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How ‘Rocks’ found their talented cast of non-actors in London schools



one of the best films to come out of the Toronto Film Festival in 2019 and was originally scheduled to come out before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The new film from the director of Suffragette and Brick path is a witty, realistic, heartwarming tale of growing up in central London and the impact of girl-to-girl friendships. “data-reactid =” 32 “> This week sees the release of the new critically acclaimed Sarah Gavrons film Rocks in UK cinemas. He was hailed as one of the best films to come out of the Toronto Film Festival in 2019 and was originally scheduled to come out before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The new film from the director of Suffragette and Brick path is a witty, realistic and heartwarming story of growing up in central London and the impact of girl-to-girl friendships.

Written by Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, the film explores the resilience, joy and spirit of childhood through a group of inner-city teenage girls. Uniquely, most of the girls, including Bukky Bakray, are untrained actors whose first role is in this movie. The production team spotted hundreds of girls in London schools and began an intense workshop process with them to explore character and story ideas, ultimately producing the main group: Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Afi Okaidja, Tawheda Begum, Anastasia Dymitrow and Ruby Stokes.

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A still of Rocks. (Altitude)

The search for the main cast was very open, which gave way to merry chaos in the early stages. We didn’t have a clear idea of ​​who our actors were when we started looking for them, because we wanted to give people space to rise to the occasion. We wanted to escape the tropes that can see some youth movies get stuck. As the process progressed, we realized that the roles would suit people who also reflected the energy that was starting to seep behind the scenes. So it meant progressive energy. The ability to grow throughout the process. The ability to be responsible. Trust.

How did you find the cast?

We found the casting in schools, mainly, with some youth clubs. For girls, other than age, there was no casting briefing. We spoke to groups the entire year and invited anyone who wanted to come forward. We found DAngelou not once, but twice! First through a social media surge and then, by chance, in his elementary school, when he looked up and smiled, I know you! We had a more specific guiding principle for Emmanuel, looking for someone with a really active imagination, which D had.

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He shared what he learned and observed about the world, leading us into a mini-meditation session in the middle of his hearing. He told us to close our eyes and breathe, which was much appreciated considering we had seen almost 200 boys this weekend.

What were the auditions and how do you know what you were looking for?

We met around 1,500 girls in castings, which were those epic weekends where we saw over 200 girls a day, all of whom came in their existing friendship groups. Sometimes they would be groups of three and other times twenty-five. It really felt like a teenage energy tornado at times, but we loved it.

The Rocks poster with the original release date. (Altitude)

Most of the girls in the movie, down the extras, went through those casting weekends. It was all about their friendships and improvisations. We remember each of the main girls auditions very clearly. Kosar and Tawheda were making jokes with their companions. Ruby and Sheneigha were in a room full of people they didn’t know, but were bringing it anyway. We knew Bukky, Afi, and Anastasia from research, but we had never properly seen them in action when it came to acting. The look on Bukkys face when she entered the room, you could see that she had made the decision to go. And go ahead, she did. They’ve all done it, and in different ways, which is why they work so well together as a group. They all made their presence known in their own way.

How did the workshop process work?

The workshop aimed to give the girls the space to move through the process and grow towards each other. They didn’t know each other before the workshops, so one of the things we were interested in was seeing who forged bonds and how they translated into chemistry on screen. We were still not motivated by the desire to find suitable people for a file. We wanted to adapt to them, not the other way around.

A still of Rocks. (Altitude)

In addition to working with the creative team, we had the chance to work with other amazing professionals during the workshops, too – Dionne Reed, an expert artist, facilitator and educator; Axa Hynes, Youth Work and Participation Expert (now responsible for expanding participation at Rada); Tanika Yearwood, an amazing actor and; Nanette Marcelline, also an educator.

Their contributions were more than significant. It was about creating space and showing the girls a reflection of themselves in the people who came to work with them, so that this experience was not limited to just one track in the industry. Whatever the outcome, we wanted to model a plethora of ways to keep working and telling stories.

What advice would you give to young actors looking to make the audition process a success?

A still of Rocks. (Altitude)

Our advice to young people looking to have a successful audition process is to show up and give it their all. There are young people who will not show up because they think they do not meet an “industry standard”. The industry is changing.

If you’re nervous go through it, because even if you mess it up, good eyes will see through it. And be aware that the people who see you are probably just as nervous. But nerves mean you’re about to do something that matters to you, so go for it. And keep going.

Working as an actor is a journey, not a destination.

Rocks hits theaters September 18 in the UK and Ireland.“data-reactid =” 151 “>Rocks hits theaters September 18 in the UK and Ireland.

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