As part of our women of Wednesday in Space series, we spoke to Natalia May about her experience as an actress in what promises to be one of the best student-made sci-fi comedies about diners in space ever made! (Ok, there might not be many films that niche yet, but we think it might become it’s own sub-genre after this.)
Is acting something you are pursuing as a career or was Wednesday in Space more of a side project? How did you get into acting?
Acting is definitely something I’m pursuing as a career. I got into acting when I was younger, probably about 6. I was really shy so my mum enrolled me in an after-school drama club. It brought me out of my shell but then I also just really enjoyed it so since then it’s been something I wanted to be involved in. Since coming to university I got involved with as many plays and films as I could, and now I’m looking to go to drama school. I got involved in Wednesday in Space because I’ve known Ben since basically the beginning of university and he asked me to be involved. With pretty much everything he asks me to get involved in I just say yes because I know if he’s in charge it’s bound to be a lot of fun!
Can you tell me a bit about the character you played?
I played the character of Connie, who is the resident chef of the soup kitchen. She can be described as quite a surly person, certainly unphased by anything going on around her day-to-day. She gets in there, smokes a cigarette and gets out, all business. But as the events of the film unfold, she gets a bit more…erratic, shall we say. I think deep down, she, much like the other central characters, has a good heart. That’s certainly something I tried to evoke when I was playing her.
Given the minimal budget of the film, did you find yourself getting involved in ways you wouldn’t normally expect as an actress?
To be honest, with a student film, you’re guaranteed to be doing more than just saying your lines and getting out. You just have to much in and get involved however you can. In terms of set, I got there a couple of days after everyone else so there wasn’t much left to do, everyone smashed it. But we all helped out with getting props ready and things. Everyone was on hand to help everyone, basically.
What is it like being a woman involved in filmmaking?
From the experience I’ve had, it’s been great. I’ve had the privilege of being able to work on little films here and there with friends, so I’ve been able to choose to get involved in things with people I respect and who I know respect me. So there’s been no worry or anxiety about being a woman in filmmaking. What I loved about Wednesday in Space in particular, I think generally within comedic circles it can feel a bit dominated by men, so it was really nice to feel very welcome in Wednesday in Space. I didn’t feel like an outsider as a woman in a comedy, and of the central four characters two of them were strong female roles, so that was really nice, too. It was a really nice collaborative process.
Who are your favourite female filmmakers, actresses?
I always struggle to answer questions like this because I’m not someone who tends to have a favourite anything for more than a short period of time. But I can tell you who I like at the moment! In terms of female filmmakers, I think Greta Gerwig is doing great things in film at the moment. I’ve loved Jenny Slate for a while, she’s a female comedian and actress. She’s a kind person and so I like her humour. I tend to associate more with comedians, male or female, who don’t rely on making someone else the butt of the joke. I find it impressive when someone can find humour in day-to-day things without having to resort to any kind of negativity. And I think Jenny Slate is that kind of person.
Did you look to any specific films or actors in your inspiration to this role?
Honestly no. The whole process of getting the film on its legs was very speedy, we filmed it over the span of a week and a lot of people came and went as their parts required. I barely had time to look at the script before I got there! I also find it hard to base the way I act on other characters or actors as I then find it difficult to get out of that headspace and think, well this is Connie, not so-and-so who I’m emulating. So I kind of just tried to go with my gut. But I think that’s also a testament to how well the characters were written, you know, that I was able to read the script and know who Connie was and how I should play her.
What was the biggest challenge of taking on this role?
I have tended to veer more towards drama in the past as opposed to comedy. I’m more confident in serious roles, so for me, my biggest challenge was probably embracing the comedic side of the project. It was especially hard because I was surrounded by people who I know are just so funny, so the pressure was on. I don’t think I necessarily did a perfect job, but it was a fun experience and I think it all came together well!
What was your favourite line of dialogue?
There was a moment where someone comes in and is interviewing everyone, and he tells Connie she can’t smoke. She goes, ‘Well, I can’t smoke out there!’ and goes to open a curtain and show the view outside the window. Obviously we were filming in a garage, so when she opens the curtain it just reveals wall, but it’s edited to look like outer space with someone just floating out there. Little bits like that, when you’re filming it you have to use your imagination to see what it will ultimately become, but those kind of scenes are just so much fun.
What was your favourite scene to film?
There’s a scene where I get to mess around with loads of fake blood which was so much fun to film, I got to stamp on these fake organs and just make a huge mess. But honestly I don’t know if I could narrow it down to one favourite scene. The whole thing was just so much fun, every scene was my favourite scene.
Well, it might be too late to play a starring role in the film, but if you’re keen to help get a student-budget film onto the silver screen, you can get involved by donating to the film’s Kickstarter, which will be launched soon. For updates as to when the film will be available to watch, follow Wednesday in Space on Facebook.