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.

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.

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

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.

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.

 

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.

Our 2018 BAFTA Predictions

While the Oscars are still a few weeks away, the 71st British Academy Film Awards are finally upon us. The ceremony will be hosted by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley on February 18, at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.

The BAFTAs are one of the major award shows of the season. Because so many actresses, actors, and filmmakers come from the United Kingdom, the nominations and winners often overlap with many of the Golden Globe and Oscar categories. However, because the Academy is made up of different voters, sometimes the results can be wildly different.

Here then are the nominees for some of the major categories, along with our best guesses at who will be taking home the BAFTA award bronze mask statue this weekend — though like always, anything can happen.

The BAFTA Award
Leading Actress
Annett Bening – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Our Predicted WINNER: Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

While Margot Robbie is considered the favorite for the Oscar in this category due to her stellar performance in the wildly enjoyable I, Tonya — the story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan isn’t as much of a cultural milestone outside of the United States. This may give the edge to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, star of Lady Bird, a film with near perfect critical acclaim.

Leading Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kayluuya – Get Out
Jamie Bell – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Timothee Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Our Predicted WINNER: Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

It’s hard to bet against Daniel Day-Lewis, especially in a thoroughly British role that may also be his last. But Winston Churchill is about as legendary as you can get in Great Britain, and Oldman’s performance as the Prime Minister in his finest moments has already won several awards.


Supporting Actress

Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Kristin Scott Thomas – Darkest Hour
Laurie Metcalfe – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water
Our Predicted WINNER: Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread

While Day-Lewis may not win, his co-star Lesley Manville certainly has a good shot just for being able to go head-to-head with him in several scenes, matching his intensity and emotional subtlety every time.

Phantom Thread

Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread

Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Hugh Grant – Paddington 2
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

There’s a lot of momentum behind Sam Rockwell this season for his complex performance as a bigoted cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That momentum might be too much for any of the other very talented actors in this category, including co-star Woody Harrelson.


EE Rising Star Award

Daniel Kaluuya
Florence Pugh
Josh O’Connor
Timothee Chalamet
Our Predicted WINNER: Tessa Thompson

Daniel Kaluuya made a huge splash with his haunting starring role in Get Out, but we’ve got to give the edge to Tessa Thompson, the talented American actress who is quickly becoming an A-list movie star thanks to her scene-stealing performance in Thor: Ragnarok.

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson

Editing
Baby Driver – Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Blade Runner 2049 – Joe Walker
The Shape Of Water – Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Jon Gregory
Our Predicted WINNER: Dunkirk – Lee Smith

The editing in all of this year’s nominees was impressive, but Dunkirk’s style was a crucial part of the narrative — telling the evacuation of Dunkirk in three distinct timelines cut back-and-forth. The epic World War II film will probably come away with at least one award this weekend, and odds are it’ll be this one.


Special Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War For The Planet Of The Apes
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water is essentially a classic romance tale, except one of the romantic leads is a computer generated seven-foot fish creature. By making the character not only believable but emotionally relatable, the special effects team for The Shape of Water more than proved they’re worthy of this year’s award.


Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 – Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour – Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk – Hoyte van Hoytema
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Ben Davis
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape Of Water – Dan Laustsen

Blade Runner 2049 is a dark horse in both the Special Effects and Cinematography categories for its fully realized portrayal of a near-future America, but The Shape of Water will probably come ahead in both. The film is a visual marvel in multiple ways, and slides between multiple styles and genres with ease.


Adapted Screenplay

Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin & David Schneider – The Death Of Stalin
Matt Greenhalgh – Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Simon Farnaby & Paul King – Paddington 2
Our Predicted WINNER: James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name

Paddington 2 is a smash success and both Aaron Sorkin and Armando Iannucci are screenwriting legends, but Call Me By Your Name manages to adapt the 2007 novel of the same name in a way that preserves all its raw emotion that audiences can’t help but be affected by.


Original Screenplay

Jordan Peele – Get Out
Steven Rogers – I, Tonya
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape Of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

Gerwig is making history as only the fifth woman nominated for a Best Director Oscar, and her film Lady Bird is easily considered one of the best of the year. It’s had a tougher time at the BAFTAs, so if the overall film gets recognized it’ll have to be here for its remarkable screenplay.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird

Animated Film
Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette
Our Predicted WINNER: Coco

All three films are visual works of art, but it’s hard to bet against Pixar and their soulful, supernatural masterpiece about a 12-year-old boy trapped in the land of the dead.


Documentary

City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro
Icarus
An Inconvenient Sequel
Our Predicted WINNER: Jane

Primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall is a hero and legend to naturists and to her fellow Britons alike. Jane, the 2017 documentary about Goodall, has already picked up several festival and critics awards and will probably get the BAFTA as well.


Outstanding British Film

Darkest Hour
Death Of Stalin
God’s Own Country
Lady Macbeth
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Paddington 2

There might not be anything more loved and more British than Paddington 2, a film with a rare 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. While all of the other nominees could win as well, especially Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards or the Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour, the world really needed an adorable teddy bear in a raincoat —again— and Paddington 2 delivered.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2

Director
Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Guillermo del Toro – The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water leads the BAFTA nominations with twelve total — and it takes a masterful director to bring all of these nominated elements together into a fantastical tour-de-force. Guillermo del Toro already picked up a Golden Globe for his efforts, and while his competition is stiff, he’ll most likely pick up a BAFTA as well — even if the film falls short in other categories.


Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape of Water



It cannot be overstated just how important the Second World War is to modern Britain, and both films in this category dealing with the subject —Dunkirk and Darkest Hour — do so in masterful ways. For different reasons, Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards have connected with and sparked conversation for their audiences. But The Shape of Water has a slight advantage over its competition with its overwhelming amount of nominations this year, as well as its perfectly executed fairy tale with just enough of a twist to make it unique. It doesn’t hurt that avid movie buff Guillermo del Toro also managed to make the film a love letter to cinema. Look for this film to take home the biggest BAFTA of them all.

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

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.

Star Wars Sequels 101: How Do “The Last Jedi” Filmmakers Build On “The Force Awakens?”

[NOTE: This isn’t spoiler heavy, but if you still haven’t seen “The Last Jedi” and you want to go in cold Porg-y, er… turkey, you should bookmark this for later. Also, what are you waiting for? Go see it already!]

The_Last_Jedi_poster

“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”, the most anticipated movie of the year (and then some), has finally come out and now critics and fans can scrutinize each and every individual moment for decades to come. But besides who Force-choked who and which CGI creature will be the hottest new toy, “The Last Jedi” answered a more technical question for film buffs—what did Episode VIII do to build on Episode VII?

While “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” isn’t really an original movie in itself—in fact it’s the (obviously) seventh movie in the series—it did hit a reset button for Star Wars in numerous ways. So it’s easy to see how “The Last Jedi” is a direct sequel to “The Force Awakens” more than it is the eighth movie in the Skywalker Saga.

And sequels normally get a bad rap, though “The Last Jedi” is in good company considering “The Empire Strikes Back”—another middle chapter in a Star Wars trilogy—is considered by many to be the greatest sequel of all time.

So how, from a filmmaking perspective, did “The Last Jedi” build on “The Force Awakens?” Here’s just a few, broad examples:

Production Design

Hollywood titan J.J. Abrams was lauded for his direction in Episode VII—namely because he responded to the artificial looking CGI-heavy prequels by bringing grit and texture back to Star Wars. A full, beat-up Millennium Falcon was built for the movie, which was shot often on location and fully built sets as opposed to large swaths of green screen. This dirtier, rougher version of space is kept in the look of “The Last Jedi”—whether on Luke’s isolated island or the remote planet covered in dusty red salt. If you can feel an image you’re really only seeing, the filmmakers are doing their job.

Film Score

It’s pretty much a given that any new Star Wars film needs to retain the iconic themes John Williams first wrote in the 1970s, but to stand out on their own these movies should offer new melodies we’ll be able to hum to. “The Force Awakens” introduced us to “Rey’s Theme” as well as “Kylo Ren’s Theme”, strong motifs that hold up alongside classics like the “Imperial March” and the “Binary Sunset/Force Theme.” “The Last Jedi” is a little scarce on completely new soundtrack entries—though it does have a motif for new character Rose—but it recalls the best music of “The Force Awakens” throughout, using it in several powerful scenes between Rey and Kylo Ren. As the story progresses so does their relationship, and the mixture of their themes accentuate this narrative.

Screenplay – The Story

One of the criticisms of “The Force Awakens” was that it imitated the original trilogy too much, failing to set itself apart. However, a benefit from this was that it created a broader simple story of heroes vs. villains that “The Last Jedi” could then develop and subvert. Now that the audience is familiar with the characters, screenwriter and director Rian Johnson was more free to complicate the narrative, jumping around between solar systems and even including flashbacks, a cinematic technique that’s rare for the Star Wars series. Like famous sequels before it, including “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Godfather Part II,” a more complicated story gives more thematic weight and allows for more emotional nuance for the audience.

Screenplay – The Characters

The narrative wasn’t the only thing complicated in this sequel. Now that Episode XII allowed us to know the new characters in the series, we can find out more about them in more subtle ways. Rey was a mysterious loner who discovered enormous power in “The Force Awakens”; here, she learns how to grapple with such power and we see how shaped she is by never knowing her parents. Kylo’s internal conflict is made more real and evolves from broad angst to a scared child who thought his uncle was going to kill him in his sleep—that would mess anyone up! Even more minor characters, like Supreme Leader Snoke, benefit from the foundation “The Force Awakens” built. In the previous film, Snoke was quickly painted in a hologram as an ominous villain. In “The Last Jedi,” we see just how overwhelming his power in the Dark Side of the Force can be, as well as his knowledge of and hatred for original trilogy protagonist Luke Skywalker. By inferring more backstory, it places characters like Snoke more firmly in the world and makes their actions more palpable and believable.

Casting

“The Force Awakens” was notable in its diverse casting—bringing more women and minorities to a genre of filmmaking historically dominated by white men. “The Last Jedi” continues this tradition by introducing the characters of Rose & Paige Tico, played by Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran and Vietnamese actress Ngô Thanh Vân, respectively. It also introduces Vice Admiral Holdo, a complex leader of the Resistance played by Academy Award nominated actress Laura Dern. Seeing Laura Dern and the late Carrie Fisher—two women over 50—play powerful leaders making heroic wartime decisions—is something rarely seen in Hollywood blockbusters, but something that needs to be seen more and more if cinema is to remain culturally relevant. If the upcoming, untitled Episode IX wants to retain its worldwide audience, it needs to continue this tradition of casting people and faces from every corner of the globe.

Laura Dern & Carrie Fisher

Laura Dern & Carrie Fisher

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

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

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

Eye Contact

pexels-photo-638791

 

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

Body language

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

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

pexels-photo-433019

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

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

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

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

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

6 Simple Tips for Memorizing Lines

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

1. Write your lines out.

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

2. Run lines with someone.

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

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

3. Quiz yourself.

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

4. Go for a walk or take a nap.

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

5. Use a mnemonic device.

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

6. Learn the cue lines.

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

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

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

 

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

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

Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

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

Keep It Short and Sweet

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

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

Gather Footage from Current Projects

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

Update and Don’t Reuse

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

Market Yourself

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

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

6 Celebrity Pranksters to Inspire Your April Fool’s Day

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

John Stamos

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

Sacha Baron Cohen

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

Mark Zuckerberg

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

George Clooney

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

Brad Pitt

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

Taylor Swift

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

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

Study How to Make Movie Musicals Like “La La Land” at NYFA

As BroadwayWorld.com recently put it: “La La Land isn’t the only vehicle opening the door for a new era of movie musicals. NYFA’s original productions feature Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Hamilton, Aladdin), Tony Award nominee Charlotte d’Amboise (Pippin, A Chorus Line), Jen Perry (Kinky Boots) and others.” With “La La Land” breaking Oscar-nomination records, movie musicals are in the spotlight. And NYFA is the only school in the world where students can learn to perform in professionally produced original movie musicals. It’s not only an option but an explicit opportunity, and we have the trailers (and a write up in The Huffington Post) to prove it. 

Mike Olsen, who chairs NYFA’s musical theatre program, stresses that making movie musicals at NYFA is an incomparable experience: “Imagine being a student of musical theatre and having a team of professionals gather to collaborate with you on the creation of an original movie musical,” he says, “Where the character you portray is written for you, the songs are devised around your unique sound and capability, the movement and dance elements reflect your personal wheelhouse, and the whole endeavor is a highly professional journey that culminates in a fully edited, professionally engineered final half-hour movie musical that gets submitted to festivals across the country.”

Yes, imagine— but don’t just use your imagination. See the results! Here are trailers of movie musicals starring actual NYFA students:

“Landed”

This movie is an official selection at the 15th Annual Garden State Film Festival in Atlantic City, as well as an official selection at the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network.

“Love on Earth 44”

“Radio Head Gear”

“Seeking Alice”

This movie is an official selection at the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network.

“No other training academy has our unique capacity to bring filmmaking and musical theatre together to create such a practical and highly professional educational experience,” says Olsen. “We are on the cutting edge of this and if I were a young musical theatre talent, and while this popularity swells, I would jump at the chance to get this valuable training.”

Today, the critically-acclaimed movie musical everybody’s talking about in Hollywood and beyond is, of course, “La La Land.” The movie made headlines once again after scoring 14 Oscar nominations.

“While this has been percolating recently in our culture, the recent film ‘La La Land’ has tipped the scales,” says Olsen. “Film producers are now putting movie musicals in their top priority file. As America experiences a new renaissance of the movie musical, it is an exceptional piece of good fortune that the musical theatre program at the New York Film Academy is on the cutting edge of training young talent to meet this new demand.”

Olsen isn’t the only one to point out the cultural relevance of movie musicals. New York Times writer Manohla Dargis recently penned a piece about how “La La Land” gives musicals new importance.

At NYFA, students can merge stage talent with the technical training necessary to bring an original musical vision to the big screen.

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“While the primary training focus of the Musical Theater Department remains rooted in the traditional elements of solid stagecraft, NYFA is also uniquely in the lead when it comes to getting movie musical experience,” says Olsen. “Students in the advanced stages of their training enjoy an unprecedented chance to collaborate with the creative process of writing a movie musical, working in a professional studio to lay down vocal tracks, and being on set and on location, acting and performing, in a fully realized movie making experience.”

Picture this: You and your NYFA classmates making the next “La La Land.” It could happen! Apply for our musical theatre program today.

Developing Your Core Acting Technique

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

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

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

1. Relaxation

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

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

2. Sense Memory

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

3. Personal Object

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

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

4. Music/Sound

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

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

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

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