INTERVIEW

Simon plays the role of Dan in HORIZON.

Simon Pearce – Answer our questions!

Having started out studying acting both at college and also as part of the ITV Drama Workshop in his early teens, Simon went on to work pre-dominantly behind the scenes as an editor and camera operator. He has worked on a number of previous shorts with Paul Dudbridge, and originally came on-board "Horizon" as a writer/director. Simon has recently been making a small return to acting and early on in the development process Paul asked if he'd actually be interested in playing one of the roles in the show.

Simon has previously appeared in BBC's "Casualty" and the two part TV drama "Unknown Hearts" for Gate TV. He also continues to work on his own short and feature length projects, and you can find more info on his website here: www.simon-pearce.co.uk.

How did you get the part in the show?
It was Paul who suggested it when we first sat down to plot out the show and the characters we were going to include. I was a bit reluctant to begin with simply because I didn't want to do it if it wasn't something I thought I could do a decent job with, especially given the calibre of some of the other people we were talking about bringing on-board, who I'd worked with in the past as a director. Though directing is my first love I've always enjoyed acting, and as we began to flesh out the parts I felt a bit more confident about doing it - plus I have to say knowing the scenarios we were going to be putting these people in made it all the more appealing!

What were the highlights from the shooting of the show? Things you haven’t done before etc?
The key thing when we came up with the show was that it be fun - and it was exactly that to make. There's a lot of things we got to do in the writing of the show that you wouldn't normally be able to on say a short or independent film, and for me to get to play one of the characters was a similar experience. There was a lot of action and high energy moments throughout, fight scenes, crawling out of up-turned cars, walking through crowds of looters, all of that was great. It was like play-time. I think because I look quite young I tend to get cast as the naive, innocent characters that either don't get involved in the action or are just too scared and run away! So it was nice to do all that.

Without giving too much away I think episodes 4 and 7 were probably the most fun to shoot for those reasons.

That being said, as much as I loved the running and jumping, some of the dramatic stuff between myself and Paul Tonkin, who plays my step-brother, was also really fun to play. We have a scene at one point which is a rare quiet moment, where it's just the two of us chatting and it all plays in a two shot, and that was really nice to do.

What was the hardest part of working on the show? Lots of lines, working with VFX, action stuff?

Speaking as one of the writers, one of the toughest challenges was simply fitting all of the story we wanted to tell in to these small 4-5 minute chunks and still have it be a story and characters you care about along the way. Prep was also hard because we had a lot of locations, props and extras to try and source for this amount of content, on essentially zero budget, and it was important to maintain quality in all of that - if one setting or episode didn't hold up for whatever reason it would affect the whole show. We were also on a bit of a runaway train trying to do this once the shoot was set for January, after a certain point we'd have started losing cast and crew if we postponed, so sometimes we'd be gunning towards these shoot dates with some key prop or location still to source! I have to give a lot of credit to director and producer Paul Dudbridge there - he did a remarkable job pulling everything together, especially as he was also directing the whole thing!

When it came to being on-camera I think working behind the scenes did give me a slight advantage, if only because I was then better able to keep track of where we were and what should be happening given the episodes were shot so out of order! Actually being on set was nothing but a pleasure, we had a lot to do in the time usually (one episode per day), but you get a buzz from that and we had a great team all working to get it done.

Regarding the craft of acting, what did you learn about or what might you do differently?
It was an interesting experience because we had so much to do in a day, so rather than the more traditional method of blocking each scene out, taking the time to rehearse and then running multiple takes we would often just keep rolling - talking through and changing things quickly as we went, re-delivering lines or an action if we needed to, rather than waiting until 'Cut' and going again. Paul would also often just shout an instruction from the monitor rather than stop shooting. This kept the energy and pace up which I really liked, but also meant everyone had to be really on it and confident with what they were doing because we wouldn't necessarily have the time to stop and discuss something. It was a good discipline to get into because of course you don't always get that luxury with film, so it really taught you to come to set prepared, know your bit and just do it, but also have the ability to roll with the punches a little bit if something changed last minute. Again being one of the writers as well I probably had an unfair advantage here!

Finally, what would you do if the events of the show really happened?!
Haha, god knows! I think we'd all like to think we'd act a certain way… but if it actually happened? Wow… It's not as if it's one bad event you can run from, the whole world as you know it would change, you could leave that particular location sure but beyond that I guess you could only wait and see why they were really here - hopefully not just to re-enact the events of a Roland Emmerich movie. I think my instincts would be similar to those of the characters - I'd want to be with the people I was close to and probably away from anywhere too crowded until we knew more, my parents live in the country-side so I'd probably go there. In terms of how I personally would handle it, my character Dan does a pretty good job of staying together and controlled for the most part, so be nice to think I could replicate that and not just run around like a headless chicken.

It's an interesting question though and was really our kick off for the show. What would you do? Especially because the intentions of whoever/whatever might be up there is not made immediately apparent - so you're essentially playing this huge waiting game… and what happens in the meantime?

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