Acting

Acting for Film: How to Put Together a Fantastic Demo Reel

Like most aspiring actors, you’re probably torn on whether you need a demo reel or not. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “No reel is better than a bad reel.” However, demo reels are an industry standard, considered more effective than head shots and resumes alone. Here are a few tips on putting together a great demo reel.

Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

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If you’re just starting out and you have no footage to draw from for a demo reel, you can create your own footage! Try filming three short 1-minute scenes featuring yourself and a few actor friends, and be sure not to skimp on a professional microphone, camera, and lights if possible. This will give you some footage you can edit into a demo reel, ideally between 90 seconds and 3 minutes. Make sure to include your contact information at the end of your reel. It can be expensive to rent professional equipment, but if you can use the footage from the demo reel for multiple actor friends, the cost will be split.

Keep It Short and Sweet

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A demo reel should be two to three minutes, maximum. Casting directors don’t typically watch demo reels longer than that, and if you go any shorter you risk losing the chance to capture your talents accurately.

Film a few different scenes and edit them together; one scene alone may not entice a casting director, especially if you want to show your range and diversity as an actor. You may want to use one dramatic scene and one comedic scene to show off your skills and prove your versatility. Whichever you choose, make sure not to overdo it with your editing; splicing too many short scenes together creates a choppy reel that will turn directors away. Instead, focus on choosing scenes that convey a strong sense of your presence and skills.

Gather Footage from Current Projects

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You don’t always need to film your own reel. You can use material from current and recent acting gigs. Understand that if you are currently performing in a film project that you would like to include in your reel, the material will take a few months at least to receive: You have to wait until the film goes through post-production. Stay in good standing with the director, editor, and producer of the project; write down their contact information and save it somewhere important. When the film is finished, write or email the director to very politely ask for a copy of your footage. The footage can be delivered over Dropbox or even through a jump drive.   

Update and Don’t Reuse

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Ensure that you consistently update your demo reel with your latest projects. This demonstrates to casting directors that you are constantly challenging yourself as an actor. It also shows willingness to persevere in a tough industry. Furthermore, don’t reuse the same project for multiple clips in your reel. Each project should yield one scene: otherwise it looks like you haven’t done anything else in your career.

Market Yourself

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Once you have your demo reel, it’s time to promote yourself as an actor. Create your own website, which is relatively easy and inexpensive; you can register your domain name for under $30 per year. Link your website to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and post updates on projects regularly. Embed your demo reel on your new website so casting directors can get a quick glimpse of your skills in addition to your headshot and resume.

Do you have any insights on best practices for creating a great demo reel? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about acting for film at the New York Film Academy.

Happy Birthday Al Pacino: The Best Lines From a Legend

Al Pacino is one of the Hollywood’s best veteran actors and a past NYFA guest speaker, with a successful career spanning over five decades and a host of awards under his belt including the Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and the Golden Globes. Whether it’s “The Godfather” film series (1972-1990), “Donnie Brasco” (1997) or “Cruising” (1980), his films have been immensely popular. While some have been controversial and others have gone on to achieve cult status, most of them have been critically and commercially acclaimed. With his 77th birthday coming up on April 25, we bring you some inspirational titbits from Al Pacino’s long and glorious career.

1. His Inch By Inch Speech from “Any Given Sunday”(1999)

There’s something too powerful in hearing Pacino deliver these lines:

I’ll tell you this/ in any fight/ it is the guy who is willing to die/ who is going to win that inch./ And I know/ if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch/ because that is what LIVING is./The six inches in front of your face.If this isn’t motivational, nothing is.

2. Be Different and Learn to Think for Yourself

As his character says in “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992), “I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion: if everyone thinks one thing, then I say bet the other way.” In other words, don’t just blindly follow the herd. Assess the situation critically and don’t be afraid of having a contrary opinion. There’s nothing wrong with being the minority.

3. Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths and Be Yourself

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As he says, “My weaknesses… I wish I could come up with something. I’d probably have the same pause if you asked me what my strengths are. Maybe they’re the same thing.” So don’t let your weaknesses define you nor let your talents get into your head.

4. Don’t Just Think in Terms of Winning and Losing

This is what young Pacino’s got to say on the subject: “When I was younger, I would go to auditions to have the opportunity to audition, which would mean another chance to get up there and try out my stuff, or try out what I learned and see how it worked with an audience, because where are you gonna get an audience?” So take every moment as a learning opportunity and be grateful for it.

5. Make The Most Of Whatever You Have

There’s a very poignant moment in “88 Minutes” (2007) when Al Pacino’s character says, “I’ve learned that time does not heal the wound. It will, though, in its most merciful way, blunt the edge ever so slightly.” So live in the present moment, take the right decisions and try to live without regrets.

Whether you’re a struggling actor or someone wondering what the meaning of your life is, realize that you’re here for a purpose. Al Pacino’s parents divorced when he was only two, he sacrificed his baseball dreams to be an actor, dropped out of school and did a variety of odd jobs before he made it big. And his life just goes on to prove that chances are out there for talented artists who work hard and relentlessly pursue excellence. And if you’re feeling inspired enough, maybe you can do an Al Pacino movie marathon and pay close attention to the maestro.

Coachella 2017: 5 Most Beloved Musicians-Turned-Actors

People in showbiz tend to be rather multi-talented, or perhaps that’s just a survival strategy. Either way, if you can sing, dance and act, chances are you can make it big. Elvis Presley’s enduring legacy may have much to do with the fact that he not only revolutionized music, but also starred in several films that were quite successful.

Many musicians have turned to acting. Billie Joe Armstrong, better known as Green Day’s frontman, did cameo roles in some films but received critical acclaim when he played St. Jimmy in the Broadway adaptation of the band’s concept album “American Idiot.” And on the other end of the spectrum, there are talented actors like Johnny Depp, for whom music is a parallel pursuit, side project or hobby.

So, while you gear up for Coachella 2017, we bring you a list of our favourite musicians-turned-actors for inspiration. Who knows, you may end up liking their films as much as you adore their music!

1. David Bowie

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The quintessential icon of androgyny and experimentation, Bowie’s artistry not only included innovating within several music styles and fashion trends, but also within acting as well. Two of his most well-known films have achieved cult status: “The Labyrinth”(1986) and “The Hunger”(1983). In the former, he plays an attractive but subtly evil Goblin King and in the latter, he’s an unconventional vampire. In recent years, he’s also played Nikola Tesla in Nolan’s award-winning film “The Prestige” (2006).

2. Madonna

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An enduring legend who’s been working in the music industry from the late ‘70s, Madonna is also quite the charming actress, especially when it comes to romantic movies. Although most of her films weren’t that successful, she earned a Golden Globe for her role in “Evita” (1996), and “Desperately Seeking Susan” (1985) was listed by the New York Times critic Vincent Canby as one of the 10 best films of the year.

3.  Jared Leto

Most artists tend to be successful at one particular area. But Leto’s made a name for himself not only as the lead singer of the band 30 Seconds To Mars, but also as a dependable Oscar-winning actor. He’s a method actor and is very selective in his choice of roles, such as playing a transgender woman in “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013) and the Joker in “Suicide Squad” (2016).

4. Will Smith

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Smith was initially the MC of the hip duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The French Prince, who won their first Grammy way back in 1988. Now he’s one of the most successful African American actors in Hollywood, with hit films like “Independence Day” (1996), “Men In Black” (1997) and “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006).  

5. Jon Bon Jovi

The lead singer of one of the most popular rock bands out there, Jon Bon Jovi has experimented with a variety of acting roles, both in film and television. One of his earliest film roles was playing the painter in “Moonlight and Valentino”(1995). He also played a vampire hunter in “Vampires: Los Muertos” (2002), a teacher in the horror film “Cry Wolf” (2005), and a rockstar in “New Year’s Eve” (2011).

Are you someone who loves singing and acting, and can’t choose which one to focus on? Then be inspired by these artists who have the best of both worlds. Study musical theatre or acting for film at New York Film Academy.

6 Celebrity Pranksters to Inspire Your April Fool’s Day

Many people love watching or hearing about a well-done prank. Hollywood is no stranger to outrageous pranks, whether it’s on April Fool’s Day or not. In honor of this April Fool’s Day, we’ve rounded up six of some of the funniest celebrity pranks:

John Stamos

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The “Full House” heartbreaker paired up with Netflix to pull a hilarious prank on Netflix users. On April 1, 2016, binge-watchers logged on to find the typical categories were labeled with Stamos-themed headings like “Comedies John Stamos Thinks are Funny” and “Popular Like John Stamos Was in High School.” The streaming service also promoted a fake new show called “John Stamos: A Human, Being” that was set to release April 31, 2016 (a date that does not exist).  

Sacha Baron Cohen

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The actor is known for his outrageous roles in “Borat” and “Brüno,” but in 2012, Sacha Baron Cohen arrived at the Academy Awards donned in costume to promote his then-recent film “The Dictator.” While being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest, Cohen spilled what he claimed to be the ashes of the late Kim Jong Il on Seacrest. Cohen was actually planning on spilling the fake ashes on George Clooney, but decided against it and went for Seacrest instead. He later apologized to Seacrest, who graciously accepted it.

Mark Zuckerberg

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H&M and Mark Zuckerberg allegedly announced a new fashion line consisting of seven grey shirts and a pair of jeans with the tagline, “One less thing to think about in the morning.” Was it the ultimate fashion statement or just a prank? Unfortunately for connoisseurs of simple style, the campaign website had a small disclaimer at the bottom that said, “This website in fact is not an official H&M site but rather an independent April Fool’s joke by Matvey Choudnovsky and Kolya Fabrika.” Don’t worry, H&M probably has grey shirts and a pair of jeans if you’re really into fashion that’s simple-chic.  

George Clooney

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Clooney is notorious for pranking his celebrity friends. Once, Clooney tricked Matt Damon (on set for the movie “The Monuments Men”) into thinking he was gaining weight by convincing a woman in wardrobe to take in Damon’s pants an eighth of an inch every few days. Damon, regardless of regularly hitting the gym and dieting for a role, couldn’t figure out why he was gaining weight. Clooney claims he did this for three weeks. He has also sent letters to other actors and actresses impersonating Brad Pitt and neglects to tell either party until a year or two passes.

Brad Pitt

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Pitt has pulled several pranks during his career, most notably one he did against his buddy George Clooney. He once told Italian shopkeepers to exclusively refer to Clooney as Danny Ocean or Mr. Ocean, his character from “Ocean’s Eleven,” while on the set for “Ocean’s Twelve.” But Clooney was quick to dish revenge by placing various crude bumper stickers on the back of Pitt’s vehicle.   

Taylor Swift

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Though Taylor Swift no longer classifies herself as a country artist, that doesn’t stop her from hanging out with (and pranking) country stars. During a performance of Keith Urban’s song “Kiss A Girl,” Swift appeared onstage in a KISS bandmate costume and rocked alongside Urban.  

What are your favorite April Fool’s Day pranks? Let us know in the comments below!

A Q&A With NYFA Acting for Film Student Dustin Ardine

New York Film Academy acting for film student Dustin Ardine has seen a lot of success in his short career. Ardin won the best actor award at the Mediterranean Film Festival, a huge festival that takes place in Italy. Ardine’s film “The Red Oak” won top prize. The horror film screened at the Villa Dunardi, a haunted landmark in Italy. Recently, NYFA correspondent Joelle Smith sat down with Ardine to discuss his recent success and what projects he’ll be tackling next.

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Joelle Smith: Hi Dustin, congratulations on your recent award wins! Tell me a little about your film.

Dustin Ardine: Our film is called “The Red Oak.” It is a psychological thriller that touches on a subject that we all felt wasn’t something explored a lot in films. It was written and directed by Danyal Zafar. It stars myself in the lead role of Dr. Rahal. It also stars Abe Cohen and Brooklyn Sarver.

When I met with Danyal for the first time he gave me the script and we talked about the story we wanted to tell. We then worked together to perfect everything so that we told the story the exact way we wanted. At its heart, “The Red Oak” is about all those many people in the world who dedicate their lives to helping others … but we all rarely see the toll that their choice takes upon them.

Doctors, nurses, firefighters, cops, teachers, and many others choose to dedicate their lives to helping others regardless of the toll it takes on them and the scars they live with every day of their lives. My character Dr. Rahal is a lifelong psychiatrist who has dedicated himself to helping his patients. But what kind of toll does that take on him? What kind of weight does he carry around with him every day of his life? This is the story we wanted to tell. 

JS: How did you get involved in the project?

DA: The director Danyal Zafar had seen my past work and called me in to discuss the project. He told me that he knew I had the talent to bring the character of Dr. Rahal to life but wanted to know more about me and how I see the character and story. He had me read, and once he knew I was 100 percent who he wanted to cast as the lead we met again and talked about everything — from the script to the characters to the subtext we wanted the film to have and the overall message we wanted the film to say. We worked hard to make sure that the story was told in the right way so that exactly what we wanted to say came across on screen. 

JS: What do you hope people get out of the film? 

DA: I hope that when people watch “The Red Oak” they do see and appreciate all hard work that myself, the director, and the rest of the cast and crew put into it. The other actors and I had to go to very dark places to bring these characters to life. As a method actor, I fully engulfed myself in this role and lived as Dr. Rahal during the entire shoot on and off the set.

But also I hope that when people watch “The Red Oak,” they are also taken on a journey that will not only entertain them but will also make them think — about the people they have in their own lives who have dedicated themselves to helping others even at a great personal cost to themselves, so those people stop being taken for granted. 

JS: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you with this project? 

DA: I have been acting since I was six and went to school for theater. So I came to NYFA with a great background in the arts. However, I can say that the connections I made at NYFA were 100 percent key to not only bring the cast in this film, but also on so many other projects. The great thing about NYFA is that so many talented people come together to go after their dreams. As long as you prove yourself to be a hardworking professional, which I pride myself to be, that will make other hardworking professionals want to work with you. 

JS: What’s up next for you?

DA: I just wrapped a short film called “A Scream That’s Trapped Inside,” directed by Savvas Christou (who is still at NYFA), and a full-length indie feature film called “Ariadne,” originally titled Minotaur, in which I play the lead. “Ariadne” is directed by Adrian Rodriguez. That film should be out within a few months. Also, I just got the lead role in two other indie full-length feature films. One is called “Religion,” directed by Salifu Zakari, and the other is called “Apathy Equals Death,” directed by Aijia Li. Both films will be shooting later this year. 

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Dustin Ardine for taking the time to speak with us about his work. You can watch “The Red Oak” in its entirety by clicking here.

Interested in learning more about acting for film? Check out NYFA’s acting for film programs.

 

Why Do So Many Actors Turn to Producing?

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In this article about the benefits of self-producing as an actor, we considered Orson Wells, who wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane, the 1941 film often hailed as the greatest ever made. While not every actor excels at so many aspects of filmmaking, many actors turn to producing in order to have more control over their careers, as well as the projects in which they’re involved.

The joys of wearing many hats

Taking a look at George Clooney’s Smoke House Pictures, you see that he and the other well-known actors jump from acting to directing to both. Clooney starred in the Jodie Foster directed “Money Monster,” while he will direct the upcoming “Suburbicon” starring Matt Damon. Smoke House also produced The Academy Award winning “Argo,” directed and starring Ben Affleck. Wear many hats and you will have many more opportunities to work.

Keep the Jobs Coming

Drew Barrymore started her production company Flower Films with Nancy Juvonen in 1995, which produced many films in which she has starred including “Never Been Kissed,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and the cult hit “Donnie Darko,” which she stepped in and saved when it was struggling to find backers. Longevity is not easy for any actor, and can be particularly tough for women in the biz. Having your own production company certainly helps mitigate the age factor. Barrymore stars in the new Netflix series “The Santa Clarita Diet,” for which she also serves as one of its executive producers, as does her co-star and on-screen husband Timothy Olyphant.

Producing Diversity

Diversity behind the scenes helps ensure traditionally neglected stories get told, which in turn creates more nuanced roles for diverse actors. Salma Hayek formed her production company Ventanarosa in 1999, which produced the Oscar-winning Frida, as well as the Emmy-winning Ugly Betty. Viola Davis (JuVee), Kerry Washington (Simpson Street), and Will Smith (Overbrook) are just a few of the actors of color who work behind as well as in front of the camera to create diverse and dynamic images.

Busting Out of Type

Actors can be constrained by their looks, their gender, their body type and the roles that made them famous. Clint Eastwood might have spent the rest of his life doing westerns if he hadn’t started his production company Malpaso Productions. According to Wikipedia, “Play Misty for Me” was the first film “to give Eastwood the artistic control he desired.” Named the most successful actor/producer by TheRichest, Eastwood has produced such diverse films as “Hang ’em High,” “Mystic River,” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

Making a Difference

Although many actors begin producing in order to take control of their career destinies in front of and behind the camera, others are simply interested in expanding the quality and scope of the industry. A good example of this is Brad Pitt and his production company Plan B, which he founded with Jennifer Anniston, and now runs with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn writes that Plan B “has gained traction in recent years as one of the most significant entities supporting auteur-driven work in the United States.” From the academy-award winning “12 Years a Slave,” to this year’s underdog Oscar winner “Moonlight,” Pitt proves himself a star who is more than willing to step out of the picture to produce great films.

There are so many great actor producers. Let us know your favorite in the comments below, and contact New York Film Academy to learn more about producing and acting for film.

A Q&A With NYFA Acting for Film Alumna and Teacher’s Assistant Alice Dessuant

An actor plays many roles in the course of a career, but Alice Dessuant is also interested in roles behind the scenes. After completing her New York Film Academy training in acting for film, Alice decided to stay on and work as a TA, and most recently she booked a role in “La Recompense” in Paris.

NYFA had an opportunity to sit down with Miss Dessuant to hear some of her insights on what it’s like to shape shift and work in so many different types of roles within the entertainment industry. Here’s what she had to share with our community.

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NYFA: Congratulations on your upcoming performances in France! Can you tell us a bit about your role and the production?

AD: Thanks! So I will be performing in a play called “La Recompense” (The Reward) at the Edouard VII theater, one of the biggest private theaters in Paris. We will be on stage every day (twice on Saturday) from March 14 to July 16 after six weeks of rehearsing.

“La Recompense” is the story of Martin, a brilliant historian who is rewarded with the International History Prize. His girlfriend and his brother seem to think it is THE prize of a lifetime, the accomplishment of his entire career. Martin however would do anything to give it back: indeed, all the laureates from the past years died a year after they got rewarded.

My character is introduced by Martin’s brother, who speaks about me during the play. I then quite literally appear to Martin at the end of the play to seal his fate.

NYFA: You’ve worked both in front of the camera as an actor and behind the scenes as a cinematographer and wardrobe assistant, and you’ve also worked in several countries. What would you say is your number one takeaway from shifting position, working internationally, and seeing the industry from so many sides?

AD: I feel like shifting position on set made me a better actress. And I would recommend it 100 percent. Knowing exactly who’s doing what and how they do it on set makes you more comfortable in your own position, and makes work more fluid. As for working in different countries, I definitely learned new acting tools for me to use back home. It’s a great way to approach new methods and expand your working skills.

NYFA: Why NYFA? Tell us a little bit more about your journey in choosing the acting for film program at New York Film Academy.

AD: To be perfectly honest, it was completely random! I was spending some time in New York in the summer and I saw an add for the school at a bus stop. I’d always wanted to leave Paris and study acting for film in New York, I thought it was a good place to start. Probably the best decision I ever made!

NYFA: What was it like studying acting for film in a country other than your own?

AD: Whether you are studying, working or just spending time abroad, you always get through phases where you feel homesick, where you miss your family and friends. That was probably the most challenging for me (that and the three months of snow every winter, God I hate the cold!). But more seriously, it really is nothing compared to how rewarding it is to accomplish something outside of your country, out of your comfort zone. It was an amazing feeling to have people who barely knew me, willing to give me a chance. It definitely boosted my confidence! And the fact is, as soon as I got back to France I booked three big jobs in a couple of weeks. I don’t think it would have happened if I had never left Paris for a while.

NYFA: What has surprised you the most about your classes at NYFA? Were there any subjects that became a new passion for you?

AD:  I was really surprised to have audition technique classes. In France, being an actor is still considered an art, not a business. So you learn to do the job but not to get the job. That was the most useful class for me. And I definitely fell in love with TV classes! Especially when working on sitcoms. It really feels like recorded live theater!

NYFA: How did staying on with NYFA and working as a TA change the way you understood your craft as an actor? Did your perspective on your courses change?

AD: Working as a TA made me realise how easy [in some ways] it is to be an actor! Knowing how much equipment is involved, and how much work it takes to produce anything really put my own work into perspective. Sometimes as an actor you show up on set, having worked on your character, emotionally charged, sort of in your own bubble really, and you forget the humongous amount of work it took to build the set, prep the lights, get the camera ready. Working on the other side reminded me of that.

NYFA: What was it like to be a part of the NYFA community both as a student and as a TA?

AD: I had a great experience as a student at NYFA. I felt really privileged. I absolutely adored my classmates and it felt like working with a solid acting troupe all year long. I also had a blast working as a TA. The experience was especially interesting and different for me because I went from a student perspective to working side to side with the teachers I had the year before. I found that same feeling of a troupe with the other TAs, which made the job very enjoyable.

NYFA: Favorite NYFA moment?

AD: Favorite NYFA moment as a student was probably being part of the NYFA ensemble, and getting to perform “Gruesome Playground Injuries” with my classmates.

NYFA: What’s inspiring you right now

AD: The people I am working with at the moment. Actors I have admired all my life and whom I get to be on stage with now.

NYFA: Do you have a favorite film, or favorite actor?

AD: Hardest question ever. I absolutely can’t name one movie. It’s just impossible. As for actors, Johnny Depp in “Edward Scissorhands” is the reason i decided to be an actor (after I realised Jedi and Indiana Jones were not actual jobs). At the moment I am particularly obsessed with both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Watching them act is purely the best acting class you can get. And watching them act together … I literally pause to take notes.

NYFA: What advice would you give to aspiring acting for film students?

AD: My advice is, get as many different acting classes possible. Work on different methods, with different teachers. And if you are ever offered to do another job on set besides acting, say yes.

And stay away from the craft service, it’s a trap!

Alice, thank you for taking the time to share a part of your story with the NYFA community. Break legs in your upcoming shows!

 

International Women’s Day: Industry Leaders

Women around the world have been blazing the trails for equality. As New York Film Academy has previously reported, gender inequality is still an issue in the entertainment industry — yet, there is continual progress, and it’s largely thanks to the women already hard at work in the industry.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’ve highlighted a few women we would like to celebrate not only for their accomplishments in entertainment, but for their work in the community as well.

Emma Watson

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Emma Watson graced the silver screen with her presence in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” as Hermione Granger in 2001. To date, Hermione Granger is arguably the largest role that Watson has portrayed since entering the mainstream entertainment industry.

Watson is starring as Belle in the live adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast,” due out in March. But behind the scenes of her busy acting career, she’s been advocating for human equality. In July 2014, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and delivered a speech in September to help launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe. The campaign calls for men’s assistance in advocating for gender equality. She has also visited countries such as Bangladesh and Zambia to promote education for young girls.

 

Eva Longoria

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Eva Longoria got her break on television as Isabella Braña on CBS Daytime’s “The Young and the Restless,” and stole our hearts as one of our favorite housewives, Gabrielle Solis, on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” In the 2000s, she appeared in several high-profile advertising campaigns and was featured on the cover of international women’s magazines including Vogue, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar.

In 2006, Longoria founded Eva’s Heroes, which is a charity dedicated to helping developmentally disabled children. She is also the national spokesperson for PADRES Contra El Cancer.

Outside of her acting career, Longoria has a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M University-Kingsville and a master’s degree in Chicano studies from California State University in Northridge.

Lady Gaga

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Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is one of the best selling musicians of all time. Into 2008, she broke into the music industry with her debut album “The Fame” and followed up with “The Fame Monster” in 2009. Her third album “Art Pop,” which was released in 2013, was not as successful as her first two albums. But Lady Gaga was to recover with a collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett and her fifth album, “Joanne.”  She also won a Golden Globe Award in 2016 for her work in “American Horror Story: Hotel.”

Lady Gaga is one of the most successful women in the entertainment industry, but her work goes beyond her music and television. Her proceeds from her concert at Radio City Music Hall benefited the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. She also helped design a bracelet and proceeds from the sales went to victims after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

This was a very busy year for Lady Gaga. She joined Vice President Joe Biden at the University of Nevada Las Vegas to support Biden’s “It’s On Us” campaign as he traveled on behalf of the organization to more than 530 colleges to have students sign a pledge of solidarity and activation. She also went into the 84th Annual U.S. Conference Of Mayors charity to talk with the Dalai Lama about the power of kindness. In 2012, Lady Gaga launched Born This Way Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on youth empowerment and issues such as self-confidence, well-being, career development, bullying, and harassment. She is also an outspoken activist for LGBT rights worldwide.

Laverne Cox

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Laverne Cox, a transgender woman, made her break in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” as Sophia Burset. In 2014, she won Glamour Award for the Woman of the Year and Glamour Award for the Advocate. She has won other awards, including Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.

In the last few years, Cox has donated to several charities. In 2015, Cox participated in Broadway Bares: Top Bottoms of Burlesque, a show that featured 222 dancers and actors, to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BCEFA). She is also an avid supporter and advocate of the LGBTQ community.

 

Priyanka Chopra

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You may recognize Priyanka Chopra from ABC’s thriller series “Quantico,” but she has been working on various projects in India since 2002. In between her projects, she supports various causes through her foundation, The Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education. She donates 10 percent of her earnings to the foundation and she pays for educational and medical expenses for up to 70 children in India.

She also speaks on issues such as female infanticide and foeticide, women’s rights, gender equality and gender pay inequality. Since 2006, Chopra has worked with UNICEF to record public service announcements and participate in media panel discussions to promote children’s rights and the education of girls.    

 

This is only a fraction of the diverse and international women accomplishing pioneering work in the entertainment industry and beyond. If you’re interested in becoming a part of the movement for equality in the entertainment industry, apply today to the many programs at NYFA that can help you choose your path.

Who will you be honoring in light of International Women’s Day? Let us know in the comments below!

Developing Your Core Acting Technique

If you’re thinking about becoming an actor, there are some basic things like your type, age range, and preferred medium (stage or film, or both) to which you’ve likely given some thought. But have you considered your acting technique?

Actors can train in several techniques developed by master acting instructors, including those based on the work of Constantin Stanislavski, who inspired Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, Michael Chekhov, Sanford Meisner, and Lee Strasberg.  Strasberg’s technique is commonly known as “The Method” and looks at a deep investigation of characters’ emotional lives to intensify the connection between actor and character. Using information gathered from the script, the life of the character is made multi-dimensional through investigating the actor’s own imagination and developing a fuller sense of humanity via techniques such as a detailed and rich back story that provides the actor with a deep connection to character that integrates the writer’s intentions.

And how does one do that, you ask? While no actor is the same, we’ve got you covered with four tips to help you get started on developing your own acting technique.

1. Relaxation

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Relaxation or the release of muscular tension is a key skill in any technique. Muscles tense in order to block emotion and the anxious actor is often so full of that one emotion that they are incapable of feeling any others. Removing thoughts and tension that block emotional range and limit the actor’s imagination is an imperative. If you’re just starting out, find a quiet area and lie down with your arms at your side and your palms facing upward. Take several long deep breaths, preferably on a five count in and a five count out. With each inhale, imagine you are breathing in pure energy. With each exhale, allow all toxicity and negative thoughts to flow away from and out of your body. Allow your muscles to release and become pliant and available. Set a timer and do this for five minutes, beginning with breath and visualizing release and repeating the then slowly revive yourself by wiggling fingers and toes before you slowly sit up.

While there are a number of relaxation and breathing exercises, like these published on our blog, the trick is finding one or a few that work well for you, and then practice, practice, practice! This kind of training can seem very slow at first, and you may even fall asleep the first few times, but hang in there! This is the foundation of your technique. Many actors train with relaxation and breathing exercises that can be found in Stanislavski’s “An Actor Prepares.”

2. Sense Memory

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Sense memory is an exercise to help actors recall objects, places, or things and allow the senses to react. For example, if someone were to ask you to recall the scent of a lemon, could you re-create in this moment the sensations you originally experienced? The first step in doing this would be to take a real lemon and sit with it. Explore in in your hands, with your fingertips. Bring it up to your nose. Memorize how it feels in your hands, and the scent of it as you bring it closer to your nose. Once you’ve explored this object with your senses – touch, sight, sound and taste (if necessary) — take it away! Now that it’s gone, try to recreate your sensory experience of this object. Recall the scent, the taste, the touch of it on your fingertips — your palms. The more you practice doing this, the easier it becomes!

3. Personal Object

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Let’s say you’ve been cast to play a corrections officer. Through the information provided in the script, you know your character clocks in at work Monday through Friday from nine in the morning to five in the evening. That’s a good chunk of the day that your character in on the job. Would he or she be carrying a ring of keys on their belt buckle? Perhaps you could experiment with the sensation of wearing a heavy key ring all day. Does it affect how you walk? Do you immediately reach for them when facing a door? Do you ever mistakenly reach for them in your personal life at home?

On the other hand, what if you are playing a character who just lost their mother? Perhaps your own mother gave you a bracelet when you were young and that object holds a key to certain memories of her. Can you imagine losing your own mother, and wearing that bracelet every day in remembrance of her? Use this exercise to brainstorm ways in which an object stirs emotions.  What if you saw the bracelet every time you wash your hands? Could your character also have an object their mother gave to them that elicits feelings? In this way, using an object of personal significance is helpful in developing a template to investigate the inner life of a character.  

4. Music/Sound

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Music is another very effective tool that can be used to ground a character’s inner life. If you think about a time where you were excited and very optimistic about something — a first date, a graduation, the birth of a child — you may associate those events with a particular song. And if you don’t, you can find one that calls those feelings to mind. Now, let’s say you are playing a character who just got hired for her dream job. This calls for feelings of excitement, hope, and wonder at what’s to come. It’s also a time of transition. Can you find a song that inspires the emotions you need to ground the reality of this character’s experience?

There are plenty of songs in many genres, so feel free to go outside of your comfort zone. Music has a way of calling to mind different events in our lives, the people who were there, and the feelings we experienced in those moments. You may even be triggered by simple sounds. The sound of footsteps or a door opening and closing, and the jangle of keys can bring on a sense of anticipation, or excitement, or fear. Meditating to sound or recreating it in your mind while developing the backstory of your character can help you get into a role faster, and with more ease.

While these tips are not conclusive in preparing one’s own technique, they can certainly be used as an introduction while you are honing your craft. Remember, this is training! Taking on a character is like running a marathon, and like any runner will tell you, it takes the right training to succeed.

What are some of the exercises you practice to help develop your method acting technique? Let us know in the comments.

Hollywood’s Funny Women

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In the beginning, there was Mae West — sassy, sexy, and smart. West’s early career in Vaudeville helped her develop a larger-than-life persona that came across on screen as wisecracking and worldly. West famously quipped, “I believe in censorship. I’ve made a fortune out of it.” Her work pushed the limits with censors, and West went to jail in 1927 to defend her right to free speech with her play, “Sex.”

Comedy in Hollywood films has often been in dominated by men. When women got to be funny, it was usually part of a romantic comedy or in some kind of domestic situation where the male actor still got the best lines. Yet the screwball comedies of the 1930s and ‘40s did have a group of actresses who gave as good as they got — Myrna Loy, Carole Lombard, and Katharine Hepburn held their own against the likes of William Powell and Carey Grant, dishing out one-liners and snappy comebacks. But, as World War II came to a close, film comediennes were once again relegated to bit parts and setting up the jokes for the male actors.

 

From the mid-50s to the 1970s, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett helped producers see that women could not only do physical comedy, but that they could be the main attraction — at least on the small screen. Their influence on film comediennes (both onscreen and behind the scenes as writers and businesswomen) for the next few decades cannot be underestimated. Without them, there would be no Tina Fey and Amy Pohler.

The 1980s and ‘90s saw actresses make the leap from television to the big screen. Lily Tomlin, Catherine O’Hara, Whoopi Goldberg, and Teri Garr were just a few of the actresses who successfully transferred original character development and comedic timing learned from years of sketch comedy and improv to quirky film roles.

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The 2000s have seen actresses like Margaret Cho,  Melissa McCarthy, Uzo Aduba, and Mindy Kaling bring new perspectives to American comedy. They have used their personal lives as inspiration for character-driven comedy and, in McCarthy’s case, shown that funny women can, indeed, bring in audiences and sell tickets just as well as male stars.

Want some suggestions for great female-led films? Check out NYFA’s 5 Movies Starring Female Ensembles.

Who are your favorite funny women in Hollywood? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Is Social Media Success the New Way to Get an Acting Gig?

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Actors, like everyone else, have found their lives and careers changed by social media. Few could have predicted the impact social media would have on the world. Whether it’s to stay in touch with friends and family or read up on the latest news, the average person uses one or more social media pages each day. But who could have imagined that social media might influence how you pursue acting jobs?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an aspiring actor. You’re probably eager to use all the tools available to you in the pursuit of professional work. And you’re probably wondering if the power of social media can help you build recognition or bankability in an industry full of actors and actresses competing for the same roles. The short answer is: it depends.

The role that social media plays in a professional actors career is complex. When used carefully and well, social media can certainly help connect you to your network, to potential audiences, to opportunities. But like every tool in a professional actor’s toolkit, social media comes with no guarantees save one: social media alone will not book you work as an actor. However, used wisely, social media can become a very powerful tool for an actor indeed.

Having A Professional Online Presence Doesn’t Hurt…

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You may have noticed that just about every actor who is serious about their career owns a social media page on the major platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Since the internet can be accessed by anyone at any time, having a page where people can see your bio, major credits, and relevant experience, is a must-have. Many casting directors and agents will give young actors in workshops the advice to invest in a high quality website, and to spend time cultivating a real social media presence and following, so that potential collaborators can “get to know you.” It’s an opportunity to create and showcase your personal brand. And it’s important to be mindful about how you do this.

You’ll notice that actors who use social media wisely have more than words on their pages. After all, acting is one of the most visual and physical arts of all! That’s why you’ll also find short videos, photos, and other media that demonstrates an actor’s abilities. Of course, the question still on your mind is if doing all this actually helps develop an acting career in a significant way.

The answer? Perhaps no.

…But It Won’t Get You There Alone.

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The fact is, you shouldn’t expect your acting career to skyrocket just based on our social media presence alone. Sure, there have been instances where a famous YouTube personality was given the chance to act in an actual film, or where an unknown actors personal social media followings helped encourage a casting director to take a risk and give them a chance.

But rarely will a top agent use social media alone to find their next client. A casting director may check out your stuff online, but most likely only after you’ve already won consideration or established a promising connection.

To reiterate, contracts and starring roles are hardly ever cast through communication done via social media. And word to the wise: the last thing you want to do is pester anyone about an acting gig online by sending numerous tweets and emails, especially if they’re someone you’ve never met in person.

Social Media Pages: Still A Must-Have In Our Industry

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Just because social media isn’t necessarily going to lead directly to an acting gig, again, it is an important tool in your toolkit. Social media can have great purpose and effect in the hands of a savvy professional actor. Treat your pages like a resume, tailor your online presence to reflect the type of professional image you’d like to project both to those you know, and those you don’t know. Social media is one of many tools you can use to pursue for a specific role, but again, nothing is ever guaranteed. And it is important to remember that your professional online presence is visible to everyone.

In the end, social media sites are best used to stay in touch with people you’ve worked with. Developing relationships with others, including other actors, can increase your chance of finding out about a new opportunity. Be wise, be genuine, and good luck.

Actors, what are your social media tips for each other? Do you have any success stories about how your social media presence has served your acting pursuits in a positive way? Let us know in the comments below!

Australia Day 2017: Celebrating Current Aussies in Film

There’s something about Australian actors that make us look forward to Australia Day. From Hugh Jackman to Margot Robbie, Hollywood is full of the Australian accent that we love so much. In celebration of Australia Day, here’s our list of the top 10 Australian actors and actresses who stole our hearts during 2016.

Liam Hemsworth

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Liam may be off the market in a romantic sense, but this has been a good year for Liam fans. He was in the television series “Workaholics,” helped save the world from aliens in the sequel “Independence Day: Resurgence,” and took over the Western frontier in “The Duel.” And we will never forget Liam’s passionate role as Gail in “The Hunger Games” series.

Chris Hemsworth

 

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Hollywood isn’t graced with the presence of just one Hemsworth man — but two. Chris Hemsworth showed up on the silver screen in 2009 to portray George Kirk in “Star Trek,” and in 2011 he bought Thor to life. Recently, Chris has focused on roles in “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Doctor Strange.” It’s safe to say that both of the Hemsworth brothers were really busy this year, and have given us plenty to watch this week in celebration of Australia Day.

Margot Robbie

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Margot Robbie got her big break when she brought the New Jersey princess Naomi Lapaglia to life in “The Wolf of Wall Street” in 2013. Previously, she was on the well-known Australian television show “Neighbours” as Donna Freedman. Since “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Margot has been in several high-profile leading roles, especially as Jane Clayton in “The Legend of Tarzan” and Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad.”

Hugh Jackman

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Hugh Jackman’s list of accomplishments and awards is nothing short of impressive. He can sing, dance and act — in the last few years, he has bought home a People’s Choice, Tony, Satellite, Saturn and a few other awards. Let’s not forget that he has also been voted sexist man alive. Happy Australia Day, Hugh!

Jesse Spencer

Remember Dr. Robert Chase on hit television show “House”? So do we. Before his 8-year stint alongside Hugh Laurie, Jesse Spencer was on the same Australian television show, as Margot Robbie: “Neighbors.” Since 2012, he has portrayed the character Matthew Casey on “Chicago Fire” and the 2014 crossover “Chicago P.D.”

Ruby Rose

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Anyone who watches Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” knows Ruby Rose. She played Stella Carlin, a love interest of Piper Chapman’s. While her role was short-lived on the show, it helped propel her into other movie roles.

Isla Fisher

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Isla Fisher stole ours hearts when she played the crazy love interest of Vince Vaughan’s character in “Wedding Crashers” in 2005. She appeared opposite of Zach Galifianakis in “Keeping Up with the Jones” – a movie about a suburban couple who gets caught up in an international espionage plot. Recently, she has been seen in “Nocturnal Animals” and “The Brothers Grimsby.”

Phoebe Tonkin

There is nothing more exciting than getting caught up in a world of supernatural beings. Phoebe Tonkins first starred in “H2O: Just Add Water” before moving on to “The Vampire Diaries” and finally settling into her role as Hayley Marshall on “The Originals,” a spinoff show of “The Vampire Diaries” on CW.

Jai Courtney

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Jai Courtney is slowly becoming a household name thanks to the “Divergent” series. In 2016, Jai played alongside Margot Robbie as George Harkness/Captain Boomerang in DC Comics’ “Suicide Squad.”

Luke Bracey

Let’s admit it — we all secretly love movie adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ books. Luke Bracey warmed our souls and brought tears to our eyes as the younger version of Dawson in “The Best of Me.” Luke’s only film of 2016 was “Hacksaw Ridge” but we can’t wait to see what he does next.

 

Happy Australia Day! Who are your favorite Australian actors and filmmakers? Let us know in the comments below!

Why You Should Watch the 23rd Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards

The SAG Awards are one of the most prestigious awards out there in the film business, particularly when it comes to acting — and more or less, a sure indicator of Oscar success. So if you’re wondering if you should watch television on a Sunday evening instead of going to a party, we give you four reasons why the answer is yes.

The SAG Awards are a must-watch because the ceremony…

Has Unique Categories With No Oscar Equivalent 

The Academy Awards aren’t just limited to acting. In fact, there are only four awards for performances and there are honors reserved for direction, screenplay, cinematography, costumes and even music. So if you’re the sort of person who only cares about their favorite actor, there are chances you’ll get bored. Meanwhile, not only is SAG all about acting, they have special categories too, including awards for “Outstanding Performance by a Cast” as well as “Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble.”

Is Pretty Good At Predicting The Oscars

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If you’re one of those who love to take part in Oscar prediction games, the SAG Awards are probably your best bet to help you make the best bet. In most cases, the actors who take home the SAG also take away the Oscars. So if you want to know if Denzel Washington or Ryan Gosling stand a chance, tune in your telly on Jan. 29!

Doesn’t Have A Host

Yep, and that can be a good thing too. At the SAG Awards, the spotlight will always be on your favorite actors and presenters, so there are more opportunities to indulge your inner superfan. Here’s what SAG producer Kathy Connell had to say about the no-host rule: We chose to not have a host was because we didn’t want the time taken away from the people we were honoring. Our show is just two hours long. We wanted the whole evening to be about the actors and not about one personality.”

Is Not Just About Movies, But Also Your Favorite TV Shows

Yes, unlike the Oscars which tend to be totally movie-centric, SAG honors the best performances in television shows as well. So if you’ve been binge-watching “Game of Thrones,” “Stranger Things,” “Orange Is The New Black” or “Westworld,” you’re gonna get to see your favorite TV personalities up close and candid and perhaps even delivering a beautiful acceptance speech.

Is Decided Upon by a Randomly Selected Judging Committee

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In a move for absolutely impartial judgement, the voters are selected completely at random. There are two committees, one for television and the other for movies, and each have 2100 members who are eligible to vote and chosen from the SAG-AFTRA union, which comprise all “the working actors of America.” Plus, each member is allowed to serve every eight years to ensure that there is no bias. So if you’re looking for a fair judgment, the SAG Awards pretty much guarantee that.

The SAG award winners shall be announced on Sunday, Jan. 29 2017, on TNT and TBS.

So who do you think shall win this year? Or, to put it differently, who are the people you desperately want to win this year and are willing to spend a Sunday evening to find out? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Tips for Creating Character Relationships

Ok, so you’ve done the work: memorized your lines backwards and forwards, filled notebooks with your thoughts and backstory, answered the key questions “who am I and what do I want?” and have a good handle on the circumstances of the character before the scene begins, and you’re ready to hit the set with your authentic character.

But wait! Have you thought about the circumstances in the scene itself and the effect other characters and performances might have on your character’s situation? In the fast-paced world of film and television, the first day of shooting may find you in bed with a stranger – so strong choices must also be flexible choices. Here are a few tips from the experts about creating robust yet supple character choices that will lend truth to your performance, even in high-pressure situations.

1. Put Your Objective in Context

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“What do I want?” is one of Stanislavski’s questions to ask when approaching a scene.

Adding another dimension, ask yourself “How does my character want to make the other character feel?” We rarely walk around narrating our inner emotional life. Speech is an action and it most often emerges from what we want from a situation or person.

In thinking about your character’s objective, also think about the character playing opposite and their relationship to that objective: your needs from your lover are probably not the same as from your boss. Character relationship colors what you want and how you go about getting it.

2. Prepare to be Moved

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“Sanford Meisner On Acting” is one of the top recommended books to read if you plan on pursuing acting as a profession. “Never come into a scene empty” is perhaps its mantra, and in order to follow this advice, preparation is necessary. But preparation must be both strong and malleable so that choices can be made or confirmed in the moment. An actor must prepare a specific inner life for her character that then is moved and affected by the inner life of other actors’ performances – performances that may emerge spontaneously and must be reacted to instinctively.   

3. Use Your Imagination

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As Cathy Haase elaborates in her book Acting for Film, there is no such thing as a character without relationships. Some character relationships are “primal,” relating to familial bonds, while others are determined by the social hierarchy of the world he or she inhabits. When imagining a character’s inner life, add the spice of imagining their status with the other characters to understand how your character’s position and power (or lack of it) affects your choice of actions on a given line or phrase.

4. Get Involved

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Once on set, it is vital that you get out of your own head and involve yourself with the people around you. You must see your character and the characters inhabited by other actors as living human beings who have inner lives of their own. In his book “Irreverent Acting,” Eric Morris offers exercises to help you see what is in front of you — to see your fellow actors as if for the first time. This kind of active and curious seeing keeps your responses from being stiff, and your expressions from being glazed over by your own preoccupations.

5. Pay attention

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As this past NYFA Student Resources article suggests, focus and concentration are key to creating convincing characterizations. It is vital that you pay attention to what’s going on around you as well as to what’s going on inside you. Listening to your scene partner will not only keep you out of your sabotaging head, but it will help you deliver a performance that feels spontaneous and truthful.

How do you create living, breathing character relationships? Let us know in the comments below!

NYFA Looks Forward to the 2017 Golden Globes

The American film and television community awaits the Golden Globes 2017 with bated breath. This year, the awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, Jan. 8 at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California starting at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern. “Red Carpet Live,” hosted by Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest, will air on E! at 6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific, while the “Golden Globes Arrival Special” will air on NBC at 7 p.m. Eastern/4 p.m. Pacific. The 74th Annual Golden Globes Awards will start at 6 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific on NBC. And don’t worry if you don’t have a television set — TV Guide suggests borrowing a friend’s cable log-in and watching at NBC.com.

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Though the news of Jimmy Fallon hosting and Meryl Streep earning the Cecil B. DeMille Achievement Award are exciting, the New York Film Academy family has its own cause for celebration. One is an alumna’s inspiring accomplishment, while the other is a titillating opportunity given to current students.

Here are two special NYFA connections to this year’s Golden Globes:

Early “La La Land” screening

In December 2016, students on the NYFA Los Angeles campus had the chance to watch an early screening of Golden Globe nominated musical, “La La Land.” The film opened nationwide on Christmas Day.

Prior to the screening, student Sarah Holmberg told NYFA, “I’ve been watching this movie as it goes from festival to festival. I’ve wanted to see it for a long time. I’m really excited.”

The film, which was written and directed by Damien Chazelle (known for “Whiplash” and “10 Cloverfield Lane”), has been recognized by the Oscars, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Toronto International Film Festival, and other noteworthy festivals and organizations. It stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who play out the story of two lovers who want both their relationship and careers to flourish.

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After the screening, which was organized by Lionsgate, student Miriam Sanchez said, “I’m rushing home to tell everyone to buy a ticket. This is my favorite movie of the year.”

Alumnae Issa Rae’s nomination

NYFA grad Issa Rae struck out on her own to make the webseries, “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl,” because she wanted to defy on-screen stereotypes of people of color.

“I knew if I didn’t shoot it myself, it was never going to get done,” Rae told NYFA in Sept. 2011.

That webseries eventually gave to way to “Insecure,” which Rae co-created and stars in on HBO. Rae has been nominated for best performance by an actress in a television series. That puts her in the same Golden Globes category as Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Julie Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”), Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), Sarah Jessica Parker (“Divorce”), and Tracee Ellis Ross (“Blackish”).

On Jan. 5, the alumna tweeted, “Remember watching the Golden Globes last year wishing like, ‘One day…’ Now a nomination? Four more days…”

Yes, now a nomination. Congratulations, Issa Rae!

Here’s more about Rae and her brave (and resourceful) leap into the industry:

Awkward Is the New Black ( ISSA RAE DOCUMENTARY) from Dylan Valley on Vimeo.

What do you most look forward to in the 2017 Golden Globes? Let us know in the comments below!

American Music Awards: Nominees in Films

The American Music Awards are arguably one of the biggest music awards show of the year — so much so, that they are still buzzing a week later! The success of the AMAs comes from allowing the public to vote for their favorite artists — in comparison, Grammy winners are chosen by Voting Members. Thus, the AMAs are seen by fans as the truest celebration of what today’s music industry has to offer.

For those unaware, many of the top nominees from this year’s ceremony have also shown off their acting skills in the past, in film! The following are some of the biggest names from the 2016 AMAs that have also starred on the big screen.

Beyoncé

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Getting her start as part of R&B girl-group Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé eventually went on solo. Since then, she has earned herself five Grammy Awards and had two songs make number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Beyoncé has provided her voice for a number of animated films, including “Epic,” and used her acting skills in many films including “Obsessed,” “Cadillac Records,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Pink Panther,” “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” and more.

Selena Gomez

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The ex-Disney star has offered her voice for a number of movies, including “Horton Hears a Who!,” “Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard,” and the “Hotel Transylvania” movies. She’s also used her acting abilities in recent movies like “In Dubious Battle,” “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” and “The Fundamentals of Caring.”

Ariana Grande

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Like Gomez, Ariana Grande started out as a TV actress but moved onto the music scene. She only recently made it onto the big screen with a small role in “Zoolander 2″ and has contributed her to the soundtracks of “Trolls,” “Pitch Perfect 2,” and the upcoming DreamWorks Animation film “The Boss Baby.”

Carrie Underwood

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Underwood is known for contributing to the soundtrack of countless films. Some of these include big budget movies like “Enchanted” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” However, her only major role as an actress in a film is as Sarah Hill in “Soul Surfer.”

Janet Jackson

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Since signing her first recording contract with A&M Records in 1982, Jackson has become a pop icon, selling more than 100 million records. She got her acting career started on sitcoms like “Good Times” and “Diff’rent Strokes” before moving onto feature-length films. Recent movies she was a part of include: “For Colored Girls,” “Why Did I Get Married Too?,” “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps,” and “Poetic Justice.”

Drake

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Many are surprised when they learn that one of today’s most successful people in music got started as an actor on Canada’s TV series “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” Since then, his music career has skyrocketed. Drake has become an enormous influence in the music industry, so much so that he’s popularized phrases like “YOLO” in youth culture around the globe. As for his filmography, Drake appeared in a short film called “Mookie’s Law,” comedy drama “Charlie Bartlett,” and provided his voice for a character on “Ice Age: Continental Drift.”

Madonna

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The “Queen of Pop” is admired by the entire industry for having reinvented herself numerous times to stay relevant in mainstream popular music. Although she’s mostly known for her music career, she has also amassed an impressive filmography by working on 26 feature films — appearing herself as an actor in 21 films of them.

Justin Bieber

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A nominee for Artist of the Year, Bieber has produced two films centered around his career. The first one, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” was released in 2011 to be followed by 2013’s “Justin Bieber’s Believe.” His song “Never Say Never” served as the theme song for 2010’s “The Karate Kid” starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.

What were your favorite moment from the 2016 AMAs? What are your favorite films that feature great musicians? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Actors We Bet You Didn’t Know Were Military Veterans

100720-N-4930E-578 WASHINGTON (July 20, 2010) Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West, second from right, joins Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 1st Class Cassandra L. Foote, left, Chief of Naval Operations Sailor of the Year; Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Shalanda Brewer, Navy Reserve Sailor of the Year; Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ingrid Cortez, Fleet Forces Sailor of the Year and Operation Specialist 1st Class Samira McBride U.S., Pacific Sailor of the Year, in saluting the American flag to kick off a night of entertainment provided by the U.S. Navy ceremonial guard and Navy Band at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Abraham Essenmacher/Released)

Elvis Presley. Clint Eastwood. Charlton Heston.

These may be the first few names that spring to mind when you think of famous actors who served in the military, but it goes without saying that there are many, many more … a lot of whom you probably never knew were veterans in the first place!

In celebration of Veterans Day, we rounded up a list of six surprising and inspirational stories of actors that you probably didn’t know were also veterans.

1. Leonard Nimoy

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Rank: Sergeant

Years Served: 1953-1955

Although known in legacy primarily for his portrayal of Spock in “Star Trek,” the road to sci-fi stardom was a winding one for the late, great Leonard Nimoy. He appeared in a huge number of B-movies and TV shows as a supporting actor before landing the role that would make him an intergalactic name. Before this career-defining role, Nimoy supported himself selling vacuum cleaners, working in an ice cream parlor, driving a cab, and serving in the Army Special Reserves.

Nimoy was in good company on the set of “Star Trek,” because one of his costars was also a veteran…

2. James Earl Jones

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Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served: 1953-1955

Shortly before embarking on his 60-year career in film (having decided he wasn’t cut out to be a doctor), the voice of Vader had joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps.When the Korean War broke out, Jones was commissioned to establish a cold weather training command in Colorado. He reportedly both enjoyed the assignment, and excelled at it.

We like to imagine the military spent most of this period trying to figure out how to weaponize his voice.

3. Morgan Freeman

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Rank: Airman 1st Class

Years Served: 1955-1959

Freeman’s acting career began at the young age of nine, and he came out of the gate swinging with a string of drama competition wins and lead performances in plays. It was enough to attract a partial drama scholarship at Jackson State University, but he curiously turned it down to instead enlist in the U.S. Air Force as a radar repairman.

Like James Earl Jones, we can safely assume that the military tried and failed to weaponize Freeman’s dulcet tones. After four years of service, he returned to acting and the rest, as they say, is history.

4. Bea Arthur

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Rank: Staff Sergeant

Years Served: 1943-1945

Strangely, the “Golden Girls” star flatly denied ever having served in the military multiple times over the course of her life, and often acted baffled whenever the rumor was brought up in interviews.

Whatever the reason for the denial, military records later revealed that Arthur did indeed serve for 30 months in the Marine Corps, first as a typist and then later as a truck driver.

Arthur is also the only female veteran-turned-acting-celebrity that we found. If you know of more, please tell us in the comments below!

6. Jimmy Stewart

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Rank: Brigadier General

Years Served: 1941-1968

One of America’s most-loved golden era actors is also the highest ranking actor in military history. Jimmy Stewart was an exceptionally accomplished pilot, and he also established a pilot training school that is estimated to have trained over 10,000 pilots during World War II!

Stewart refused any publicity attracted to him due to his heroic war efforts, flew uncredited in numerous bombing missions deep in Nazi Germany, and often went out of his way to make sure he was involved in highly dangerous active combat (few commanding officers wanted to put the A-list actor in harm’s way, and Stewart was often relegated to desk assignments).

Somewhat understandably, after nearly three decades of service very few of his chosen film roles had anything to do with war or military themes.

In honor of Veterans Day and all those who have served our country: You’re all heroes to us, and the New York Film Academy offers our heartfelt gratitude.

081108-N-5549O-035 MILWAUKEE (Nov. 8, 2008) Ship's Navigator Lt. j.g. Shaina Hayden renders honors to the national anthem during the commissioning ceremony for the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) at Veterans Park in Milwaukee, Wis. Freedom is the first of two littoral combat ships designed to operate in shallow water environments to counter threats in coastal regions. (U. S. Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien/Released)

How to Reach for Acting Roles That Are Right for You

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Actors actually have a great deal of agency when it comes to how they set goals, choose auditions, and decide whether or not to commit to projects. If you’re a burgeoning professional actor, it may feel confusing to decide which direction to go in terms of how your pursue your work opportunities or commit your time.

One way of making auditions easier on yourself is to spend some time before you even submit for auditions in deciding what kind of acting roles you feel would be the right fit, and why. Think beyond your dream role to the kinds of productions you’d like to be a part of, the kinds of teams you’d like to work with, and the kinds of scripts that set you on fire. Once you have this mental picture, it may feel easier to make decisions about how to invest your time and energy when pursuing work as an actor.

To help you focus your time and energy, we’ve compiled some questions to ask yourself about your professional goals. While often the primary challenge is simply to book work, sometimes actors find themselves overwhelmed with audition submissions, or in the dilemma of choosing between jobs, or wondering whether they should turn down a role. Some actors even find themselves in the enviable position of having one or more projects to consider.

Whatever your dilemma, the following can help you sort through your goals when it comes to your acting roles.

Which roles make the most of you and which roles can you make the most of?

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One of the most important things to understand as an actor is the unique set of traits you bring to the table. , which can have a direct effect on your marketability. While these traits  may not always reflect your full goals and your full range as a performer, knowing a bit about type can help you focus your job search and understand the most effective ways to present yourself to casting directors, agents, and producers. An exploration of your comedy chops or something as simple as “type” can be powerful tool when used with expertise, precision, and strategy.

Think of Goldie Hawn working with the “dumb blonde” trope to build an incredibly rich career, eventually using her success to break barriers and create her own work. Do you make a good dumb jock or are you more of a funny best friend? Are you comfortable as the hot blonde or are you a perfect fit for the role of nerdy guy or girl? Know your strengths, know your industry, and play to those strengths.

The good news is that with experience, you’ll eventually have more range to play various types. To learn more about finding your type, see our piece on how to find your type as an actor.

Is the role exciting to you?

When starting off, you’ll probably be willing to take on any acting gig that’s right for you just to get experience under your belt. However, one way of keeping yourself motivated as an actor is by joining projects that you actually think you’ll love.

If comedy is your thing, look for acting roles in this category that allow you to demonstrate your passion for making people laugh. Find a role you’re so enthused about that you can’t stop talking about the film or play when talking to others.

How is the pay?

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Money can be an ugly word when your love of acting alone is the reason you chose this career path. But as many struggling professionals will tell you, being an actor comes with its own set of economic challenges. Not everyone out there is making millions per movie.

The best thing you can do is figure out a budget for your life as an actor. There’s nothing wrong with rejecting a role if the pay means you’ll starve to death and miss paying rent. With good planning, you can figure out a budget so you know which roles will work for your plan and which will leave you stressing.

Is the script any good?

Like we’ve mentioned, it can be tempting jumping into any role just for the cash or experience. But if the project ends up panned for reasons outside of your acting skills, it can be a devastating blow.

One way to avoid this is by learning how to study a script in order to determine if the film or play is going to be a stinker. Actors reject roles all the time after analyzing the script and deciding it isn’t the right choice for their time and effort.

Is the role something you want to be known for?

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Being typecast can be a nightmare for some people, but only if you’re repeatedly getting offered acting roles that you’re not happy with. If your dream is to be a leading man or lady, it can be a bummer always playing a supporting character. If you already find yourself in this position, here are several tips to help you recover.

Is it an acting role you’ll learn from?

The fact is, most of the best actors and actresses of our time went to some form of acting school. It’s there that you’re given the tools and resources needed to decide if you really have what it takes to act for a living. Seeking out specialized training, such a the Acting for Film programs at NYFA, can also help you stand out from the crowd when hunting for a role, especially if you invest in advanced training to further sharpen your skills.

But just like any college degree or program, school is not the same as the real world. Only by being involved in real world projects  can you get a taste of what acting is truly about. We suggest targeting roles that will contribute to your growth as an actor. This can include working with experienced actors and directors, or it can simply be a project that’s unique and will force you to try new things.

What are your professional goals as an actor? What kind of acting roles do you aspire to? Let us know in the comments below!

The Value of an Acting Degree: Preparing for the Modern World

Though the art of acting dates to the Ancient Greeks, Acting for Film is a far newer discipline and few schools provide specialized training that prioritizes acting for the camera. Renowned for its subtlety and power, screen acting requires a set of very fine tools that range from relaxation and breath work, to skills in public speaking, prioritizing information, collaborating with a team of artists, developing the body and voice as an instrument for communication, expansion of empathy, and precise text analysis.

Whether you hope to specialize in TV, film, stage or another discipline that requires public performance — from corporate speeches to sales — here are the key benefits you stand to get from attending the New York Film Academy’s acting programs for your acting degree or certificate.

1. The Art of Being You

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Actors in the 21st century are more than practitioners, they must represent a unique brand that knows what it has to offer and brings that to the table each and every time.

Identifying and growing the brand that represents your special set of strengths is the key to success in any industry and the personalized attention you receive in our programs for acting degrees or certificates can help you detect and foster techniques to help your public presence shine.

2. Global Networks

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NYFA draws artists from over 100 countries around the world representing a powerful diaspora of culture, identity, and experience. With campuses and faculty worldwide, our community is our power — and the relationships that form across cultures and disciplines at NYFA are rated a top experience for the students who attend our programs. Acting degree and certificate program students work closely with classmates and faculty and are given access to reach out to the school at large making our community one of the most prolific available to students interested in the art of screen acting.

3. New Technologies

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In a world where technology is advancing at a stunning rate, the landscape for film and television can change on a dime (Netflix at the Emmys!). NYFA explores new technologies and new forms of entertainment to keep pace with a changing market and keep our students up to date on new technologies through partnerships with our Filmmaking, Game Design, and Animation departments, exposing acting degree and certificate students to new markets and new methods.

4. Access to Working Professionals

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Faculty at NYFA represent professionals active in their industry and provide students with up to date information regarding changes in casting, audition technique, and new media. With a focus on experiential learning as the hallmark of our curriculum, NYFA provides systematic training that has real world application.  

How have your acting for film studies changed your outlook? How have your on-camera acting skills helped you? Are you proud of your NYFA acting degree or certificate? Let us know in the comments below!

Actors: When to Voice an Opinion

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Actors are arguably one of the most important visible elements in the theater or on screen. As a primary collaborator in the art of visual storytelling, the question of when and how to assert an opinion or suggestion is vital to the work of the actor and can make the difference between being seen as an asset or a liability by the production team.  

Depending on who you’re working with, collaboration and can be joyous and inspired or nearly impossible, and it’s always very important to find the most professional and respectful way to voice any opinion. Whether you’re struggling to communicate with a director or you’re in an environment that welcomes input, there’s a right way and a wrong way to assert yourself on set or in rehearsal.

The following are a few simple tips to consider the next time you want to share a thought or two with the production team. Finding the proper etiquette can work wonders in creating a positive working environment and resolving conflict.

Show, Don’t Tell

Most actor input is made via acting choices. Stella Adler famously said, “The talent is in the choice,” so if you have a suggestion about your role, try to incorporate that into your performance as early as the audition process to give the production team a sense of your individual take on the character or role. In addition, ask yourself whether you need permission to go with a choice since, in most cases, the most efficient way to communicate with a director is to show them what you’re thinking. Explanations can often be time consuming and murky. Just do it. If they hate the choice, they’ll let you know.

Make Sure You’re Informed

 

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The first step to being a strong collaborator is investing in the big picture. Actors who not only understand their role but the overall plot, theme, style, and atmosphere of a project are respected and valuable collaborators. Jay Roach, the director for “Dinner With Schmucks,” says of Steve Carrell, “Most actors give you two or three usable takes out of 10, but with Steve eight out of ten are great, each in a different way, each playing off decisions he made in an earlier scene or is going to make later. He has the extremely rare ability to run the entire movie in his head. And it’s probably a better movie than the one I’m going to make.”

 

As an actor, your responsibility is to analyze the script so you completely understand the character and how its creators want to see them performed. Writers and directors are counting on you to be an expert on your character and the function of that character in the overall story. You’ll find your ideas and opinions are received with more weight when you can demonstrate a full understanding of the script, including what the character truly represents in relation to the entire project.

It’s All in the Timing

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Being able to discuss common ground with your fellow creators shows them that you’ve not only formed a strong foundation for the character, but also that you respect everyone’s time and work and have the project’s best interests at heart — but sometimes it’s just not the right time to make a suggestion.

If the production is running behind on time, tempers are high, another actor just made a suggestion, or the shooting or rehearsal sequence is complicated, your idea may not be welcome no matter how solid your analysis has been. Before contributing, pause and make sure your input will be constructive and useful. A good rule of thumb is: does it need to be said, do I need to say it, and do I need to say it right now. Knowing when to stay silent or waiting for a better opportunity or idea is as important as making the right suggestion.

Pay Attention to the Approach

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There’s nothing worse than developing the reputation of being difficult on set or in a rehearsal room, so it’s extremely important to take the temperature of your collaborators and working environment and your place inside of that. Leads or stars are often also producers on a project and their position allows for a higher level of input than a day player or extra.

Before voicing your opinion, think carefully — especially if you know your idea may overstep your authority with a fellow actor, crew member, etc. Sharing a good idea can sometimes prove very beneficial to the entire production, but don’t earn a reputation as an actor who slows production or “thinks out loud” to the detriment of those around them.

And always, always make sure to play the positive. There’s a big difference between saying, “I have an idea I’d like to try with this line,” and, “This line is terrible and needs to be changed.” To maintain a healthy relationship with your fellow actors and crew, be sure to express your opinion in a way that’s sensitive to their point of view.

Weight the Risk vs Benefit

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With all this in mind, you don’t want to run the risk of always withholding your ideas out of fear of reprisal. If you’ve got a solid, well-timed idea that will work in the production’s favor, the risk you take may be well worth it in the end.  Many productions value and encourage brave actors and actresses who are willing to speak up and share ideas and input. And sometimes, when the actor ditches the script and goes with their gut feeling like Harrison Ford did when his Han Solo responded to Princess Leia’s “I love you” with “I know,” the moment becomes iconic and enters film history.

Have you had a positive experience in voicing an opinion on set or on stage? Let us know in the comments below!