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Girls on Film

Suzanne Packer and Sunetra Sarker direct an episode of Casualty.

It’s a case of poacher turned gamekeeper in Casualty this week when regular actresses Sunetra Sarker (Zoe) and Suzanne Packer (Tess) get to shout “action” and direct their co-stars in this week’s episode, Guilty Secrets.


Suzanne Packer tells how it came about:


“One day Sunetra and I were waiting for a scene to start and we started to talk about how we would direct the scene if we were the directors. And the conversations grew from then on. We’d muse about where we would put the cameras and before we knew it we were seriously asking ourselves if we could. And the answer became a resounding yes!


“In retrospect, I enjoyed it a lot though at the time it felt like the hardest thing I had ever done. I felt like an absolute beginner, it was like opening up another part of my brain! I would definitely like to do it again, although I don’t think I’ll be giving up the day job too soon. Having so much responsibility for the whole show meant it was very different to acting alone. There was never a moment to take a break. If we weren’t working on the scene in the moment, we were planning the next one and considering other things that an actor never has to think about, like locations and casting.”


So what were the biggest challenges for the rookie directors?


“Of course the biggest challenge was always time. There never seemed to be enough time in the day to shoot the scenes in exactly the way we would like. Knowing the show the way we did as regular artistes we were keen to try something new – shoot a scene in a way that maybe we had never seen it shot before and we would probably have been more experimental if we had had more time. Regarding the other actors, we had nothing but co-operation and exceptional support. They were all behind us and the crew. We couldn’t have asked for more.”


And what was it like working with co-star Sunetra in this unfamiliar role?


“Working with Sunetra was the biggest triumph of all! We were convinced that some of the cast and crew thought we wouldn’t be talking by the end of the shoot but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. We got on brilliantly. We worked very well together and brilliantly complemented each other’s strengths. When one or other of us was feeling particularly under pressure the other one took the weight of the responsibility, and vice versa, and luckily we were never feeling under stress at the same time.”


So with a successful episode of Casualty under her directing belt, will Suzanne be hanging up her nurses’ uniform any time soon?


“I would love to be known as a successful director as well as an actor and I still feel I need to stretch myself as an actor. As a director I’d love to direct something in the family entertainment mould and when it comes to actors I would definitely like to direct Derek Thompson again – and of course Sunetra!”


(Source: BBC Press Office)

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