As every smart director knows, the real trick is to find insanely talented actors and ride on their coat tails. For instance, last year our insanely talented actress Abigail Hardingham won the BIFA Most Promising Newcomer Award, so Chris and I got the privilege of joining the selection committee for this year’s award. The long list we helped draw up was published last week and as we don’t the final vote I thought now would be a good time to shine a light on my personal favourites. These are some of the talents you should buckle to your hearts and build your films around.
First of all I’m utterly delighted that the long list contains two actors from My Feral Heart. Jane Gull’s absolute diamond of a debut is a micro budget feature that hangs on the chemistry between nominees Will Rastall and Steve Brandon. We agreed the term “newcomer” covers anyone with no major feature credits behind them, but Steve is actually giving his first professional performance in anything. It’s a glorious film, and I’d also give a mention to Shana Swash who doesn’t qualify as a newcomer but gives the performance of her career.
I’m also especially delighted that David Sillars has made it onto the long list for his role in Henry Coombes’ Seat In Shadow.He wasn’t initially submitted for the award, doubtless because as an artist and performer of some pedigree he doesn’t initially strike you as a newcomer. However Chris argued vociferously that we should consider his performance which is bold, charming, adventurous and honest and clearly marks a change in his career. The film itself has an uneven ending but David is a brilliant new old face who is utterly compelling to watch.
Yr Ymadawiad (The Passing) is a difficult, beautiful, mesmerising meditation on family. At times astonishing to watch it’s not entirely successful but everything that is right about it finds focus in the performance of Annes Elwy. She finds a strangeness, a sympathy and a controlled but rising panic that gives the film it’s heartbeat and I long to see what she does next.
I also want to give mention to Ziad Abaza who plays the lead in the gruesome K Shop which gives a modern twist to the Sweeney Todd story. It’s a film that many on the selection panel had to watch in stages as the opening half hour is gore heavy but beneath the blood and guts Ziad gives a magnificent performance as the damaged, brooding, too-smart for this place, kebab shop owner getting increasingly trapped by his own malevolent wit.
Lastly I cannot finish this rundown without mentioning Hayley Squires‘s luminous performance in Ken Loach’s fantastic and furious I, Daniel Blake. Her co-star Dave Johns deservedly joins her on the long list but for me Hayley’s performance surpasses all. If I were a betting man I’d put money on her taking this and the Best Actress award, for BIFA and probably the BAFTA as well. Dynamite.
These are just my personal favourites, it’s a magnificent list and I urge any director reading to make sure you see all of the performances on it as, selfishly, these are all people who can change your career.