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Green days ahead for Vanessa Bartholomew

Sunday, August 6 2017

Another newcomer to the arena of acting, Vanessa Bartholomew, will be making her film debut with the September premiere of “Green Days by the River” at the trinidad+tobago film festival.

Hailing from “deep south”, as she fondly calls it, Vanessa was drawn to the arts from a young age – helped along by the encouragement and support of her family, who made sure she was allowed to pursue every opportunity she was given in the field.

She first dipped in the acting waters while studying Theatre Arts at Vessigny Secondary School, and it was her teacher Joshua Logan who encouraged the young Vanessa to audition for the film adaptation of Michael Anthony’s 1967 novel. “It was a totally new experience for me,” she gushes, “and working with [director] Michael Mooleedhar and everyone else onset on such a classic story, I believe it was a great way to enter into the world of film.” Playing the character of Joan, another young lady who holds main protagonist’s Shell’s interest in the book’s story, Vanessa began reading the novel as production began. She says this helped her get in touch with her character on a deeper level, much like new friends learning and understanding the intricacies of each other.

“I was able to get more background and insight on her personality through the pages, which I believe improved my performance,” she says of not only being a newcomer to the screen, but a newcomer to the beloved novel’s imagery and characterisation of inter-generational friendships and loves.

By her estimation, the character of Joan shares many similar aspects with her. Vanessa elaborates, “She was a very headstrong person, and was also charismatic. Therefore, while she loved Shell and wanted a future with him, she also wanted to achieve her own personal goals career-wise … and she was not willing to compromise on that for anything.” She draws similarities between herself and Joan, which are made evident in her own bravery onset and her tenacity at pushing her acting abilities as a first-time screen performer amongst other seasoned professionals.

Vanessa hopes the movie adaptation will open up these stories and characters to a wider audience – some who, like her, may not have read the novel in their childhoods, but may still be pulled into the magic that is film. “It’s a story that deserves to be seen by everyone. It captures the true essence of the book.” She, like many others, describes the story of “Green Days” as a coming of age tale, one where the audience is taken on the journey of Shell’s ascendance from teenage trappings to manhood.

“The theme of love is what stood out most to me,” says Vanessa of her dual roles as actress and book reader. “Love defined the type of person Shell was and the connections he experienced; the love Shell shared with his father, the different ways in which he loved Joan and Rosalie, even his love for ‘working the land’,” she says of the different manifestations of love the novel paints for a young man navigating personal growth, friendships, and familial obligation and service.

As for her time on set as novice, she describes her experience as exciting and knowledgeable, with each far-removed filming location bringing a new adventure. “ And knowing I was a part of an iconic cultural piece is very humbling,” she adds.

As a newcomer, she was sure to ask a lot of questions, especially taking on advice and teachings from veterans in the local industry.

“My number one secret weapon as an actress is to completely embody my character while filming,” she says, adding that cast and crew members on set would refer to her by her character’s name, Joan, even when not filming; an act that she says helped her hone her characterisation even further and feel confident in her abilities before the camera.

Another unforgettable lesson, she shares, is the importance of subtlety in filmmaking. Coming from a theatre background, Vanessa admits that it was a challenge to subdue her actions and expressions for the camera: “You have to be completely self-aware when filming, the camera sees it all. I had to learn the art of being subtle in my movements, which was something new to me as theatre arts requires more bold and dramatic performances.” However, such challenges were met with bravada and taken in stride, along with the support and friendship of many of her colleagues on set who made her feel comfortable, welcome, and part of the film’s family.

“Being able to form bonds with the remarkable persons I got to work with all while being a part of this amazing film is something I will cherish forever,” she says of the shining experience of production.

Ahead of the film’s premiere, she is looking forward to the promotional aspects of the film and “seeing it all unfold right in front my eyes and feeling the excitement of the film’s release along with the audience.” She hasn’t seen the finished product yet and so will be just as captivated and surprised as audience members at the film’s premiere – an excitement that is hard to contain.

But this is only just the beginning for Vanessa, who has her sights set on becoming a recognised local actress, while coming into a greater understanding of her own strengths and weaknesses as a performer, an introspective journey she has already begun since being cast in “Green Days”.

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