Lewis Gets Inked: Q&A with Jami Reid-Quarrell

Meet the creatives: Jami Reid-Quarrell

Lewis Gets Inked: Q&A with Jami Reid-Quarrell

A unique pool of talent has been brought together to create Epson’s new ambitious film, Lewis Gets Inked. Over forty people shared their expertise on the day including a special effects team, stunt supervisors, a movement specialist, lighting technicians, photographers, and more. We caught up with the people working behind the scenes to discover what they loved about the shoot, how they got started in their dream career and what other interesting projects they’ve been involved with.

Jami Reid-Quarrell, movement specialist, freelance

Starting out in a tiny town in Scotland, Jami has gone on to tour the world to tell stories through physicality. Now London based, he’s versed in instructing performers of all calibers, whether they’re on stage at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, or appearing in a music video or advert. Jami’s unique insight has been crafted over many years, having appeared himself on stage, and in front of the camera.  

What role did you play in making this film?

I’ve been brought in to keep an eye on the movement. It can be called movement direction or choreography. Most people think of choreography as learnt steps, but a lot of the time, in adverts, television, and often theatre too, you need something that’s not exactly choreography but it’s movement direction. I worked with Lewis on the Epson shoot on some basic movements, finding what felt natural to him. Time is really, really limited on set, so it helps to drill these - that’s probably my most important function. The paint drops were really specific and we had to nail it. It was important to make sure Lewis felt happy and confident with the movements beforehand, as we only had one take of each paint drop. 

What have you most enjoyed about making this film?

What I do is extremely visual, and this project completely relies on visuals, so it’s a great fit. It has been exciting being able to play with something so strong in its visuals. 

What are the best parts of your job?

Getting to be creative, coming up with ideas, seeing them through to fruition and seeing that put in front of a lot of people - that’s a pretty cool thing and not a lot of people get to do that. That’s pretty special. And creating on the day; you can plan and plan ahead, but you always have to respond to the challenges that are presented on the day, because nothing is ever perfectly the way it is on the storyboards or in your head. Thinking on your feet, and really responding on the spot. 

What are the worst parts of your job?

Thinking on your feet! I suppose the most challenging part is never having quite enough time. But then, if you had more time, you’d just fill it and you might not come up with the same kind of things that you do under pressure. 

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

I appeared last year in Doctor Who as a new villain, Colony Sarff. I’m also continuing to do some movement work with them .

I worked on a video for Depeche Mode. I never got to meet them because it was all filmed separately in a studio and then inter-cut with live footage of them, but it was a really beautiful effect.  The members of the band and the people in the studio, were going through various physical movements, that kind of broke up into electric static and became pure energy. It was really beautiful.

Pop videos are always fun; they’ve got the creativity of ads but over a more prolonged time so you’ve got time for ideas, and time for more play. I did one for a Swedish group called Casiokids. The song was called ‘Finn Bikkjen!’, which is Swedish for find the dog, and they were running around the forest with the dog and there was a sequence with some strange alien looking beings, which I had to choreograph.

One of my favorite and most high profile things would have been working for Trevor Nunn for The Tempest in the Theatre Royal Haymarket with the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Nicholas Lyndhurst, and choreographing aerial work.

I’m also generally  getting involved with motion and performance capture work.  

How did you start in the industry?

I started as an actor, which I still do, and I moved into more physical stuff. I went to circus school, because I was already doing lots of physical roles, to get some training to do more of that. I took a couple of years out and worked solely in the circus in France, and then came back to Britain and did things like the Royal Shakespeare Company where they needed actors who could climb up ropes and fall down ropes and stuff, but could also do Shakespeare. All of those little things came together into a niche. I played Puck for the Royal Opera House because, again, they needed someone who could do all those things.

I focused on aerial work at circus school and studied mostly corde lisse [acrobatics on a vertical rope], although we did a bit of everything: bungees, trapeze and harness work.

Along the way, there’s always been things that have come up; either my own projects or other people have asked me to choreograph. This area of movement direction, it’s not quite like a west end show where it’s all about the steps and the high kicks – it’s its own thing. I’ve worked with companies like Punch Drunk and Frantic Assembly where it’s inventing new ways of telling stories through physicality.

Its a nice balance; I get to perform sometimes, but I really enjoy stepping out and being able to have the creative eye to look from the outside.

What was your experience at school? And what has your experience been with training since?

Nowadays they have things like dance and drama exams- I didn’t have anything like that at my little school in a tiny town in Scotland. I just had to find it; I searched out drama workshops. I started with little low budget amateur sci-fi films. The guy who did the film that I was in when I was 12 went on to create Alien Wars, which was an interactive spectacle based on the Alien Films. He started it in Glasgow and it eventually came down to London.

I worked with a company called the Blue Raincoat Theatre company in Sligo, in Ireland. That’s where I picked up a lot outside of circus, a lot of my movement training, because they were all trained in Marcel Marceau, and Jaques Lecoq, so different forms of mime, and corporeal mime. I’ve basically picked up all my training through companies that have trained me up. The Royal Shakespeare Company trained me in Shakespearian verse and iambic pentameter and all that stuff.

What advice would you give to people starting out in the creative industries?

On the one hand, there’s the whole – ‘don’t do it!’ Which is not very helpful. You have to know that you’re in for a bit of a roller coaster. Enjoy it and the randomness of it; the ups and the downs. Throw yourself into every opportunity that comes along; literally put yourself out there. I think you need to taste a little bit of everything - to know how it all works, what you don’t like and what you do like. Knowing how the industry works and what everyone’s jobs are. Do as many different things as you can; it gives you a better all-round knowledge. 

How did you get your first break into the industry?

I got my first job working at the BBC as a secretary in the finance department - it was incredibly dull. But it provided a stepping stone into the more creative side of television. That was my first big break, if you can call it that.

I come from a family of film makers; my Dad is a film technician as are two of my brothers. I spent a lot of my childhood on film sets; summer holidays were spent appearing as an extra on Merchant Ivory [production film company] period drama shoots, with the likes of Helena Bonham Carter. I’ve known it all my life really, so I had a good understanding of what was involved. 

What advice would you give to people starting out in the creative industries?

I would say just try and work as hard as you can, be really enthusiastic and available, and do whatever’s required. I started off as a secretary, lots of people start as a runner. It’s about getting your foot in the door and getting known to people. A lot of it is common sense, really, like any job, so being there and being really smart and available and super keen, I think are the key things for me.  And that’s how I perceive anyone that comes to us who is starting out.  If they’ve studied an aspect of what we do, all the better – if not, a keen attitude to the work involved goes a long way. 

Follow the link to watch the full video: http://www.epson.co.uk/lewisgetsinked