Karen Bryson is set to return to the big screen with new British science fiction film The Carrier, which received its UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival.
We caught up with the actress to chat about the film, working with director Anthony Woodley, and the importance of independent film festivals.
- You are about to return to the big screen with new film The Carrier, so can you tell me a bit about it?
The Carrier is a sci-fi/thriller based in a world where there is a pandemic sweeping the nation, it's to do with antibiotic resistance and it is a pandemic that's spread through touch. That is the premise of the film, but the film doesn't look at that as it starts on the plane. A fortunate few end up on an out of commission plane in order to escape and look for a rumoured cure in Greenland. There's no choice for them but to get up in the air rather than stay on the ground.
- You take on the role of Maria Adams in the film, so what was it about the script and the character that was the major draw?
I thought that all of the characters were amazingly written. I am always intrigued by those life and death situations where somebody behaves in a way that I'm not sure that I would; Maria is a character that really does stay very calm during all of the mayhem. A lot of questions are asked of the audience during this film, such as 'what would you do in a situation like that?' For example, there are a couple of physical things that people have to face and get through to survive on this plane as the infection is on the plane.
Maria seems to be the calm element who questions humanity and questions her faith; she is very religious. She was very calm in a deep way. I am intrigued by the human condition and how people react in certain situations. I found Maria's reaction and the path that she took rather interesting and trying to find that truth was intriguing and exciting.
- You have slightly touched on this but how do we see Maria develop as we go through the film?
She doesn't give much away in the beginning and it is only as we go through the film do you get the distinct feeling that she has suffered loss; you then find out that she has suffered the loss of her child in the first wave of death. She is on the plane with her husband and she is coming on board wondering if she should have stayed with her child. There are all sorts of stuff going on.
At first, you just think this woman is petra - meaning that she is petrified and she cannot move. She looks quite calm and never gets to the point where she goes 'aarrrrgh.' She comes on board with heartbreak and tries to get through it with faith, but that doesn't work. You see her developing in terms of her struggling with her faith, her humanity and what she decides to do that's right for her and her husband.
- The Carrier sees Anthony Woodley back in the director's chair for his second feature film, so how did you find working with him?
He is absolutely brilliant. He is quite quiet but he is one of those directors who doesn't have to be anything other than he is. He is not one of those directors who are like 'I am the director,' he is very collaborative; it always felt that way anyway. He would give you your notes quietly and you can have a discussion about it.
He would sometimes tell you about what he was going to do CGI wise so you could get a really clear idea of what the scene needed and you, as an actor, would know how to patch it. It was really lovely to work with. It was great and I really like that quiet energy. Especially with the character that I was playing, I think if I had been barked at or the energy was a little bit different he might not have got the emotion out of me for Maria.
He was perfect for me and I just thought he was brilliant. He had a very clear idea of storytelling and where all fitted it in, so he was the perfect captain of the ship.
- I was going to ask you about how collaborative a process it was - it sounds like the director was very open to you bringing your own ideas to the characters and the scenes?
Very much so. The characters were very well written so we didn't have to fill in any gaps and it could be interpreted in different ways. What was great, was the fact that they were well written but you could bring your energy... anyone playing a character it's going to be that person playing part of themselves in that character. Every person brings a different energy to the table and if someone else had played Maria, she would have brought her own energy. It really was a collaborative process and Anthony was just great.
- The Carrier is set to receive its UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival this week so how excited are you about the festival and being part of it?
Amazing, I am a big supporter of Raindance and a lot of the independent film festivals in London. I think it is really important that we offer stories that are pretty much untouched as it is an opportunity to express a point of view or a voice that may not ordinarily be looked at because of the constraints of a big studio. A writer could writer something which is considered very interesting, but by the time it ends up on the big screen, it is a completely different product because of the studio pressure and making money.
The thing that is amazing about independent film, is telling really interesting stories. I just find the vigour and the spunk behind filmmakers incredible because a labour of love is not plain sailing as you have to raise the funds and get the right actors at the right time; it really is a long process that may not be completed. So, to have a film in the can and be privileged enough to be shown in a festival such as this, it really is a huge honour. I am a big big supporter of independent film.
- Just how important are festivals likes Raindance in giving smaller movies a platform?
If we didn't have independent film we would live a very sedentary life that's... there's something about people self-funding. Raindance even do a five-second film that you can take on a camera; they encourage storytelling, even if it costs £500. It doesn't have to be silky and high quality. You can go to the cinema and watch blockbusters but with independent film, you are looking at the stars of the future.
If they are going to end up in Hollywood where they have got constraints, this is the place where they can really have some fun and be creative. Independent festival are really important and I am a big fan and supporter of them. It's all about celebrating and encouraging a person who has taken two and a half years, from the beginning and conception of a script to getting it made. That is bravo in my book.
- Throughout your career, we have seen you work extensively in television as well as in film and shorts, so how do the mediums compare?
Theatre is very different to being in front of a camera for sure. It's interesting because a lot of people think there's a difference between television and film - not that I have done a lot of film - but the journey of the actor is still the same across the medium; which is to be as honest, truthful, and in the moment as possible. That really is as simplistic as I see it. For me, it is the same and it is about being as truthful as you can.
- You have also been working on short film Family Reunion, so can you tell me a bit about that?
Absolutely brilliant script. Funnily enough, it was conceived years ago and was written by the director David Kitchen. I co-produced it with him and we got Clint Dyer playing my brother and Trevor Laird to play our father. It is about a family with secrets and the secrets happen to come out in the ten-minute duration of this film. It doesn't have a happy or a sad ending, it is a slice of their life and a dramatic moment in their life. It is really beautifully written and shot and I am really proud of that.
- As well as starring in Family Reunion you have also served as producer for the first time. How did you find your behind the camera role and how much is it something that you would like to pursue further?
For sure. The making of work has always intrigued me. I have flitted in and out of writing, as most actors do, but there is something about getting with a group of creative people to start making the work. The older you get the more you realise in order to be in control - which you never are as an actor - you need to start making the work, where you can choose the people that you work with.
It is definitely something I would like to do more of and I would like to direct at some point as well. I really want to start producing good work with a bunch of creatives that I am inspired by.
- Finally, what's next for you as we head to the end of 2015 and the start of 2016?
There is a series called Cuffs that comes out in October, which is a police drama set in and around Brighton. I am playing a custody sergeant in that and it is really great writing.
At the moment, there are a couple of things in the air that I can't really talk about. You never know until it is in the can. I am doing what I do, trying to hustle, trying to keep my head above water, and trying to be creative (laughs).
The Carrier received its UK premiere at Raindance Film Festival earlier this week.