Valene Kane stars in the new movie Profile and we caught up with the actress to learn more about making the inventive project.
Fans might already know Valene from her work in the BBC Two series The Fall, the Star Wars film Rogue One, and the movie Sonja: The White Swan.
The Irish actress plays a British journalist who is on a quest to bait and expose a terrorist recruiter through social media, while trying not to be sucked in by her recruiter and lured into becoming a militant extremist herself.
The unconventional film plays out entirely on a computer screen in the Screenlife format, pioneered by director Timur Bekmambetov.
We talked about to Valene about what it was like filming a movie using the Screenlife format, how the project affected her relationship with social media, what she learned about journalism, how she kept sane in quarantine, and more.
Click inside to check out the full interview with Valene Kane…
JustJared.com’s Interview with Valene Kane
JUST JARED: Hi Valene! Profile was such an intense film to watch, viewing every keystroke and mouse movement. How did you hear about the project?
VALENE KANE: It was originally through the normal channels: My agent sending me a self-tape. What was interesting about it though, was that there was no content about the project. We were told it was a new project from Timur and it would be a new form of film-making. I had to do an improvisation based on… I can’t even remember what it was now, but it had to be a 15-minute self-tape improvisation scene.
With that team attached, it was a big pull for me because I had really wanted to work with an interesting independent director for a long time and someone with a strong vision. Obviously as the casting process went on, I got little snippets of information about the actual story and when I found out that it was going to be a film based on Anna Erelle’s book ‘In the skin of a Jihadist’ I was so keen to play the role.
JJ: What compelled you to want to do Profile?
VK: There were so many things to be honest. One, as I said before, was working with Timur. The second was to work on a feature film with improvisation. The first film I ever did was an Irish film called The Fading Light. We improvised the entire film and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had creatively. I was searching for something similar to that, so the fact that this was going to be improvised was a huge pull. Add to that the complexity of playing a real-life person and the story being about something that had quietly terrified me made it hugely compelling.
JJ: It’s so easy to assume an identity online that’s not your own. Do you have any first hand experience being catfished or sucked into something online before it was too late?
VK: No, I don’t think so. I mean now when I think about it, I’m really so anti-tech. I hate using computers and screens and social media. I’m really drawn to paper books, photo books. Actual objects. I’m very much about tactile and visceral experiences. Having said that, as a child I loved computers. I was a huge gamer. I was one of the early adopters of MySpace and I was completely obsessed so I think perhaps if I was younger I might have experienced it more because I would have been more involved with it all. It probably would be a bigger part of my life.
JJ: How did the process of filming Profile, which takes place completely on a computer screen, compare to all your other film experiences?
VK: It was incredibly different to anything I’d ever experienced and probably will ever experience on my side.
Shazad and I rehearsed this project like a play, so that, if we wanted to, we could have filmed the whole film in one day. Obviously, we weren’t in the same place. I was in “Amy’s house” in East London just off London Fields and Shazad was in Cyprus so we were never in the same place which meant that it didn’t feel like the normal filmmaking where you arrive on set, you go into hair and makeup, you have a chat, you have a call for you to start filming then you have lunch together, you shoot and then you finish and you could maybe go for a drink together maybe.
We didn’t see each other after the rehearsal process which was really unusual. We had this very intense rehearsal experience we all worked tirelessly at trying to make this script work and make it all feel authentic and then, when we started shooting, I was completely on my own… I was my own DOP, you know, the entire set was a rig that I carried around essentially so I mean from the outset the whole project was different to anything I’ve ever experienced.
JJ: Did working on this movie affect your personal relationship with social media?
VK: Definitely. While doing research for the film, before we started rehearsals, I was suddenly really aware of the content that I was researching and a little bit alarmed as to what my history would be on my laptop. I was really shocked at how easy it was to access some of this material. This underworld that exists, Olga the producer had done so much research into it. So her computer and files were just a vat of knowledge and experience. She was able to show me how I could infiltrate these Facebook groups, and how to use telegram and how to use signal to make communication with people that couldn’t be traced.
I wanted to experience this myself first hand so that I would understand it, and have a sort of muscle memory of what that feeling was. There was definitely a sort of deviant aspect and an excitement to it but I would go to bed at night, and have sleepless nights about what content was on my computer and who might be watching my computer! ha
JJ: From your experience on this project, did you learn anything about journalists that surprised you?
VK: Yes. Learning about this idea of citizen journalism: any of us can effectively be journalists these days because of the advent of things like hashtags, live streams, Facebook. If something happens in another area of the world, you can essentially research it right then in real time by searching the hashtags or by viewing YouTube videos, Instagram videos. I think that is something that wasn’t possible, you know, ten years ago and it now makes it possible for anyone to be a ‘journalist’ if they want to.
JJ: It has been over three years since the movie premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. How does it feel to finally get the movie out there in the world for everyone to see?
VK: It is quite genuinely the best feeling in the world. I know for all of us involved, but particularly for Shazad and myself. We poured our blood sweat and tears into this project. We were and are so proud of it. We were so completely immersed in the whole thing and it’s wonderful that its found a home at focus features and that they saw the potential because I think it’s a very unique story an important story and I’m so happy for Anna, that her story is being told.
JJ: Movie theaters have been shut down around the world for most of the past year. Are you excited to see movies in theaters again or would you rather continue watching them at home?
VK: NO! I can’t wait to go to the movies. The cinema is one of my greatest loves you know. I still feel like a kid when it comes to thinking about the movies. It’s a really magical experience: going to the cinema and watching brilliant films is the reason why I went into acting in the first place. The ability to completely transmit yourself into another world and another dimension and to understand yourself and things that you’ve gone through by watching great films, so I cannot wait to be go watch a good movie in a room full of people also experiencing that same emotion.
JJ: What helped you keep your sanity during quarantine?
VK: Well, I did all of the things that I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t – because I was always worried about the next job… so I bought a camper van and I drove back home to Ireland and lived in the mountains for three months and I wrote a feature film and a TV series. Based on my own life in some way I think. There were ideas that were percolating for a while but I was never able to consider myself as someone that could actually write and I suddenly had all this time and space and I wasn’t constantly reading scripts and other people’s ideas and I was able to think about what I want to say so that was a really healing experience. I swam in the sea every morning and saw all my best friends from home who are my family and I bought myself a cat. I’ve always wanted a pet but again was traveling so much and didn’t think that I could be a good parent and taught myself lots of things: made fermented vegetables; kefir; grew vegetables in the garden. All the usual things. Tie dyed all my old clothes.
JJ: Whose recent performances inspired you in films/shows that were released in the past year?
VK: Oh, there’s been quite a few actually. I think most notably is probably Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You. I found the whole series and her performance so incredibly raw and riveting and I felt like it just ripped out my soul because I have never seeing that kind of performance from a woman on screen.
I feel like she depicted so many things that I felt or thought or had conversations with my friends about and I thought it was just so rare and exactly the kind of thing that we need to see on TV.
I also loved Baby Teeth and I loved Toby Wallace in that movie. I thought that it really was a beautiful piece of film making. I think Shannon Murphy is such a great director.
And obviously Succession. I actually re-watched Succession again in lock-down because it is quite frankly the best piece of drama I’ve ever seen.
And something I’ve been trying to do is nights of directors. So I’ll pick a director and I’ll watch like two or three of their films. This weekend I watched Anna Odell‘s films. The Reunion, I particularly love. I just thought it was so clever and unique and sort of had feeling and a smell of Festen, which is one of my favorite movies. I thought Anna Adele’s performance and that was just so pared down and brilliant and simple and inspiring. It always nice to see refreshing things on screen that make you question your own choices as an actor.