Acting

Self-Care Tips for Actors from New York Film Academy

From your physical health to your emotional well-being, not taking care of yourself as an actor will make it hard, if not impossible, to give your best performance. And if you are acting in front of the camera, every stress and strain will show! Here, we compiled a few tips to help you look and feel your best — great for your career and your psyche!

What goes in must come out.

Eating unhealthy foods or using substances and alcohol can all wreak havoc on your skin, damage your body, and make emotional stability and clarity on set or on stage very difficult.

To keep fit and healthy, this Backstage article suggests you eat a good breakfast, and keep your energy level up by eating small healthy snacks throughout the day. And as for exercise, “The most important thing is to move your body at least 30 minutes a day minimum.”

Photo by Kate Trysh from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-blur-close-up-daylight-241456/

Rehearsals and long shoots are not always conducive to getting the rest you need, but you should try to unplug and put yourself into bed at reasonable hours whenever possible. Not only will sleep help you avoid unsightly dark circles, but it’s necessary for emotional stability.

Speaking of emotional stability, ABC Entertainment Executive Director, Casting (NY) Marci Philips’ book “The Present Actor” is full of wonderful advice that ranges from the practical to the esoteric. Perhaps none is more important than what she has to say about the use of alcohol, drugs and other self-destructive behaviors that “may be a quick fix now but will inevitably and viciously bite you in the *ss.”

Empower yourself.

Let’s face it, being an actor sometimes feel very disempowering, which is why so many actors turn to producing. In every actor’s career there may be busy times and not so busy times. You may not always be booking jobs, or not the jobs you want.

So why not give yourself your dream job? Create a web series with your friends, write and produce a play, put together a short film, or find a new way to evolve new media entertainment.

As this article suggests, “Don’t just wait for the phone to ring. Submit yourself for projects through online casting sites like Backstage,” and “Find out if any films are shooting on location in your area. Do some digging. Your local film commission will have all this information.”

Perfect your craft and find a community.

Acting classes and workshops will of course help you to rock that big break when it comes, but they will also get you out of the house and meeting like-minded people.

As this article puts it, “We are in this together, and without a community, it is not only harder to find a job, it is too isolating. Face it, we don’t ‘act’ alone unless we only want to be in one-person shows.”

Self-care does not equal selfishness.

Sometimes the best way to care for yourself is to care for others. Volunteering to serve in your community is a great way to get out of your head and stop fretting about your own woes. It will also give you the opportunity to practice compassion, which will help you be a better actor and human being.

Ready to take care of your dreams and learn more about acting? Check out our acting for film programs at the New York Film Academy.

Social Media Mistakes Actors Make

With 2.07 billion active users on Facebook, 330 million on Twitter, and 467 million on LinkedIn, many aspiring and established actors are promoting their work on social media sites.

If you’re hoping to utilize your social media accounts to make new connections and build a fanbase as a professional actor, you’ll have to engage with people on one or more social media site.

With that said, many of us are warned about the potential pitfalls of social media As an aspiring actor, you’ll want to be on top of your game when promoting yourself on social media because each decision you make can impact your acting career significantly.

Want to be ahead of the game? Follow these seven tips and tricks to help create a lasting social media presence.

1) Start Small

There are many different social media platforms, but that doesn’t mean you need to have a presence on all of them. Start with one or two you are familiar with and build your presence on those accounts.

For example, start off by creating your Facebook fan page or Twitter handle. Take the time to learn tricks and techniques that will help you grow a following on those sites before adding another.

2) Stay Away From Controversy

Don’t post anything lewd, crude, or otherwise inappropriate. You are trying to be marketable and professional. Causing controversy results in neither of those things.

Stick by this golden rule: if you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see it, you probably shouldn’t post it. If you’re not sure about a post, get a few opinions from friends and colleagues

3) Remember to Do Basic Grammar Checks

Everyone occasionally makes mistakes, but constant misspellings or incorrect grammar could distract from your acting chops. Remember, if you want someone to take your acting seriously, you have to consider every post you make as a reflection of your professional self.

Remember to carefully proofread your posts and have another person take a glance as well.

4) Mix It Up

Don’t just post all text posts or constantly show off videos. Give your audience variety with text, picture, and video posts. All fans like something different — some may enjoy videos, some pictures, and some may like a little bit of everything.

Make sure you take the time to create fun and engaging posts of all types for the best results.

5) Make Your Posts Meaningful

Don’t post something just to post!

First, consider how meaningful your post is to your “brand.” Does it benefit you or your target audience? Does it contribute something unique and essential to your brand? If not, then don’t post something as filler.

6) Don’t Leave People in the Dark!

While you shouldn’t post something for the sake of posting something, you also don’t want to abandon your social media presence for weeks or months at a time.

Make a regular schedule to commit yourself to and make sure your followers are aware of when new posts will appear.

7) It’s Not All About You

Believe it or not, it’s actually helpful to not talk about yourself all of the time.  Sure, you need to be comfortable with promoting yourself, but you also don’t want to come off as egotistical. People enjoy seeing actors who are compassionate , hardworking, and human.

Brag about your latest role, but also praise fellow actors and productions you recently enjoyed.

 

Looking for a more permanent boost to your acting portfolio? Browse our acting program and other areas of study.

Acting Without Talking: How to Make a Big Impact — Without Lines!

The New York Film Academy knows that acting isn’t just about conveying emotion through spoken words. It’s also about posture, facial expressions, movement, and body language. Mastering techniques like the ones previously listed will help you become more present, more emotionally available, and genuine. As a result, you’ll feel more confident, natural, and you’ll be able to be present in the moment of your scene.

Here are some tips to help you improve certain aspects of acting without having to speak any lines. Once you master these, you’ll be well on your way to perfecting your craft.

Eye Contact

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Direct eye contact can convey a score of thought and emotion. Your acting coach has probably drilled into your head that listening to a partner is key. However, if excessive, direct eye contact may come off as too intense and ruin the emotion of the scene. Conversely, if your eyes dart around to other places during a scene without focusing on your partner, it can convey that you’re not invested. When it comes to eye contact, it’s all about achieving that equal balance.

Body language

Body language can be a driving force in expressing emotion and visual storytelling for an actor without having to speak. The first step–literally–for an actor is to determine where they need to stand, especially in relation to other actors in the scene. Don’t stand too close but don’t stand so far away that your co-stars can’t hear when you speak. Once you have determined where you are going to stand for your scene, you will want to set up your launch stance. A launch stance is the way you stand that keeps you relaxed, comfortable, and confident. Both feet on the ground with head up, shoulders back, and knees slightly bent is a common launch stance.

If you want the director or your scene partner to feel like you are listening to them, point your feet and torso in their direction. It shows that you are open toward them, and will help keep tensions low.

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Don’t underestimate the power of microexpressions; facial expressions and gestures can make or break an act. Directors want to be around people who are positive and happy. Try to smile genuinely while you are acting out your scene. In order to smile genuinely, think of a thought, joke, or scenario that makes you smile.

As an actor, you should be aware of the seven universal microexpressions. Knowing and understanding microexpressions will help you better prepare for scenes. The seven micoexpressions are: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, surprise, contempt, and happiness. They can occur from 1/15 to 1/25 of a second, so it’s important to be aware as possible when it comes your body language.

To learn more about decoding microexpressions, watch Vanessa Van Edwards discuss them one by one, and how to detect the hidden emotions from other actors.

At NYFA, it’s important for us to offer students a hands-on approach to help students prepare for performing both in front of the camera or on stage. Some classes that we offer students include: voice and movement, movement, and advanced movement.

Do you have any methods for acting without talking? Sound off below! We would love to hear from you. Learn more about acting at the New York Film Academy.

3 Ways Acting For Film Is Different From Stage Acting and How to Adjust

Are you finding it difficult to make the transition from theatre to film and TV? If so, it may be that your training for the stage is getting you into trouble. From auditions to final product, stage and screen acting make different demands on actors.

Here are three major differences with tips on adjusting your performance.

1. Distance matters.

If you’ve been on stage, you’ve probably heard it said that you must play to the back of the house. In your movements and your voice, there is not a lot of room for subtlety. Small facial expressions and soft voices will probably not reach beyond the first few rows.

Conversely, when you are acting for the camera, you must be as contained physically as possible. As this Theatrefolk article puts it, “Because of the close-up perspective, actors on film must use more subtle, controlled, and natural expressions and gestures. Large, exaggerated ‘stage acting’ can look awkward and silly on screen.”

Nearly every emotion conveyed on screen is done through facial expressions. Your eyes can betray you. If you are thinking about your lines or your hair rather than about your character’s situation, the camera will see it and the audience will disconnect from you even if they don’t know exactly why.

2. Preparation and performance.

If you’ve been in a play, you know that a lot of time goes into rehearsals. Once the curtain rises, there can be no do-overs. You need to know your lines perfectly and perform them with energy every time.

Often in film and television, you’ll probably not get more than a cursory run-through before cameras start rolling. It is also not unusual to have script changes at the very last minute, so flexibility is important.

No matter what, you have to work on memorizing lines, so that when you hit the stage or set you are not the one wasting everyone’s time! In this article, we offer tips to help you nail your lines whether you have months to prepare or merely hours.

But keep in mind that in theatre, the play runs its course linearly and it is likely that there will be an emotional pull to the end. In film and television, scenes are shot out of sequence. This means that different challenges face the screen actor, who must move quickly between emotional frequencies with little time to prepare.

3. Familiarity vs. originality.

When people go to a play, they are often already familiar with the characters and plot. They are there to see an actor bring Juliet or Willy Loman to life. As this Backstage article puts it, “The audience and critics will compare you to past versions of the same show. Because many stage characters have been played over and over, there is only so much leeway an audience will accept before they start to complain.”

In casting for film and television, it is often the case that the script will be wholly original and brand new for everyone, and its creators are looking for an actor to bring herself to the role. Especially in television, a part will grow and change with the actor. This means that when auditioning, it is important to be as natural and authentic as possible — something much easier said than done!

Ready to learn more about acting for film? Study acting at the New York Film Academy.

 

Fan Favorite Performances From Blockbuster Season

There’s no better time to be a movie fan. This year there were plenty of fantastic films released during the summer, which means a number of notable acting performances that will have us talking throughout this awards season.

In case you missed them, this is your call to catch up on recent stand-out blockbuster performances:

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman”

These days there’s no shortage of movies based on our favorite comic book heroes. In fact, it’s now normal to have several superhero movies release during the summer. But if there’s one actress who many thought didn’t have what it takes to become the next DC Comics superstar, it’s Gal Gadot. Of course, the Israeli actress and model proved everyone wrong by impressing with her performance as one of the most iconic female superheroes we know.

While Chris Pine’s performance as Steve Trevor was praised, Gadot proved she was the perfect fit as Wonder Woman by making the heroine feel strong yet genuine and compassionate.

Fionn Whitehead & Harry Styles in “Dunkirk”

If there’s one thing the industry can agree on, it’s that Christopher Nolan knows how to make good movies. His latest, a World War II epic about the British military’s celebrated evacuation, already has more than $166 million in box office and nothing but positive reviews. One of the most remarkable things about “Dunkirk” is that it was the film acting debut for two of the main characters.

Although it was their first major acting gig, both Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles impressed with their roles as young Allied soldiers. Like many celebrities who reached stardom in another industry, there were low expectations for Styles. Instead, most reviewers praised his convincing performance.

Andy Serkis in “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Ever since his critically acclaimed role as Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, Andy Serkis has become the top motion-capture actor on the planet. Working on big films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Serkis’ movies have grossed more than $8 billion dollars worldwide. Did we mention you’ll also see his work in the upcoming “Black Panther” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi?”

Reprising his role as Caesar, Serkis once again blew audiences away with his performance as the leader of the apes.

Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

This summer was not good for fans of R-rated comedy. From “Trainwreck” and “Snatched” to “The House” and “Baywatch,” several movies that promised to keep us laughing during the hottest months of the year ended up underwhelming. Only “Girls Trip” delivered thanks to its many comical situations and well-chosen cast.

Despite working alongside renowned co-stars like Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish managed to steal the show and keep viewers laughing throughout the film. Her role in the film is considered Haddish’s breakout role and one of the reasons the R-rated comedy has earned more than $100 million

Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

There will always be skeptics when a new actor takes the role of a beloved superhero. Considering that the last film, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” underperformed at the box office and received mixed reviews, there was even more pressure on Tom Holland to bring Peter Parker to life in yet another attempt at a Spider-Man film reboot.

Tom Holland received acclaim for his performance as the Webslinger in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which is considered by many to be the best film in the franchise to date. Holland’s good looks and acting abilities also helped him win “Choice Summer Movie Actor” and get nominated for Choice Breakout Movie Star at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards.

Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick”

It just wouldn’t be summer without a few romantic comedies thrown into the mix. On paper, “The Big Sick” sounds like the many other movies in this genre that you’ve already seen. There’s the nice guy falling in love with a girl he thinks is too good for her but goes for it anyway, resulting in a rollercoaster of emotions.

But what makes this movie unique, hilarious, and worth watching even if you hate romantic comedies is Kumail Nanjiani’s performance. His excellent chemistry with co-star Zoe Kazan and knack for melding humor with heartwarming moments is one of the reasons “The Big Sick” is seen as a revitalization of the genre.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Actors Influencing the World

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National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and according to the official website is a time for “celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we have outlined three Latino or Hispanic actors who have done positive work for their communities outside of Hollywood.

First, a brief history of National Hispanic Heritage Month. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson started the observation as Hispanic Heritage Week, and President Ronald Reagan expanded it in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.

Now, let’s join in the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month and get to know some incredible people making a positive impact on the entertainment industry:

Eva Longoria

You may remember Eva Longoria as Gabriel Solis, the sultry housewife on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” which aired from 2004-2012. The actress has won a Screen Actors Guild Award, an ALMA Award, and has been nominated for a Golden Globe.

However, Longoria is more than one of Hollywood’s hottest Latino actresses. Hollywood Reporter named her “Philanthropist of the Year,” and she was selected as an honoree for Variety’s “Power of Women Awards.”

When Longoria isn’t filming, she is working with one of her many charities. She founded “The Eva Longoria Foundation” in 2010, which helps Latinas build better futures for themselves through education and entrepreneurship. She is also a spokesperson for PADRES Contra El Cancer (Parents Against Cancer), a nonprofit committed to improving quality of life for Latino children with cancer and their families. She also co-founded “Eva’s Heroes,” a nonprofit dedicated to assisting those with developmental challenges.

Longoria is currently working with United Farm Workers, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and the National Council of La Raza.

Dascha Polanco

In late 2016, Dascha Polanco, who you’ve seen as Dayanara on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” was honored at the K.I.D.S/Fashion Delivers annual gala and The DREAM Project (Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring Project). Polanco helped The K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers annual gala raise more than $1 million to help those affected by poverty and natural disasters.

Polanco is developing a theater and arts program for youth in the Dominican Republic, in collaboration with DREAM. For her contributions, the DREAM Project recognized Polanco as its “DREAMer of the Year.”

In an interview with Latina, Polanco said she did philanthropy work because it made her feel good: “This work enriches my soul. Some people think money and status are everything. Not me.”  

Tony Gonzalez

Anthony David Gonzalez, who goes by Tony, is a former tight end for Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons. Since retiring from the NFL, Gonzalez has been a sports analyst on Fox’s NFL pre-game show. When Gonzalez wasn’t playing football, he appeared on television shows such as “One Tree Hill” and “NCIS.” In 2017, he appeared in Vin Diesel’s “XXX: Return of Xander Cage,” as Paul Donovan.

Gonzalez adopted Marty Postlethwait’s nonprofit Shadow Buddies, and made it a main program of the Tony Gonzalez Foundation after his rookie year with Kansas City Chiefs. The organization represents different conditions ranging from heart defects to cancer, and diabetes to burns.

According to the Shadow Buddies website, the foundation creates and distributes customized dolls to children struggling with serious health issues to send them a message of hope and support: “Crafted from muslin and carefully researched to represent a child’s medical or emotional condition, Shadow Buddies offer seriously ill or medically challenged children the companionship of a friend ‘just like me.’”

Recently, the Tony Gonzalez Foundation has expanded the Shadow Buddies program to include senior citizens, with dolls customized to reflect familiar issues related to heart, vision, and day surgery. These dolls are aimed to provide comfort and companionship to senior citizens. More than 5,000 dolls have been delivered to senior citizens since the start of the program.

Do you know a Latino or Hispanic actor or director that has made a positive difference or influence in their community? Let us know below!

 

How to Make the Most of a Part with Minimal Lines

Every aspiring actor dreams of one day playing the lead roles. But whether you went through an excellent acting school or spontaneously gave it a shot, you’ll usually have to start at the bottom to reach the top. This means taking on small roles where, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to say some lines.

1. Remember that small parts are still important!

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Before you even show up to an audition or start practicing your lines, it’s good to keep one thing fresh in your mind: every part matters. And whether you have one line or one thousand, it’s important to do your work and know your part inside and out.

You don’t have look far to find A-list stars who began with bit parts, knocked it out of the park, and slowly worked their way up to build a strong reputation as a professional artist. For example, Robin William and Tom Hanks, two of the best ever to grace our industry, played various minor roles (both of them on “Happy Days”) before making it big.

Even as a day player, delivering excellent craftsmanship and making a good impression on set is always an actor’s first and foremost priority. Remember, any role can lead to future roles.

2. Prepare for the role.

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A big mistake many burgeoning actors make when given a “small” role is thinking it’ll be a piece of cake. Since they’re only reading one or two lines, they don’t take it as seriously as they should and fail to prepare. Whether you’re saying one line or many, a good actor always does the work to make sure their character has originality and depth.

Needless to say, you should definitely arrive to the job able to play your handful of lines without looking at the script.

3. Show up knowing you’re not the star.

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It’s easy to get excited about any role, but remember that although you did all your homework and are completely wrapped up in your character’s backstory, you’re there to collaborate. You will be supporting the work of the entire crew and fellow performers, including the stars. So forget about impressing the director, or worse of all, ditching the script to say your own lines. The last thing you want to do is put your ego first: do a great job, know your work, and support the story. That’s the surest way to make a great impression, after all.

4. Don’t ruin an opportunity.

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A minor role is a good way to sharpen up your skills and improve your own work ethic while showing you’ve got what it takes to create success in the industry. Small parts are a part of building a career, and it’s important to take them seriously. As actress Laura Cayouette, author of “Know Small Parts,” puts it: “One reason small parts are a big deal to me is that I make a living playing them.”

No matter how minor your role is, your work is an opportunity to not only strengthen your own professionalism, but to build relationships. Show gratitude for the opportunity by playing your role well, sure, but also by showing professionalism in how you handle yourself off-camera. This is your opportunity to build a reputation as being an actor everyone wants to work with. Don’t be the one slowing things down or giving the crew headaches.

5. Be present and connect.

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Every actor approaches their work differently. Some will want to connect and chat in between takes, some will want to remain in their process. One of the best ways to connect with other characters in your scene is respecting your fellow actors when the camera isn’t rolling, whether that means carving out space for yourself to do your necessary preparation or whether that means breaking the ice socially.

Either way, it’s important to make an effort to be respectful and acknowledge not just your fellow actors, but everyone you interact with throughout the project’s process — from the casting director to the crew. Listen to instructions and incorporate new ideas or directions when requested. Note that people who get called for another role in the future may have not been the “best” actors — rather, they were more enjoyable to work with and showed they can have good chemistry with others, functioning well in the environment of the set.

6. Give it your all.

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There’s a big difference between trying your best and, as we’ve already covered, overdoing it. Your work is not about your ego, so let those worries fade and focus on your craft. In fact, you’re less likely to get the part in the first place unless you truly commit during a reading and transform into the character. Even if it wasn’t the role you initially wanted, showing passion and enthusiasm both on and off the set can make a lasting impression and generate more gigs down the line.

What are your favorite tactics for developing your work in “small” roles? Let us know in the comments below! And study acting for film at the New York Film Academy.

 

6 Movie Ad Libs that Became Classics — And What You Can Learn From Them

Some of the most well known lines from movies, and even scenes, are actually ad libbed, or improvised. Improvisation actually has many benefits for actors.

Below are six famous movie scenes that you may have not known were improvised.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“Casablanca,” 1942

Most people are familiar with Humphrey Bogart’s line from the 1942 movie, “Casablanca.” Bogart was teaching actress Ingrid Bergman how to play poker between takes when Bogart first said the famous line. Once they were back on camera, the line came out spontaneously during one of the flashback scenes in Paris.

“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

“The Godfather,” 1972

Everybody loves cannoli! Francis Ford Coppola, the director of “The Godfather,” added the line, “don’t forget the cannoli,” last minute to the script. But Richard Castellano decided to take Coppola’s line and make it his own.

“Are you talkin’ to me?”

“Taxi Driver,” 1976

One sentence in the screenplay, which reads, “Travis looks in the mirror,” led to Robert De Niro improvising the entire scene in the movie.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

“Jaws,” 1975

After Roy Schneider encounters the Great White shark, the scene was supposed to close. Instead, Schneider made up this line to help bring closure to the encounter.

“Son of a b****, he stole my line.”

“Good Will Hunting,” 1997

When Robin Williams goes to the mailbox to read a note, Williams said a different line for each take of the final scene in the movie because nothing was scripted. Co-star Matt Damon, who co-wrote the script, told Boston Magazine in 2015 that after Williams said the well-known line, “It was like a bolt, it was just one of those holy s*** moments, where, like, that’s it.”

Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

“The Shining,” 1980

Nothing is scarier than Jack Nicholson, who portrays Jack Torrance, busting a door down with an ax. During that scene, Nicholson’s character sticks his head through a hole in the door, and says, Heeeeere’s Johnny!” Nicholson’ joke, which referenced Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” was almost cut because director Stanley Kubrick, who is from England, didn’t know the reference.

What are some of your favorite movie ad libs? Let us know below! Want to learn more about acting techniques? Study acting at the New York Film Academy.

5 Reasons Why Major Movie Stars are Taking Their Acting Chops to Streaming Services

Aspiring actors dream of being on the big screen, just like their favorite movie stars. Or do they? More major actors are creating and starring in exclusive projects for various streaming services. So what is going on? Today, we explore five different reasons why big name actors are flocking towards streaming services for new movies:

Reaching a wider audience.

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There are people who go to midnight premiers of movies. Others wait until the movie is on their favorite streaming service. Some people do both. Having movies appear exclusively in theaters and exclusively on streaming sites means more people who are likely to see a movie starring a major name.

Streaming is not going away anytime soon.

Mainstream television viewing and movie theater attendance have been declining. Meanwhile, streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are growing in popularity. Why?

For one thing, consumers are finding that it’s simpler and more cost-efficient to pay a set price each month for unlimited streaming than it is to physically go to the movies. Netflix alone added over a million new subscribers in 2016, and it has been projected that over half of the American population will have more than one streaming service by 2018.

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Add to that, the personalized control of streaming services allows media lovers to choose their content, and their timing in watching it. Want to binge-watch an entire series? Go ahead. More in an action-movie mood? Got that too. Streaming allows everyone to tailor their media consumption to their own tastes and timeline.

The money’s streaming in…

Netflix makes $504 million per month off of regular subscribers. That means they have plenty of income to pay actors. For his role on “House of Cards,” Kevin Spacey makes $500,000 for every episode, just $25,000 less than Mark Harmon makes for his role on NCIS. And that’s just for their popular television series. “War Machine” starring Brad Pitt had a $60 million budget, and while no one has disclosed Pitt’s salary for his role, we are certain he was well compensated.

Film success on streaming services are not strictly determined by views.

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Traditionally, a movie’s success depended on the amount of people who came to see it opening weekend. With a streaming service, a film’s reputation depends on both viewership and user-assigned ratings. This means that original films released on streaming services have two different chances to impress, and feedback can be generated even faster with the option to instantly review a film at the conclusion.

There are more opportunities to grow creatively.

When major studios decide not fund new and daring ideas for movies, streaming services may take more of a risk. For example, former NYFA Guest Speaker Kevin James starred in Netflix’s “True Memoirs of an International Assassin,” an action-packed comedy with a very different tone than his sitcoms “King of Queens” and “Kevin Can Wait.” Thanks to the creative freedom allowed by streaming services, the actor was able to demonstrate a wider range of acting skills that never would have been seen otherwise.

What are your favorite original films and series on streaming platforms? Let us know in the comments below! And learn to make your own original content at New York Film Academy.

Helen Mirren & Sandra Bullock’s Most Iconic Performances

Over the last few decades, Hollywood actresses Helen Mirren and Sandra Bullock have starred in so many diverse roles that’s it’s hard to typecast them, but we bet you didn’t know they have something else in common: a birthday!

Mirren, from west London, got her break at the age of 22 in “The Extravaganza of Golgotha Smuts,” a television movie. As for Bullock, her career kicked off with the movie, “Hangmen,” but it wasn’t until “Speed” in 1994 that Bullock had the chance to shine in her breakout role.

If Mirren and Bullock’s longevity and diverse roles aren’t enough, they both have taken home several awards.

Mirren has won one Academy Award, one British Academy Film Award, two Critics’ Choice Awards, one European Film Award, one Golden Globe Award, one Satellite Award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three British Academy Television Awards, and four Emmys.

Bullock has won one Academy Award, three Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, one Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and several audience and critics’ awards.

Whew! That’s quite a list of accolades!

To celebrate these remarkable actresses’ shared birthday, we’ve put together a list to reminisce and celebrate some of their most iconic performances.

Helen Miren (1945)

“Prime Suspect” (1991-2006)

Mirren starred as Jane Tennison in “Prime Suspect,” a British police procedural television drama series. Mirren’s character, Tennison, is one of the first female inspectors in Greater London’s Metropolitan Police Service. Tennison also faces institutionalized sexism as she rises through the ranks to Detective Superintendent. Mirren’s performance on the television series led her to win two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, and three British Academy Television Awards.  

“The Madness of King George” (1994)

Children’s history books claim that George III was the “mad king who lost America.” This film was a biographical historical comedy-drama based on the story of the king’s deteriorating mental health. The film also focused on his declining relationship with his son, the Prince of Wales. Mirren played Queen Charlotte and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress.

“Calendar Girls” (2003)

“Calendar Girls,” was a British comedy directed by Nigel Cole, and produced by Buena Vista International and Touchstone Pictures. The movie is based on the true story of a group of women from Yorkshire who produced a nude calendar to help raise money for Leukaemia Research. Chris Harper, played by Mirren, was the driving force behind the creation of the calendar.

“The Queen” (2006)

“The Queen,” directed by Stephen Frears, was a British fictional drama portraying the British Royal Family’s response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on Aug. 31, 1997. Mirren starred in the title role of Queen Elizabeth II. The film received general, critical, and popular acclaim, and Mirren won numerous awards for her role, include the Academy Award for Best Actress. HM The Queen herself invited Mirren to dinner at Buckingham Palace — but Mirren was not able to attend due to filming commitments in Hollywood.

Woman in Gold” (2015)

The story of Gustav Klimt’s painting “Adele Block-Bauer I” is an intriguing one. The mesmerizing gold-flecked painting, worth more than $100 million, was seized by the Nazis in the midst of World War II. Mirren portrays Maria Altmann, a relative of Bloch-Bauer, in her fight to retrieve the family heirloom from the Austrian government.

Sandra Bullock (1964)

“Speed” (1994)

Bullock portrayed a charming woman, named Annie, who helped SWAT agent Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) drive a booby-trapped bus through the streets of Los Angeles. Her believable portal of Annie launched Bullock’s career on the silver screen. Bullock’s chemistry with Reeves helped imbue the action-adventure with a mix of intelligence, humor, and humanity.

While You Were Sleeping” (1995)

In Jon Turtletaub’s charming romantic comedy “While You Were Sleeping,” Lucy, played by Bullock, pretends to be the fiance of a man who is in a coma, but ends up falling for his brother. Bullock brings out the true potential of the film with her endearing performance.

“Practical Magic” (1998)

Who doesn’t want midnight margaritas? Bullock plays Sally, a woman with magical powers who just wants to lead a normal life, in “Practical Magic.” The film follows two sisters who band together to confront the past and end a curse that condemns every man that they have ever loved to death. The supernatural comedy is a mixture of romance, slapstick, magic, and drama. One of Bullock’s most iconic moments in the film comes while drinking margaritas at midnight with costars Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, and Dianne Wiest: a family-centric, positive scene played out by true powerhouse actresses.

“Miss Congeniality” (2000)

 

What happens when you send a female FBI agent undercover to a beauty pageant? You get Gracie Hart. Bullock’s character, Hart, infiltrates the beauty pageant to prevent a bombing. Hart doesn’t work well with her coworkers, kicks back with her pageant costars, and even has a shot at love.

“The Blind Side” (2009)

Bullock plays Leigh Ann Tuoghy, adoptive mother to Michael Oher, a homeless young black man who earns a college scholarship and eventually is drafted by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. While the real Michael Oher had mixed feelings about the film, Bullock’s endearing performance earned her the SAG, Golden Globe, and Academy Awards for Best Actress that year, and is a testament to her ability to find humanity in any character she portrays.

What is your favorite performance by Helen Mirren or Sandra Bullock? Let us know below!

6 Simple Tips for Memorizing Lines

If you are a current student – or alumni – of NYFA, you understand that auditions are a normal part of life. But, what if your audition is tomorrow and you have a ton of lines to learn? We’ve compiled some tips to help you memorize your lines.

1. Write your lines out.

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Try writing your lines out by hand — do not type them. This method works well for long scenes with speeches. Writing your lines out by hand forces your mind to connect to the action of writing the lines down and seeing the lines. Make sure you focus on writing your lines out and your lines only. It will let you focus on you without having the distraction of other actors’ lines.

2. Run lines with someone.

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Running lines with a partner is one of the most well-known methods for memorizing lines. The key is to run lines with another actor — not your friend from down the street. Running lines with another actor holds you accountable. Allow the person to coach you and read stage direction to you. During the first run, you’ll want to listen to the words and absorb the script.

If you can’t find someone to help you run lines, try using the app Rehearsal 2. While the app is $19.99, it allows you to highlight lines in the app, record other characters’ lines, and use it as a teleprompter.

3. Quiz yourself.

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Use a scrap piece of paper to cover up everything but the one line you are trying to memorize. Continue to read the same line over and over again. Once you feel comfortable, try reciting the line without looking at it. If you can, move on to the next line and start the process over again.

4. Go for a walk or take a nap.

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In an article published by “Chicago Tribune,” Cindy Gold of Northwestern University suggests that after looking at lines, it is helpful to either go for a walk or take a nap. While you rest, the information your brain just processed moves from short-term memory to long-term recall, where you will be able to recall things easier. Also, when you walk, you are exercising muscles and that helps with memorization.

5. Use a mnemonic device.

You can use a mnemonic device to help you remember your lines. Try writing down the first letter of every word in your lines. When you look at those letters, it will help jog your memory and you’ll remember your line a bit easier. Think of the mnemonic device as a short cut.

6. Learn the cue lines.

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Not only should you learn your lines, but you should learn your cue lines as well — these are the lines that lead into yours. By knowing the cue lines, you will be more prompt and you’ll be able to deliver your lines in a timely fashion.

Interested in learning more than your lines? The New York Film Academy offers a variety of degrees — such as Master of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Associate of Fine Arts — and programs for students who are interested in acting for film. 

Do you have any tips that help you memorize your lines? If you do, let us know below! And learn more about acting at the New York Film Academy.

 

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.