Interview with Amy-Joyce Hastings on her new film The Callback Queen

Female Arts are very excited to bring you this exclusive interview with the Irish actress Amy-Joyce Hastings, star of TV series The Guards. Amy-Joyce plays the lead role of Kate Loughlin in The Callback Queen, a British Rom-Com feature film, due for release in 2012.

Amy-Joyce speaks to Female Arts about the British film industry, how women are portrayed in film, exploitation of actors, Joss Whedon and BAFTAs.

The Callback Queen is about London’s film industry as well as being a British Rom-Com – what are your thoughts on the health of the industry?

Well I'm still relatively new to the London industry but coming from the smaller pool of the Irish industry it seems healthy to me. Certainly Ireland's Section 481 tax break makes it financially viable for bigger international productions to shoot there, but London is the capital of the English speaking industry in Europe so of course it's going to be the busiest hub.

The film industry seems to me to be going through changes because of the digital age both in access to shooting equipment, and new distribution channels which seems to be polarising the industry at either end, with your studio blockbusters and fanchises at one end but also a lot more independent feature films going on at the other, so it depends where you're standing whether that's healthy or not. It's evolving. Actors just have to go with the flow!

In The Callback Queen, Kate Loughlin has a sleazy agent, pressurising her to use sex to get cast – have you ever witnessed any exploitation in real life?

Personally I've never been solicited in any way like that but I've heard some hairy stories. While I have met one or two dodgy characters along the way, you just learn to avoid them - you have to have common sense and employ good judgement. I think I've witnessed more 'exploitation' in the sense of actors being the only people not getting paid on a particular production, that sort of thing.

The writer & director of The Callback Queen is Graham Cantwell. I’ve been reading about ‘The Male Gaze’ in cinema. What are your thoughts on how men portray women?

That's a big question – there are so many distinct writers, and genres. Women are portrayed so differently in each. For me – practically speaking and from a casting perspective - the biggest issue I have with how women are portrayed in cinema is the population ratio being so unrealistic. In the real world you have a 50/50 split of men and women but this is almost never the case in film. If you look up an entire cast list for any title you will find vastly more male characters. Obviously if it's an army movie or a gangster movie, there's a case for that, but it's almost across the board. So that's a huge inequality, that doesn't reflect the real world we live in. Also it's true the majority of stories are told from the male perspective, undoubtedly because there are more male writers, producers and directors at the helm.

So of course, I would like to see more quality female roles, roles where the female character is not just the 'sounding board' girlfriend character, or sex object. Part of that will stem from more female creatives producing work. And then for me it's a secondary issue how men actually go about portraying women. In the case of 'The Callback Queen', Graham has written a fantastic script populated with bright engaging female characters and that is very refreshing. Yes there is a blonde bombshell played beautifully by Sophie Berenice, but there's also a very feisty tom-boy character played by a wonderful actress Kate Braithwaite. The character of Kate Loughlin is my favourite to date and I had a great time playing her. There are also two hilarious female characters played by seasoned actresses Vicki Michelle and Ger Ryan, so he has written some excellent roles for women. Again I suppose that's a genre thing, Rom-Com will naturally lend itself to more primary female roles.

What’s your favourite moment in The Callback Queen?

My favourite moment in the script had me laughing out loud when I read it. I had to shoot a chase sequence through a forest in heels – I'm sure that alone is slapstick enough - but I fall from a boulder into a river right at the end. It should make for a really funny scene once it's cut together. There are two big set pieces yet to shoot which we'll be filming in September. One of those is what I am looking forward to most overall. It's a film within a film sequence and will be in the fantasy genre, it's pretty epic. I've not had much opportunity to work on fantasy material so far so I am really looking forward to that as it's my favourite genre.

The log line of The Callback Queen is “She's Hollywood's next big thing – he’s Hollywood” - would you ever consider moving to America?

Absolutely. I made a trip to LA not too long ago and had some positive meetings. I love it there... well everything apart from the pollution. It can be a crazy town but as long as you keep your feet on the ground it's a very exciting place to be if you work in this industry. I wouldn't just go over with a suitcase full of dreams though so it's a case of building from where I'm at now to where I'm going.

Aside from The Callback Queen, what’s your favourite Rom-Com?

You know this wasn't my favourite genre prior to shooting this film, but I watched tonnes of Rom-Coms as research, and I've discovered that there are some really great ones. I've really come to respect Katherine Heigl as a Rom-Com actress, she is excellent at it, and my favourite film of hers is probably The Ugly Truth. I've noticed a trend in the more recent Rom-Coms to have female leads who are also career oriented, and not purely marriage obsessed so that's something The Ugly Truth has in common with The Callback Queen. Others I'd recommend are Love and Other Disasters, which is also set in London and stars the late Brittany Murphy, and British Rom-Com Imagine Me and You starring Piper Perabo and Lena Heady, a nice twist on the conventions of a Rom-Com.

You look very glamorous in The Callback Queen, however have you ever felt pressurised to look a certain way?

Truthfully I've not felt any negative pressure, ever. I know some people do. It goes with the territory. Your look is so much part of the package for the character. I'm not precious about changing my look if asked, and try to be as flexible as the role demands.That chameleon thing is fun for me.

I’ve heard you’re a big fan of science fiction, any chance of seeing you in something like Doctor Who?

I must confess to only having seen two episodes of Doctor Who, both Christmas specials, but absolutely... I'd love to do a show like that. It has its own legacy doesn't it. I really love Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, that kind of show. Also Joss Whedon's work, all of it, but especially the sci fi stuff. I was really mathematical at school, I loved applied maths and physics. I was even selected to train as part of the International Mathematics Olympiad team so I think Sci-Fi appeals as it's where that side of me intersects with acting.

Are there other projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

I'm attached to a horror film that's in development at the moment, called Bere Island. It's quite a kick ass character too! Very Buffy.

How do you achieve a work/life balance?

Acting can be a funny profession as you can be very full on for stints and quiet in between, but there's a lot more to the job than just performing or shooting, so in a sense you're always at it. But I think it's important to spend time cultivating your other interests, the richer you are as a person the more you can bring to a script. Quality time with friends and family is essential. I love to travel, write and enjoy keeping fit. At the moment I'm rediscovering my passion for roller-blading!

Who do you find inspirational?

Bruce Springsteen inspires me. His music is incredible, it never fails to put me in a great mood, and he is also someone I admire politically. He is just a powerhouse of a man.

What is the favourite part of your job? And least favourite?

My favourite part is quite simply just the acting. That's what it's all about. And least favourite is phonecalls.... I hate the phone but you have to be on the end of it at all times as opportunities can come so spontaneously.

What advice would you give to others wanting to get into acting?

Make sure you're 100% committed first. Try and give yourself a financial buffer. If you were going on a massive round the world adventure you'd save up a few thousand first so approach it like that. Have a plan. Decide where you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years. And then work out who you should be working with to get you there. Finally get a good agent. That's easier said than done when you're starting out, but it will make all the difference to the kind of opportunities you get. The best thing you can do in this business is work with good people.

If you could time travel but in only one direction, which would it be – past or future?

I'm not sure if you mean as a tourist to any period in time, or within the parameters of my own life? I suppose since we have history to record what's gone before it might be exciting to go far into the future. But if you mean in my own life I'd rather go back, see my Granddad, make some small tweaks knowing what I know now (that old chestnut). I think it would be a very inhibiting thing to know your own future...

What interview question would you like to be asked but no-one ever has?

“How do you feel now you've won your first BAFTA?” That would a pleasant question!

(c) Wendy Thomson 2011

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