Actor Katherine Drake is full of surprises when we meet up. Her variety of roles are surprising enough, ranging from comedy to drama; from super-patient girlfriend to money-grabbing sister. But I didn’t expect we’d end up chatting about about Cornish Zombies, or Lady Macbeth. Or that she’s now entered the world of film production.
Two of Katherine’s feature films are in post-production and will hopefully be released in 2019. The Conspiracy of Dark Falls and Alien Outbreak.
Of these, Alien Outbreak, by Rendered Pictures, Exeter-based husband and wife team Neil and Amanda Rowe, sees Katherine take an action-packed lead in the sci-fi.
Alien Outbreak follows the filmmakers’ Robot World, which won wide praise and bagged an international distribution deal. And it’s Katherine’s first leading role in a feature.
“I wouldn’t usually go for something like that,” Katherine tells me at the Exeter Picturehouse cafe. But when she saw the story, she was convinced. And she’s now a convert.
“It was really enjoyable,” she says. “Running around with a gun doing action stuff is a lot of fun.”
Part of the allure of Alien Outbreak is how well it’s executed. Director ‘Neil seems to have this real eye for immediately getting really good shots’.
We’re catching up not long after the premiere of Cut From Cloth, a comedy coffin-side romp where Katherine plays the smouldering, spoilt, inheritance-grabbing Olivia.
“It’s wonderful to be able to glare at people,” says Katherine. “I don’t do that in real life at all.”
Olivia is a far cry from the quietly nurturning role of Marie in the mirco-short Repercussions, where she cares for a constant drum-playing Jorge (Oraine Johnson).
But it was as Happy Apples in the Phil Baker penned A Story for Happy that Katherine had a tailor-made role.
“Phil wrote that with me in mind,” says Katherine. “We were doing some voiceover for a mutual friend – we didn’t know each other. He kept in touch, and he wrote this script with the aim of us using it for both of our showreels.
“Happy was an interesting character. I don’t think Phil was imagining I was going to play it like that, and I wonder if I could have played it another way. I guess it made her a bit more fantastical like, is she real?”
A Story for Happy certainly is a bit of an intriguing mind-warp – a chance moor encounter between Katherine’s Happy and Sid Gentle (played by Phil) leads to an uneasy relationship. The film sees Happy going from naif to vamp, all with an intriguing other-worldly air.
It’s such a strong performance, it had Katherine’s sister in tears
But that ability to show a range can be double-edged sword.
“You hear a lot of advice from casting directors saying you should have a really broad showreel, and others say you should market yourself to a very specific type,” says Katherine. “It’s really difficult.”
But which would she prefer?
“Why would you want to play the same person over again?” she replies.
There’s certainly a strong psychological tint to the roles she chooses. Not surprising then that one of the characters she’d love to play on screen is Lady Macbeth (she’s given up on Elizabeth Bennet).
A fearsome Lady Macbeth
“I’d love to do film versions of Shakespeare,” she says. “A screen version of Lady Macbeth. What I love with Shakespeare is making it natural, making it relatable and getting your mouth around the language.
“She’s just a fearsome character, and that’s always fun,” says Katherine.
“It’s playing outside your comfort zone, but trying to keep the lid on and making it interesting to watch – really making it sizzle.”
Where Katherine would really like to ‘sizzle’ is in a period drama.
“There’s not a lot being shot around here, so I’m going to have to make my own. Which is going to happen very soon,” says Katherine. She and fellow Cut From Cloth star Melissa Dean are putting their heads together to produce a film. That kind of collaboration is part of the ethos of the South West film scene.
“The community down here is dead close,” says Katherine. “You get to know who you work well with, and you get to know who you trust. It’s nice to have those connections and that support.”
Producing and Jan Tregeagle
It’s through another of those connections that Katherine has started her production career, on the animation The Legend of Jan Tregeagle. She got talking to Simon Tytherleigh about producing, and he offered her the role on his film.
So is it different being a producer?
“You don’t get told what to do when you’re a producer. You’ve got to figure it all out yourself,” she says.
The Legend of Jan Tregeagle is a Cornish folk tale.
“It’s a family animation, and it’s funny,” says Katherine. “It’s got some nice comedy and some beautiful characters and the puppetry is absolutely stunning.”
Part of their aim, as well as offering up an enchanting and entertaining story, is to get people excited about Cornish folklore. And to that end they’re doing both Cornish and English Language versions of film.
“Animation is accessible, and you do great things with it. You can have zombies, which is what we’ve got – it’s a zombie film!
“Everybody’s doing zombie films at the moments and we’re doing one. It just happens to be Cornish and set in the 17th century.”
Katherine tells us the story of the Legend of Jan Tregeagle