Demystifying the works of Shakespeare

For almost two years, friends Dan Poole and Giles Terera, who met at drama school a decade ago, have been making a documentary about performing Shakespeare, for which they’ve filmed interviews with actors, directors, casting directors and others who’ve been in or staged his plays.
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The film is focused on helping to teach Shakespeare in schools, colleges, universities and drama schools and assisting actors.“The idea for the project came from a discussion Giles had with another actor about being scared of Shakespeare,” says Poole. “Lots of actors are intimidated by the reputation and baggage that goes with Shakespeare’s work.”

Both Poole and Terera are actors, but Poole also had experience as a cameraman and happened to own a camera, so that enabled them to begin making the documentary with very little money.

“We started contacting people, they gave us contacts and it built up in that way,” he says. “We haven’t had to pay anyone for their time – we couldn’t have done it if we’d had to – so the film has been made possible by everyone’s generosity.

“We didn’t want to make a dry documentary, we wanted to make something that was engaging and youthful and we decided, as filming progressed, that it should focus more on us because we’re both actors – and reasonably youthful. We thought the film should be a mix of Long Way Down and Flight of the Conchords, but also a documentary that has important points to make.”

“Something like this would usually be made by a big company,” says Terera, “but it’s just been the two of us from day one and everybody’s got behind us, which is inspiring.

“If we’re talking about great Britons, there’s no greater Briton that William Shakespeare – he’s on the top of most people’s lists and yet we’ve got this strange thing of people being afraid of his work. I think that if Shakespeare was American, they’d take better care of him – he’d be on the dollar bill.

“We feel that it’s almost down to us to try and readdress the balance, which is both a positive and a negative because making this film is a massive undertaking, but everywhere we turn, people are saying that we’re doing the right thing. There have been many highs and many lows. Like anything worth doing, there are difficulties and there are fantastic things and both make it worthwhile.”

Poole, who’s had a balance disorder (caused by a virus) since April, which has made filming and acting difficult, heard about the Great Britons competition from British Airways’ PRs, who he was talking to about the possibility of getting free flights to the US. He applied to Great Britons straightaway and hopes to win flights to New York and Los Angeles so he and Terera can do a number of key interviews for the film, which they expect to finish next year.

“There are lots of people over there who will speak to us,” says Poole, “but it’s getting there that’s the problem because there are some big costs involved. Flights to the US are a massive expense – and we’d need to take another person with us to help with the filming.

“It’s amazing being shortlisted for the competition – I just hope other people see the interest we have in this project. We’ve been trying to fit filming in around work, which is always difficult because we are self-employed and we have to make enough money to live, but it’s a labour of love.”