This year, John Connors won Best Actor at the Irish Film and Television Awards for his role in Cardboard Gangsters. Connors claims, if you’re breaking into film, it needs to come from a place of passion. In his case, this passion doesn’t come from the usual need to be rich or famous. Instead, he wants to portray honest accounts of stories that are close him.
Recently, the National Youth Film Academy welcomed John Connors to a panel on ‘Getting the right talent’ hosted for the Introductory Course. It was an exciting mix and John found himself alongside casting director, Emily Tilelli, and agent, Jennifer Withers. After the panel, Connors took part in a short interview, which you can watch below.
For Connors, it’s all about being real. If you didn’t already know, after accepting his IFTA, he made a ‘controversial’ speech which has now gone viral with over 1 million views on Facebook. His speech addressed discrimination against Travellers in the film industry, how creativity saved his life, and that the “reptilian government” needs to put more funding into the arts. Undeniably, John is real.
“Keep it personal”
In Connors eyes, it’s super important to understand who you are as a person first. He tells us, it’s not just about knowing who you are as a filmmaker or an actor, but about being in touch with the core of who you really are. Once you know yourself, you can have your career reflect that. We know it’s not easy, but Connors believes it works.
Connors career has indeed reflected his person. Despite being on the receiving end of traveler discrimination, his work has maintained a closeness to his core values and beliefs. In our interview with Connors, he mentions his interest in tribalism and his thirst to explore the effects of it, negative and positive. His fascination with tribalism is evident in his recent film (which he co-wrote and starred in), Cardboard Gangsters, as it has a frank but blunt view on gang-life. The same can also be said about the TV series Connors starred in, Love/Hate.
Connors says that when you’re keeping your work honest to who you are, you produce a more convincing performance.
“I see a lot of middle and upper-class actors wanting to be working-class”
This is a very apt argument. In February this year, the Sutton Trust found that 67% of British Oscar winners went to a private school. As a result of this, not only does the upper/middle class not give a believable account of the working-class stories they tell… but it could also be said that they are taking roles away from the working class.
Connors adds he has nothing against, for instance, Cumberbatch and Hiddleston. It’s just that he believes that he would do a better job at playing a cockney gangster- and he’s Irish.
“You just wouldn’t believe them”.
This ties in with Connor’s ethos of keeping it personal. Perhaps if this was more prevalent in the industry there would be less of a gulf between working and upper-class actors in the Oscars.
“Don’t do something just because you think it will be popular or easier to do”
It’s your passion that will see you through your projects and keep you grounded, Connors insists. You’ve probably heard this before in different settings, but it is important. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll do a better a job of it. This applies to breaking into the film industry as well.
Connors came straight from Morocco to the NYFA panel after shooting a documentary that focuses on the refugee community: further evidence of him keeping his passion close to his work.
In an interview with the Guardian, Connors vocalised, that because he is “politically minded”, he intended to use his spotlight to discuss matters he felt needed to be raised. So far, Connors has not limited himself to one topic but raised a number such as classism, racism and the mental health crisis. His work will also continue to do this.
To summarise, if you want to take Connors advice, know who you are and have your career in film reflect that. At the end of the day, filmmakers want an honest performance and if you keep your work close to your passion this will shine through.
We can only hope that more actors and filmmakers follow in his footsteps in speaking up and creating honest, real film.
Written by Phoebe Griffiths