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Tag Archive | "Students"

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Blog: An actor writes – A plea to film students and short filmmakers from the acting community

Posted on 08 April 2014 by Briony Rawle

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Dear film folk,

I’ve never studied filmmaking. I barely know which end of a camera to do a selfie into. But being an actor who is in need of footage for a showreel, I read A LOT of casting breakdowns online for short films, so I have a fairly good picture of the kinds of films that students and new directors are making at the moment – and I’d like to tell you, most of it makes for a pretty depressing imaginary montage. If I were making it, I’d put the Benny Hill music over it. Or the Funeral March.

So here are a few things that I see all the time that not only make for bad films, but also a lot of irritated actors who swear they’ll never do a short film again and, more widely, a film industry that’s saturated with damaging stereotypes and lazy clichés.

First of all, we need to talk about your women. If I were a Martian whose sole means of understanding the human race was the ‘Opportunities’ section on Casting Call Pro (now THERE’S a great film idea), I would assume that women are a different race from men, that they don’t really matter, and that they are mostly either strippers, prostitutes, nymphomaniacs, girlfriends, broken-hearted victims, mothers or receptionists. They also only exist in relation to men. Take a look at the last script you wrote, or film you directed. Do the women in it exist *fully* when the man isn’t in the picture? Are they just there to tell his story? Does it pass the Bechdel Test (two named female characters, who have a conversation at one point, that isn’t about a man)? I guarantee you that writing/directing properly rounded, complex, flawed female characters who aren’t entirely defined simply through love, sex or relationships, will immediately improve the quality of your films by a factor of Judi Dench.

In fact, why not consider writing a genderless script? That way, you avoid the unconscious draw of the gender clichés and focus instead on who that character really is. Then haul in a load of male and female actors for audition and just choose the one who fits the part best. There is a company who are already doing this called BOX Revolution company and it sounds super cool so keep an eye on it.

Now let’s get into the nitty gritty.

1. Sex scenes. Your film is seven minutes long. Is it absolutely imperative to the story that one of those seven minutes is spent leering over two actors who met each other that morning, pretending to bang with their pants on under the duvet? Do us a favour. See also: nudity. There aren’t many actresses who want footage of their own boobs for their showreels, and your tasteful and artistic might be someone else’s plain nasty.

2. Consider carefully before stipulating about the looks of your characters in the casting brief. Just because Jessica is thin and blonde in your head, and Michael is tall and willowy with round glasses and a rakish grin, do you really want to completely eliminate a brunette actress or a bulky actor who might totally own the role of Jessica or Michael if given the chance? Is Jessica’s hair colour imperative to the story? Does Michael need to be tall and willowy in order to fit through a small gap and then reach a high shelf on page 10 of the script? Do they need to be attractive? Do they need to be white? Don’t limit your film by limiting the types of actors who can apply.

3. If you are using professional actors, you should pay them wherever possible. You are paying for their time, their skills and their training, and if you want respect as a filmmaker, you should respect your actors equally. There are many ways to raise funds for films, so find a way. Student filmmakers will, however, still find professional, fully trained actors who will do films for nothing as long as their expenses are covered, if it promises good material for a showreel. Covering expenses is considered the bare minimum, so it’s as simple as don’t make a film until you can do this at the very least.

4. Wherever possible, avoid writing extras or incidental, one-line roles into your film if you can’t pay your actors. You will get very few applications, and the actor who is eventually cast as ‘Man In Cafe’ or ‘Passerby With Hat’ won’t get anything useful for their showreel, which is the only reason they’re doing the film for no pay. Not even an unemployed actor has time for that.

5. Finally, for the love of Hitchcock, check your spelling on the casting brief. No actor fancies putting their celluloid image in the hands of a filmmaker who can barely string a sentence together, so make sure you know your your from your you’re and have someone check it over before it goes out. You’ll get more applications and a better choice of actors.

You are the future of the film industry, so, on behalf of all actors (and people who watch films), please stop and think before you write that next script. If it’s a no-pay project about a man with a drug-addled, heart-broken stripper girlfriend, who MUST have one leg and a sad, faraway look in her eyes, go back and read this article again.

For more tips on how definitely not to write a film, go to the brilliant blog Casting Call Woe.

Photo by Flickr user Max Chang under a Creative Commons licence.

Briony Rawle

Briony Rawle

Briony studied English Literature at Warwick University, then an MA in acting at Drama Centre London. She is an actor currently living just outside London, and is a founding member of Threepenny Theatre.

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Filskit Blog: EBacc – a step backwards?

Posted on 06 December 2012 by Filskit Theatre

So Michael Rosen is talking about it. Jude Law is talking about it. Even Julian Lloyd Webber, Greyson Perry and Danny Boyle are in on the act. What is it that they are all gossiping about? This is not your average mundane Hollywood gossip, but something that might affect the education of future generations and more importantly the future of art in this country, the EBacc or English Baccalaureate. So we thought we might dust of our soap box, step up and say a few words…

It has long been a criticism of the education system that children are spoon fed – that they are merely taught to regurgitate information for their exams and coursework. Students are not educated enough about the basics in order to effectively use language, numeracy and common sense later on in the workplace. There is never going to be an easy solution to this. I, (Katy from the Filskit ladies) know I am not alone when I say I am not confident with grammar. I rely on spell check and wish I could speak a foreign language.  So it is clear that something needs fixing. However, is this really the fault of the GCSE? Is it worth placing absolute emphasis on these basics at the sacrifice of arts and culture?

Well, I guess you can predict our response… NO! Having worked in and around schools since graduation, and, in fact, our time at school not being that long ago, the immense pressure on students and teachers to achieve high scores at exam time is apparent and it is making what is taught at schools a little skewed. As children are increasingly told that without brilliant grades they will not succeed, they will focus on getting that A or A*, rather than contemplating the fully rounded richness that an education can offer. Needless to say, in order for this education to be well rounded, it needs to be exploring all aspects of learning, including creative learning and the arts.

Personally I am not convinced that the English Baccalaureate will solve any problems. Teachers, not through lack of skill or want, but due to pressure, will continue to teach to the order of the content of an exam, regardless of whether it is called an EBacc or a GCSE. Furthermore, I do not think you can underestimate the damage to those currently taking GCSEs. I have already heard young people question the point of taking GCSEs on the grounds that they are worthless to a government and society that lambasts them. It appears that Gove has a pair of rose tinted glasses that he likes to pop on, and look at how his education has brought him to the successful place that he is now in, as he looks for future generations to replicate it. Well he mustn’t forget those other success stories of people with little or no education.

Now I come to the importance of arts in the EBacc. I understand some people’s cries to keep the arts out, as it cannot be quantified through examination, like science or mathematics. However, I believe there are important reasons why they should be included. Firstly, it is important in the recognition and status of art in Britain’s culture. By sidelining the arts you are stating that they are not integral to an education. People in arts and education have been battling for years for colleagues and parents alike to understand the importance of the arts as subjects in their own rights and not just as a means for exploring other topics.

Secondly, introduction to the arts at a young age can not only encourage innovation and exploration, but can lead many talented people into the arts industry who might otherwise follow alternative careers. The arts can be used to engage children, teenagers and adults in a way that encourages freedom of thought, expression of ideas and a deeper understanding of each other.

Finally, as it stands, artistic subjects are inclusive and participants are involved and encouraged, regardless of grades and exam results: you don’t need an A* in maths to be creative, you need an imagination – something which should be nurtured in people of all backgrounds, irrespective of whether they can afford to enjoy the arts as something extra-curricular. All these are qualities which are not merely desirable in a society, but are absolutely necessary.

Filskit Theatre

Filskit Theatre

Filskit Theatre are an all-female ensemble with a passion for micro-projection. The company, Sarah Gee, Katy Costigan and Victoria Dyson, have been making work together since 2008. As graduates of the European Theatre Arts course at Rose Bruford they were brought together by their shared love of projection and cake.

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Confessions of a CDS Virgin: Tough times are emerging

Posted on 18 November 2012 by Hamlet2B

I’m going home…

…briefly. Returning to the city that spawned me this weekend to bask in the affection of my doting family and the adoration of the Prodigal returned. Well, Mum’s ordering pizza, anyway…

Tough times are emerging. The elements of my first term are converging to form the dreaded behemoth known as ‘ASSESSMENT WEEK’ and I’m feeling the strain. It’s not unbearable – I actually thrive quite well in stressful situations – but at the moment I’m a walking to-do list with rehearsals coming out of my ears (and several other orifices). Meisner continues to work its charm. I’ve had two formal Meisner assessments now and I’m optimistic that my third of four will go well. Maybe. I fear that perhaps readers have misconstrued my criticsm of Meisner in the past and wish to clarify that it’s not the method I am criticising nor the man, just my experience thus far.

I’m flexing creative at the moment. One thing I love about school (moan though I do, on occasion) is the level of creativity we are allowed to exercise. None of my final assessments are choreographed by my tutors and are based solely on what I want to create, which has been a boon. It’s wonderful to be incredibly arch and pretentious AND get credit. So, although in some ways I struggle to articulate exactly what I’m learning in school, I am aware that being given the time to be expressive in a way that would be a luxury in the profession is wonderful.

Lots to do, which means that this weekend at home is going to be an oasis of calm in an otherwise choppy sea. Actually, that’s not true. Aside from all my school work, I now have the added burden of Christmas to deal with – and being skint, this ain’t no joke. I’m now clutching at straws for money and debating selling my organs. Although I do actually have a job, the demands of school and general tiredness mean I’m having to turn down much more work than I can accept, leaving me with a grand total of 20 pounds profit for the month of November. Hope no one’s expecting Dior – even Poundland is starting to look extravagant…

Money is tricky. Being an (im)mature student, I’m used to earning regular cash, so to go from a steady income to zilch is difficult on a day-to-day level. (Who knew skimmed milk for 45p would seem so much? I’ve had to take to a life of crime, stealing mini milk cartons from the coffee shop at school and concealing them about my person. I live in daily terror that I’m going to be rumbled.)

I probably could work a little more than I am, but being so tired all the time from school (‘good exhausted’ as we’re encouraged to call it, which seems akin to ‘acceptable torture’ or ‘reasonable genocide’) I don’t want to take on more shifts to add to this. Seems to me I have a ‘duty’ to my course and to making the most of it  – the last thing I want to do is risk sleeping my way through training.

Oh – I almost forgot to mention. I appear to be in a relationship, dear reader (I’m sure I owe Jane Austen royalties for overuse of this phrase) – not with the aforementioned tall dark stranger of previous blogs, but someone new – a foreign performer, no less. It’s going very well so far, thanks for asking, and I’m smugly happy. *contented sigh*. That being said, part of me is thinking “Great. More Christmas presents to buy…”

Anyways, better sign off. The train home is calling.

Image by 401(K) 2012

Hamlet2B

Hamlet2B is a working actor currently retraining at drama school. He enjoys lentils, the novels of Jane Austen and the colour green.

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Confessions of a CDS Virgin: Ever fallen in love with someone…

Posted on 21 October 2012 by Hamlet2B

…you shouldn’t have fallen in love with? Ugh. I’m an adult, right? Refocusing my acting career at the Unidentified School of Showbiz Dreams? So why am I spending my precious days falling for people I really shouldn’t be? It really is very inconvenient to find yourself attracted to people young enough to be your slightly immature cousin. It’s times like this that being older in this environment really bites.

But enough of the Bridget Jones impersonation. You find me at the start of ‘reading week’, that yearned-for week of alleged rest in which to realign and rejuvenate the aching body and the overtaxed mind. I have responded by going home and throwing my washing on the mercy of my mother. Heaven knows I could do with the break. Big surprise – drama school is intense. Not unmanageably so, but intense nonetheless.

So. End of my first half-term and I’m very happy and settled – in many ways a preferable state to that first flush of…er, love. There are classes I prefer, of course, and certain classes I dread (why hello, Meisner) but on the whole, I seem to be doing well. My whole class have effectively ‘performed’ in front of one another now, revisiting our audition pieces (text and singing) with the benefit of what we’ve learnt so far and I’ve had some great feedback, which is gratifying and something of a ‘phew-you-don’t-think-you’ve-made-a-mistake-in-accepting-me-then’ moment. It’s been nerve-wracking, but in a nurturing way – there’s a care that comes from the tutors and from my fellow students that I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but which is very welcome. It’s also the way I prefer to work – I have never thrived on pressure and being ‘forced’, but like to be coaxed.

Re: Meisner (see above), things may be looking up. The ante has been officially upped and next half-term, we’re moving on from simple circumstance exercises to progressively more important and affecting ones, which should be interesting. Incidentally, I’ve been lucky enough to witness the second years in their Meisner classes, and much hilarity ensues from watching them running up and down the stairs in character in order to enter the scene with appropriate energy à la Uta Hagen.

This past week has also been the first week of performances for the third years. Me and my uber-tall dark(ish) and handsome(ish) non-stranger (the aforementioned inappropriate crush) have been to see a number of shows and I have been mightily impressed. It’s kind of a relief, I guess, to witness the most advanced students in the school and recognise that they are good – excellent, in fact. Another ‘phew’ moment.

Finally, our fortnightly visit to my flat and the colourful characters who reside there. We (I say we, I mean they) threw a party last night which was promptly shut down by the police, who also cut our electricity to prevent it starting up again. I was ashamed to realise that, to me, the most intolerable consequence of this was that I wouldn’t be able to have a cup of tea before bed. Pipe and slippers, anyone?
Image by IYLIAA.

Hamlet2B

Hamlet2B is a working actor currently retraining at drama school. He enjoys lentils, the novels of Jane Austen and the colour green.

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