Q&A with Samantha Hopkins (The Watermark Collective)
The Watermark Collective are a group of professional actors who provide a script reading service offering insightful feedback from an actor’s perspective based on their extensive industry experience. We are delighted to be able to speak to Samantha Hopkins from the Watermark Collective about their work.
Hi Sam, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Firstly, before we get into the Watermark Collective, tell us a bit about your career and how you got involved with the group.
I trained at Mountview and have been an actress for ten years now. I’ve mostly worked in theatre but have also done short films and corporate and commercial jobs. I was invited to join The Watermark Collective when it was first started. We have now been doing script readings for three years and it is great having a group of actors who regularly work together. We know each other’s strengths and can cast each other accordingly.
As a writer myself, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with the Watermark Collective and found it extremely useful in helping shape future script drafts. Can you tell us how you can help writers?
Writers tend to come to us at two distinct times during the writing process:
1. At an early draft stage when they want to hear the script out loud, time it and get feedback.
2. When the script is further along and they want to hold a reading in order to invite producers, directors or other industry professionals to try and get interest in making the project.
Before the reading, we are in email conversation with the writer and we try to establish what they are hoping to get out of it. We book the venue and cast the script. For film scripts we would usually need about 10 actors and we double the characters appropriately. Writers are sometimes nervous about hearing feedback but we are always conscious of being respectful and constructive. I think the advantage of getting feedback in this way is that the writer will hear from a group of people. If everyone around the table is saying the same thing then it usually means that it is highlighting something that really needs to be addressed. Sometimes our opinions are different, which can illustrate the different directions the writer could take the script in. This can be quite exciting because it can open up new ideas and possibilities.
Do you have a criteria when accepting a script for a table read, or do you welcome all?
No, we will read any script. The readings are for the benefit of the writer. We are not trying to pass judgement on the quality of the work, only to try and help the writer to develop the piece, whatever stage it might be at.
We very much support diversity in the film industry and sadly it seems that it’s still difficult for female filmmakers – do you think it’s still a big concern, or have you noticed improvements?
I do still think it’s an issue because it is still being discussed in the media all the time. We work with plenty of female writers so the work is certainly being created but I am constantly reading articles saying that we don’t have enough female filmmakers and Artistic Directors in theatre. I think that most people within the industry are keen to redress the balance but we still aren’t seeing enough female directors winning awards.
Exit 6 gives a platform for short films, have you had experience in working in shorts?
Yes, I’ve been involved in a number of short films, most notably, Cancer Hair, directed by Gail Hackston. It won Best of Fest and Best Short Fiction at the Isle of Man Film Festival. I also played D.S. Alice Greaves in a short film called Saucy Butty, which was interesting because it was released online as a three part mini-mini-series. We haven’t been asked to read any short films at The Watermark Collective but we would love to!
As well as showcasing directors and writers, Exit 6 also gives the opportunity to new and upcoming actors. For anyone new to acting, what advice would you give?
Take classes and keep learning. I’m doing a weekly screen acting class at the moment. Casting director workshops are also great because you have the opportunity to work on your audition technique and the chance to meet potential employers.
Have you ever worked on table reads that went on to become really successful plays, films, TV or radio shows?
A couple of scripts have gone on to do well at competitions (including yours Darren!). A few of the plays we have worked on have been produced and I know of a film script and a TV script, which are both in production at the moment. We have only been doing readings for three years and I think, for film in particular, the journey to success can be much longer than that.
As an actor, do you find doing table reads good practice?
Yes, absolutely. It’s also really fun and you may get to read a variety of roles that you wouldn’t usually be cast in so it helps to develop an actor’s range. I think that my sight reading and auditioning skills have improved as a result of doing table readings as well.
Finally, what projects do you have coming up?
We have recently done a number of readings with students at Raindance and we have more coming up. If any writers would like to book a reading with us, just email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow the Watermark Collective on Twitter: @WatermarkCollec
For more information about The Watermark Collective check out their website.