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Self Made (2011)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sam Rumbelow ...
Method Acting Teacher
Asheq Akhtar ...
Lesley Robinson ...
Dave Austin ...
James Baron ...
Lian Stewart ...
Simon Manley ...
Jerome Prince ...
Arabella Arnott ...
Pregnant Woman
Stephen Hawksby ...
Leonardo Russo ...
Middle Class Boy
Andrew Tennant ...
Middle Class Husband (as Andrew Husband)
Angela Stephenson ...
Middle Class Wife


Hundreds of people responded to this advert when it was placed in local and national newspapers, online and in job centres around London and Newcastle. Seven people were selected to appear in Self Made, where they attend a Method Acting workshop to explore their fantasy selves. The workshops are led by experienced drama teacher Sam Rumbelow and form the core of the film. As the film progresses, the participants use real life experiences to bring their characters to life, and ultimately star in their own mini-film. Revelation is key to the process, as is creating an environment that allows the unexpected to happen. Written by Cornerhouse Artist Film

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2 September 2011 (UK)  »

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Under the bonnet
14 November 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Gillian Wearing prepared a newspaper advertisement looking for people who would like to see ideas of theirs turned into films. From the over a hundred responses she chose a handful of people who she felt had the most interesting ideas. The advertisement did not mention that it was posted by a Turner Prize winning conceptual artist.

The individuals in question were then turned over to Method acting coach Sam Rumbelow, and trained to channel their emotions into acting roles of their choice, as well as going through a number of acting exercises.

Wearing has always had a desire to look deeply into people, and this exercise definitely achieves that objective. Each individual involved (excepting a male model who, for unexplained reasons, is not seen later in the movie), reveals in their individual films deep-seated insecurities and anger. It's a troubling documentary in this sense because I couldn't help but feeling that the individuals were being actuated rather than helped, and the presentation seems at times voyeuristic.

One individual was literally using actors to relive traumatic situations from the past (bullying). This is a really bad idea for mental health, it's like having it happen all over again.

You might if you buy nothing else appreciate by watching Self-Made how Method acting works. What is a bit horrible is that these people are trained in it, but aren't ever really going to use it, because they're not there to pursue acting careers. Definitely I don't think actors are made healthier folk by Method, it's there as a professional tool.

Self Made comes across as a rather profane and chilling spectacle, in which the despair that lies under the surface of every day lives is gutted out. It makes Mike Leigh's films look positively oblique. Whilst I didn't think that the people in the film were helped in any real way, at least they had a break from routine.

I think the film definitely addresses issues in UK society. I'd be interested to know what people from other countries thought about it. When I speak to people from my parents' generation they say that people used to go out on dates every weekend as a matter of course, if someone had a gammy leg and a wobbly eye, they'd still be given a chance on a, "What have I got to lose?" basis. In contrast a man here, not a bad-looking man by any means, and well-toned, has been without a girlfriend since 1996, and a middle-aged lady feels that repression has caused the opportunity to have children to pass her by. There's something about the way we live that seems to have made it as difficult to be with each other as if we were porcupines. I think maybe that people are less able to be wooed in an era where we've become inured to quotidian attempts at manipulation (in an era of mass advertising, scatological media, and celebrity fixation) and dissociated. People have low self-esteem but their esteem for others is even lower. An American comedian I saw recently touring the UK said that if you gave a British woman a compliment, you ran a 50:50 chance that she would try to hurt your feelings for it.

Certain episodes unravel deep class envy, prejudice, and rage, and one of the gentlemen plans suicide some time in 2016.

How unique is this to our place and era? Thoreau had it quite some time ago that, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them". I think what is starting to change is that people don't want to be so quiet about it any more, they want to talk if only for talking sake, and tell their story, in an era where there are just as many blogs as people reading them.

In terms of the actual fictions that get shown, one lady's staging of the beginning of King Lear is particularly well done (she hates her father and wants to express this via Shakespeare), with Tim Woodward doing a particularly good job of playing Lear.

A highly subjective 10/10

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