by Kim Lombard and Darren Stewart-Jones
When newly arrived South African transplant Lisa Crawford touched down in Toronto, she had already formulated a plan to investigate a career as both an actress and filmmaker.
She imagined the best way to learn the business was to become a background extra. Lisa explains, “My first day on set was March of 2016. I instantly knew I had found my ‘tribe.’ It felt like my head was on a swivel because I connected with both cast and crew. I also quickly realized there was an immense amount to absorb. BG became my film school.”
Fast forward to February 2019 on the set of The Umbrella Academy. Lisa was standing at the background craft table when fellow ACTRA member Trish Rainone approached. “I was debating whether to add that frightening powdered cream to my instant coffee. Trish suggested the ginger snaps would help kill the taste. We spent the rest of the day chatting. We must have hit on a hundred topics, most of them about our love of film and television and our strategies to climb the rungs of the show business ladder. I found Trish to be such an effervescent, positive person. I believe in fate — for me, there are no coincidences. I knew right away we’d work together in the very near future and on numerous occasions.”
Two years and dozens of BG gigs later, Lisa Crawford was on the set of the mockumentary series, New Eden. She bumped into Caroline Puzinas, whom she had met once previously. Lisa continues, “I was playing a prisoner and Caroline a prison guard. I had so much fun being the muscle, intimidating the lead. We spent the entire day laughing like lunatics. For some reason, I got it in my head that we had to make a women’s prison comedy. Caroline was in complete agreement. I think it was the idea that a comedy set in a women’s prison would allow for a big female cast. That was the day Pink Is In was conceived.”
The third part of this story begins on the set of a show called Holly Hobby. Ms. Crawford recalls being paired with ACTRA background veteran, aspiring writer and reasonably adept house painter Kim Lombard. “We were in a scene at a country fair. It was a thousand degrees outside. I remember watching Kim thinking, ‘He’s so fair-skinned he’s going to burst into flames if he doesn’t get out of the sun.’ I offered him some sunblock, which he took and pretended to drink. We were asked to do one of those meandering walks to nowhere, and as is usually the case, we struck up a conversation. Kim was born in England and me, being from Durban, South Africa — it wasn’t long before we were discussing our love of British comedies. We both agreed that Canadians have a unique sense of humour because we are influenced by both U.S. and English television and film. Canadians are a hybrid of both places. Kim kept talking about his love of writing, especially comedy. He was saying how many times he’d been ‘this-close’ to scoring a deal only to find that it wasn’t a go. In fact, when we first met, he told me he was working on his second book, an autobiography with the working title Things That Almost Happened, But Didn’t Happen, Because Something Happened. He has such a warped sense of humour. He was another person I added to my Rolodex. I just knew I wanted to work with him.”
The final piece of the puzzle came when she met Darren Stewart-Jones. Stewart-Jones was doing BG sporadically. His true love was theatre. Lisa soon learned he was extremely knowledgeable and well connected with regards to casting for his theatre productions. Within weeks Darren and Lisa made their first film together, a short entitled Digging Up Dorothy. Lisa brought in a director friend, Aharon Jinjihashvili, to helm the project. The three creators meshed perfectly. Shortly after completion, the film was being shown at The Hamilton Film Festival, The OutlantaCon Short Film Festival, and Q-flix Film Festival, among others. It is now airing on Amazon Prime in the States.
As time went on, Lisa kept thinking about Trish, Kim and Caroline and how she believed they could make a terrific team. Lisa’s partner, the always enthusiastic Gina Brown-Crawford, was fully supportive of the project and decided to come on board as Executive Producer. Lisa and Gina learned some of the dos and don’ts when they pitched their lifestyle project R U Curious.
There were more than a few meetings to sort out exactly what Pink Is In would be about. Lisa explains, “We all knew that there had already been a couple of TV shows about women’s prisons. Orange Is The New Black definitely came to mind. Kim suggested we could find a unique niche if the show focused not on the inmates but on the ineptitude of the prison administration.”
By December of 2019, the process of shooting the Pink Is In teaser had begun. Shot as an ACTRA co-op, Lisa planned to use it as a ‘calling card.’ “I was a little naïve as far as ‘shopping’ a demo goes. I think that worked to my advantage because in being naïve, you are more fearless. Trish was recruited to be a lead in the 90-second trailer, Caroline and Kim worked on formulating the concept, while Darren and I put together cast and crew. I reached out to Aharon Jinjihashvili again and convinced him to direct mere days before he was planning to abandon Hamilton and try his luck in Los Angeles.”
“A day or two before shooting began, one of our main actresses became unavailable. Darren Stewart-Jones came to the rescue when he suggested Elley-Ray Hennessy would be perfect for the part. The two of them had worked together in the theatre several times so he reached out, and luckily, she said yes. So many people said, ‘If I don’t get cast, I’d be happy to volunteer to help behind the camera or wherever needed.’ Because it was a co-op, it actually cost some people money to work on the project.”
The Pink Is In teaser was passed around extensively, finally landing on a desk at Bell Fibe TV1. The development team at Bell Fibe just seemed to ‘get’ the wackiness, the oddball humour delivered by a group of creators who were newbies when it came to producing content. Bell gave Pink One Productions the green light to shoot their first season, comprised of four episodes. While there are several experienced actors on the show, many of the supporting characters are played by performers who had mainly been BG actors. Lisa Crawford is proud of that fact.
“Now that I have a couple of projects under my belt, I’d love to offer a few words of encouragement to my fellow background performers. To many, mine is an underdog story, but let me be clear. I never doubted myself and neither should you. NEVER ever say that you are JUST background. We all know it’s a lot more difficult than it looks. Realize that you really add to the overall feel of a production. If you have aspirations of becoming an actor or someone on a crew, then pay attention because you can learn so much just by watching.”
“As you’ve been reading, when I started in the business, I didn’t even know what a ‘wipe’ was or a ‘banana’ or a ‘cross.’ Now I truly believe the sky’s the limit; that anything is possible and you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to. Stop procrastinating, grab a few of your friends who harbour the same dreams and get to work creating!”
Pink Is In is on Bell Fibe TV 1
and Vimeo on Demand (ACTRA members can use the discount code PINK20.)
|Kim Lombard was born at a very young age in London, England. Writes the television series Pink Is In. Once while on a camping trip set fire to his feet. Took the opportunity to roast marshmallows. Kim is a proud member of ACTRA.|
|Darren Stewart-Jones is an award-winning theatre producer, director and playwright. He is also the screenwriter of two short films, Digging up Dorothy and Stroke of Fate, which are both currently screening on the film festival circuit.|