Olga Benário Prestes

A few months back, Speaking in Tongues Theatre Company approached us to create a trailer for their theatre show, “Olga’s Room”. We were excited about it because our path to becoming film makers was through my work in the theatre and creating trailers for my own productions. It was really nice to be working in theatre again. One of the founding members of SIT is a very talented actress, and friend of mine, Ceridwen Smith, so it was a joy to be working with her again too.

The process of creating a trailer for this show began with me reading the full script by Dea Loher. The script was fantastic and exactly the sort of piece I would have wanted to work on as a director. Complex characters in an extreme situation and looking at something we are all familiar with but in a very different – and inherently theatrical – way. Further the main character in the script is a fascinating, if lesser known, historical figure: Olga Benário. She really captured my imagination.

From the script we edited down some key lines and ideas when we met with Ceridwen and another SIT founder, Bethan Clarke, over a coffee in the National Theatre bar. We discussed the look they wanted, the tone and feel of the trailer and agree that it should be kept fairly short. We were left with lots of ideas swimming around and came home and polished them up into a shooting script. We ran this past SIT and were given the go ahead.

We had two production days, the first being in the studio recording Ceridwen singing and Bethan, who plays Olga, delivering the voice over that holds the trailer together. As usual everything was still up for discussion and we made edits as we heard the script aloud and tried a variety of takes in the singing that Chris later patched together into the soundtrack.

Voiceover Recording

Before the second day of the production, the filming day, we made a test video to make sure that the structure and basic premise of our shooting script would work and to make sure we could get everything we needed on the shoot. We made this using my first ever teddy bear that hangs about with me in my bedroom at home. We titled this test video, “Olga BEARnario” and we provide it here for your amusement and comparison. (There is also a cameo from a stuffed sheep that lives in my room after being borrowed from a friend for a play many years ago)

Olga BEARnario:

The filming took place at the Blue Elephant Theatre  in South London. A great black box theatre space where we could bring our own menacing world to life. On this day we met the final SIT founder, Larisa Faber, and Raoul Schlechter, who was playing a key role when the play had its run in Luxemburg.

Water catching the light on a film set
Aaron preparing the set before we begin filming Bethan

Without a huge budget to splash out on, I became the make-up artist and we made good use of a muddy patch of ground opposite the theatre. Everyone was in really good spirits considering the content of the script but I have found this is often the way. As a theatre director I always laughed more when the script called for misery. I suppose it’s a natural defence. Whatever the reason, we laughed plenty and then focussed when the camera was rolling (or silently encoding, I should say).

actors holding each other on set
A quiet moment for Bethan and Raoul between takes

So dedicated were the SIT team that some even went above and beyond the call of duty. After I had finished ripping Larisa’s clothes, making her filthy with mud and make-up, she cleaned herself up, threw her clothes in the bin and returned to the room where we were filming, only for me to then ask if she’d mind getting back into her clothes to appear in the background of some additional shots. With only a slight roll to her eyes she picked her clothes out of the bin and got changed back into them to satisfy my creative demands. Well worth it and I was very grateful!

Making a dirty actress filthy
Larisa inspects the mud that Aaron is arranging artfully on her clothes, face and in her hair.

We got some really lovely footage and had a fantastic day.

First we produced a trailer for them to use in Luxembourg which showed more footage featuring Raoul, who had already been cast in the Luxembourg run. Then we made the London Run trailer which trims Raoul’s footage so he is unidentifiable as he won’t be appearing in the London run. It has been given a grittier grade to give it a darker feel.

We have really enjoyed working on such a creative project and  really enjoyed the show at the Arcola Theatre  last week. So did The Independent.

Feel free to share any thoughts on the trailers with us!