Roger Michell & Kevin Loader: Virtual Masterclass

15 April, 2020

On Monday 6th April, Screen and Film School were thrilled to be joined by the incredible director/producer duo and co-founders of Free Range Films, Roger Michell and Kevin Loader. Together, they’ve made Hyde Park on Hudson, My Cousin Rachel and Le Week-End, to name a few, and both have also had incredible solo careers.

Roger Michell calls himself ‘a theatre director by design’, having directed for theatre societies at Cambridge, then assisting playwrights like Samuel Beckett at the Royal Court Theatre before slowly worked his way towards being a theatre director himself. By going through a BBC ‘boot camp’ that prepares theatre directors for working in film and television, Roger was offered a job by Michael Wearing, legendary drama producer for the BBC.

Kevin Loader too studied at Cambridge, and after going to grad school in America where he gained television experience, he commenced training at the BBC. Here he learned various aspects of filmmaking, from documentary directing to editing as well as journalistic training. At that time, drama seemed out of reach, but after 14 years at the BBC, Kevin left The Late Show and ventured into drama. Here he met Michael Wearing and thus, Roger Michell.

We asked our students to vote on which films to discuss Roger and Kevin from their filmographies. Over 90 students participated in this poll, voting to focus this Masterclass on Notting Hill, directed by Roger, and The Death of Stalin, directed by Kevin. We’ve included some of our favourite questions from the session below and you can also watch the full video!

Do you have advice on how you would work with difficult actors if you have an important shoot to do and don’t have much time? Do you have any tips to make the day run smoothly? – Rose (current student)

Roger Michell: My first piece of advice is to rehearse with your actors. Insist that you get some time to rehearse. That’s the greatest sedative you can offer an actor – time where you can be in a room, going through material, reading it to each other, discussing it, having a laugh about it. So that the actors are settled and clear when they come on set. […] Embrace the rehearsal. Get as close to your actors as you can and encourage them to get close to each other. Try to do as much preparatory work on the text as you can. Julia Roberts, for example, had never rehearsed a movie before Notting Hill and she was a little bit resistant to the process, but the first day she said, “This is so empowering, why don’t we do this for everything?”

Fiona, Industry Engagement Manager: [on The Death of Stalin] How rigorously did everyone stick to the script when shooting? How much freedom did the actors have with the script?

Kevin Loader: As Roger was saying with Notting Hill, Armando’s process is to do extensive rehearsals with writers in the room as well as him. We had Ian Martin and David Schneider as our co-writers so we had two weeks of solid rehearsal with them in the room. They’ll talk about it, they’ll work things, they’ll try things out, the writers will often then re-write the scenes overnight and come back and do them again the next day. So, to some extent, his process is to rehearse with actors and then use their input on the rehearsal stage to feedback into the script. There’s always at least one and usually two writers on set, sometimes they’ll chuck another line-in, or go up to an actor between takes and say, “Why don’t you try this?”


Many thanks to Roger and Kevin for taking the time to speak with so many of our students!

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