Acting for Film workshop
23 Feb 2017
Acting for Film workshop
23 Feb 2017
The year started with a buzz of excitement humming around the SAE Melbourne campus, when 25 actors from 16th Street Actors Studio, accompanied by their mentor/teacher and well-known Australian actor, Catherine McClements, facilitated a three-day-long 'Acting for Film' workshop from 6-8th February.
Catherine's television credentials speak volumes about her many years of experience in the industry. Along with a number of well-known actors that included Baz Luhrmann, Catherine set up an experimental theatre ensemble in 1988 called Six Years Old who worked on expanding the play Strictly Ballroom that had been first produced in their second year at NIDA. Best known for her Logie Award winning role as Rachel Goldstein in the police-drama Water Rats, Catherine went on to star in a recurring guest role on The Secret Life of Us, for which she won an AFI Award. Catherine has also appeared in several other noted TV series such as Rush, Tangle, Wentworth, The Beautiful Lie and Rake.
SAE film student Eliza May Hinds receiving directing advice from Australian actress, Catherine McClements
This month Catherine traded in her actor's hat to facilitate an intensive workshop for 12 film students in their last two trimesters of study. Their task was to work with the 16th Street Studio actors over a three-day period to deliver a short film based on scenes from a play by David Greig called The Events. Catherine was no stranger to the play having performed in its 2016 run at Belvoir Theatre in Sydney. With the assistance of Sean Cousins, film lecturer at SAE Melbourne, Catherine and Sean developed a workshop that would allow students to rotate crew roles, and experience the responsibilities of each role first-hand.
When Catherine was asked what advice she would pass on to aspiring filmmakers who were new to working with actors, she said "Don't tell the actors what to feel or what you want them to feel. Instead engage their hearts and minds through the story and specifics of their interactions with the other characters in the scene."
SAE film lecturer Sean Cousins said one of the biggest challenges faced by students is finding actors for their films who are capable of giving great performances, while being willing to participate in a relatively small production for a low fee.
"By building a strong relationship with 16th Street Actors Studio we're actually solving one of the key problems for student filmmakers. The workshop provided students entering Trimester 5 & 6 a chance to observe actors, build working relationships, and clarify what it is they are looking for in terms of casting their own capstone films."
"The three-day workshop was a great showcase of SAE's film department resources, and a testament to the commitment and talent of its students," said Sean.
We had a chat to Eliza May Hinds, an SAE Film student who was involved in the 'Acting for Film' workshop about her experience over the three days.
Can you describe your experience being involved in Catherine's workshop?
It's been really informative and super interesting to work with such a renowned and skilled actor such as Catherine, and the other actors who are studying and wanting to get into their field. Their eagerness and the way they are so malleable as actors is really exciting.
What particular area of the workshop did you find to be the most useful?
When you're in the director's role you've got to make decisions on the spot. You're doing rehearsals one moment, then the next you're thrown into directing the scene. You have to bring the camera in and it changes everything. It changes the way you’ve blocked the scene and had it played out when you were rehearsing with the actors.
What new skills did you learn?
Probably doing gaffing working with lights as the lighting technician. The depth you can get with lighting is surprising. I'm usually in the director, producer or production designer roles, so getting the chance to tweak the lighting to make a scene look beautiful was a new skill I acquired. For me, the workshop was really life affirming. After coming back from holidays and being involved in this, one day of rehearsals then two days of filming, I felt like “yeah ok, I'm pretty happy doing this as a career."
What takeaways from the workshop would you like to share with film students from other SAE campuses?
It was an amazing opportunity! I often say no to these kinds of things, and I'm really glad that I didn't this time. Working with both Catherine and Sean has been so enriching. My advice is to get involved! I'm taking back a whole range of new skills and I’m more confident and experienced having been a part of this workshop.
The feedback received from the 16th Street actors was just as positive. Eliza Johnson, a student from 16th Street Actors Studio, said her experience was an amazing opportunity.
"I think for a lot of us this has been our first time on a film set, so it has been a great learning curve for us all. The SAE film crew were students as well, and some of them hadn’t worked with actors before, so it was a great learning curve for everyone involved."
"It really seemed like a professional environment in terms of working with a crew. As actors we always worry about our side being the performance, but there's a lot of technical marks which we haven't had to navigate around before. The equipment at SAE is also incredible! They have a fantastic space and we were very grateful for the experience."
SAE film lecturer Sean Cousins finished off by saying that this sort of experience filters out into the industry. "It builds confidence among actors that our films at SAE are worth getting involved in. It shows to the industry that our film graduates have competency in areas like cinematography, gaffing and gripping, which in turn builds the reputation of the school as a destination for aspiring film professionals and the skills our graduates acquire that enable them to hit the ground running in the industry."