IN CONVERSATION | ACTRESS – REBECCA CALDER

20.12.19

Rebecca lives in East London, not too far away from the studio. She has worked as an actor for almost 15 years, where she started in theatre and then moved on to TV.

“I love London – I’m a big fan, I think it’s an amazing city, it’s just got everything and I think artistically, it is an interesting sort of melting pot of different people and influences” – Rebecca Calder

What is your definition of studio space? 

For me, and my relationship with studios, it is predominately within a rehearsal environment, or auditioning. A lot of casting directors have studio spaces in bigger studios, so that is sort of my experience with studio spaces. It can be amazing, but it can also be off-putting because it can sometimes be the wrong space as it’s not conducive to being, I guess, emotionally available – you feel like the layout is a bit intimidating and it does have an effect on your performance surprisingly. 

A lot of casting directors are now based in places like the west London studios and Hackney Down studios, and some just seem better than others and I cant seem to put my finger on what is is that defines that. I think it’s probably the layout and light, there was one recently where I felt like I was being intimidated because the light was right in my eyes and the light was changing as time went by and I could feel it affecting my performance because I was thinking about that. 

Also layout – where you’re sitting and where everyone else is sitting and if you have space to move is really important too. 

What are the most important elements to you for a studio space? 

I think light is really important, and having a view is a massive bonus if you can see out as you don’t feel too enclosed. I mean, obviously it just depends on how much space you have and what it’s for – if you’re rehearsing then you need a bigger area, so you can move and mark things out and play with things, but for audition purposes, actually a smaller space is better as it’s all on film as a smaller space is more intimate.

Do you believe that London does have an impact on your artistic profession? 

Yeah I think so, and I also believe it has an impact on the international perspective of me and my work because I occasionally get cast to represent these “London” characters, even if it’s not specifically who I am, but because I have been living in east London for a long time, I think people make that assumption that I can encapsulate the surroundings I live in to understand who that person is. 

Would you ever consider moving outside of London? 

Yeah, I think because of my work it can take me anywhere really. I’m always doing things that take me outside of London – my next job is in London but that is quite unusual as the filming tends to take me outside of London, but auditions and sometimes rehearsals or read-throughs are in London. 

Where else would you consider moving to? 

I would be open to going anywhere, but I will probably always come back to London. I love London – I’m a big fan, I think its an amazing city, it’s just got everything and I think, artistically, it is an interesting sort of melting pot of different people and influencers. For me, it would be more interesting to be based in London in contrast to somewhere like LA – not to say the people or the work is better in London, but It just seems like the people have a lot of integrity here and are really creatively driven. 

There’s also room for a collaborative working environment within London; everyone gets brought in on projects where everyone supports each other because they understand that London is a tough city and that’s why it creates these interesting and dynamic people. Within your artistic space, most people have been through the struggle and you can only get through that with the support of others who have experienced it too, so I do think London brings out a collaborative feel where you can relate and share a wealth of knowledge because it’s such a big city, you feel like you don’t need to be protective of giving your work away as it’s big enough to share things and inspire others. 

What is important to you when it comes to location and facilities of a studio space? 

A Bathroom is really important. A lot of places don’t have accessible toilets in like a waiting room environment before an audition. They’re usually in the individual studios as opposed to the areas just outside of the studio and this is really difficult as you feel like you can’t just go in and take a minute to freshen yourself up. It is actually so important, because in my industry, when you go into an audition, you’re about to be physically scrutinised as well as judged by your work, so that is something that I think people probably don’t think about, but is really important. 

Also some privacy when you’re in the room with the decision-makers –  just some space so you don’t feel like anyone else who is waiting outside can hear, as that can sometimes hold you back. I was recently in a space in Central London and it was great because there was no waiting room outside, it was organised well so that people would just go straight into the space and there was so much space to move and feel free – I felt like I owned that space for my time and then I left and the person that followed after me had the opportunity to do the same. Often it isn’t like that, but some kind of separation from everyone else going in is definitely a benefit for sure. 

I think about it a lot, there is this one studio I go to and I never do good auditions in there and I think its because of the design of the space. They have this thing called an atrium in the middle, which looks incredible but you feel like you’re in a goldfish bowl; everyone is watching you and you can never relax – you can be there for so long and you cant prepare for the audition. These are some of the most incredible looking studios but they just aren’t great on a practical level and you can tell that everyone feels the same. You would want the studio space to work with you, not against you, if you feel like you’re being watched at a time when you’re not ready to be on, then it just puts you off and then you think if I was in a different space then this could make a difference to my performance.

On set, it is a completely different story, you are so well looked after. 

Auditioning is definitely the hardest part of any actors journey and that may be why you think about all these things when you’re in the physical environment and funny little things can really put you, off like hearing someone or feeling like you’re being watched or heard outside, or hearing someone go in before you and doing it completely unlike how you would approach it and then you go in and question yourself, so it really does impact your performance which probably wouldn’t make a difference in any other environment. 

Do you feel as though you would miss out if you did move out of London? 

Yes, we do always talk about how nice it would be if we lived by the sea, but I do feel like I would miss the hustle and bustle, and the drive that London gives you to keep pushing and occupying yourself when you’re not working – you’re able to be very fresh with things going on. You can see, we have such great theatre and festivals here that you can be a part of, you feel like you’re in a bit of community living in London even though it is a big city. Although, it would be quite nice to be by the sea. 

What is your personal vision for the future of studio space in London? 

I think it’s moving in the right direction, from what I understand from friends who have spaces. It seems like there are options for affordable spaces, which is great as people can have a small little corner of a space as opposed to having the whole space to themselves. I think it is going to change in terms of area, I think its going to be pushed out more. Look at Hackney Wick –  I’m from that era where it was full of artists and it was like an open door policy – I would like to see more of that, you know, people coming in and out of space as you never know who could come in and possibly have a positive impact on what you’re doing. Going back to the idea of collaboration, I think if it was a little more open back then and there wasn’t so many tucked away offices.

I have lots of friends within the creative space, and one particular friend who lives in New York, basically had a long lease on a massive warehouse space on the Lower East Side which must have cost him a fortune, but he gutted it and did the full fit-out, and because he got a long lease, he was prepared to pay that amount of money to really fix it up. He then invited some of his film friends down and they each had some of their own space within that, and it worked really well. It’s funny, you think it would be harder to do in New York.

If you could have a conversation with a developer what would you want to communicate with them? 

I would say to really think about what sort of people would use the space – I know it’s tricky with developers because they come in at such an early stage and they want to make it suitable for anyone and everyone, but if they could have little bit of flexibility in how they design so it can be adaptable for different uses then that would work great as people don’t just need a space to sit with a laptop to do their work. 

As an actor, you wouldn’t necessarily think that I would be impacted by studio space but it does impact what I do and you know, the nature of casting is that they have to do a lot of desk work, but then they need to make it flexible so they can bring people in and have a creative flow in the room. So, I think that’s something I would like to see – I know they cant design for me and my needs, but it would be good to see some long-term thinking behind the process. 

It’s interesting because everyone uses space so differently, my needs will be so different from a rappers needs who will be thinking about sound and acoustics, but that’s what is so great about London, it is so diverse – the people make it.

I think developers should have a conversation with artists and provide the option of giving a derelict space for free if they fix it up – the artist has a space to use as long as they need and the landlord has a renovated space – I think people would do that, artists are canny, they know how to make the best out of a situation and they know people that they can collaborate with them to help them out.