Acting

9 Blockbuster Films Breaking Gender Norms

Gender equality in Hollywood (as well as everything else) has been an important issue for 2018, and while the results haven’t been as clear-cut as many would like, there have been some notable changes.

For one, more and more movies are not shying away from having a female lead, finally no longer afraid of the myth that the majority of moviegoing audiences are men who want to see men lead a film.

But just as important as the quantity of female-driven films is the types of films women are starring in. More and more action films, as well as comedy, horror, thriller, and other genre movies, are starring women when typically they would star men. Having broader, more diverse types of films and protagonists is incredibly important for providing audiences, especially girls and young women looking for cinematic role models, and the following films have been shown woman can be just as successful in typically male-driven movies, if not more.

Star Wars

The new Star Wars trilogy has put Daisy Ridley’s Rey front and center, the first prominent female Jedi in the 40+ year old live action franchise. The filmmakers of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have also avoided sexualizing the character in a way many women leads tend to be in Hollywood films, which is fine — after all the series is foremost made for younger audiences.

Rey isn’t the only female Star Wars protagonist to hit theatres since Disney took over the series in 2012. Rogue One, the first one-off “Star Wars Story” to get a theatrical release, stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, an outlaw loner who eventually devotes herself to a larger Rebellion.

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a smash success from the start, winning over audiences of all genders and ages when she was given her own starring vehicle in 2017. The Amazonian princess wasn’t a damsel in distress but the hero of her own film, and performed the same mind-bending acts and explosive stunts as any male action hero would be expected to.

Notably, the film was also directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, another unfortunate rarity for blockbuster films that will hopefully be remedied soon. Both Jenkins and Gadot will return for the film’s sequel, Wonder Woman 1994, out next year.

Captain Marvel

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has released twenty films in the last ten years, and not a single one of them have a female superhero as its lead. That will finally change next year, with the 21st installment of the MCU — Captain Marvel. Academy Award Winner Brie Larson has been tapped to play the space-faring superhero, who has been said by Marvel to be the most powerful character in the fictional universe.

Shortly after the release of Captain Marvel, which will take place in the 1990s and co-star Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Larson will return as the character in a key role for Avengers 4.

Untitled Terminator Reboot

Another Terminator in the film is in the works, following 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. Like some of the previous films, this new iteration will once again star female action icon Sarah Connor, played for the first time since 1991’s Terminator 2 by Linda Hamilton.

Just as exciting is the casting of Mackenzie Davis as co-lead, rumored to possibly be playing the newest iteration of a Terminator robot. Davis has previously starred in Tully, Halt and Catch Fire, and Black Mirror episode San Junipero.

Dora the Explorer

Dora the Explorer, a live-action feature based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series, is currently filming, and will starring Isabela Moner in the title role. Moner previously starred in Instant Family and Transformers: The Last Knight.

The film was very important for younger girls as well as girls of color looking for a positive role model in Hollywood films. Unlike most of the other films on this list, Dora the Explorer will be appropriate viewing for all ages.

Halloween (2018)

The latest sequel/version of the classic Michael Myers slasher film had a very successful theatrical run this October, and was notable for having three generations of women as its leads. Myers faced off against original lead Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as her character Laurie Strode’s daughter and granddaughter.

The film wasn’t just a success for female-driven films but also women of a certain age — another issue Hollywood has struggled mightily with — with this version of the spooky story now the highest-grossing debut for a horror movie with a female lead over 55 in history.

Mulan

Disney has been making live action remakes of their most popular animated films for a few years now, but Mulan will be the first with an action-oriented female lead. Even more importantly, the studio searched far and wide for the perfect casting, and avoided any controversial “white-washing” of the role of Mulan, a Chinese folk hero. The part eventually went to Yifei Liu, a Chinese star surely soon to be an international movie star.

8 Tips for Actors Looking for an Agent

Among many other duties and responsibilities, talent agents have the important function to book and connect their clients to roles and auditions. While being proactive comes with the territory, there’s a wide variety of personalities and strategies in the field. Ideally, you’ll find the agent that best suits your needs and own personality as an actor, but at the end of the day you’ll at the very least want anyone who can get you in the room.

So how do you find an agent? The major talent agencies have their largest offices in Los Angeles and New York, so if you’re aiming for the top, these cities might be the best place for you to start out.

  1. If you are registered on IMDbPro, you will be able to find names of agencies, as well as their client lists. From there, you can figure out which agency best fits you and prioritze your first, second, and third choices, all down the line. You should make a long list – settling for your tenth choice isn’t rare at all.
  2. Many international actors prefer bicoastal agencies or already work alongside an agent from their home country.Even if this doesn’t apply to you, being open to expanding your network can prove advantageous.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask around! If you’re acting, you’ll be working with other actors who might have experience or even some connections with agencies you are interested in. If you’re just starting out and attending acting school you can ask your fellow students. Some may already be signed with agents. Others may already be elbow-deep in their own research and you can compare your notes.
  4. Be prepared! Know exactly how you will present yourself if you do get a meeting with an agent, because there’s a chance they might book one with you immediately after receiving your submission. So don’t reach out to an agency until you know you’re ready to meet with them!
  5. Get your headshots in order — not just the right poses and looks, but also a proper resume of your credits to go along with it. You will want to look professional — most agencies won’t want to bother with people they feel are too inexperienced in the industry or don’t know what they’re doing. If you’re on a tight budget, try finding an eager photography student from photography school and let them practice their craft for a discount or pro bono rate!
  6. Even better than a list of credits would be your demo reel. Make a highlight video of your work so far. Agents will want to know what your presence is on camera. While NYFA teaches acting students the importance and basics of putting together a demo reel, you can also enlist the help of amateur editors or editing school students at low cost — or more professional editors, if you’re willing to spend the money. At the very least, try to use three scenes that best showcase your range and abilities. If you haven’t garnered much screen time yet, talk to filmmaking school students and audition for as many student films and short films as you can!
  7. Follow up! Agents and their offices are often very busy and may not even address every submission they receive. If you haven’t heard back after a couple weeks, follow up and send a quick reminder, asking if they received your submission yet or if they have any other questions or need more information from you. Don’t be afraid to invite agents to a show, screening, or event of yours. They may be impressed with your confidence and who knows — might even show up.
  8. Keep your chin up! It’s perfectly normal for most actors just starting out to be without an agent. Don’t feel dejected if you’ve been ignored or rejected numerous times. Stay active and most importantly, build your career by meeting people and networking as much you can. Keep adding to your resume to build experience, credits, and better footage for your demo reel. Sooner or later, you may just find the agent perfect for you.

4 Essential Poses for Actor Headshots

Every actor needs headshots, and often it’s a good idea to have more than one look or pose. But which poses?

Headshot
When getting your headshots done, it is very important to be aware of your everyday look, your “types” for future auditions, and the goal behind getting these photos taken in the first place. Headshots can be expensive, but they’re worth every penny if you get them done right.

First and foremost, make sure you sleep well the night before your photo shoot, and make sure you arrive early enough to be fully relaxed and ready to shine!

Headshot

Poses will vary depending on what you want to play and the career you are targeting. But the following essentials are some go-to poses that may help you get more auditions:

  1. A smiling pose: It is key that you genuinely smile for at least one of your poses. If smiling doesn’t come naturally to you, make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as possible. If it helps you to lean casually against a wall, or stand on your toes, do it! And remember: smile with your entire body!
  2. An everyday pose: Usually when someone tells you to “act casual” you struggle to do anything but. However your casual, everyday pose — the look you might have if someone saw you lost in thought or reading your phone — says a lot about you and your screen presence.
  3. An emotional pose: Explore what you know is your most challenging emotion. Treat your photo session as it’s an audition, or even a scene, and don’t hold back. Feel free to be vulnerable, loud, and truthful. Even if you don’t think this will play well for photo stills, there’s a very good chance a talented photographer will capture a few perfect moments for you. Get intimate with the lens.
  4. A neutral pose: A neutral pose is what it sounds like — a resting, unemotional look. You might think this is the same as your everyday look, but for most people, the two poses can be very different. Unlike your everyday pose, which is you out of your own head and acting naturally, a neutral pose usually means you’ll need to actively contort your muscles and cancel any emotions on your face. Become a blank slate that casting directors can fill with their own ideas for the role. Remember: neutral doesn’t mean natural!

Headshot

There are countless expressions that fall on the spectrum between these poses (and many  that are completely out-of-the-box.) Explore them all, practice in the mirror until your face is numb and you’re sick of looking at your face. The work will pay off and soon acting for your headshot photographer may just turn into acting for a film or stage director!

If you’re interested in taking classes at NYFA’s acting school you can find more information here.

Filming for a Movie vs. Filming for a TV Show: What You Should Know

The entertainment industry continues to grow at a rapid pace — according to Stephen Follows, a data researcher in the film industry, more than 700 films were released across the U.S. in 2016 alone. What is even more surprising is that the number that Follows reported doesn’t even include film festivals, private screenings, and other types of showcases such as broadcasts of opera or theatre productions.

And even while the number of films keeps growing, the amount of original television content continues to peak. In an article published by Variety, writer Maureen Ryan wrote that there were more than 450 scripted original programs released in 2016.

Don’t expect the expansion of movies and television shows to slow down any time soon. The entertainment industry continues to dominate a complicated, turbulent world. But when it comes to creating these stories, what are the differences between filming for a movie and television show?

television tv

Storytelling

Most television series are created with the idea that the show will be around for an extended amount of time. Typically, writers intend for each episode to have a small story arc that often ties in with a larger story arc told over the course of a season or more.

This added amount of time allows writers to develop characters that are more in-depth and have greater dimension. Additionally, there can be a much larger cast over the course of a series because of the time afforded for an audience to get to know them. Tension can be ratched up between characters and other story elements much more slowly than in a feature film as well.

Budget

A budget for a movie is usually bigger than a budget for a television series. In Hollywood, more money can mean more and stronger special effects, more high-profile talent in front of and behind the camera, and more diverse and exciting locations to film on.

Besides a few notable exceptions, television series don’t normally have the same type of budgets that movies do. This forces directors, producers, and screenwriters to be more creative with the storyline and character development, as well as scale back the effects and scope of their projects. This is a good reason why Wonder Woman and Spider-Man may have giant CGI supervillains while Daredevil and Luke Cage will fight mostly fairly straightforward stunt actors.

film projector

Audience Experience

Viewing a film in a theater can be a very different experience than watching one from your couch at home. Television series, outside of events like Comic Con, are almost never seen in such a way. Scaling your story so that it can work on a screen as tiny as the smallest smartphone then is an important thing to consider when producing a television series as opposed to a movie.

Additionally, when it comes theatrical releases, viewers don’t have the same time commitment they may give to a television series. Shows give the audience flexibility in a way a movie can’t — you can pause the television show whenever you want, and or resume it at another time. Viewers may binge watch an entire series in one weekend, or take months or even years to get through the entire story. In a theater, an audience is more-or-less committed to sitting through and experiencing the whole thing in one sitting.

This is important when considering certain plot and narrative elements. If you’re worried certain story choices may scare off your viewers, you might want to make sure you pace these moves in a smart way in a television series. If it’s in a film, you may get away with it for the whole two hours!

These are just a few key differences between longform and shortform cinematic storytelling. And, of course, movies and television series (especially these days) also share many similarities. If you’re interested in learning the craft of filmmaking for either, or both, of these mediums, check out the programs offered by the New York Film Academy today!

What Life as a Swing, Understudy, or Standby is Like

In theatre, we have what we call: a swing, an understudy and a standby. Three distinct, respected functions. There can a handful of these actors in the same shows for the lead roles, depending on the budget and the roles’ physical demand. Knowing that Broadway shows run eight times a week, it is very important that someone will be able to rock that stage no matter what.

In major Broadway productions, you can usually find performers hired to learn the track (the choreography and lines of a particular role) and ready to jump in at any point during the show if needed.

Backstage 2

A swing wears at least two hats. They can “swing” between two parts in the same show. Lots of ensemble members right now on Broadway are swings to one of the lead roles and perform an ensemble track on a regular basis. Some are ensemble members and can be noted as swing to one of the major lead parts.

An understudy learns the track for when the primary performer is absent. Usually, if the said name is famous, another big name can be called as an understudy for that specific replacement. They are then aware in advance when they will perform.

A standby, literally, is always ready to go on at any time. For example, in the first act, you may applaud one lead but applaud a different performer for the same role in the second act. If a standby isn’t there for such an occasion, the production can ask a swing. A standby has to be backstage at all time, warmed up, made up, and costume-ready so that the show can move on smoothly if the original actor cannot perform their role.

Backstage

It is important to know that after the previews, all shows are “frozen,” which means that the blocking and choreography are locked. Therefore, each performer who learn each track must be very thorough and respect the writer, director and creator’s visions, not deviating from what has been locked.

Each of these jobs are crucial to the theatre industry — just as crucial as the primary leads and no swing, understudy, or standby is less talented whatsoever. Many will go through months of long auditions and are cast on the same criteria as the leads.

The beauty of a company is that initially, everyone knows the track of one another. There are of course official swings, understudies, and standbys though. The quality on stage is delivered to its best no matter who performs.

H40: The Five Timelines of Michael Myers and “Halloween”

Cue the haunting piano music: Michael Myers is back in theaters this October with a brand new Halloween sequel. In true 21st century filmmaking fashion, this sequel is also somewhat of a soft reboot – a sequel that is technically in the same timeline, but retains many of the classic beats (and the title) of the original.

But which timeline? The Halloween franchise first began in 1978 as an independent horror film written and directed by John Carpenter (and produced and co-created by Debra Hill) and was an instant classic. The silent, hulking serial killer Michael Myers became a Hollywood icon as he murdered babysitters and their boyfriends in a painted William Shatner mask. Halloween quickly spawned a series of sequels, spin-offs, and remakes — all of which interweave with distinct continuities.

Here then, are five different timelines of the Halloween franchise in its first 40 years — who knows how many more retcons will come about in the next four decades!

Timeline #1
Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

This could be considered the original timeline, as it incorporates the first six films of the franchise (with one exception, which we’ll get to.) The first two films are very closely linked, filmed close together, with the same leads, taking place all in the same night (October 31, natch.)

After a brief departure from Halloween III, the real star of the franchise — Michael Myers — came back due to popular demand. He wasn’t joined by lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis, however, who had gone onto movie stardom in the 80s with smash hits like Trading Places and A Fish Called Wanda. Fortunately for the producers, veteran actor Donald Pleasance, a big get for the first two films, stayed and helmed the series as Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Loomis for the next three films.

Jamie Lee Curtis’s character, Laurie Strode, was killed off-screen in a car accident and the fourth film shifted focus to Laurie’s niece, Jamie Lloyd. Halloween 4 was released ten years after the original, in 1988, and quickly followed up with Halloween 5 in 1989.

The timeline finally came to an end in 1995, with Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. The movie expanded the franchise’s mythology and dove deep into the supernatural, dark mystical side of Michael Myers. One of its stars was a very young Paul Rudd playing Tommy Doyle, a character from the first two films. The movie ends with the death of series constant Dr. Loomis, and was dedicated to the memory of Donald Pleasance, who died just a few months before its release.

Timeline #2
Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The reason the franchise is called Halloween and not Michael Myers is because John Carpenter envisioned the series as an anthology of distinct horror stories, each set in their own universe with nothing to do with each other — much like Twilight Zone, Black Mirror, and the Cloverfield films.

However, the huge success of the first film led to a direct sequel, Halloween II, which came out in 1981. This film started the notion that Michael Myers was superhuman, which was continued and explored in the rest of Timeline #1 (see above.)

But by the third film, Carpenter finally wished to move away from Michael Myers and the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, came out in 1982, and had none of the cast or characters from the first two films. It was also a completely different story — about evil Celtic magic from Stonehenge and androids that wish to kill the trick-or-treating children of a Northern California suburb.

Halloween III most certainly doesn’t take place in the same universe as Michael Myers. In fact, one of the characters in the movie is watching a commercial for the original Halloween, meaning the Jamie Lee Curtis films are just as fictional in the world of Season of the Witch as it is in ours.

Timeline #3
Halloween, Halloween II, H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection

It was only three years in between Halloween 6 and H20, but filmmaking was already evolving and Wes Craven’s Scream had upped the horror genre for moviegoers everywhere. In 1998, to celebrate two decades since the dawn of Michael Myers, the franchise released another sequel, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the role of Laurie Strode for the first time since 1981.

With the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, the series had to retcon her character’s death, and so this film takes place after Halloween and Halloween II — but NOT Halloweens 4, 5, and 6. While this brings Laurie Strode (and presumably, Dr. Loomis) back to life, this change in the continuity did not bode well for Nurse Chambers, a character played by Nancy Stephens in the first two films. She appears again as the character in the opening scene of H20, where she is quickly dispatched by a middle-aged Michael Myers.

By the end of the film, Myers has attacked Laurie Strode and her family, but is decapitated by her to make sure he never comes back. He does come back, however, in the film’s sequel, Halloween: Resurrection.

Halloween: Resurrection, released in 2002, is very much of its time, with a story revolving around webcams and the Internet, and the then-brand-new medium of Reality TV. It also stars Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes, who might play the only character in any of the timelines to karate kick Michael Myers through a window.

The film opens with a cameo by Jamie Lee Curtis, once again portraying Laurie Strode, who dies for a second time in the franchise — this time on screen as she falls from the roof of a psychiatric hospital.

Timeline #4
Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)

Sound familiar? These two films take the exact same titles as the original two, but they are 100% remakes in the truest sense of the word, and which was very much in fashion at the time. Fresh off his critical gorefests House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie decided to tackle the Michael Myers franchise next, remaking Halloween in 2007.

Dr. Loomis is back, this time played by yet another British veteran actor, Malcolm McDowell. Zombie’s Halloween has much more focus on Michael Myers before his breakout and All Hallow’s Eve killing spree. It’s also more of a tension-builder and slower horror film, very much in style then and even still now.

The film received mixed reviews but made a decent amount of money at the box office, enough to warrant a direct sequel and the tenth film overall in the franchise. This new Halloween II harkens closer to the convoluted plotlines of Halloweens 4-6 than it does the original sequel though, dealing with hallucinations and flashbacks and revealing, like Timeline #1 eventually does, that Laurie Strode is actually the sister of Michael Myers. It ends with the death of Dr. Loomis (that makes two for him) and with Laurie now committed to a psychiatric hospital (that’s twice for her.)

Timeline #5
Halloween, Halloween (2018), ???

After considering a sequel to Zombie’s films or yet another reboot, the rights holders and producers of the franchise decided to do a sequel to the original Halloween. This film, once titled Halloween Returns, would have followed the first two, just as 4-6 did in Timeline #1. Soon indie director David Gordon Green and frequent collaborator Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) came on board to work on the film.

In the writing process, Halloween II was taken out of the continuity, so that this sequel, which takes place forty years after the original (and twenty since the release of H20) is a direct sequel to only the original Halloween, and ignores the events of every other Halloween film that follows it.

The film will harken back to the original in plot and tone as well, as Myers will slowly make his way around town on Halloween night, picking off babysitters and anyone else who gets in his way.

It also brings back, once again, Jamie Lee Curtis as character Laurie Strode, who, as far as we know, isn’t the sister of Michael Myers. Whether Laurie Strode will die for the third time in the series or live for yet another sequel remains to be seen.

It’s doubtful Busta Rhymes will be back to karate kick Michael Myers through a window.

“A Star Is Born” – We Just Wanted To Take Another Look Back at the First 3 Films

It’s the story we just can’t seem to get enough of [SPOILERS AHEAD for those who’ve never seen any version of the A Star is Born!!!!!!!] – an alcoholic male star discovers a talented yet unsuccessful woman, they fall in love, he boosts her career, her stardom eclipses his own, his demons get the better of him, and just as his decline carries the risk of taking her down with him, he commits suicide. But the tragic love story has always been about more than just about the romance – A Star is Born has also been a deeper exploration of the Faustian bargain of fame and the balancing scale on which success sits on the opposing end of loss.

In short, it’s a story that’s been irresistible for Hollywood’s storytellers and thus never dies. It’s no surprise then that A Star Is Born has undergone yet another rebirth – now its fourth official version – under the hands of Bradley Cooper in his directorial debut. George Cukor’s 1932 film What Price Hollywood? is largely considered to be the original prototype of A Star Is Born (Cukor went on to direct the 1954 remake) but it’s different enough to warrant its exclusion from the franchise. Throughout its number of versions over the span of eight decades, the basic plot remains quite consistent to where the exact line “I just wanted to take another look at you” occurs in each film.

But with each remake, the current generation making the film molds the skeleton of the plot to its own culture and style, and reflects an adapting perspective of stardom and the entertainment industry. So, let’s dive in and take a look at the first three films and how they evolved through each iteration:

A Star is Born (1937)

Directed by William Wellman and starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the “original” A Star is Born came at a time where Hollywood had room to be hopeful and self-reflective; it both acknowledged the industry’s veneer and endorsed it. Gaynor’s character, North Dakotan farm girl and aspiring actress Esther Blodgett, has a distinct origin story – an important characteristic of movie stars of that era.

Esther’s stage name is changed to Vicky Lester and she’s given a makeover to boost her star quality. The film largely focuses on a relatively young film industry during a time where it became a beacon of light for Americans amidst the Great Depression, promoting a message of “anyone can become a movie star” despite (and because of) the way in which it could completely manufacture such adored Hollywood personas.

A Star is Born (1954)

Directed by What Price Hollywood?’s George Cukor, this adaptation starred Hollywood legend Judy Garland as Esther Blodgett, alongside James Mason, who plays leading man Norman Maine. Among other key changes in detail from its predecessor in order to suit the time, the most obvious difference is that it’s a musical. Moreover, as opposed to Esther in 1937 whose aspirations lay specifically in becoming an actress, Garland’s character has more of a vague goal of becoming a successful singer.

Cukor’s remake also takes some tonal shifts, focusing more on character development and the relationship between the two protagonists. Unlike the 1937 film where Norman is quite aggressive and lacks introspection, the Norman of 1954 is a much more sympathetic character who is refined and self-aware. His sincerity makes Esther’s love for him more tragic, thus creating a more effective climax.

This adaptation also garnered more interest in the real life stories behind the scenes than other versions, namely due to Judy Garland’s tumultuous career at the time. Four years after her contract suspension with MGM following a suicide attempt, A Star is Born was intended to be her big comeback. Interestingly, Garland saw herself as both the talented, ingenuous star Esther and the older, fading star Norman, which propelled her powerful performance.

Despite the immense popularity and critical acclaim of the movie, her status as a film star never fully recovered after losing the Oscar to Grace Kelly – a controversial topic to this day.

A Star is Born (1976)

[Video]

This remake was directed by Frank Pierson and stars Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson as Esther Hoffman and Norman Howard. The changing of the protagonists’ surnames was a subtle, yet necessary adjustment to feel more relevant to the 70s, much like the strategic move to supplement alcoholism with cocaine addiction. But what became the most significant change in this film was changing the leads from Hollywood celebrities to rock stars, as this new type of fame during that era bred its own legend of success and failure with the likes of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.

Additionally, with the UN declaring 1975 as International Women’s Year during a decade that revolutionised the women’s movement, Streisand’s Esther reflected more of a freedom and confidence that her previous iterations may never have imagined. She’s the most self-assured of the protagonists and also proposes to Norman, whilst hyphenating her last name in the final tribute scene as opposed to announcing herself as “Mrs. Norman Maine.”

Despite some mixed reviews – most negative ones attributing Streisand’s actual fame to the overshadowing of Kristofferson’s performance and subsequently, his character – she is the only actress to have won the Oscar for her portrayal of Esther. Unless, of course, Lady Gaga follows her next winter with a win for her lead role in the newest A Star is Born remake. The buzz is already undeniable.

 

Playing Yourself vs. Method Acting

Method acting — the art of turning completely into your character while playing a scene — is a tried and true, well, method, for acting in a scene. But it’s not the only way an actor can choose to perform their role. Many actors will stay consciously in their own head for the bulk of a performance, reciting their lines in a careful manner or incorporating their own personality into the character on the page.

None of these philosophies are wrong — they are merely different approaches for a complex, artistic craft.

There is a famous anecdote from the set of Marathon Man, the 70s thriller starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman, a method actor, had told his co-star that he had stayed up for three days straight so that he could inhabit the role his character, who had also been up for three days.

“My dear boy,” Olivier said to Hoffman, “why don’t you just try acting?” The film and theatre giant was making light of the method process — one in which an actor “becomes” their character on an emotional, and often physical, level.

In the end, it comes down to your training and your preferences on how you want to perform a role. But playing yourself can be a productive practice for many actors. Of course, like any great art, it’s easier said than done.

How can you play yourself, then? By always learning everyday who you are, what you like and dislike, and bringing it to your work instinctively. Playing yourself with total control and being able to enter and exit the part quickly may take years to fully master. You should never forget that your craft is work but also fun. The desire to tell a story truly and faithfully is a worthy goal but one that should leave lasting harm on your own well-being. Here are three techniques that can help you play yourself, as opposed to method acting:

Learn Who You Are

Many roles on screen or on stage often represent the everyday person. Their truth on stage is waited by an audience that can relate very specifically to these characters. Many examples of actors we know have gotten stronger over their careers from simply living their personal lives and then bringing that experience to their work.

Paul Newman is a great example. After struggling to play certain parts, he realized that by just being himself he would get more attention. Speaking in his regular voice and bringing his own qualities to each part, his career soared. Along the way, he gained confidence in the craft and a true mastery of using his emotional life in each role he played.

Actor Acting


Control Yourself

We know all too well of tragic endings to some of our favorite stars, many of them occurring very early in their lives and careers. Often, these actors had troubles stemming from many reasons, some of which related to the emotional intensity of their craft.

That is why it is so important for actors to learn control of themselves. Being able to leave the character at work and not bring it home with you is vitally important. Actors can learn practices that help them “drop in then drop out” of their roles. They can condition themselves and learn to look out for triggers, and understand how to deal with them properly in a way that is safe.

Have Fun!

Acting is hard work, but that doesn’t it can’t be enjoyable — fun, even. By learning to appreciate your gifts, you’ll become more relaxed and more comfortable in a role. You’ll be more you. Your instruments (body and voice) should be your best buddies.

A fine understanding of them both will make you more grounded and therefore present.  

Find a routine that works best for you, and step by step you will learn to react instinctively to specific situations. Breathing is an amazing tool one should master as they learn to perform. Even if your character is going through a very intense moment, you don’t have to be.

Method acting is just that — one method to performing a scene in a particular way. There are always methods, and learning as many as you can make you a well-rounded performer. Playing yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds. But by learning to detach yourself from the circumstances of the scene and then live your life fully is healthy for the body, mind, and soul. Make Sir Olivier proud!

Learn more about New York Film Academy’s acting for film program, or if you’re ready to take the next step, apply here.

Actor Acting

How To Transition from Screen Acting to Stage Acting

 

To the untrained eye, acting is acting, regardless of where it takes place or who is present; which is to say that one might assume an incredibly successful and talented screen actor would be just as good on stage as they are on film. For those of us whom have either trained in acting or have firsthand industry experience, however – especially those who’ve attempted to make the transition from screen to stage – know this is definitely not the case. There are quite a few notable differences in both arenas, so if you’re thinking of transitioning from screen to stage, you’ll want to consider the following:

Body Language

When it comes to acting on screen, an actor needs to focus a significant amount of energy on the camera than the average person might think. Unlike an audience full of theatre-goers, the camera will focus on the most microscopic and intricate expressions, including something as minute as an eyebrow twitch or a slightly clenched jaw. For this reason, the actor must always be conscious of where the camera is positioned and perform in accordance to how it will look on screen, paying particular attention to their own face and eyes.

When you communicate emotion on stage, however, you use your entire body and voice. Vocal projection and inflection is of utmost importance, so that even the audience members sitting all the way in the back row can not only hear but understand everything you’re saying.

Similarly, using your entire body to translate even the smallest emotion is a critical element of every stage actor’s repertoire. Physical movement needs to practically be exaggerated – even something as simple as standing needs some attention to detail. The actor needs to be conscious of every physical detail to project the most obvious import.

For example, if a character is meek and timid, in a scene that requires dialogue, a stage actor might hunch, twiddle their thumbs, or perhaps turn their toes inward for a slight pigeon-toed stance — common idiosyncrasies observed in those with similar personality traits. And yet they still need to speak loudly enough for the audience to hear them! Seeing as a loud voice may not coincide with those personality traits, this is essentially why body language is so critical in conveying the right message.

In contrast, a screen actor doesn’t need to focus as much on larger gestures (unless required in a particular shot) but instead relay as much of those character quirks in more subtle expressions and verbal delivery. As such, if the screen actor’s power of emotional expression lies more in the face and eyes, the stage actor’s is in the body and voice.

Teamwork Vs Me-work

The emphasis on teamwork and trust among the actor and the director is somewhat multiplied on film, as film is primarily the territory of the director. So unless the actor is also a producer or a huge box-office name with enough pull in the industry to call the shots, the director is generally the one who decides how a scene is played. That’s not to say the actor doesn’t have any control over their own performance, but the director may choose to shoot a single scene several times, directing the actor to perform each take with slight changes, later choosing which take best belies their vision.

Because of this to-and-fro for each scene, screen actors need to be as adaptable and cooperative as they are talented in their own craft. In addition, film actors need the ability to work quickly to put together a scene that will then exist forever, whereas stage actors may rehearse for months to nail a performance that lasts only as long as the show’s running, for a much smaller audience.

 

Add to this the fact that this theatre audience is a live one, so that stage actors can rarely make mistakes. A poor performance on screen can be mitigated by editing, film score, etc. – a luxury stage actors don’t really have. As prominent director of The Actors, Conor McPherson tells The Guardian, “in the theatre, there is nowhere to hide. If your performance is bad or lazy, you stick out like a sore thumb.”

Because of this, McPherson also points out the accountability stage actors have on delivering a good or bad performance and inversely, the flexibility they have in character exploration. Screen actors are required to always deliver their developed character from moment to moment through scenes shot in random order with minimal rehearsal time, while stage actors have a lot more freedom to explore their character as the show plays out through its run.

Preparation

Directing
It may seem obvious, but the importance of rehearsal for a stage actorit cannot be emphasized enough. If you’ve only ever been trained to act on camera, the first thing to do when transitioning into stage acting is to prepare to rehearse.

Unlike acting on screen, where forgetting your lines can be a minor hiccup that’s rectified in seconds with multiple copies of the script at arm’s length, forgetting your lines on stage can be disastrous. Stage actors are required to memorize an enormous amount of dialogue spanning the entirety of the play, which is a feat in itself. But then to have to perform it in front of an audience, night after night with the same amount of emotion and energy throughout can be exhausting.

Not to mention a live audience will inevitably cause unexpected interruptions that can easily disrupt an actor’s flow. So as the trusty old adage goes, the best defense is a solid offense: preparation is key. Being quick on your feet will come in handy (excuse the pun!) when those unexpected interruptions occur, so stage actors will commonly partake in improv classes or similar activities to build tools that can deal with such unpredictabilities. Additionally, investing in a vocal coach is an absolute must for theatre.

 

In the end, it comes down to personal preference for an actor. Some thrive on stage, others on screen – some can bounce between the two without blinking an eye. But you won’t know what’s best for you or what you have a passion unless you try both — and hopefully the advice above will help you navigate between screen and stage. Break a leg!

Interested in attending acting school programs? Check out more information on the New York Film Academy here!

 

Why YouTube is an Actor’s Best Friend

In our fast-paced world, actors have to find new ways of marketing themselves to agents, casting directors, their audience, and everyone in between. It used to be that actors were discovered on stages, on the street, or in cafes — but these days, more and more talented actors are being found on YouTube. Using this platform has a lot of great benefits for aspiring actors, giving them a chance to garner positive attention from influencers while minimizing their expenses. Here are some reasons why you should consider using YouTube to promote yourself:

YouTube

A YouTube Channel Means Exposure

Actors dream of being discovered by a major producer or director, because this means having a chance to leap onto the big screen. You can increase your chances of being discovered by having a YouTube channel because this platform gives you high levels of exposure to the entire world, all at once. Additionally, all sorts of people use YouTube, giving you not just a huge audience, but a diverse one.
Your options are endless as an actor on YouTube. You can create a vlog, comedy sketches, dramatic monologues, or anything else that you find interest. Just remember that the content of your channel has to be of a certain quality, in one way or another, if you really want to get noticed.

YouTube is free!

Many people have a misconception of actors being wealthy divas or rich playboys; however, most actors are living hand-to-mouth in expensive cities such as Los Angeles and New York, working hard to get auditions and callbacks. YouTube is completely free; you do not have to pay this company to upload your videos onto their platform. And whenever a working actor can find something for free, they should take advantage of it!

Creative Freedom

YouTube is the perfect place to exercise your creativity and bring your most ambitious projects to life. And the best thing about it is that you are in charge every step of the way. YouTube gives you total control over the creative process, and you choose to shoot and edit your videos any way you see fit. And if you want someone to create content for you, you can go here and create a custom writing login.

So, if you are seeking to express yourself on a free and open platform, and bring to life your best artistic agents, YouTube is the place for you! Take advantage of the creative freedom the internet offers!

YouTube

Virtual Casting

Another way YouTube can help actors is by serving as a type of casting agency where you can upload your demo reels for all to see. This is very practical, because casting agents search for new talent everywhere, including YouTube. Due to the site’s high traffic, it makes for an excellent tool for you to market yourself to producers and directors.

Interact with Other Actors

Obviously, you won’t be the only actor on YouTube. Like you, thousands of other actors are looking to be noticed and land gigs as a result. YouTube presents you with an opportunity to work with these other actors by making videos and promoting one another’s work, thereby increasing your chances of making it to the big show. Turn your rivals into collaborators!

You Can Monetize Your Channel

If your channel becomes popular with a YouTube audience, it’s possible to generate income from all the views, likes, and shares your video gets. While advertising isn’t a reliable way to make money unless you’re one of the biggest, most viral stars on the net, you can also end up getting influencer deals or start a Patreon and earn support from your most ardent fans.

YouTube is your gateway to success!
YouTube

If all of this still seems implausible, just think about celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kate Upton, and Alex Tanney. They uploaded their work to YouTube, got exposure, went viral, and now they are industry titans. You’ve got to start somewhere!

Written by Emily Watts

5 Actors Honored On TIME 100 List

Every year, Time magazine releases a list of the 100 most influential people in the world. This list is not a measure of power or a collection of milestones completed by those individuals. Instead, Time’s staff examines the lifetime achievements of the candidates on the TIME 100 list.

In an article on how and why Time chose these 100 most influential people, editorial director Dan Macsai asked, “Was this their year?”

The list aims to be a reflection of a moment, and cannot be compared to previous years. Let’s look at five actors who have been honored as Time’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2018:

Sterling K. Brown

Over the course of the last few years, Sterling K. Brown has become a well-known actor in households across the globe. He won an Emmy for portraying Christopher Darden in Ryan Murphy’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson, and another for portraying Randall Pearson in the NBC drama This Is Us, and acted in Marvel’s smash hit, Black Panther, as N’Jobu.

In 2017, Brown was the first African American man to win the Best Actor in a Drama Emmy in 19 years — and only one of four to win an award in the Emmy’s 70 year history.

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman isn’t just an actor — the Australian actor is an entertainer, through and through. He can act, sing, and dance. If you have ever questioned his ability to entertain, watch him command the stage in his latest blockbuster, The Greatest Showman. The movie has pulled in nearly a half billion dollars at the box office since its release in December.

Anne Hathaway, Jackman’s co-star in Les Miserables, wrote in Time’s article, “I’ve never stopped and analyzed why I love Hugh Jackman. For me, it’s like loving chocolate or puppies or rainbows: effortless.”

Hugh Jackman

Deepika Padukone

The Bollywood star Deepika Padukone made a splash with American audiences in Vin Diesel’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage. It isn’t just her prominent role that got her on Time’s list though. During the TIME 100 Gala in April, Padukone acknowledged her struggles with depression:

“Four years on, I stand here in front of all of you with a slightly better understanding, I think, of life and my feelings and the person that I am.”

You can read her full remark from the TIME 100 Gala here.  

Chadwick Boseman

While Chadwick Boseman had prominent lead roles in the biopics for James Brown (Get on Up) and Jackie Robinson (42), it was Marvel’s Black Panther that made him an A-list name and international role model. The movie has brought in $1.3 billion worldwide to date and was a significant step forward for diversity in Hollywood blockbusters.

Sean “Diddy” Combs wrote , “…As the ‘Black Panther,’ he’s inspiring everyone, but especially black youth, who deserve to see superheroes like them, to show them that truly anyone can be a superhero.” He continued, “This matters, because it has been a long time coming to see our own superheroes and the power that they can have on all of us in society.”

Who is your favorite icon on this year’s TIME 100? Let us know below!

Gal Gadot

Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, wrote that Gal Gadot embodies everything that Wonder Woman represents: “fierce strength, a kind heart, and incredible valor.” Gadot brought Wonder Woman to the bring screen with the help of director Patty Jenkins in 2017, and she will reprise her role in Wonder Woman 2, due out in 2019.

Gadot was also five months pregnant during the intense, action-oriented filming of Wonder Woman. And her work isn’t limited to acting — Gadot is an honorary U.N. Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.

It sounds like Gadot really may be Wonder Woman after all.

Gal Gadot

Actors With the Best Fake Accents in Films

Props, costumes, production sets, and CGI can only do so much to transport audiences to a different time and place; the rest of the work lies in the actor’s ability to truly inhabit a narrative, and invite the audience to believe their character and their milieu. Adopting a specific accent is one of those abilities that allows an actor to create a believable character, and while it may seem like a common enough challenge for an actor, excelling accents can be tough. Given the underestimated skill it takes to convincingly pull it off, it’s only fair to give credit where it’s due, so here’s a list of actors with the best fake accents in films:

Meryl Streep

Throughout her illustrious career, Streep has taken up more accents than the average person could recognize. However, her Polish accent in Sophie’s Choice was one of perfection. Being Meryl Streep, practicing lines with a dialect coach was not enough, so she took it upon herself to learn Polish (and German in the last few weeks before shooting!) for the role.

Not only did Streep manage to speak Polish in the film, she also flipped between English and German with a Polish accent.

“I thought if I learned to speak Polish, then the diphthongs and the sounds of that language would be in my mouth,” she said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

Another noteworthy Streep accent we just couldn’t leave out of the discussion was her Australian dialect for Lindy Chamberlain in A Cry in the Dark, the true story of a mother who lost her baby to a dingo (yep, the line “a dingo ate my baby” is, in fact, about a tragic true story).

The general consensus when it comes to mimicking the Australian accent is that it’s bloody hard (see what we did there?), and non-Australian actors who’ve tried it are almost always criticized for it. Streep, however, managed to take it up a notch. Not only did she study the Australian accent with a fine-toothed comb, but she also mimicked the New Zealand-born Chamberlain’s idiosyncratic enunciations -– a result she admits she “sweat bullets” trying to achieve.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

In the biographical film Capote, based on the life of Truman Capote, the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman shined in his portrayal of the famous journalist, winning him the Oscar for Best Actor.

Capote’s unique vocal inflection was incredibly difficult to impersonate without it becoming a parody, and according to dialect coach Erik Singer, Hoffman pulled it off exquisitely: “The accent is dead-on perfect, and it’s totally integrated. It’s integral to the character and what the actor is doing as the character.”

Leonardo DiCaprio

Not one to shy away from adopting accents in films, the Los Angeles native has adopted accents from all over the United States through several eras for his films, from a Brooklyn native in The Wolf of Wall Street or a mid-19th century Irish-Catholic in Gangs of New York.

What really impressed a vast majority of audiences, however, was DiCaprio’s flawless accent in Blood Diamond, where he portrayed a man from Rhodesia, or modern-day Zimbabwe.

As a South African critic put it for Vanity Fair, “Leo is unbelievable … I could believe that he was a South African (as Zimbabwe borders South Africa, the accents can be very similar). Leo gets every word right.”

Hugh Laurie

If you were shocked that Hugh Laurie is actually an Oxford-born Englishman, you can join the estimated 81 million viewers of House who watched him play a gifted, foul-mouthed American doctor for eight seasons and were none the wiser. Moreover, prior to being informed on Hugh Laurie’s nationality, House’s executive producer Bryan Singer was incredibly relieved to have finally found what he believed was an American actor, after auditioning so many foreigners who just didn’t sound right.

“When you’ve got this volume of dialogue and this kind of complexity of writing, you really want to find an American actor,” he told The Paley Center for Media before admitting his shock when told by the casting directors that Laurie was, in fact, British.

Laurie’s American accent was so flawless, Google manages to churn out an overwhelming amount of blog posts and discussion forums dedicated to variations of the words “Hugh Laurie,” “accents,” “American,” and “British.”

Idris Elba

The London-born actor, who in real life has a distinctive Hackney accent, has wowed critics and audiences with two particular accents worthy of a mention; first, when playing drug kingpin Stringer Bell from Baltimore in The Wire, and second, as Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

To perfect his Baltimore accent, Elba admits to spending lots of time in a barbershop to familiarize himself with the slang and particular nuances exclusive to Baltimoreans. The result was virtually spot-on.

Perfecting the accent for Mandela, however, came with a little more intense, technical training, as Elba had to embody the specific vocal qualities of Mandela along with a South African accent.

His dialogue coach on the set of the film told The Telegraph that his accent “is one of the closest to the original I have heard. This, coupled with his great technical acting skill and considerable emotional resource, makes for a compelling and brilliant performance.”

Cate Blanchett

Though an Australian herself, Blanchett is renowned for her chameleon-like performances, accruing such a long list of accents you’d be forgiven for not knowing her true national origin without double-checking an interview. Even then some may be confused, as her own Australian accent has morphed; Her ability to instinctively pick up the accents she’s surrounded by in real life has become so habitual for the actress that she admits it’s “politically incorrect” and embarrasses her children much of the time.

Blanchett’s many memorable character accents range from 16th century British to Brooklyn-American, Southern-American, Irish, French, German, Ukrainian, and even Elvish — but from her long list of impressive vocal accomplishments, her remarkable impersonation of Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator deserves an honorable mention.

Director Martin Scorsese had been impressed by Blanchett’s precision and boldness since Elizabeth, and knew if anyone could take on such an iconic character it’d be her. As the New York Times described, “Hepburn’s distinctive voice, loud, clipped and with a pronounced upper-class New England accent … became crucial to her performance.”

Blanchett pulled it off so well, it won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

What are your favorite performances where an actor pulled off an impressive accent? Let us know in the comments below! Learn more about Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy.

How These 6 Actors Prepared for a Role

Preparation is as much of an actor’s job as a performance itself, particularly when a character’s physicality, speech, or persona are vastly different from your own. Whether an actor’s challenge is primarily physical, mental, emotional, or even vocal, truly embodying a character’s traits in all their nuance produces the most memorable and admirable performances (not to mention benefits come Award season!).

Consequently, great transformations require great dedication, with some actors taking it upon themselves to go to famous extremes to prepare for their roles. Here are some of the most noteworthy examples:

Ben Platt – Dear Evan Hansen

The Tony-winning lead actor of Dear Evan Hansen delivers a gut-wrenching performance, displaying an incredible amount of anguish through the anxiety-ridden teenager, Evan, eight times a week. This kind of repetitive emotional and physical exertion can prove exhausting for the best of us, and among the many differences between acting for camera and acting on stage is the exaggerated movement and vocal projection required for stage actors.

In this New York Times article, Platt talks of the “monkish existence” he has in order to prepare for each show. In addition to losing 30 pounds for the role, Platt gives precedence to solitude and silence in order to rest and recover, notoriously turning down every opportunity for social gatherings. He also refrains from gluten and dairy, takes supplements, and attends physical therapy sessions twice a week that regularly involves the practice of cupping. Much to his chagrin, he’s also developed a habit of nail-biting and obsessively cracking his knuckles — habits he picked up from his character, Evan.  

Charlize Theron – Monster

A former model, Theron had become typecast as the “sexy blonde” before landing the 2003 role of real-life-prostitute-turned-serial-killer Aileen Wuornos.

The statuesque actress famously transformed her physical appearance to such an extent that audiences found her unrecognizable; she gained 30 pounds; dyed and thinned her hair; partially shaved and bleached her eyebrows; layered tattoo ink on her face for the weathered pallor of Wuornos’ skin; and donned unflattering dentures and contact lenses.

Theron devoted five whole months to researching Wuornos’ life in order to truly become her, resulting in a win for the Best Actress category at the Oscars (there’s a theme here). Fifteen years on, Theron continues to make drastic physical transformations, recently gaining 50 pounds for her role as Marlo, the overwhelmed mother of three in Tully. Admittedly, Theron says she struggles a lot more to shed the weight at 42 than she did at 27.

Jamie Foxx – Ray

Foxx went from Booty Call to winning an Oscar for his portrayal of the legendary blind musician, Ray Charles. To transform into the iconic musician, Foxx shed 30 pounds through a weeklong fast, followed by a painfully strict diet and daily workouts — though in this New York Times article, Foxx said that the weight loss was the easy part.

In addition to eyelid prosthetics and sunglasses modelled on Charles, Foxx had his eyes glued shut for 14 hours a day, calling it “a jail sentence.” He also suffered panic attacks for the first two weeks, and crew members would sometimes forget and leave him behind at restaurants or around the set.

Leonardo Dicaprio – The Revenant

The seasoned actor was nominated for an Oscar six times before winning his first in 2016 for his portrayal of Hugh Glass in The Revenant — and rightfully so. Shooting on location for nine months in Canada and Argentina in freezing wilderness was “a living hell” for cast and crew members alike. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki were intent on creating the most realistic aesthetic for the film, using minimal CGI and only shooting with natural daylight.

As such, an incredible amount of rehearsal went into schedule, to maximize the one hour of optimal light they had per day whilst subjecting DiCaprio to “agonizing” feats against mother nature.

In an interview with Yahoo, DiCaprio refers to some 30-40 sequences involving going in and out of freezing rivers, sleeping in an animal carcass, and, of course, that bear scene, as “some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.”

Although the horse carcass was a prop and the bear a product of CGI, eating a raw bison liver was 100 percent real. The vegetarian actor volunteered to make the edible sacrifice to serve Iñárritu’s immersive vision, concerned the faux liver provided wasn’t authentic enough.

“When you see the movie, you’ll see my reaction to it,” he says. “It says it all. It was an instinctive reaction.”

Jared Leto – Suicide Squad

No list about method acting and extreme transformations is complete without including the controversial antics of Jared Leto. Known for his over-the-top commitment to roles, the naturally slender actor seems to be constantly starving or gorging, having lost 25 pounds for Requiem for a Dream, gained 67 pounds for Chapter 27, and most recently lost 40 pounds for his 2013 Oscar-winning role as Rayon, a transgender HIV-positive woman in Dallas Buyers Club.

Besides his physical appearance, however, Leto truly immerses himself in his characters by never breaking off-camera. His Suicide Squad co-star Will Smith famously said, “I’ve never actually met Jared Leto. We worked together for six months and I’ve only ever spoken to him as The Joker.”

Leto also sent Smith bullets with a love letter — similar to what fellow castmate Margot Robbie received, only instead of bullets, there was a live rat. All Suicide Squad castmates received dubious gifts from “The Joker,” and these details served to renew a public debate about the nature of authentic method acting and its value in contemporary film.

Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry

In 1999, Swank played a groundbreaking role of a real-life transgender youth who was born female but lived as a male, until he was killed in 1993 for that reason. The tragic true story prompted Swank to commit everything she had to the role. She took on the persona of Hilary Swank’s brother, James, for four weeks prior to shooting. Roaming around Santa Monica in disguise, with stuffed her pants, flattened breasts, and a lowered voice, the actress said she was treated differently in public and felt like she lost every ounce of her femininity.

She told EW, “It put me in a state of real hopelessness. I cried a lot for days.” The tears didn’t last long though: she won the Best Actress Oscar that year for her work.

What are your favorite stories of famous actor preparation? Let us know in the comments below! Learn more about Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy.

Acting Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Being an actor in New York City (where a constant score is playing) can feel overwhelming for musical theatre performers and actors who need to warm up for their next auditions. While rushing from point A to point B, you may feel self-conscious about exposing your skills or making more noise in an environment that you feel doesn’t allow it. Wrong! No need to feel obligated to book a studio or a room to warm up. Why? Outside, whether on the busy streets of Manhattan or in a quieter borough, whether waiting for your train or commuting in your car, there are acting exercises you can do anywhere. We’ve rounded up some exercises that can help you get the most out of your time by keeping you in shape and warmed up.

Check out these acting exercises that you can do anywhere!

Lip Trills

On your way to the subway, put on some headphones and listen to your favorite music for some lip trills. You don’t even have to stop walking! Simply relax your face muscles and exhale softly through your lips to the beat and tune of your music, letting your lips vibrate and buzz. Fun, right?

All actors and singers know how important it is to be fully relaxed and breathing at all times, and lip trills help you bring that awareness and sensation to your face, lips, mouth, and throat. This easy exercise could become your favorite, and you may just find yourself doing lip trills everywhere. Perfect!

Yawn

That’s right — a simple yawn is an important vocal warm-up!

After your lip drills, open your mouth wide, imagining that your skull is split in two, lifting your back palate, and yawn once or twice. If more yawning happens naturally, let it come and don’t hold back! Yawning and finishing on an “E” is fun and very relaxing, and a great way to relax your muscles and reset your energy before an audition.

Tongue Twisters

As you know, the New York Film Academy is a unique school that gathers artists from all continents in our world together to learn and create. So celebrate that international diversity in your warm up.

For this tongue twister, make your job easy and fun by doing two tongue twisters in your native language (if you’re an international student) or a friend’s language, and then finish on three English-language versions. You can find some great ones in Speak with Distinction by Edith Skinner.

Whatever language you’re speaking, do your tongue twisters very slowly at first. Articulate carefully to place your tongue and voice properly and, most importantly, to feel the placement of your voice.

Don’t force it! Our muscles have to awaken gently. If you can do your tongue twisters fast, fantastic, but the speed doesn’t matter. The point is to stretch your mouth muscles, wake up your articulators, and find the vibration of your voice. After all, you’ll need them for your monologue or song at your audition.

Hum

Here’s an acting warm-up that you can do literally anywhere. Close your mouth, smile without showing your teeth, and hum any song you know — all the way through. If you have time, hum another song or two, and have fun!

If you are a singer, you will know if there is a certain part of your voice you’ll need to focus on warming up for your song or monologue. If you are about to sing from your head, your chest, or your mask, warm that specific part accordingly by placing your hand there while humming. Use your humming to tell your brain that that placement has to wake up so it will be ready during your audition.

Take it easy and be kind to your instrument.

Water

A very important and often-overlooked step in preparing your instrument to perform is staying hydrated! Lots will move as you wake up your instrument with these exercises, so be sure to have a sip of water handy when you need it.

Try to work through these exercises at least three times a week. Used consistently, these tools can help you unlock a deeper understanding of your craft and, most importantly, your technique. With time, you will adapt these exercises and find new ones too — and maybe create some of your own. Who knows?

Ready to learn more about acting technique? Check out Acting for Film and Musical Theatre programs at the New York Film Academy.

How To Find Your Acting Mentor

Current “it man” of acting, Michael B. Jordan, said of his mentors, Forest Whitaker, Ben Affleck, and Oprah, “As an actor, a solo mission doesn’t really happen that often … somebody that’s been through it before that’ll reach back and give you some sound advice is so valuable … and I’ve been pretty lucky to have some good people.”

Jordan is a great example of how having a mentor, in what is easily the most competitive business in the world, can be an incredible resource, perhaps even helping aspiring actors navigate from waiting tables and getting a big break. So, here are some helpful tips on how to go about finding your own acting mentor:

Connect with your teachers.

The advantage of being in NYFA’s Acting for Film School is that you already have access to a vast number of skilled instructors who are active in the industry and who are there to guide you through the ins-and-outs of what to expect in the “real world.” NYFA’s professional faculty provide their students with exceptional training, and students have the opportunity for additional guidance through private consultations with their instructors.     

Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm, so every teacher is at their best when their students are eager to learn. Always be present, don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as possible, sign up for extra workshops, and make sure to stay in touch with your teachers beyond graduation.

Reach for the stars.

‘90s singer and songwriter Lisa Loeb, most known for her number one hit song Stay from the classic film Reality Bites (1994), got that gig with just a little faith and a lot of courage. She lived next door to the star of the film, Ethan Hawke, and took the incentive to hand him her demo tape — which Hawke then passed on to director Ben Stiller. Now, this may deviate a little from the narrative of budding actors finding acting mentors, but it’s a great example of how simply asking can go a long way. Make a list of your heroes, do a little bit of research, and find out what events they may be attending next — Q&A’s and discussion panels are ideal. Prepare the most compelling question(s) for them. You might even consider asking your hero to be your mentor!

Anything is possible, so long as you try.

Network

Networking isn’t just about building contacts to find work, but is also a great way to find people even just a few steps ahead of you to learn from. Attend acting workshops, conferences, screenings, join an improv group, and use social media to your advantage. Facebook has an infinite number of groups you can join, and you’ll be sure to find multiple mentors on discussion boards alone.

Read Books

The next best thing to being mentored in person by your heroes, is being mentored through a book. Whether it’s an autobiography like Bossypants, by Tina Fey, or more along the lines of a step-by-step guide like Sanford Meisner on Acting, every actor can improve their craft with the pearls of wisdom in the pages. The best part about this is there’s no security, agent, or even time getting in the way of you and your mentor.

The main takeaway from all of these points is that as a mentee, to be successful, the key is to always be open to learning and to never stop asking.  

5 Ways an Acting Degree Can Help You Outside the Acting Industry

While our favorite film and television stars make it look easy, acting for film requires a variety of skills few ever come to master. It’s why an acting degree is so important at an early age— there’s no better way to start learning the ins and outs of the industry before diving in.

Whether you make a career out of acting or take another route later in life, here are several ways an acting degree or conservatory program prepares you for more than just acting.

  1. Confidence under pressure.

Most careers out there will put you in a high-pressure situation at some point. This can be an intimidating thought if you’ve always been a naturally shy person or simply don’t work well under stress. Becoming a good actor is impossible without developing self-awareness and confidence, since you’re tasked with embodying human emotion, character, and memorizing lines to deliver them later in front of either a live audience or film team. Acting skills can be used in all kinds of daily situations.

Experience performing everything from silly to emotional roles will leave you with a stronger sense of confidence that’s perfect for taking on auditions, interviews, meetings, and more.

  1. Teamwork.

If there’s one thing you can expect to do throughout your acting studies, it’s working with others. While individual skills and roles are important, how well a group connects to overcome hurdles often influences the impact of the performance. This is why actors are taught to become strong team players in order to collaborate better with others and build off each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

It goes without saying that almost every industry outside of acting is looking for people who can become an effective, positive contributor into their team.

  1. Public speaking.

They say almost three out of four people have some form of glossophobia — the fear of public speaking. However, being able to speak in front of people without stuttering or panicking is a valuable skill almost everywhere. Since acting is all about talking and performing in front of an audience, an acting degree is a great way to build skills that can directly translate to public speaking and help you overcome any anxiety about presenting yourself in a diverse variety of professional settings.

If you can learn to speak clearly in front of people, including delivering moving monologues, then giving a convincing speech or leading a meeting elsewhere will be no problem.

  1. Learn how to listen.

The ability to respond based off of what we hear, as opposed to how we feel or what we were thinking while others were speaking, is a skill worth improving. In acting classes you are taught to pay attention in order to perform on cue, improvise a line if someone messes up, etc. Acting is all about listening, timing, and responding to others, which means those who don’t listen will fail to deliver a moving, believable performance.

An acting degree or conservatory program will leave you with refined communication skills that are important for finding success in showbiz, other careers, and even in your relationship with friends and loved ones.

  1. Building strong friendships.

Speaking of relationships, a great way to form bonds with people is by working together on something you all share a passion for. Even if you don’t become bffs with everyone in your acting classes, you’ll gain respect for each other and connect while learning in a dynamic and intensive educational environment. But more often than not, a long-lasting relationship is formed between students who worked toward a fun, challenging goal together.

Learning to act puts you in touch with your own inner humanity, which helps you build empathy and form connections with other humans. Never a bad thing!

No matter where you find yourself in life, your level of happiness will probably be much higher if you learn to form friendships with other employees and bosses. Learning to build character relationships while playing roles with varying viewpoints can also help make you a more empathetic and understanding person. Ready to learn more about acting? Check out our acting degree and acting conservatory programs!

 

Tips on Finding the Perfect Monologue

by NYFA Instructor Denis McCourt, MFA

So you’re taking an acting class, have a general audition, or just want to hone your craft, and are looking for the perfect monologue. The search is really a three pronged approach:

What type of monologue are you looking for?

As you begin your quest for the words you will spend a large amount of time and energy working on, first, it is best to consider what you are trying to accomplish.

In the world of monologues, you have many broad categories — contemporary-comedy, contemporary-dramatic, classical-comedy, classical-dramatic … and even more broadly, plays versus film/television/online-content (web series).

If you are intending to work on a monologue in an acting class, you should select one from a play. These words have been written to be performed live by an actor on stage. That idea might sound obvious, yet many actors use film and television for their source material. That great dramatic monologue you saw in the latest blockbuster film has music, sound, camera angles, lighting, reaction shots and editing (just to name a few elements) to help make that overall dramatic or funny impact for the audience — plus, you will be perpetually compared to that Oscar-winning performance.  

When you find material written to be performed on the stage, it will fare better in your acting class and/or general audition. So, if you have now bought into the idea of plays, you have narrowed your content down from hundreds of thousands to only a few thousand possibilities.

How do you find your connection or hear your voice in the monologue?

This next step is very important in your quest for the perfect monologue.

Let’s say you want to expand the work you are doing in your acting class. You are very funny, which everyone around you reinforces in your work, so now you want to explore your more dramatic skills. One of the hardest concepts about acting that everyone struggles with is the idea of “connection,” or “your voice.” The best way to define this for you is to look back over your lifetime and ask questions.

In the years that you have been on this earth, what has mattered to you? Where did you grow up? Are you a member of the LGBTQ+ community? What cultural and gender identity speaks to you? Are you involved in any social issues or causes? Do you feel drawn to victims’ rights, or religious beliefs? Are you an animal rights advocate? Were you raised on a farm or in the city? In sharing these questions, and by you answering them, you begin to feel a connection and find your voice.

The next step would be for you to find a playwright that shares your connection and voice. If, as in our example, you have already decided that you want to work on a dramatic monologue, the exclusion of comedic writers has narrowed your search from thousands down to hundreds. And if you know you’d like to focus on a woman’s point of view, you have now narrowed that down even further.

The good news is that you are now looking for writers that share your voice and perspective, and once you find them there will be a body of work for you to tap into for source material.

I would strongly encourage you to become an avid reader of plays. In your quest for the perfect monologue, you can also develop your skills as a cold reader by reading the plays out loud –honing yet another skill you will need as an actor!

Where do I begin to look to find the perfect monologue?

Let’s face it: acting is already hard enough as it is to do the work well, and in your career you will sometimes be asked to work on material that is not that great if not bad. If you are paid to do it and are at that stage of your career, you will do it. But when developing your craft, the suggestion is to ride a thoroughbred.

What do I mean by that? If you find the best material, it will help you develop the skills you are working on developing. So, how do I find the best material that matches my voice? Although many are looking for that “golden monologue book written just for you,” you need to know that such a thing does not exist.

Most published monologue books are not good source material, because they are not attached to any story or character development — they are random words written for the purpose of actors, like you, in search of the perfect monologue. And, like you, there are thousands of actors buying that book and working on that same monologue which every casting professional and acting coach has heard over and over and over again. So, all of your efforts are thrown out the window as soon as they hear the first sentence because their inner monologue is; oh, no, not this one again.

So, if you get anything from this article, don’t buy the monologue book.

If you put a little more effort into the quest, it will pay off for you in spades. So, where should you look to find this thoroughbred? There is another three pronged approach: check out theatre awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and go see live theatre.

  • Theatre Awards:

If a writer has won or been nominated for a Tony Award or an Olivier Award, the material is a thoroughbred. When an actor has been nominated for or won a Tony Award or an Olivier Award the material is a thoroughbred. Here is the link to the Tony Award past winners.

If you go to that site, it lists not only the winners but the nominees as well, since the inception of the awards. All of this is great source material. You then can even target playwrights that write about content you are searching for in your perfect monologue. You can even target famous actors that you have been following that are “your type.”

You will find this a very rich resource of great material. Plus, you have narrowed down your material from thousands to hundreds or less.

  • Pulitzer Prize for Drama:

This award is a very high benchmark for playwrights, and exploring the winners will provide you with an international selection of original voices of today and years past.

The site not only shares the winners, but also provides you with all of the finalists in any given year. You will see that this list will share some great thoroughbred possibilities in your quest, though you will most likely see some duplicates between the Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize sites.

  • Live Theatre:

As you can probably guess, live theatrical plays are the best source material for finding the perfect monologue.

If you go see lots of plays, you will find material you will want to work on. The great thing about plays is that they are done all over the place.

You can spend big money and go see major New York and/or Los Angeles productions. You can go to great regional theatres in Chicago, Minneapolis or Atlanta. Or you can go to the many local professional and/or community theatres in cities and towns around the world. Other great resources are colleges and universities.

By seeing actors working on the craft you are developing, you will learn. Even if it is the worst performance you have ever seen, you will be hearing the words of the monologues spoken out loud in the context of the story and character arc.

If you see many plays, especially stories that appeal to you, your chances of finding that monologue increases. You have now narrowed the search from hundreds of thousands down to a few hundred or less and you have some practical steps to make in your quest to find the perfect monologue.

Ready to learn more about acting and deepen your craft? Check out the New York Film Academy’s Acting School offerings.

 

4 Ways Movie Casting is Different From TV Casting

With television’s creativity and talent blossoming in recent years, it’s becoming more usual to see A-List actors and big budgets gracing the small screen. In terms of production value, there’s not a lot to distinguish a show like Game of Thrones from major theatrical releases. Even so, casting for film and television can make different demands on an actor. Just as on-camera acting differs from stage acting, television acting (and hence casting) is different from that of casting for film … and even within television, there is a are a variety of factors casting directors have in mind.

We’ve created this list to help you make intelligent decisions when you get called for your next big audition.

  1. In film, the script is complete.

Sure some films will demand improvisation and require some rewriting during production, but in general the outcome of the film is determined long before an actor is called to audition, which means that the director and producers have a good idea of what they want for the part.

  1. Television scripts are waiting to be written.

On the other hand, television — and in particular television pilots — are an opportunity for actors to create a role, and your personality will at least in part determine the arc of the character as the show enjoys years of success! The viewers will be tuning in to see you, and the writers will be writing for you, so your personality needs to shine through in the audition.

  1. Not all television casting is created equal.

Of course, even casting for pilots in prime time shows is different than for a recurring role in an established show and different again for casting for a guest in a single episode.

Casting director Marci Phillips lays it out in The Present Actor: “One And Done Episodic roles are trickier. When we’re casting Series Regulars, we’re looking for Stars. This usually isn’t so when we’re looking to cast the rest of the episode. With an Under-5 or small Co-star TV role, you are usually there for exposition. You are there to serve and support the story, so they don’t necessarily want someone unique or fascinating unless that’s what the role specifically calls for.”

  1. Network casting vs. cable.

Cable shows have become increasingly filmic in recent years, and hence the performances of the actors more nuanced. Scenes are allowed to unfold without regards to commercial breaks, so it’s important to think about the kind of show you’re auditioning for: network or cable.

As this article at Cast It Talent suggests, network performances tend to be more condensed: “Television programs are built around commercial breaks, and to make sure you don’t change the channel, that’s when the victim tells the detective they know who the killer really is. A dramatic pause, music cue, and the camera slowly inches closer to the detective’s astonished/puzzled/worried face. Cut to commercial.”

Sound confusing? The only way to really grasp the differences is to perform many scenes and practice auditioning for a variety of roles. The New York Film Academy (NYFA) is a great place to learn the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in technique required for film and television acting, so that, when you get to your big-break audition, you will nail it.

Ready to learn more about acting for the screen? Check out our acting programs.

Unexpected Places for Finding Your Next Monologue

Whether you act primarily in theatre or on camera, there will come a time when you are asked to perform a monologue. Instead of dusting off that old piece you’ve been performing for years, or turning to a book of monologues that every other actor you’re up against is also clutching, why not look for something fresh? Not only will it be more engaging for you, but an unexpected monologue will be more likely to impress and delight that important casting director or agent.

How to avoid the expected:

Of course there are no hard and fast rules in auditioning — what works for one actor, casting director, agent, and so on, will likely vary vastly. But in general, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of overdone monologues. If the person you’re auditioning for starts mouthing the words with you, it may prove disheartening.

So perhaps you might check in with the lists of overdone monologues at MonologueAudition.com, before you commit.

Look to your favorite films:

Sometimes actors pick monologues that are overdone because they feel like only a classic scene will prove one’s talents. But pretty much every movie has a scene when someone talks for a minute or two — and that’s a monologue. It’s often an important moment in the story when the character is wanting something desperately from the other character and in the process they reveal their most private feelings.

We often don’t notice monologues as such because they are in the context of conversation. If the conversation is interesting, you’ll not notice that one person has had center stage for a minute or two. Try it! Watch any movie you love, and pay attention to the key scenes. There will likely be a monologue in there!

And never fear, if the interlocutor interjects with an “mm hmm,” or “right on,” you can just accept that kind of encouragement as nonverbal, or simply cut it out completely.

So the first thing to remember is that monologues can be buried in plain sight, and the second thing to remember is that you can often find a good one simply by doing a little editing.

 

Don’t limit yourself to plays and screenplays:

In this persuasive article called Why You Should Have 20 Monologues, Karen Kohlhaas offers some examples of unexpected places to look for monologues — including interviews with famous writers, artists, astronauts, or even everyday people who might be in the news or interviewed over the course of a documentary. But she reminds us, “Make sure you end up with a clear beginning, middle, climax and end.”

Importantly, Kohlhaas urges actors to embrace the challenge. “Looking to someone else to choose material for them puts actors in a passive position — which they are in too often in this business!”

It might take a little more work to look for monologues outside the monologue sites and books, and to do a little editing to make them right, but the process will likely make that monologue meaningful for you and special for your audience.

In what unexpected places have you found your best monologues? Let us know in the comments below! Ready to learn more about acting? Enroll at the New York Film Academy’s Acting School today.

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.