Series : Self help series 2
Director : Bethan Williams, Tom Bridger
Bethan Williams began her passion for acting and writing at the University of Lincoln where she achieved her English and Drama degree. Shortly before graduating, she was offered an acting and writing role within Zest Theatre Company , where she was an original cast member of the production ‘Gatecrash’. Since then she has continued to collaborate with various production companies and writers.
Tom Bridger has been working professionally as an actor for over a decade in theatre works, short film and commercials in the UK and abroad. He won Best Unproduced Screenplay at The British Independent Film Festival 2018 for his script ‘The Hippo and the Room’, and his co-created web-series ‘How to Be Like a Man’ was officially selected for London Lift-Off Film Festival.
Together they co-created, wrote and directed the first series of comedy web series ‘Self-Help’, which won numerous awards throughout 2020 and 2021, including Best Web-Series at Unrestricted View Film Festival 2021, Best Lockdown Project at UK Offline Web Fest 2021 and Best Concept in a Comedy at the British Web Awards 2020.
What would be your ideal definition of cinema? How do you see the visual medium , the usefulness of it as an effective tool of communication?
It’s a struggle to put one definition on something as huge as cinema. As far as communication goes, you can’t underestimate the power of seeing yourself represented on screen, or of seeing viewpoints and lifestyles from outside your own experience.
Would you differentiate between the two? The medium merely as a medium of communication and the medium where one can express oneself, embrace the artist they are?
You can’t separate them, really. As soon as something is shown to an audience it doesn’t belong to the artist who made it. And any intent they had, in a way, doesn’t matter anymore because everything will be perceived through the lens of each viewer, their lives and experiences. If you’re making something with the intention of showing it to any audience, how they perceive it will always affect the creative decisions you make.
What would be that one genre you are never tired of watching or recommending? Similarly what would be the movie that you can still watch despite watching it a million times before?
Bethan Williams: I like documentaries. Documentaries about real housewives of New York City, Beverly Hills, Atlanta, Potomac… and maybe Salt Lake City. And my top movies are ‘The Mummy’, ‘The Mummy Returns’, but never ‘The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor’ or the ‘Scorpion King’. And Moulin Rouge. The episodic structure, it’s full of heightened characters, it’s a tour de force for the senses. Baz Luhrmann is just a fantastic director.
Tom Bridger: Sci-Fi. Put me on a spaceship and I’m happy. But not fantasy. Wizards and goblins? No. Robots? Yes. So obviously put on a Star War or a Star Trek and I’m happy. Yes, even the bad ones. A film I could watch over and over is ‘Local Hero’. I just relax into that film.
How did you come up with a concept as unique as this? Tell us about the journey.
To begin with we intended it as a vehicle for us to act in, but then as time went on we enjoyed the devising and writing and decided to pursue that in and of itself. The story and character concept was from seeing a particular self-help guru on YouTube (who shall remain nameless), as well as the glut of celebrities getting their own reality shows, certain influencers on social media, and the general spread of vague, actually quite unhelpful self-care content coming out of every corner of the Internet at the moment.
So, if asked, what would be your perception of Self help series 2? How do you see Self help series 2?
Lighthearted, funny, eccentric, but also diving into the backstories and inner struggles of the characters a little more than the first series.
Tell us something about the characters in self help series 2. Where would they locate their significance in a narrative like this?
Each of them thinks they know best. A lot of the comedy comes from this – how different their lives are. It all informs how they respond to and instigate situations.
You have dexterously used space in your movie. It is fascinating how you have utilised every part of your set . It is evident in the intricate details in every frame. Tell us something about it.
Nothing to do with us! Emma Richardson (Veronica Moses) volunteered her house for us to shoot in, and the fantastic decor is all hers. Any credit for the intricate use of the frame has to go to our Director of Photography Liam Gilroy, who did an outstanding job.
There is a constant presence of a gaze in the episode. It is as if they actions are being looked upon and evaluated. It creates a feeling of corporate surveillance. Would you tell us something about it?
The mockumentary format has been baked in from the start – it’s very important to Veronica how she’s perceived, and her awareness of the camera alters everything she says and does. It also has the effect of heightening the humour, drama, tragedy – when something embarrassing happens to the characters, it’s made worse by the knowledge it’s been caught on camera. Similarly when the characters have a triumph or funny line, the audience feel more invited in than in a traditional format, sharing the moment with them.
The conversations appear preponderant in the narrative. Tell us something about the process of writing the dialogues, the thoughts that went behind it and the eventual execution.
We’re very chatty people. When we sat down to write, it became clear it was going to be a very verbal type of comedy because that’s just a reflection of who we are and what we find funny. The writing process is usually the two of us devising and improvising, typing it up, then going away, coming back together, discussing it, then revising the script. Seeing the actors perform it has really helped us shape how the characters speak too – we have a much clearer image in our heads of their voices and how they would deliver lines, and often they’ll be given freedom to improvise around lines as well.
There are various shades of comedy in the episode. It has elements of slapstick, it has elements of a satire, it also has dry and dark humour in exact proportions. How difficult was it for you to incorporate these elements in your movie?
This came pretty naturally to us. We knew what we found funny and how we wanted to do it. There were occasional times where a moment might be too silly or dark and we’d decide to pull back a bit, but for the most part we had a clear idea of what we wanted to see.
Where do you think the medium is headed towards in a post pandemic world? How do see the medium changing certain things about it?
From a production viewpoint, casting has been helped massively by online auditions. It’s hard to say which way the medium will go, audiences seem a lot more comfortable watching movies from home now, but at the same time there’s an eagerness to get back to the communal space of the cinema. Who knows! Good thing we’re sticking with TV.