Spotlight On… Singer, Songwriter & Actor, Christopher Guard

A year ago to the day we published an interview with Christopher Guard, familiar to many from the small and big screen. We chatted about his band, Leapfrogtown, amongst other things. Break A Leg caught up with Chris again to find out what’s been happening for Leapfrogtown over the last twelve months…

Tell me about Leapfrogtown, what’s new for the band and have there been many changes in the past year?

The main change for LFT this last year has been the recruitment of Andrada on keyboards and BVs. The atmosphere and dynamics her playing brings to live performance are the missing pieces in the jigsaw.

The other major change has simply been the ongoing togetherness and vibe between the 5 of us. When we hit the road this will be as important as the music itself.

You performed in a live gig back in March; what sort of vibe and feedback did you receive on the night?

This was an in-house showcase gig, with a fantastic crowd. We recorded and filmed the whole show, and the energy totally translates. It was proof that the keyboards work and the band has its own unique vibe. The feedback was heartfelt and genuine and provided terrific momentum going forward.

You have recently added new songs to your set, what was the inspiration for them?

Yes, new songs both with the band and as an acoustic duo with Florin. The Lie Song contains the line “Lie to me if you have to baby, Lie to someone else, But for god’s sake baby don’t lie to yourself”. That’s what it’s about!  When You Made Me is about the love my parents must have felt for each other in the good times when I was conceived, and the tragedy that ‘tore us all apart’ and wanting to ‘go back to the start’, a return to innocence. It starts with the line “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m really fucking bored…” cos there’s nothing more frustrating than being ignored by people who used to love you! I Need to Hate You is a great line Andrada quoted to me from personal experience…it just had to be a song. It has a Cobain sort of vibe and is about the hypocrisies of trying to get out of a relationship painlessly.

What’s coming up next for you all?

Currently we’re recording and mixing some of my songs for Wendy Morgan’s ground-breaking new movie ‘Mercy’, coming to festivals in early 2018. There are also plans for a live premier, with the band playing some of the music live to picture. I’m also honoured to be sound and vision supervisor on the movie.

What do you hope the future will hold for Leapfrogtown?

The next step would be to hit the ground running at festivals in 2018. We’re particularly interested in playing alternative events, with edge and political sensibilities. Meanwhile Florin and I plan to play some intimate venues as a duo…and I may even pitch up solo from time-to-time too.

What’s your advice for budding songwriters?

Well, my daughter Tallulah is one that’s for sure…and she just tells it like it is. She works hard, absorbs a wide variety of music, old and new, and is always playing and honing, learning to edit and nuance her material until it is immediate yet somehow mysterious. Write about what you know. That would be pretty good advice for anyone really. And don’t be afraid to ditch things if they’re not sending shivers up your spine. Remember…no two days are the same. Ideas may come in a torrent one time, so fast you can’t keep up, then vanish the next. Learn to be patient with your own imagination. Nurture it like you would a child, and gradually lead it home to somewhere we all can share. Starting with a title is a good idea. It becomes the quintessence of what the song is about. Then all roads – verses, pre-choruses, whatever – are feeding into that core idea, like rivers to the sea.

Thanks to Chris for chatting to Break A Leg again – and here’s a flavour of the live in-house gig… ENJOY!

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Spotlight On… Star of Mercy – The Movie, Maria Austin

Maria Austin is playing the title role in Mercy, a movie by actress, Wendy Morgan. I had a chat with Maria about her involvement in this very important film.

mercy

Thank you for talking to Break A Leg, Maria, how did you come to be involved in Mercy – The Movie?

I did a rehearsed reading of Romeo and Juliet with Wendy Morgan, we hit it off, stayed in touch and she told me about the idea for the movie, which was originally written as a one-woman show. I thought it was an interesting subject matter, we just kept talking about it and she wondered if maybe we could do it as a two woman show. Once she had written it she very much had Mark Wingett in mind for the role of the Slaughter man, it also seemed to lend itself to being on film. So, instead Wendy said come and play Mercy in the film.

How have you found the experience of filming?

Intense, fairly harrowing, it’s been the hardest thing I’ve done since I finished drama school two years ago. It’s been interesting, particularly the fight choreography, I get beaten up a lot in the film. It’s all been taken from CCTV footage from when Animal Aid put cameras in the abattoir. The fight director and the actors all watched the footage so that the movements and the sequence of movements were the same as what had actually happened. I found that tricky to begin with because I’m playing the role of a pig but as a human and pigs respond differently. For example, if someone punched you in the face, as a human you would say “right then, let’s have a fight” or say “right, I’m out”, but pigs are so innocent that they get hit in the face but two minutes later they’ll come back. What was hard for me was finding a reason in my mind as to why I would keep coming back.

Wendy was always adamant that Mercy wouldn’t be played as a pig, so that people will assume to begin with that she’s human and then start to question it. If I was going around acting as a pig, that could look a bit odd, so I try to hint at it. I’m not vegan, but I’ve looked at the footage from a character point of view and it has had an impact on the way I think. Wendy compared it to this sort of thing happening to a cat or a dog, she said there would be a national outcry, but because we see pigs as food as we group them together, we’re almost de-sensitised. We don’t sympathise as we would with a cat or a dog.

Maria

Is there a moment that you find particularly poignant?

There’s a scene where the mother has her babies with her and in the slaughterhouse the mother is really caged in so they can’t roll over, if one of the piglets falls out of the cage, they don’t put it back they just leave it to starve. The piglet is crying within the mother’s ear-shot and she can’t turn over to feed it, When we shot that scene I was crying like a baby.

What did you know about what went on in slaughterhouses before you worked on the film?

I didn’t particularly have an opinion before I became involved in the film. I had no idea about what went on until I started researching, but it’s just awful and this is standard practice! I had always thought that as long as the animal have had a good life before they went to the abattoir, that was alright. It hadn’t occurred to me that there is this grey area where the animals are abused before they die. Free range animals may be raised that way, but they go to slaughterhouses where they are treated the same as any other animal that goes there. I don’t think people are aware of this limbo state between life and death.

What do you hope that people will take away with them from this film?

An understanding and awareness that there is this situation in the abattoir that exists, between the life and death of these animals. This isn’t a preaching film, we’re not trying to say that everyone should become vegan or vegetarian, just be aware that this is what goes on. There is this grey area that isn’t widely known about.

Thank you so much for a fantastic interview, Maria. I can’t wait to see this film!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mercy-the-movie–2#/

Photo Credits: Gaz De Vere

Spotlight On… Star of Mercy – The Movie, Johnny Shingleton

Johnny Shingleton is playing a rather nasty character in Mercy, a movie by actress, Wendy Morgan. I had a chat with Johnny about his involvement in this very important film.

mercy

Hi Johnny, thanks for chatting to Break A Leg, tell me about your character in Mercy – The Movie.

My Character’s name in the movie Mercy is Johnny Reggae. I am one of the vile ‘Slaughterman’ in the abattoir that the movie is set in.

How did you become involved with the movie?

Initially, my mum told me that my Aunt knows a lady named Wendy who is casting for roles in her latest play that she had written. It was written as a play to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but was eventually, with other plays, turned down. So Wendy had the idea of re-writing it as a film instead. I got in contact with her and she asked me to play the part of Johnny Reggae, which at first I found horrific with the subject matter, but I thought the story had to be told.

Is there a part of the movie that you find particularly poignant?

The poignant part of the movie, to me, is the main element of the story. It’s the scenario between the time the pigs are delivered to the slaughterhouse and the time that their time sadly comes to an end. In other words, the way they are mis-treated in this movie, which I don’t condone what-so-ever. This, I believe, is mainly what Wendy’s message is trying to get across to the audience.

How familiar were you with the subject matter?

To be honest with you, I never realised what really happens ‘behind closed doors’ in some abattoirs. When I saw some footage of what really happens, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not a vegan or vegetarian myself, but I can see how people can easily change to becoming one when they actually have seen what happens.

What do you think and hope that the audience will take away from the film?

I think the audience will be taken aback and think more about how the welfare of these animals could be handled better, and the steps to make this happen. This could maybe, in turn, make them decide to change their diet.

With the strong subject matter, I obviously don’t expect people to watch it if they don’t condone what happens. But, at the same time, it would be good to have the audiences’ different opinions about it. But this story has to be told.

Huge thanks to Johnny for chatting to Break A Leg, looking forward to seeing him in the film.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mercy-the-movie–2#/

Photo Credits: Gaz De Vere

 

Spotlight On… Writer and Director, Wendy Morgan

Wendy Morgan is a performer who is turning her hand extremely ably to writing and directing. Wendy is one of those incredible people who has seen something she is appalled by i.e. animal cruelty, and she’s done something about the way she feels about it. Mercy – The Movie is the result of Wendy’s campaign to raise awareness of the abuse in abattoirs. Break A Leg are behind the project 100% and are delighted to be advertising the film for Wendy. Here’s an interview with the lady herself:

Thanks for chatting to Break A Leg, Wendy. First of all, what inspired you to write this film?

In 2011 Animal Aid did an investigation into 9 abattoirs in the uk. 8 out of the 9 were found to be abusing the animals. One was not far from where I lived. I went and stood at the gates and followed the case to court. I researched and researched. It was a terrible awakening and one that disturbed me so much I didn’t know how to process it. But writing it down was a natural outlet for me and so I started doing so in around 2012.

Can you describe the writing process? Was it an easy piece to put down on paper?

At first it came out in a an awful gush, like blood from the throat of a stabbed animal, and then as I researched and researched and got into the minds of the animals and the people… it became harder and harder. I tried to stop many times – but it was insistent, and kept rising up in me, and would not be quiet. It has been harrowing to have this on my mind and in my heart for so long, but nowhere as near harrowing for the animals and I thought maybe if I documented it – it may help raise awareness for these poor vulnerable creatures.

Have you been involved in film making before?

This is my directorial debut although I was in my first film at the age of 20 and have been in front of cameras and on film sets over my career many idyllic times. I love being in a film unit, there is nothing quite like it.

mercy
The Poster for the film

 

What can the audience expect from the film?

I am not sure at this stage…. I hope it to be a powerful and emotional experience that will hopefully connect the audience with the animals and what they are going through.

Did you have particular people in mind for your cast when you wrote the script?

For slaughter man – the first person who I thought could do the job was in fact Mark Wingett who is playing it now. I am happy to say that each person who has gravitated to the film is exactly right for each role. I am very lucky to have such a fabulously talented cast and crew!!!

When will the film be released and what is the message that you hope viewers will come away with?

We shoot in July and edit August/September. The editing process will probably be a careful and long process as our visual and sound is so important.. so as for release, well – by winter I would hope. I will for sure keep the gas gently applied. The message ? That animals are individuals who feel and that we should be protecting them and freeing them from this terrible existence that we are subjecting them to. That at the very, very, very least – we will give protection to these, the most vulnerable animals on earth, bred and born to die – by – at the very least,making independently monitored CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses.

Wendy and her team have commenced filming and I will be bringing you up to date with all the news and further interviews, as regularly as possible. Thanks for the fantastic interview, Wendy!

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