your script, you’ll read through it maybe once or twice at a table read, and then you’re sent home to make your own decisions on it. You have to bring the package to the table and then we shape it on the day. Whatever you bring will be added to; we give it some shade and light, and structure a little bit of movement to it,” Richard explained.
Richard wrote a short film for the participants to use; “I wanted to provide them with a variety of different characters with no gender specific roles as I didn’t know what the gender mix of the participants would be. The script was intentionally left quite open as I wanted to see what they would bring out. I didn’t want to box anyone into a part that they weren’t comfortable playing. I gave them film direction, but I let them take their characters where they wanted to, because this was about them experiencing film,” he said.
The intention behind these workshops was to ensure that participants would be able to discover all aspects of film. “It is of tremendous value for actors to learn both sides of the camera in order to appreciate how hard people’s jobs are on set,” Richard said, “they took to this phenomenally well. I think we have some talented future crew and film directors.”
Louis Russo, who took part in the workshops, said: “The experience was very insightful. As someone who is a lover of film, it showed me an appreciation of how everyone has the same amount of pressure and the same amount of importance on set. As an actor, it has encouraged me to continue with film.”
Richard had always enjoyed acting as a child but initially dedicated himself to sport. “Sport is amazing but draining,” he said. “After my second Olympics, my body was doing fine but my mind wasn’t. So, I started taking acting classes to support my mental health and one day I realised that I didn’t want to compete in another Olympics, I wanted to be an actor. Dramatic as it sounds, I believe that acting saved my life and brought me back to the real world.”
“Gibraltar has amazing stories to tell, but the world doesn’t know about them, and it needs to.”
Richard would love to come back to Gibraltar for future workshops; “I really hope that the value of this type of event is recognised and that there will be a greater dedication to creativity on screen in Gibraltar. Gibraltar has amazing stories to tell, but the world doesn’t know about them, and it needs to.”
Jackie Villa explained her delight at how beneficial the workshops have been; “Over the four days the participants have picked up ten times more than I thought they would, as actors and as crew. They have seen that actors are not the be all and end all; these participants have gained a sense of respect for the work of the crew and have now got a more holistic overview of film.”
Christina Reyes’ reaction to the workshops echoed those of other participants: “I have loved this incredible experience! We got to shoot a movie and I got to act in front of a camera which has always been my dream. It was challenging but I’ve taken so much from it.”
Jackie plans to continue holding workshops in the future and introducing people from the UK; “We have local talent, but I think if we open our doors to people who have more experience in certain fields, then we enrich the training of our local creatives. I already have a few ideas for future projects including local people, as well as people who might be willing to come over to Gibraltar to provide training in different aspects of film and theatre.” This is a view wholeheartedly supported by Lorena Rodriguez, a participant of the workshops: “Richard has taught us so much and we have been able to experience not just acting but working behind the scenes. The acting is also completely different from theatre which is what we are used to. I would love to do it again.”
White Light Theatre is staging Canterbury Tales at the Laguna Social Club at the start of July: “It’s going to be set up as a theatre supper with medieval style food and drinks and our youngest members will be taking to the stage for the first time. Canterbury Tales is very tongue and cheek, and it will be loads of fun with audience participation.”