Directing his first feature film was a labour of love for actor David Morrissey. He tells Steve Pratt why he made the movie and how a visit to the North-East is part of his plan to demystify the process of acting and film-making.

ACTOR David Morrissey is on tour.

Not in a play, but with a project he describes as a labour of love – his first feature film as a director. One of the most familiar faces on screens both large and small has moved to the other side of the camera and doesn’t feel that when THE END flashes on the screen his job is over.

That’s why he’ll be in the North-East tomorrow supporting his film, Don’t Worry About Me, which premiered at the London Film Festival in November. He’s touring the country holding Bafta masterclasses and question- and-answer sessions before screenings of his film.

“It was my idea to do the tour,” he says, during a break from meetings for his next project, in which he’ll play crime writer Mark Billingham’s detective Tom Thorne for a Sky TV series, of which he’s also a producer.

“When you’ve made a film, it’s not the end, particularly one like this which is a labour of love. It’s something I saw, developed, raised the money for and saw through the filming process. Now I want to get it out there and for people to see it in the way it’s meant to be seen – on the big screen.”

Here’s one actor who clearly enjoys being on both sides of the camera, although tells me that “I’ll always be an actor who directs – I love acting and that’s what I am.

“When you’re directing, projects take so long to set up and, quite rightly, you’re working on scripts and trying to find funding, so during that process I’m able to work as an actor.”

He was able to put acting aside temporarily – “it’s part of what I do and my main source of income, and I do love it” – to make his first feature after directing several shorts and TV dramas.

First-timer or not, getting any film in front of the cameras these days is a long and difficult process.

Morrissey spent three years trying to get another more expensive (£3m-£4m) project greenlit.

“I got close and then lost the money and it didn’t happen,” he says.

He set about the idea from a different angle by finding out how much money people would be prepared to give him. About £100,000 was the answer.

“I could see films were being made for that money and it was all about the story. So I read a lot of scripts and books, and then I read a review of a play The Pool. I went to see it and didn’t think initially it was going to be a film.

“But basically, the story about two people in one town over 24 hours stayed with me. I met the writers (Helen Elizabeth and James Brough), who were also the actors, and over three months we hammered out how the play could become a film.”

Don’t Worry About Me sees James Brough’s London lad following a one-night stand to Liverpool and ending up spending the day with a shop girl (Helen Elizabeth), who takes him on a tour of the city.

As Liverpool is Morrissey’s home town, the film emerges as something of a love letter to the place, as well as an offbeat romantic story.

He hasn’t lived in the city where he grew up for 20 years, but goes back a lot “and it always makes me smile travelling up to Liverpool”.

Having connections there, including a brother who owns a hotel, made filming easier than it might have been for a stranger.

“There was a lot of goodwill towards me and a lot of help. People were willing to get involved.

We’d be in the streets, it would start raining and people would open their doors and make cups of tea.”

He decided against appearing in his film.

He’d never say no to directing himself, but feels it goes against his working methods as an actor. “One of the things I try to do is cut myself off from the paraphenalia that’s going on around me. The whole thing of being a director is being in the forefront of everything.”

As an actor, Morrissey rarely does the same thing twice. Some of his most recent TV appearances – Doctor Who, Sense And Sensibility, Blackpool – illustrates his versatility, while movie roles have seen him in the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, The Other Boleyn Girl and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

In addition to taking part in a question-andanswer session at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema, he’ll be leading an afternoon discussion for film-makers and actors at a Northern Film and Media/Bafta event.

HE’LL be sharing his experience of acting and film-making, something he didn’t have the benefit of when entering the profession. “I come from quite a workingclass background, so when I said to my mum and dad I wanted to be an actor, it was like wanting to be an astronaut,” he says.

“They couldn’t help me. That world was a complete mystery and remained so for many years. I knew nothing about agents, what it was like on the first day of a job, how continuity worked. I want to try to talk to people about the real things that you might need along the way – a sense of demystifying the process.

“Acting is a talent you have and work with, but don’t know what it is. A lot of actors are superstitious about looking at it too closely. But it’s important to know how one goes about auditions, meeting agents and what’s required of you on the first day on the set.

“For me, they were paralysing unknowns when I started out. Like any job, the best way of learning is by doing, but I’d like to slightly demystify the process.”

Although the Sky series sees him acting again, he’s already planning his next feature film to direct, hopefully by the end of the year.

■ Don’t Worry About Me is at Newcastle Tyneside Cinema tomorrow, at 6pm. For details about the afternoon event, contact