Lara Adine Lipschitz is an artist with a vision and a plan. Instead of waiting to get cast in her dream role, she created her own web-series, Chin Up!, which takes a look at the ins-and-outs of being a South African actress. Season two in currently showing and she’s already devising plans for season three.
The big difference between seasons is Lara’s move from Joburg to Cape Town, which has brought new challenges such as ridiculous castings and finding ways to hustle rent. We caught up with the actress to find out what she’s been up to, what she’s learnt about producing her own work and how things have progressed since she first started.
Chin Up! season 2 is here. What can viewers expect?
Since season 1 ended, Lara has moved to Cape Town to pursue her acting career further, but in true Chin Up! style, it doesn’t all go as smoothly as she had hoped for. She attempts waitressing, commercials and musical theatre auditions with little to no luck and eventually takes on a dare which pushes her career in another direction. I won’t give it away here…you will just have to watch.
On a technical level, I have teamed up with a top South African director, Hylton Tannenbaum and his production company, Bioscope Films which has helped take the series to a new level in terms of production value. With post production we also got very lucky when The Upstairs Ludus and We Love Jam Studios agreed to work on the show. So even though we still did it with a less than shoestring budget, the show looks and sounds brilliant!
The series is based on your life. How far removed is it from reality?
It’s inspired by experiences in my life, but it’s not actually my life. Its exaggerated and in a way, teased for comedic effect. I would like to think I’m not as hopeless in my acting career as my character.
You’ve changed locations from Jozi to Cape Town. How has this influenced the show’s content?
Cape Town is incredibly photogenic and so that adds to the general beauty of the environment. It also enhances the story in that Lara has left her family and friends in Johannesburg and she now has to figure out things outside of her comfort zone, meeting new people, and trying new things which adds to her feelings of insecurity and awkwardness in the world.
Having stayed in Cape Town for a bit, what would say is the main difference between Cape Town and Jozi’s creative scene?
Hmm, well I don’t want to start any wars, but in my personal experience there is a sense that you get more done in Joburg. People seem to be less willing to work for free in Cape Town. Which is weird because you would think its the other way around. In Joburg it feels like all the creative people are busy being creative so you better get on with it too. In Cape Town it’s tempting to take it easy and just wait for castings or something to happen while you watch the sunset on the beach.
Can you tell us a little bit about the shooting process? When it comes to filming, how much is scripted and improvised?
It depends on the episode and the people we cast to be honest. Some episodes are more scripted than others. When you have a group of people who can improvise with each other really well then we encourage that. Often the funniest things happen through improvising. But I will always write an outline with some dialogue, choose the locations and actors specifically for what we need in each episode and take it from there.
Chin Up! is a mockumentary. What prompted you to create a show in this genre?
Well I guess it used to be a mockumentary, but now it’s more just a comedy, I think, because we don’t refer to the camera directly anymore. It was just a stylistic choice. I personally enjoy that style of humour, but removing the engagement with the camera actually just happened naturally.
Creating comedy can be challenging. Is there anything you have to bear in mind when acting in this genre?
You have to be willing to make a fool of yourself. With improvising, like all acting really, you have to listen and react honestly because that’s when it’s funny. It’s very important not to try and be funny.
Much of the series have been a step-by-step learning process. Personally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt creating your own work?
It’s been such a learning process. I’ve learnt so much over the time I’ve been making Chin Up! One of the big ones I learnt on this season is not to shoot the biggest most difficult scene first. Rather schedule the smaller, simpler scenes for the first day to allow yourself and everyone else to get into it. Another thing to remember in general is that it’s probably never going to be perfect, or how you imagined it exactly, and so you need to be okay with that and still put it out there, because otherwise you will be paralysed with fear.
The worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t get the best feedback and that’s another lesson. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very daunting putting yourself out there for people to potentially criticise but you just have to be brave.
What’s most rewarding about the process?
It’s really amazing when people enjoy it (even people I don’t know)! It’s great to feel like your work is being received well! Other than that, just feeling good about myself and the fact that I’m expressing myself creatively and learning so much about acting, writing and producing.
Last time we spoke you said you were looking forward to do doing more theatre. What other creative ventures have you been part of?
I’ve been busy with Bad Jews at the Fugard Theatre and then at the Sandton Theatre in Johannesburg last year. We are actually in rehearsals right now for the return season of Bad Jews starting on the 13th of December. Get your tickets before it sells out! It’s a really good show, honestly. Other than that Hylton and I are starting to work on season 3 of Chin Up! for 2017.