The one to watch: Will Sharpe
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At the young age of 25, actor, director and writer, Will Sharpe has a résumé that many older than him desire.
The British-Japanese wonder kid is a University of Cambridge alum, where he was the president of the esteemed Cambridge Footlights Revenue. He has written for the popular BBC two show, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, appeared in many episodes of the BBC three sketch show; The Wrong Door, guest-starred in Casualty, Sirens, and most recently, the amazing BBC One show, Sherlock.
After talking to a room filled with aspiring film makers, who like myself are dying to know the secret to his success, Sharpe sits with me to discuss his recent BAFTA nomination for his very low budget, feature film writing and directorial debut, Black Pond, which he co-directed with his friend Tom Kingsley.
The film was made on the micro-budget of £25,000, which seems almost ludicrous in this day and age, even for a low-budget flick.
The dark comedy which is also Simon Amstell’s feature film debut, tells the story of a family who have been accused of murder, when a stranger comes to dinner.
“Making the film wasn’t easy,” says Sharpe as he explains the process of making the BAFTA nominated film to me.
Sharpe has a kind of quiet hipster charm that reminds me of a young Woody Allen circa Annie Hall, (If a young Woody Allen circa Annie Hall was attractive).
He is dressed in muted colours. Jeans, a jumper with a coat, a scarf round his neck, and to complete the hipster look, he is wearing a pair of round slightly over-sized glasses on his face.
“Tom and I made a short film together, which a production company that I can’t name saw and liked,” says Sharpe in quiet tone. “So they offered us £50,000 to make a feature film. In the scheme of things £50,000 wasn’t much, but to us it was, and we were really excited about it.”
“We started working on an idea straight away. Then the boss of the production company went on sabbatical, and came back very uninspired, cancelled all the deals he had made, so we were left with no funding… We had already gotten so far in the development, and we thought, no one was paying us to develop it, when normally we would have been paid, so we thought’ let’s carry on and see what happens.”
Through perseverance, a lot of emails and their own money, Sharpe and Kingsley raised the funds to make their film, and using common sense, they found a way to get the best out of their budget.
“We had a crew of four, we wrote the script to as few locations as we could, and always tried to make sure, that they were locations that we could get, like; house, or woods, as opposed to hospital...”
Most of the film was shot in Sharpe’s parent’s house, which is quite fitting, as it also happens to be the place where he heard of his BAFTA nomination.
Sharpe reservedly recalls the moment whilst smiling contently. “It felt very strange and nice… it was nice to tell my girlfriend and my parents… it was a nice day.” The humble director admits that he never expected this much attention from Black Pond, in fact for Sharpe and Kingsley, Black Pond was their guinea pig into feature film making .
“We were basically making the film as much for ourselves as for anyone else. We wanted to learn about film making, to see what happened if we tried to make a film.”
Director and writer weren’t the only roles Sharpe played during the shooting of Black Pond, Sharpe explains. “We had such limited resources on this film, so we were all doing multiple roles. For me, acting was just another thing to do, it didn’t feel like a big deal. We all did what we could do, catering, carrying equipment…”
“My onscreen character was written as quite passive,” Sharpe explains, “because it was easier to be guided by others when I was on camera, because otherwise, the two worlds, director me, and onscreen me, would have become one, and it would have been confusing…”
“…subconsciously, there must have been some kind of distinction between acting on camera, and acting off camera.”
Sharpe and his co-director Kingsley never expected their film to see the light of day, let alone receive the press and acclaim that it is receiving.
“When we had our first screening of the film,” says the director, “the room was completely rammed, because we invited literally everyone that we knew, because we didn’t know if it would ever be seen again… at that point we didn’t even know if it was a good film, because we had never seen it with an audience.”
As to be expected, Sharpe is excited about his future in film, and where the acclaim and BAFTA nomination of Black Pond will take him.
The BAFTA award ceremony will air at 9pm on BBC one on Sunday the 12th of February 2012.