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Interview with Sarah-Jane Potts

By Luan Greenwood

What’s your background?

I’m a working class Yorkshire girl who managed to find my way into the Arts through sheer determination.

You’ve had a very diverse career in film and TV, how is this project different to your previous work?

Naqqash is probably the youngest director I’ve worked with who has a huge artistic and social voice that demands to be heard. I respect and am interested in that in equal measure. Not all jobs are like that. Some just pay the bills. Others turn your brain on. Those are the good ones.

Your character is the only one with real agency, what was your approach when playing her?
I learned my lines, turned up on time and let myself be directed!

How would you define your character?

She is the officer who questions the Frenchman. She speaks entirely in Northern idioms, phrases, and dialect which become untranslatable to the Frenchman and his translator. She is responsible for the breakdown of communication and therefore the fear, confusion and judgment that takes place.


Is your character’s function to provoke the others into revealing certain things?
It wasn’t necessary for me to have made these choices or answered these questions to be able to play her. Sometimes it’s as simple as learning your lines, acting with honesty, respecting your director and your script even if it’s not linear. We can get too caught up in having to know all the information and all the answers. Life isn’t like that.

What was working with French actors like?

I loved the experience. I think it added a really different depth to what I’m used to, an authenticity. We had real language barriers and knots in our understanding; thinking with an English brain and a French brain, the play on words, the accountability of words, how phrasing is perfectly clear to me but completely alien to a French person. It really helped build the sense of alienation for our lead character.

Do you have a favourite memory from rehearsals or filming?
I just very much enjoyed being a part of this project and working with Naqqash, his intellect and imagination.

‘Stock’ will premiere on Sky Arts in Spring 2019. For updates, follow @StocktheFilm on twitter.


Interview with Hania Amar

By Luan Greenwood

How did you come to be cast for this short? 

My agent told me Naqqash Khalid wanted to work with me and sent me a script and examples of his work. I loved his vision and found the script really original in the way he wanted to depict a personal experience. I was really grateful that Naqqash was eager to work with me and even more so as I got to know him better. 

How did you find working with Naqqash Khalid? 

I was surprised to discover how young he was. We spoke a lot on the phone before my arrival in the UK and I was struck by his mature vision of the world which comes across in his work. I loved the distance that he creates as a Director and the magistral silence that follows when he says: “Action!” On one hand, he manages to convey precise boundaries yet on the other, he allows you total freedom as an actor to define your character within those limits. 

Was this the first time you worked with Idir Chender?
Yes, and it was a lot of fun, we literally laughed from the very first second we talked to each other. I think I spoke to him in a weird way or with a weird accent and he started laughing then his laugh made me laugh and from then on, it didn't stop. He's a great actor. In work, he's generous, engaged and helpful. He creates joy wherever he goes and is genuinely interested in you as a person which in turn, as an actor, helps you stay creative. 

Describe the character you play? 

I play an interpreter who is supposed to translate the “suspect’s” testimony. She switches from one mindset
to another as she takes stock of the power she holds over both the officer and the suspect. At the same time, we don't really know if she's real, if she is actually present in the interrogation room. Is she a machine, does she represent the suspect’s inner thoughts, his imagination, his conscience...? She is both the mirror of what the officer understands and a reflection of what the suspect is trying to say. 


How was this film different to others you’ve worked on?
It was my first time working with Naqqash and in the UK, so from that perspective, it was very different to any work I have done so far! 

What is the significance of the title Stock? 

For me, the title always sounded like "Stuck," the pronunciation is slightly different but I kept on reading "Stuck" all the way through, so I guess subconsciously, it was linked to a feeling of being stuck in an unsolvable situation. Given that stock relates to products or items that are meant to be sold or used later, I naturally extended it to include people or even pent-up energy to be "used" later but that waiting period creates frustration until it’s released. 

What did you learn about the British way of working?
From an acting perspective, I love the discipline, the sheer humility of British crews and their cool blood compared to my Latin contemporaries! The British have a reputation for being very respectful and focused when working and it really isn’t a cliché, it’s a fact. Compared to Britain, when working with Mediterranean crews, there are no clear guidelines; professional and personal time seems to amalgamate and when on set, absolutely everyone offers their opinion on how you should play a scene! Despite my Mediterranean roots, the Anglo-Saxon way of working definitely suits my personality. I love it! 

‘Stock’ will premiere on Sky Arts in Spring 2019. For updates, follow @StocktheFilm on twitter.


Interview with Idir Chender

By Luan Greenwood

What was your first impression when you read the script for STOCK?
Stock is a film about non-communication and whereas it can be very destabilising to watch people that aren’t really communicating, for me, the whole appeal of this film lies in its ability to recount a story through feelings. At least, that’s what hit me upon reading the script. I discovered a narrative that was ultra sensitive, based on emotions, on misunderstandings between one character and another. The fact that there are no long dialogues or explanations encourages you to interpret what is happening from an emotional perspective.

How did your first meeting go with Naqqash Khalid?
Firstly, I thought, WOW, he’s really very young! Then, when I started to get to know Naqqash, chat with him, I found out he was a University Lecturer. I had trouble actually believing that someone so young could be in that position so I ended up visiting his University and realised it was all true! I was really surprised, Naqqash is someone who is extremely intelligent, his intellect hit me immediately plus his mastery of nuance and his dynamic personality. I really enjoyed the fact that, as a Director, he doesn’t stay in his own world, he intelligently translates ideas into actions and he has a way of injecting dynamism onto a set and that was really enjoyable.


When he talked about the character, what did he say?
He told me my character was a sensitive person, a bit lost and caught up in the bottleneck of Brexit. He represents a foreigner, in unfamiliar territory who tries desperately hard to communicate, to be understood, who others, in turn, try to understand. Yet it’s precisely those communication difficulties that lead them to be in the situation they find themselves in. What I retained most about my character was Naqqash explaining that he tries as hard as he can to be understood and even when there is a complete communication breakdown, he still keeps trying. As an actor, that reaction in itself was far from the usual clichés and really interesting to play.

What about this project attracted you most?

First of all, the opportunity to act in England, as I’d never been. I’ve played in a lot of foreign countries but never in Britain so that was a main factor of attraction. Then it was down to the script, the subject, Brexit. I was really upset when I found out the Leave vote had won. Obviously, I respect other countries voting decisions but I was concerned it would affect our relationship, our Anglo-French friendship. So when I had an opportunity to work in England, I seized it, seeing it as a way of demonstrating that Brexit wasn’t an end to our special relationship, it’s a situation that creates a lot of miscommunication, as the film shows, but nothing stops us remaining friends. Both the subject matter and the people involved really appealed to me so I had no difficulty whatsoever.

How did the shoot in England go?

It’s a short, so the shoot didn’t take very long which is even more frustrating when you work with such a fantastic, dedicated team. The shoot was really dynamic and peppered with some local euphoria which made it even more pleasant to be a part of. It wasn’t a shoot that benefited from a huge budget, very far from it, but it was so rich in terms of the quality of people working on the film. I found the communication between the French and English actors went very well and it was really tough when the shoot came to an end, particularly from a human perspective.

How did you, Hania and Sarah-Jane communicate behind the scenes to prepare your shoots?
We rehearsed our lines together, over and over again, in different places, at the hotel, in a rehearsal studio or just before a scene. We worked together and helped each other out and took the project on in as healthy a manner as possible. We met up, had a laugh together, ate out certain evenings and worked hard together, trying to speak English at all times. Obviously when I was with Hania, we spoke French to each other but sometimes we made the effort to speak English as we didn’t want to appear unsociable or the production team to think we were extra-terrestrials! However, we quickly realised that it didn’t really matter what language we spoke, everyone accepted us whether we spoke English or French and that helped facilitate our work.

Are you at all like you character?

When you play a character, you always bring a part of yourself to a role. Have I ever experienced what the character goes through in real life? No, I haven’t. In fact, that’s generally the case for most actors. Do I identify with my character’s modesty, awkwardness and sensitive nature? Yes, those characteristics could be true of my life. But I try not to compare myself too much with a specific character, as I want cinema to provide me with the hope of forever unearthing feelings that are deeply embedded within me. I suppose I want to say that no acting ever comes from a sterile place, it’s a prism that reflects you as a person, your life, your feelings, and what truly comes from me or what comes from the character should remain a mystery! At least, that’s how I apprehend my work as an actor.


The story of miscommunication is universal, butdoes it say anything about today’s Britain?
I think from a political perspective, the French just couldn’t understand the Brexit vote, it was like having a brother who no longer wanted to talk to us. You can interpret that as being a misinterpretation in itself! However, as we all well know, you don’t have to understand policy to understand people. When I was in England, I didn’t see the England or Brexit that was portrayed on French news, I just saw England itself. I wandered around the streets of Manchester, speaking French, yet everyone I met was always willing to help me out, show me the way, I never felt any racism and I’m sure I must have spoken to some Brexit voters. Miscommunication is ultimately political, it’s scary, you’re afraid of losing a member of your family but when you are actually in the company of British people, it’s a different relationship, a really enjoyable one.

Do you prefer directing or acting?

I really like directing whether on a theatre stage or on a screen. I can’t choose between the two because if I had to disown one or the other, I’d feel I could no longer fully express myself. So, I can’t say I have a preference, I just wouldn’t feel complete if I couldn’t direct but also act. They are both communication mediums that relate to me; as an actor, I integrate a world and as a director, I create a world. So I need both disciplines in my life, even if in reality, things are more complex than that; an actor can easily create a universe and a director can integrate another... It’s about maintaining two perspectives on life and I’d like to continue down this path.

‘Stock’ will premiere at the Barbican Centre in London on February 23rd, 2019. For updates, follow @StocktheFilm on twitter.