The Beast on the Moor: Short Black Comedy With a Message

Poster for The Beast on the Moor
Natasha Harmer has done it again. In 2013 she performed her one-woman cottage industry act when writing, producing and directing her short film Once Bitten, Twice Shy. I can attest to her skills in all three endeavors as the lovely lady cast me in the lead role as the hunter with a secret. In 2015 she has worn a triple hat once again with The Beast on the Moor. A short black comedy that will appeal to those who know what village pubs are like in Britain’s small villages and for those who loved the opening of American Werewolf in London, the film will also be a delight.

A couple of tourists who are thinking of relocating to this small village near the moors stop into the local pub for a drink and a little information. The publican, whose dark presence in the shadows does not bode well for the two, is not a welcoming figure at all.

This use of a local urban legend, or would that be rural legend, to turn away unwanted outsiders who want to settle in the village is clever and funny and hides a message. It is not too unbelievable when one considers the amount of resentment from village residents at the “posh” out of town residents who work in the city and only show up on weekends and holidays.

These part time residents drive the price of houses and property up for the folks who actually live there all the time. The message is that these part-time villagers are making it hard for the folks from the village to continue to live there. That is my understanding and may not be what Natasha meant at all. You’ll have to ask her.

Possible messages aside, the lighting is perfect for this “punk’d” scenario and the location is perfect. As the story progresses the music fits the mood perfectly and the sudden O. Henry ending is delightfully done. The actors all perform their parts well and the publican (bartender) was a last minute replacement to the originally hired actor who had to drop out.

Sadly, this will be the last film from Natasha for a while. When I expressed dismay at this news she explained that losing access to all that equipment on loan from the University was a major factor in her decision to “retire.”

The Beast on the Moor can be found on YouTube and Vimeo, as can Once Bitten, Twice Shy. Head on over and have a look, it won’t take long and I promise you will enjoy it. The cast list includes Midge Mullin as Trevor, Tracey Norman as Sandra, Mark Norman as Jason, and Luke Abbot, from Oracle of Film plays James.

9 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

My Summer Vacation: Acting and Adventure

My Summer Vacation

The film I worked on this summer has now been made available for public viewing on Vimeo. It was filmed in July around Sidmouth, England with an intimate cast and crew. I worked with some brilliantly talented people and hopefully will work with them again. The experience was another life changer for me.

I had given up the idea of ever working in a profession that I’d been hooked on since my teen epiphany that this was the ideal occupation for me. When I reluctantly turned my back on it, I knew that I would never have the chance to prove that I still had the chops for this type of work. I was wrong about that, just as I’ve been wrong about many things in my life. One thing I think I’m right about is, I have always honestly believed that people are born to be actors, writers, directors, et al. I still do.

Just as there are people who have certain party tricks; like being able to imitate Christopher Walken or John Wayne after a couple of drinks, there are others who have a talent that they were born with. They enter the world as a sort of idiot savant. The ability; the talent, exists already. All they need is the opportunity to develop the skill required to polish and hone that innate talent. Like the joke goes, it takes practice to get to Carnegie  Hall.

My month of July 2013 (my summer vacation, if you will) was filled with excitement. Not only did I get to step in front of the camera for the first time in years, I also got to prove to myself that I had not lost the urge, or the ability, to act. It was still a part of me and though I’d turned my back on it, the creativity had not left me. Nor had the imagination needed to “pull it off.”

The end result was a project that I could take pride in. All because Natasha Harmer took a chance to use an old out-of-practice actor, who could have turned out to be  a ham or an actor who could not act. She writes a blog titled Films and Things, which was the name of the production company incidentally, and if you haven’t already, you should go check her out.

For those of you who want to see the film, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, just click on the link. Once you’ve seen it, drop by and let Natasha “Tash” know what you thought. Personally, I think that every single person attached to the film did a bang-em-up job, but I could be a little prejudiced.

My Summer Vacation
In Mandela House July, 2013

The second thing I did in July was to travel to South Africa to track down a couple of sources who’d turned our paper, the Las Vegas Guardian Express (guardianlv.com) onto the news that Nelson Mandela was no longer with us. Despite the huge smoke screen thrown up by the world’s press, based on news released from his children who have their own reasons for not acknowledging the great man’s passing, we received information that was disturbing and obscene. We’d been told by quite a few sources that the man was really gone.

I will not go into the story, you can follow the above link to see the articles written by myself and other journalists in the paper. I was chosen, at the last minute, to fly to the country and search for the truth. I have written about my experiences and will be adding more of what I learned about the country  in the paper itself.

I met people in Johannesburg who watched over me in this dangerous area of the world and treated me like a long lost family member. I travelled around the local areas, saw where the poor lived and the rich. I went to Pretoria visiting  the hospital where Madiba was interred.  I spoke to fellow journalists who were camped outside the hospital waiting for the next act in this tragedy to unfold.

This trip was another life changing event. It  made me realise that I was addicted to the adrenaline rush. The feeling of hyper-reality that comes with the territory of increased heart rate and focussed vision. Johannesburg emits a feeling of underlying danger, somewhat akin to working in the prison service when there is trouble brewing from certain elements. You are on edge and, seemingly, aware of everything going on. Afterward, you are exhausted by all of the hyper-awareness.

I have been incredibly lucky in the time following my near brush last year with the grim reaper. I have, in essence, rediscovered myself. I’ve learned that there are some things in me that will never change. The actor in my soul will never die and my yearning for adventure, aka adrenaline addiction, will always be a constant companion. I have also rediscovered my love of writing.

I’ve written about all the above mentioned  things before, but, I’ve been a bit lackadaisical with my blog of late. My  work for the paper has pretty much overtaken everything in my life at the moment. But I will remember to make time for my inner actor and will soon be preparing a showreel to see if anyone else would like to hire an old “not-so-out-of-practice actor again.

Until then, my summer vacation with its adventures in acting, world news, and dangerous surroundings will be in my memory book. If I close my eyes, I can see South Africa unfold before me just a vividly as the day I arrived. It is amazing that the end result of being so close to death has made me feel more alive than ever before.

I have been truly blessed by whoever, or whatever, is in charge. I thank all of you lovely people who take the time to follow my little blog and who leave comments or like my efforts. May you all find what makes you feel truly alive in your lifetime.

Michael SmithMy Summer Vacation

United Kingdom

18 October 2013

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

This is a link to the indiegogo site where you can make contributions to a new short film that Natasha Harmer (Films and Things) is working on. Natasha is a fellow blogger on WordPress, so lets show some blogger community love!  This will be her first professional project and I will be involved. Please stop by and give her some support! Oh and while you’re there, check out the links to the facebook page and the twitter account, she needs all the publicity she can get. Thanks guys!!