Little Diva Rising

The First Day of Shooting

Joel Angus King, yours truly, and Ben-Thomas Murphy.

Last Saturday, shooting began on Little Diva Rising. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to talk about the project, the cast, and the crew, and chronicle how it’s all going.

So I’ll begin with … me.

Most of my bio is well-known. If you’re reading my blog, then surely you’d know who I am: a novelist, aspiring screenwriter, and somebody who loves storytelling (although I do yell at clouds a lot nowadays).

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved nothing more than to lose myself in a story, be that in a comic book, a novel, a television show, or a movie – or whatever other form storytelling might take. I grew up during an era that music videos, and computer games, were ingratiating their way into the collective of pop culture consciousness. Both were mediums that also employed storytelling.

It’s a convoluted way of saying that whatever the vehicle, I’ve always loved a well-told story.

Writing the pilot for Little Diva Rising, entitled ‘Just Normal?’, entailed a particular story I wanted to tell. As I wrote the supporting information – character bios, short synopsizes of future episodes, etc. – they fleshed out the existing story. As I revised, the pilot influenced the supporting information. And back and forth I went. The world became fuller and, hopefully, more engaging.

I’ll talk about the other crew in coming weeks, but I was convinced to direct – the belief was I’d be the best one to realise my vision. What I’ve learned that’s much more important is you surround yourself with good people who know their stuff so they complement you, and so you can lean on them, as well as learn from them. They will provide feedback on areas you can improve.

On the weekend, I had a director of photography and sound tech who took care of the technical aspects, and could tell me why something might not work, or suggest alternatives. As for dealing with the actors, it was about getting them on the same page to help bring truth and engagement to the story. When you’re working with like-minded creative people, there is always fantastic input that either helps develop something you’ve neglected, or – at the very least – helps you think about something laterally. The view is to always make something the best it can be.

Two of the supporting characters in Little Diva Rising are the same-sex thirty-something (married) couple Dom and Jeremy Ballard, who live next door to the main characters. Dom is outgoing, friendly, and always looking for the best in any situation. Jeremy had a difficult upbringing, so while he’s generally hospitable, he has an underlying edge that threatens to emerge under certain circumstances (staying away from SPOILERS!).

The couple are played by renowned magician Ben-Thomas Murphy and children’s entertainer Joel Angus King. Ben is going on a tour for his act, so his and Joel’s scenes were scheduled to be shot first, even though the scenes occur about one-third into the story.

I don’t know if people believe in providence, but this order was fortunate for me because it made assuming the mantle of director so effortless.

Both Ben and Joel had an immediate understanding of who their characters are, they had brilliant chemistry, and they needed very little direction in making their scenes work. When they were given direction, they adapted immediately. Several times they had crew struggling to contain their laughter (while filming) because of idiosyncratic flourishes that made their portrayals so real, engaging, and entertaining.

Ben seemed to have a more improvisational quality to his acting, whereas Joel was dedicated to a method. The contrast meshed into a partnership that shone, and shows why they’re so successful at what they do outside of acting.

I may write this again in coming weeks about other actors: they also brought such levity to the set that the mood was like old friends visiting, and then everybody regretting that it was time for them to go home.

I started Saturday morning (the first day of filming) coming up the stairs from my spare room, stumbling on the final step, and sprawling across the hallway floor, bruising my left knee and left wrist. I couldn’t help but think if that was going to be a bad omen (although I did think of the old showbiz adage, Break a leg).

I ended Saturday just so happy and content and excited about what would come next.