actors

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

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

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.

Why Do So Many Actors Turn to Producing?

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

The joys of wearing many hats

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

Keep the Jobs Coming

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

Producing Diversity

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

Busting Out of Type

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

Making a Difference

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

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

5 Tips for Creating Character Relationships

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

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

1. Put Your Objective in Context

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

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

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

2. Prepare to be Moved

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

3. Use Your Imagination

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

4. Get Involved

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

5. Pay attention

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

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

Inspirational Quotes From Filmmakers and Actors to Get You Jazzed for the New Year

As the year comes to a close, it’s normal to experience a certain amount of sadness, regret, and plain old exhaustion. As a film student, you may have fallen short of more than a few personal expectations that have left you feeling a little glum. Did you not finish your script in time? Mess up a crucial shot while filming? Project your film when it could’ve been more meticulously edited?

Chin up. No matter how much talent, creativity, and discipline you possess, you’re still human. Maybe 2016 was not all you hoped it would be, but there are all kinds of reasons why you may not have accomplished all that you hoped you would. And, honestly, at least a couple were beyond your control. And one year? Well, that’s kind of an arbitrary deadline. Life doesn’t fit neatly into calendars, even though Hollywood happy endings may sometimes trick us into buying the “just in time” trope…especially in those darn Christmas blockbusters and made-for-TV specials.

Here are inspirational quotes from filmmakers and actors to infuse you with the positivity you need. May they give you some of the strength you need to succeed in your filmmaking endeavors in 2017!

1. “Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee.” -James Cameron

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2. “If you want to be a writer, then write.” –I. Marlene King

3. “Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.” –Denzel Washington

4. “When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.” –Steven Spielberg

5. “To make a film is easy; to make a good film is war. To make a very good film is a miracle.” -Alejandro González Iñárritu

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6. “If you can see yourself doing anything else and being happy, by all means, go and do it. But if you cannot, if you cannot see yourself doing anything else, then you should go for it and not let anybody tell you no.” –Kristin Chenoweth

7. “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” –Kathryn Bigelow

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8. “It’s cool to be a nerd. There’s a general understanding that smartphones didn’t come from jocks. The digital age was foreseen by a group of short-sleeved, button-downed, white-shirted guys and their female equivalents designing the very stuff that’s now ubiquitous.” –J.J. Abrams

9. “The biggest thing I have realized was that you have to choose your collaborators very carefully, and that not everybody can like you. The process of filmmaking is so difficult, there’s no point in doing it unless you can do it the way you want.” –Peter Capaldi

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10. “Filmmaking a chance to live many lifetimes.” –Robert Altman

11. “’May the Force by with you’ is charming, but it’s not important. What’s important is that you become the Force—for yourself and perhaps for other people.” –Harrison Ford

12. “Filmmakers are going to make films, just like painters are going to paint.” –Richard Linklater

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13. “I’ve always approached things with hunger and just enough fear. Plenty of confidence, you know, but just enough fear to work extra hard. Paralyzing fear does nothing, but the kind of fear that makes you nervous enough to really be aware and focused? I like that kind of fear.” –Queen Latifah

What are your favorite inspiring quotes for the New Year? Let us know in the comments below!

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

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

Elvis Presley. Clint Eastwood. Charlton Heston.

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

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

1. Leonard Nimoy

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Rank: Sergeant

Years Served: 1953-1955

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

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

2. James Earl Jones

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Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served: 1953-1955

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

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

3. Morgan Freeman

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Rank: Airman 1st Class

Years Served: 1955-1959

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

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

4. Bea Arthur

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Rank: Staff Sergeant

Years Served: 1943-1945

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

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

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

6. Jimmy Stewart

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Rank: Brigadier General

Years Served: 1941-1968

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

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

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

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

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

How to Reach for Acting Roles That Are Right for You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the role exciting to you?

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

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

How is the pay?

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

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

Is the script any good?

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

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

Is the role something you want to be known for?

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

Is it an acting role you’ll learn from?

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

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

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

Actors: When to Voice an Opinion

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

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

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

Show, Don’t Tell

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

Make Sure You’re Informed

 

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

 

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

It’s All in the Timing

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

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

Pay Attention to the Approach

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

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

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

Weight the Risk vs Benefit

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

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