Its 11: 02 am
Welcome to 8 Questions with……….
For today’s interview,we’re heading back over the Pond and into the UK to chat with a real jack of all trades,Peter M. George. Peter is not only a working actor but can run and stage a live theater production as well. He literally can do just about anything a production requires.
In the course of doing this interview,I dicovered that Peter is also a fine writer as he has given the most detailed answers to our 8 Questions. He was worried that it might be too long but this is actually quite what I hope for when I send my questions out.
What is amazing is that he did our interview while balancing several creative projects in the air and holding down the artist’s bane in life,a day job. For us mere mortals a typical day is 24 hours but to Peter I have a feeling his days never quite end…well I hope he’ll take a rest and get in time for himself before jumping back on the merry-go-round.
For now,come and meet this jack of all trades,Peter Michael George,as he answers 8 Questions…..
Please introduce yourself and what project are you currently working on?
Frequently called PMG, I was born in Essex, trained in Chester, experienced near Leeds and living in Manchester! I run the full gamut of filmmaking (and used to have a hand in a lot of fringe theatre too) – I predominantly act, but I’ve produced, I frequently AD, I’ve written a few pieces, I know just enough about cameras to compose shots nicely, I’ve been known to operate a sound recorder and I edit as well (that said, I’ve only just been able to replace my editing machine after calamity struck). At present, I have loads of exciting news happening: feature film Remember Remember (Guy Fawkes as a vampire hunter, no less!) has been picked up by the American distributor, Global Genesis Group, and had its trailer play at Cannes last weekend, alongside feature horror Party of Valice’s premier there (where I play a lead in a wonderfully 90’s style piece about punks and ladies of the night). I’m just prepping my lines ahead of shooting the fifth season of Waterside (which I recently realised I am in more episodes of than any other character) – as a little exclusive, I can reveal to you now that I am quietly writing some prequel material as well. Simultaneously, I’ve been part of a fantastic team working on a project that is very dear to me called Valhalla; it’s a short film comparing the Nordic warrior’s battle for Valhalla (also known as happiness) to the modern day fight against depression – a topic from which I draw parallels from my own life and because so many of my friends experience this battle daily as well (to the point I call it The Creative’s Curse). Lastly (but by no means least), I’ve been looking into purchasing large quantities of biodegradable glitter, since being asked to have my production company (Quayframe Productions) produce and direct a short parody PSA on, well, glitter! It’s times like this that I can understand why so many people tell me I seem to be busy all the time, even if it feels like I could be helping out on more stuff.
What was growing up in Essex like?
Growing up in Essex is a little peculiar. There’s so many stereotypes (TOWIE definitely didn’t help that), and so often they’re not true. Of course, there are those that live up to them, but I was fortunate enough to grow up next to a national country park that is absolutely beautiful (the rival of the Garden of England and God’s Own Country and just so happened to be the site of the Olympic Mountain Biking the last time London hosted) and at the Thames Estuary – Southend is famous for a variety of reasons (the longest pleasure pier in the world and a holiday destination, even in Eastenders) and gave me access to huge amounts of fish and chips. Besides that, I was less than an hour’s train ride from London, so I had a wide range of culture at my fingertips – West End shows (reduced tickets on the day from Leicester Square tube station are a fantastic way to see big shows on a budget), tourism, getting off the train directly at Tower Hill & Bridge; I even wrote my A-level coursework on The Woman In Black since I could see it so easily. As a result, I feel I have had the best of all worlds in upbringing, being able to see rural, suburban and urban lifestyles and cultures with ease and my parents, wonderful people that they are, made sure I could soak it all in and made the most of it all.
How old were you when you got the acting bug? What your your family’s reaction when you told them?
I had easy access to theatre in my formative years, including things like pantomime and non-musicals at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend and Palace Theatre in Westcliff, and have always enjoyed good (and probably a fair amount of bad) television, films and Internet series. My first actual chance to have any kind of involvement on a personal level is likely similar to many others, where I took part in a nativity play in year 6 – I played an advisor to the king, who unfurled a map and briefly studied it before having the rest of the cast start saying my name because they thought I’d forgotten it was my cue! That same year, I joined the choir (I often tell the story of us singing New York, New York as Sarfend, Sarfend in the colloquial accent and getting told off for pronouncing Southend properly) before my voice became untenably out of tune and stayed that way throughout and after adolescence. I had relished what I thought was going to be a good performance and wanted more, but I guess it kind of slipped my mind long term, as I always think my first experience was year 7, in a new, bigger school, where drama was part of the curriculum and I enjoyed the thrill and fun of being someone else so much, I ended up joining a drama club called Sit & Fidget (who later hired me as a technician for a performance at said school, after I’d left for university). It just snowballed from there, moving into GCSE’s and later A-levels with my best friend asking me to be in his trailer for his media studies course (we even included a brief fight scene and me tumbling down the stairs – only we hadn’t told the dance class who came rushing out to check I was okay, which was promising for the performance and shot, but we explained and warned that we’d be repeating the shot and they continued to run out twice more before we decided to move on) and I eventually took myself to studying drama and theatre studies at university – where I’d originally planned to study aeronautical engineering (who doesn’t dream of designing spaceships when they grew up loving Star Wars?) and ended up in the local news for flashmobs dancing to the Austin Powers themetune. As for my family, they have always been exceptionally supportive since day dot – they’ve always had me keep in mind how difficult the industry is and to have fallback options, so encouraged me to study hard in other aspects as well, but they never made any allusions that I shouldn’t pursue these dreams and have consistently been there to give me advice or help me through tough times and have forever watched the works they can (memorably, my first play in Manchester, they came all the way up and brought my grandparents too). I have been powerfully fortunate to have them behind me every step of the way and they are always excited to see and hear about new work of mine. I couldn’t ask for better.
.What was your first job in the business?
I did a lot of lighting & sound design/operation throughout secondary school and onwards, but the first two that spring to mind are Violet City and Martin’s Quest For Love. The former is purportedly the first ever all British, all-green screen feature film ever and, being independent on a shoestring budget, had five years of post-production work. The latter came about from me working at Games Workshop, where a customer came in and upon talking to him, found out he wasn’t just being nostalgic for a game he used to collect and paint, but was partially researching for a short film where the character happened to be into this hobby: it turned out that he didn’t yet have an actor and within a week, I was set to film with them – to this day, it still appears in my (soon to be updated) showreel because I like the concept and character so much. But I really started to make my mark after moving to Manchester, where I quickly became known for my technical acumen – the first year’s Greater Manchester Fringe, I was the technical manager for six different plays, had to turn down six more, attend my brother’s wedding down in Essex and a producer/actor friend (the talented Daniel Thackeray) had to start telling our network that I wasn’t available until after the fringe due to so many inquiries coming his way for me. It was around this time I met the wonderful Norris & Parker off the back of teching a stage adaptation of V For Vendetta, who are quoted as calling me a technical wizard, and are a phenomenal pair of sketch comediennes, now based in London. I later had the opportunity to be the technical manager for the stage adaptation of the first ever Doctor Who episode for the fiftieth anniversary, where the original director (Wassir Hussein) himself turned up – that piece and Twelfth Night at the Victoria Baths both appeared in the news as well, as it happens.
What type of productions do you enjoy working on more,live theater or a film set and why?
For such a long time, I was all about the buzz of live theatre. It was the main thing that I had learnt throughout secondary school, A-levels and university and I’ve long felt there’s an unsaid thing that there’s a strange (almost elitist) viewpoint that “real” actors must perform on stage, which perhaps fed into my desire to be taken seriously. That said, I always loved the camaraderie that formed in a theatre production, the visceral feel of the immediate response from the audience, how the slightest change in their reactions might dictate how the actors would deliver their work and the electricity of the adrenaline that courses from something potentially going wrong, the joy and pride in the team coming together to make something work (and rescue something if something does go wrong, particularly if the audience aren’t aware it’s happened). You spend such a long time with these people in rehearsals and throughout the show, in such close proximity, you can’t help but become close and you have to enjoy the process or you simply wouldn’t be a part of it. In more recent years, I seem to have turned my hand more towards screenwork through an entirely organic process. I think it began when I came across the Kino movement – essentially, filmmakers meet for a weekend to a week and make films, using the cast and crew present and get them from start (sometimes not even scripted yet) to finish in time for a mass screening; it’s a real pressure cooker of ideas and art and a beautiful thing to behold and be part of. Combine this with meeting Connor Chadwick in 2013 (owner of Red Matter Productions and showrunner for Time Traveller and Waterside) and my screen credits started to shoot through the roof, leaving little time to focus on theatre. It’s been such a long time since my last live performance, that I occasionally have concerns about performing in the different style necessary and being out of practice, but I realise it’s just my desire to do things the best I can – in fact, my last live performance was a perfect blend of multimedia, where I’d been the cinematographer and editor for the on-screen portion and the live actor for a piece made at the last Kino event I attended!
You have done a webseries called “Ramblers”. Do you feel webseries are gaining in popularity? What are the pros and cons of doing a webseries?
Ramblers was a fantastic formative experience and I met some truly amazing people in the process. We loved the script from the start, being oddly similar to our respective characters (particularly Amy and myself), and revelling in the references and the nerdy and conversational aspects, as well as the surreal humour involved. It’s actually a huge (if not the main) reason I moved to Manchester – I was still living near Leeds at the time of filming (and had to leave halfway through to attend my graduation in Chester, returning to continue filming straight after; thanks to a lift from my parents to location) and those people and the whole place endeared me so much that when it came time to move, having the option of Manchester and Essex, I wanted to stake my independence here. Since then, I think webseries have very much grown in popularity – at the time, they were still comparatively new, but a great way for new filmmakers to explore longer form projects and more recently, an alternative to other streaming sources. I’ve been involved in my fair share of them so far, mostly acting, although I have also produced two series of Waterside and am writing my own at the moment. Suffice to say the pros are that you know the series will be viewable and accessible – it doesn’t need to get a full on distributor like Netflix, Amazon Prime or a TV channel, thanks to services like Youtube and Vimeo – and that the longevity of the final piece is extended due to a periodic release schedule. That said, they end up suffering from a lack of marketing and reach, in my opinion. They’re great for newcomers to build credits, experience, material and to show what people can do, but the lack of funding makes them hard to make and get seen, especially without the festivals that help shorts and features get seen (although it can also cause creativity in the same way as a Kino – to quote that movement “Do well with nothing. Do better with little. But do it now.”) I find so many projects just don’t get the reach and support they often deserve, but I also unfortunately have yet to find a solution. To that end, myself and Connor have discussed aims to get Waterside onto DVD – but then, I guess it stops being a webseries and becomes a series…
How do you approach auditioning? Do you have a routine or process to help you get ready? How do you handle it when you are passed over for a part?
I often tell this to actors that get anxious about the audition process: I apply for the role as appropriately as possible (relaying relevant experience, similar roles, how I fit certain looks, where I can be based for production etc), before then immediately looking for the next casting call to apply to. I find it best to not look back and be overly hung up on a casting – ultimately, I know my ability is there (you can’t land roles without performance skill when you’re relatively unknown) and so I know if I fail to get a part it is more to do with my interpretation or the chemistry of my performance with others that have been cast already or some other factor that simply isn’t predictable. I see no need to waste my time or energy begrudging a part going to someone else when it can be better spent on looking for my next opportunity to apply and to show what I might be right for. If I receive no direction after my performance, I’ll often politely ask if there was anything different they’d like to see, if they seem to have time, and I thank them for their time because I know it’s a long and hard day for them. I also feel an audition starts the split second the door cracks open as you enter – it’s not just a test of your performance’s suitability, but also of how well you’ll gel with the team already in place.
What has been your three best moments in the entertainment business?
I’ve talked about many achievements, all of which I hold in high regard, but I think the first to mention is Henry – a short film I wrote, produced, starred in and edited that explores my relationship with depression, made shortly after I was finally diagnosed (it was a very personal process, but it received some very high praise from critical filmmakers that I hold in very high stead as well). A special mention has to go to taking part in The Christmas Detectives, which we shot over the course of half a day or so during a Kino event, which later won an award – a witty edit where we reenacted the true story a policeman told – and speaking of Kino’s, my first short film, Insurance, went from concept to full edit (my first time properly writing, directing and editing for myself) in three hours, just scraping in to the runnings for the screening that evening where it received rapturous applause from my peers; a true feeling of pride and joy that they had enjoyed it so much, a group I highly respected and still do. The final highlight I feel the need to mention is a short film called Detached; a difficult story that deals with the topic of the aftermath of male rape. This project holds a very special place in memory because from the start, I was exceptionally concerned that we needed to treat the topic sensitively and accurately. Dónal, the writer-director, was very accommodating of my concerns and alongside Connor, the three of us honed the script and discussed the finer points, sent each other articles and studies and so on to ensure we were depicting things in the most appropriate way. This continued into the performance and Dónal has been quoted multiple times on how frequently he cried as the performances from myself and Julia came to life in front of him – we knew it was powerful stuff, but the biggest thing that means I know we did it all right is that Survivors UK shared and supported the final film. The relief flooded from me on hearing about it and it is very much a point of humility and satisfaction that we could tell that story in a way approved of by the experts that deal with that subject day in and day out.
As an actor,do you feel the British film industry is thriving or suffering from the lack of new talent?
I think I have to say it’s a little bit of both and neither. There’s a flood of new talent, every day, but it sometimes feels like the job market is overly saturated. It creates an acting economy that drives down wages, which more experienced actors feel is under the standard rate and newcomers are happy to accept to have their chance to shine and be seen. There are phenomenal talents out there, but they are often lost to the plethora of options and too little time to see them all. So there is a wealth of viewing choices for the audience which shows it is thriving, but it is difficult to reliably find the right new talent in a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees, perhaps. If I’m honest, I feel unqualified to give any firm answer one way or another – another trouble creatives have is a strong sense of Imposter Syndrome!
What do you like to do in your down time?
I’m a fairly standard geek-type and I say that with no derision at all. As I mentioned above, I have a fondness for Warhammer (I help the wonderful James Clark run Ardacon, the largest Lord of the Rings themed wargaming tournament and convention across the globe), I enjoy playing video games (that quick hit of dopamine for succeeding at feats I’d never hope or want to achieve in real life), I do enjoy reading although I find myself doing it less than I’d wish and focus on Star Wars novels and interesting facts books. I of course enjoy watching films, webseries and TV and have recently (with thanks to my wonderful girlfriend) got back to attending theatre shows (although I do try to support my friends with theirs when I have the spare cash and schedule at the same time). But I guess my main love is food. Sure, it’s not a hobby per se, but I do very much like to enjoy good food (and even tasty low brow food, of course), with a literal list of restaurants on my phone to take my parents to the next time they visit.
The cheetah and I are flying over to watch your latest film but we are a day early and now you are playing tour guide,what are we doing?
I think yourself and Cheetah are going to need to be hungry after your lengthy flight and we might need to to extend the trip for another day after. Manchester is truly a vibrant and expansive place, so forgive me for trying to cram in as much as I can – I’d hope it’s a Saturday so that I can take you to a wonderful delicatessen round the corner from mine called Barbakhans that serves the most amazing hot dogs (sausages in a variety of styles, from Parisian to Polish to Bratwurst to Lamb). If not, a trip to the Northern Quarter (a very eclectic but truly wonderful place) to visit Cafe North for a great breakfast (and as many options for eggs as America has invented). From there, I’d try to show you the sheer variety in the areas of Manchester –
In the Northern Quarter, we’d have to treat Cheetah to at least a cursory visit to the cat cafe, and into Affleck’s Palace (a truly wonderful example of this area, full to the brim with boutiques and antiques, celebrating the alternative diversity of the area), Fanboy 3 where you can play a library of board games, take you through the Arndale Centre (a Manchester landmark) to the Royal Exchange where we might be able to catch a matinee (of course we could instead go to the Palace or the Opera House or The Lowry in Salford), tour down Deansgate to check out the MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) with the wonderful waterway walks and the Beetham Tower (another Manchester landmark, iconic to the skyline). For lunch, we may as well dine at the wonderful Italian Vapianos or we could head over to Chinatown for you to sample some wonderful Pho from a favoured restaurant of mine and we may as well pop into Ho’s Bakery to collect some buns for an unnecessary snack we would love to eat later, but be too full for. We could work off some of the carbs by playing some rounds of Junkyard Golf by the Haçienda (very famous for its involvement in the music scene years ago). A wander past the Lass O’Gowrie, a pub frequented by most of Manchester’s independent theatre scene when it had a small theatre space upstairs, and we’ll head to Piccadilly Gardens and the old buildings’ facades that feature in many films set in America’s past (notably Captain America: The First Avenger, which interrupted the audio of a take in Ramblers with an explosion).
I think we could then travel to the Trafford Centre, with an entrance designed to rival that of any mall in Abu Dhabi, maybe catch a film and head back to Chorlton to enjoy a sumptuous meal at Yakisoba before returning to the city centre for an afternoon fringe show at the Three Minute Theatre and to drink the night away at the Fab Cafe (a geek-themed bar, with its own starship control desk, TARDIS and sci-fi foods, including fish fingers and custard). Of course, I might be trying to squeeze to much in, but there’s so much I’ve had to miss out, including the galleries and museums and seasonal events (such as the world-renowned Manchester Pride) and so much more. As for people, my immediate thoughts are my wonderful girlfriend (because nobody meets her and is less well off for it), my dear and amazing actor friend Carmen and comfortably a hundred more that I simply cannot pick and choose from.
I like to thank Peter for his time and and willingness to share his thoughts on his life and craft. I am sure we’ll be seeing Peter soon enough when the cheetah and I get a chance to review some of his work.
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Thank you again for your support and feel free to drop a comment below!