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Kathryn Georghiou is a locally-born classically-trained actor whose debut short film is premiering at the Regent Cinema later this month. She tells us about how drawing on her own experiences of alcoholism in her family inspired Changing Tides and gave her the courage to make it

On 23rd September The Regent Cinema hosts a night of four independent film screenings, all of them made in Blackpool by Blackpool locals.

A double-bill of thrillers Eigengrau and Eigengrau: Half Life, written and directed by Christopher C Arkley kicks things off, followed by Prefer to Sip Tea, by Arkley and Kathryn Georghiou, and about one woman’s struggle with PTSD. There will also be a premier screening of Georghiou’s new film, Changing Tides, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Based on a true story, Changing Tides is a film is about end-of-life alcoholism, abandonment and finding hope in unexpected places and is loosely based on Georghiou’s relationship with her own father during the latter part of his life. He was an alcoholic, and that’s what killed him at the young age of 58.

Aiden is bloated and yellowing, looking older than his age because he’s been lost at the end of a bottle for many years. Bea is young, cocky and has better things to do with her time. They fight. But when the realities of alcoholism force Bea to become his caregiver, the paid gradually bond over chips and sarcasm, and fall into parent and child friendship.

Georghiou is a locally-born classically-trained actor whose credits include The Inside Man, Waking The Dead, The Heritage (Disney) and various independent shorts and theatre productions. She is also a spoken word poet, writer and director. While she says her life hasn’t always been easy and to make sense of, she would lose herself in stories. Now she wants to help others do the same. Her passion is slice of life relatable dramas that tell the stories people are sometimes too afraid to share.

Why did you write this story?

Eventually your own buried history forces its way to the surface and makes you face it. For me, facing it was writing about it to better understand it. So that’s what I did. And once I’d started I couldn’t stop. Every day I was redrafting and turning a ten page script into a 57 page TV pilot and then back into the script we used for this film. I just wanted to make sense of my life, my relationship with my dad and his relationship with alcohol.

Why did you write it as a film?

Being an actor, I absolutely love being on set. And I love watching films too, I always have. Making a film was always something I knew I wanted to do, I just wasn’t sure where to start. I guess somewhere deep in my subconscious I wrote this as a script to finally make it a reality. I just had to listen and take action.

Why did you set and film Changing Tides in Blackpool?

With the closure of commercial flights at the airport, constant rail replacements on weekends and very few direct trains anywhere other than Preston, Blackpool can feel cut off from the rest of the world, especially out of season. And to some, Blackpool – like alcoholics and people on the lower end of the working-class spectrum – are seen as a joke. But that’s never the whole story.

Blackpool is the perfect setting for a story of abandonment with the suggestion of promise to come. The poverty of the residential backstreets, with the pristine beaches. The fun and exhilaration of the Golden Mile, against the boarded-up shops. A complex mix of tourism and isolation that’s unique to British seaside life made Blackpool the perfect setting. It also has one of the highest rates of alcohol related deaths in the country and the shortest life expectancy. Plus, it’s my hometown.

Rowe Davie McClelland as Aidan. “When I watched his showreel I was blown away. He was Aiden.”
Originally you weren’t going to direct it yourself. Why?

That is true. An up and coming director was mentioned on Twitter so I checked them out and saw they’re also from Blackpool, my hometown, and their passion is realistic social dramas. I wrote to him originally because I thought I’d like to act with him one day and only mentioned my film as a sort of ‘in’. He messaged back and was keen to read the script, so I sent it across. Telling me how much he liked it and that he could see the world and the characters, we met for a coffee to chat.

I hadn’t directed a film before and wasn’t sure I could do it – self-doubt has always been my battle ground – so I asked if he’d like to direct. He was brilliant and asked many times if I was sure. That was around November time.

In December something clicked in me. I had this overwhelming need to follow my gut in all walks of life. So, I handed in my notice on my day job and told the director I’d changed my mind and I wanted to direct it. Bold move, I know. I just couldn’t stop seeing it every time I closed my eyes and knew it would kill me standing aside whilst someone else told my story.

The director is Stephen Gallacher and he’s a fantastic director! He has recently won best director awards and best film awards all over the place, so my gut might have been a little short sighted but it was something I just needed to do. And we remain friends and support of each other’s work, which is how the industry should be.

How did your family feel about you sharing this story?

I’m very lucky to have a brilliantly close and supportive family who talk all the time and champion each other in everything we do. In a funny way, I wonder if the difficulties we had years ago made us all closer. They’ve been supportive throughout and I’ve included them in the whole journey. Both of my sisters read my script before filming and my mum read it after. One sister even acted as runner whilst filming and her husband, my brother-in-law, composed the music. It’s safe to say, this film is a family affair.

Does Changing Tides bring anything new to the table?

I think it does. It shows the brutal truth of end-of-life alcoholism without the Hollywood ending. There’s a raging and unexpected anger that weirdly subsides when alcoholics are near the end of their life, which often isn’t shown because the normal ‘happy ending’ is the alcoholic recovering. Unfortunately, that’s not always true and in Changing Tides (spoiler alert) Aiden doesn’t recover. Instead, there is hope in his death. Hope that he’s now at peace and can finally be happy. Bea’s hope is that she’ll not go down the same track now that she’s seen it, but it’s open ended because we don’t know if she will. For me, that’s more realistic to life.

Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that shows alcoholic psychosis, which is very common when the liver is failing because their body is full of unprocessed poison and toxins. In fact, the psychosis scene is almost verbatim of what my dad said to my mum and sister about me. He was obsessed that I’d been at his house and I was covered in biscuit tins.

There are also very few films that show the perspective of the alcoholic and the person that supports them. When you live with or care for an alcoholic you ride a rollercoaster of emotions. One day you’re scared of them, the next you’re caring for them. Then they make you laugh like the old days and promise to stop drinking, but their promises are always broken. I’m trying to capture that strange mix in this film.

What do you hope people will take away from this story?

First and foremost, I want other people affected by someone else’s alcoholism to feel seen. Like someone is finally telling their story.

Secondly, I want people who are already addicted to alcohol to realise how bad it gets and the affect it’s having on others. And maybe, just maybe, they might seek help and stop.

Lastly, I want people who have never experienced this to see what it’s like and be supportive and understanding to the countless people who live like this. One in five children in the UK are affected by a parents drinking, so if you’ve not lived through it you will most likely know someone is has.

How did you find your cast and crew?

Google and asking people I know. Knowing I wanted to film in Blackpool, I started researching places to hire kit from and then thought, let me just see if there’s any film companies in Blackpool. I found three but there was one that jumped out to me. Out of the Ark Productions had recently made a film that was winning lots of awards at film festivals. That film, Eigengrau, was on their website and I thought it looked great.

So, I contracted them, gave them a brief overview of Changing Tides and the logline and asked if they’d be interested in reading the script. They were, so I sent it and the production pack to give an idea of the look and feel I was going for. Chris Arkley read the script twice back-to-back and asked if we could chat that evening.

We got on like a house of fire and shared the same vision for the film. He recommended an actor he’d previously worked with to play Aiden. When I watched his showreel I was blown away. He was Aiden. Chris put us in touch and the following night I spoke with Rowe David McClelland and he agreed to come on board.

“One recent graduate stood out”. Natasha Cottriall as Bea

Everything was going so smoothly, I thought I’d see if I could cast Bea in a similar way. I messaged the Head of Mountview Theatre School, a friend of mine from when I went there, and asked if she would recommend any recent graduates that fit the casting brief. She did and one stood out, Natasha Cottriall. We’d met years ago, so we very vaguely knew each other. I contacted Natasha on Instagram, sent her the script and she was on board too.

The paramedic, Marion Campbell-Rogers, was my first every drama teacher and the crew are all made up of people either Chris or I have worked with or know.

How did you finance the film?

Incredibly, I raised £11.5k through two Kickstarter campaigns and private investors. Having previously worked in business, I knew I couldn’t just ask for the money. I needed a carefully crafted campaign that sold the story and their part in making it a success. So, that’s what I did. Utilising social media for the campaign and a couple of key dates in my life, like a milestone birthday and leaving work after seven years, I set up the Kickstarters and started sharing my personal story and the vision for the film.

What was it like filming telling such a powerful story?

To say I was nervous before we started filming would be an understatement. My first time directing, my first time producing and all wrapped in a personal story I had only just started talking about. But I needn’t have worried. The cast and crew were incredible. We laughed, had serious chats, treated the content with care and were incredibly supportive of each other. And it turned out all but one had experience of alcoholism in one form or another.

I also took mental health on set very seriously and made everyone aware of this. We had a first aider present at all times, Agata Filipiak, who is also a personal trainer and wellbeing coach.
I am also trained in mental health first aid, but I was worried I might have been the one that needed it. Thankfully I didn’t. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with.

Film still from Changing Tides
Is there anything else we should know?

Yes, if you have been affected by a parents drinking or you’re worried about someone who is, get in touch with NACOA (the National Association of Children of Alcoholics), an excellent UK charity that provides help and support for everyone affected by a parent’s drinking, young and old. They’ve helped me incredibly and I wish I’d know about them when I was younger.

Changing Tides premiers at Made in Blackpool – a four film screening at The Regent Cinema, 23 September, 7pm. Tickets here. Main image: Kathryn Georghiou with crew members on set in Blackpool.

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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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