Monkey Motivation: Lily Catalifo

Each fortnight, we’re offering you some Monkey Motivation, in the form of interviews with our alumni.
4th March 2019

Two Year Rep 2017 graduate Lily shares her experience of life as a working actor and the day-to-day work of progressing your career.

Tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to since graduating from Fourth Monkey
Shortly after graduating I signed with Wendy Scozzaro at Felix de Wolfe who fights my corner, gets me in the room, offers guidance, sound advice and has a cracking sense of humour. She is a wonderful agent and I am forever grateful for all the hard work she puts in above and beyond. Last year I worked on The Queen of Ata, a pilot for a sci-fi series set in a dystopic future, directed by Alexander Igbanoi who I had previously worked with on short film Capture which we took to Cannes festival in 2017. I also worked on Pretentious Youth directed by Edward Zorab, following the story of three couples spanning over three decades in three different cities; Maine, Berlin and Paris.
Last spring we worked on the development and re-vamping of our Worst Absurd’s Clean Mean Eating Machine directed by Claudia Marciano; a fun, absurdist clown show revolving around the rather ridiculous food trends Brits have indulged in over recent years. Messy, sexy and interactive, this is food cabaret at its most sublime and ridiculous! A pleasure and privilege to be reunited and working with Monkeys. Just before Christmas I worked on The Mark, a short film directed by Mattia Settembrini up in Leeds – it was fantastic to go back to old stomping grounds having had studied politics there a lifetime ago, as well as discovering and filming in other stunning Northern locations, Formby beach for one. 
How have you found the work you do since graduating? 
My brilliant agent gets me in the room and much of the work has come through Wendy. Some of it has come from directors I’ve worked with in the past, new connections made through events, workshops, opening nights and screenings, as well as some ads on social media, Spotlight, Mandy and even Facebook groups – every female actor out there should join ‘Bossy’. I recently met a producer from Slung Low theatre who shares many of the Monkey principles, values and ethos and always keen to work with strong immersive actors with a passion for devising. Reach out through their website if you like the sound of them and they might well be able to offer you an audition, work, or perhaps a ticket to one of their shows. There is also Nigel Munson at 6 Foot Stories, a wonderful actor, writer and director who has plenty of immersive opportunities at festivals and other UK venues going all year round for the likes of us. 
How does the work differ across TV / short film / theatre? What do you enjoy the most?
Ideally I’d like to keep doing it all, and finding a solid balancing act between all three mediums is something which has always been important to me. Each has their perks and pitfalls and not becoming too comfortable keeps you on your toes and maintains a certain spontaneity in the work you choose to undertake, as in the work itself where you are continually learning and growing. When I left Fourth Monkey, having done mostly theatre up to that point, I was looking forward to gain further filming experience. Since graduating I’ve been mostly up for film, TV, commercials and now looking forward to getting back to the stage. Technically speaking, differences exist in the required energy, gestuality and voice to navigate through the border between the screen and the stage, a transition which undoubtedly becomes more fluent and organic over time – although I do think a part of you always feels like you are starting all over again on the first day of any project! Whether that be film, TV or theatre each new project you embark on has its own challenges and rewards and every role carries with it obstacles and insecurities which I think you have to tackle with the same modesty, curiosity and eagerness. 
How do you bring what you learned at Fourth Monkey to your professional practice?
“Be big, bold and play” a wise one that. Never be afraid to ask, to dream huge, put yourself on the line and risk rejection and failure – it will pay off to take these risks and life is too short for regrets. Discipline, hard-work, determination, confidence and ownership in all your undertakings are all invaluable tools for both professional and personal development. Be generous, professional and kind to fellow actors, as well as anyone you encounter on your journey: everyone deserves your full attention, respect and positivity. You never know who you might meet and the Assistant AD on a project may well be casting something of his or her own which you’d be perfect for. And I’d say strive not to take anything for granted, to always take the work seriously but never ever take yourself too seriously. 
Do you have any advice for graduating theatre students for how to get a good start to working as an actor? 
Workshops, workshops and more workshops! Many of the most incredible opportunities have come my way through meeting writers, casting directors as well as other actors. The Actors Guild and Surviving Actors provide a wide array of workshops which are absolutely worth investing in (and many are free!). These get you up on your feet and allow you to practise and hone your craft, keep you fresh and ready to walk into any room at a minute’s notice.
Go and see as many shows as humanly possible, keep in touch with industry professionals, surround yourself with inspiring people whose careers or attitudes you aspire to, reach out, plug away, try your hand at new skills, work on accents (especially if you are as rubbish at some of them, as I am!) and above all keep yourself happy and healthy – nothing is more important. This line of work can be incredibly tough and in order to keep your head above the water and stay afloat you have to develop a certain resilience to rejection which there is plenty of. You put yourself on the line every time you walk into a casting and only one person gets that job. It will hopefully be you, but equally often won’t be. You must prepare, do your research about who you are meeting, what kind of actors they like, previous work they’ve cast or been involved in.
Always aim to be kind, memorable and professional and avoid obsessing about the opinion or judgment of others at all costs. When you try too hard to please or do ‘right’ by others before yourself it often backfires and results in nerves or in you not being your best, unique, authentic self. Getting in the room is half the battle, they are absolutely on your side and want you to book that job. You can only ever give your best and, ultimately, it isn’t a comment on you or your ability when things don’t go your way. It is vital to park whatever has happened, whether seemingly positive or negative, keep on keeping on and remind yourself that ‘resting’ and auditioning is as much part of the job as being in work.
We will all be out of work a lot of the time and I think it important to love everything that comes with being a working actor and setting up a routine and daily mindful goals for yourself that keep you sane is essential. Much of what goes on behind the scenes in this industry is entirely beyond our control and the brutal reality is that most casting directors know within about ten seconds of meeting you whether or not you’ve got the recall or the job. What you can however always control is your attitude to these external factors and make a conscious decision to relax, be brave, have fun and enjoy yourself as much as you possibly can – casting directors will remember you even if this particular job wasn’t for you! And when you are having all that fun in the room, as in life, things will always be going your way.
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