Vicki Helyar hadn’t planned on becoming a writer / director. And yet, with a mini series bursting on the scene, and an Exeter Phoenix Commission to compete, as well as a slate full of other projects in development, that’s exactly where she is.
“It was never on the cards,” she told D&CFilm. “I would never have done it if the female parts weren’t so crap. So I guess I have to owe it to that.”
Drama school, Vancouver, London and audition after audition where “the female parts were just boring – they weren’t really roles, they were just props,” she said.
“I thought, I’m not going to spend a lot of effort and time driving around and travelling to auditions to get paid nothing or very little, for these. So I started writing.”
For the last while she has focused on writing and directing as well as acting, but it sounds like she’s still evolving into those newer roles.
“If someone has a main part which is nuanced and funny and dramatic and meaty, and offers it me, so I get to go home at the end of the day – from a lazy perspective, that’s really good. But that’s purely about being able to sleep more,” she joked.
“But I do like writing, I do like directing and I do find it fulfilling. I’m very happy to be doing it. I just see myself in the future doing it without being the actor in the role and still enjoying it very much.”
One of the projects where she is writer, director and star is the series Abnormal.
Abnormal follows grumpy girl Henriette as she struggles to progress on her journey to become a happier, nicer person. All the time, she’s harbouring a secret. And that secret isn’t that she keeps on encountering people who have a tendency to increase her grumpiness.
“I fall between comedy and drama a lot and maybe into tragi-comedy sometimes. Abnormal falls into that a bit, but that is where my preferences lie. Purely in terms of acting I love both. But in the way that I write, the characters and the ideas that pop into my head have some sort of comedic slant on them.
“Abnormal is probably me, only Welsh and even more miserable,” said Vicki. “I get to fulfil the fantasy version of my grumpy self through Henriette and I find that really fun and interesting to play.
“There’s a lot of characters that I auditioned for previously which had lines but you don’t really know what they’re doing, what they’re there for, or what their purpose is. Often that’s because they have very little to say in the piece. Abnormal has a lot to say and a lot going on. And I selfishly get to do all of that and it’s really fulfilling.”
The comedy is derived from experience.
“In Abnormal, it’s so similar to me but turned up to 11,” said Vicki. “When you’re writing something that is so character-based, as opposed to plot-based, the ideas that pop into my head are thoughts that I might have. Or irritating scenarios that might happen to me, or that I might get irritated by. So I will remember them and jot them down – that’s how that character has come to be. It might be things that I think about rather than actually say or it might be a more exaggerated version of something that I do.”
Loner Henriette attempts to navigate personal development whilst also dealing with the continual struggle of being an absolute misery-guts.”
That has created an interesting, nuanced, complicated character that holds the attention, promising emotional twists and turns along the journey of the seven episodes that are primed and a TV series that has been penned. In fact, those seven episodes are a prequel to the series, where we get to first delve into Henriette’s world of striving to be ‘better’.
Other projects include a short film about a mermaid being held captive in a bath who has been found by a plumber. Plus a feature film. It’s called. Twelfth Day. The story follows two disparate sisters who come together for a strained weekend to complete a treasure hunt left for them by their late mother.
“It’s based in Somerset,” said Vicki. And it’s a very Somerset-feeling film, she says. The premiere is hoped for later in the year.
When it comes to the crew, on Abnormal Vicki did everything herself.
“I film it, edit it, do everything,” she said. And she tries to keep to an extremely low budget. “It’s difficult, but it’s the nature of hodge-podge low budget filmmaking.”
Nevertheless, there’s a promise of a slew of female-led character-driven films.
“That’s completely accidental,” said Vicki. “If I was the kind of person who could write plot, I think I’d be screwed.”
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