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How Being An Extra Could Be A Step To Becoming Famous

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There are many ways to get into acting, with being an extra offering a simple route that, for some, could provide a path to fame.

For one man from Yorkshire that has proven true, albeit in a rather unusual way. Michael Beechcroft, who is now 84, worked as both a traffic warden and an occasional extra, with one harrowing image that combined the two making him famous while retaining his anonymity.

Mr Beechcroft was pictured on the front of the Radio Times in 1984 as an armed man in a traffic warden’s uniform, but with a bandaged-up face, to represent the BBC docudrama Threads, about a nuclear attack on Sheffield and its aftermath.

Following an appeal, BBC documentary makers have now managed to trace his identity and track him down.

“I didn’t do anything other than the 30 second shot of me with the rifle shouting some swear words,” he said of his brief moment in the sun – or, in this case, the onset of a nuclear winter.

He added: “Afterwards, they took some pictures of me and I went home and didn’t think anything else of it. It was just a day’s work as far as I was concerned.”

For Mr Beechcroft, there was never an ambition to become a famous actor. But if you are taking adult acting lessons, working as an extra may help you take things further. It will familiarise you with the film and TV industry and may give you a chance to interact with actors and producers, bringing everything from handy advice to networking opportunities.

If you happen to be the extra whose face (ideally not covered with makeshift bandages) gets some extra coverage, this could be advantageous, provided you don’t want to slip back into a life of anonymity.

For a production so notorious for its apocalyptic horror, Threads was characterised by its use of relatively unknown actors, although some of them did gain wider fame. For example, Reece Dinsdale, whose character apparently dies in the nuclear blast, later starred in Coronation Street and Life on Mars.

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Nutrition And Hydration Tips For Actors And Acting Students

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When you are training and attending acting classes, there is naturally a lot of focus on artistic expression, voice modulation, breathing techniques, improvisation and so on. However, acting is also a physical skill that puts big demands on the body as well as the mind. 

You might be required to perform for two or three hours with only short breaks in between, often on your feet and maybe with a lot of movement involved. All this requires stamina and energy, which is ultimately dependent on the fuel that you put into your body. 

This might sound obvious, but actors can sometimes struggle with eating well, for various reasons. For a start, performance schedules can disrupt normal eating habits, leaving less time to plan and consume nutritious meals at regular intervals. 

This may mean actors resort to quick fixes such as sugary snacks that provide a quick spike of energy, but do not sustain them throughout the performance, and lead to hunger when it is not possible to stop and refuel. Pre-performance nerves can also diminish the appetite, making it difficult to supply the body and brain with enough energy to perform well. 

 

Timing meals

When you have a big performance or important rehearsal coming up, timing is everything. Understandably, actors do not want to feel uncomfortably full from a big meal when they are on stage or in front of the cameras. On the other hand, eating too far in advance or too little can lead to fatigue and poor concentration that will affect the quality of your performance.

Depending on your individual metabolism, aim to eat a balanced meal between three to four hours before the event. Include lean protein for stamina, fibre to keep you full and whole grain carbohydrates that provide a slow release of energy rather than a surge followed by a crash. 

An example of a good meal might include grilled chicken or fish, leafy greens such as spinach or kale, and sweet potatoes or whole grain brown rice, followed by berries and natural yoghurt sweetened with a little honey. Have some light snacks every couple of hours, such as a banana or a handful of nuts. 

 

Staying hydrated

Moving around and speaking more often than you would naturally can soon cause you to feel dehydrated, particularly under hot studio lights. This can make you feel tired and dizzy, and reduce your energy levels and mental clarity. It can also make your joints feel stiff, making it more difficult to move around gracefully and use your body language to full effect.

Aim to drink in small amounts throughout the day rather than downing a whole pint of water at once, because the body can’t handle sudden intakes of a lot of fluid and you will just end up with a full bladder. 

Consider topping up with electrolyte tablets if you tend to perspire a lot, because we lose essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sodium through our bodily fluids.

Tips For Keeping Your Nerves In Check Before A Performance

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Nerves are an inevitable part of most actor’s experience. This might seem to be surprising to non-actors; after all, it’s a deliberate choice to put yourself out there. For most, the joys and rewards of acting outweigh the bout of pre-performance nerves. 

Experiencing some tension and anxiety before your cue is not a bad thing; it can give your performance energy and immediacy. However, sometimes those backstage nerves can escalate into full-blown stage fright, affecting your ability to do justice to the role, or even to perform at all. 

The fear is very understandable, especially for live performances when you can never completely control how you, your acting partners or the audience will react. Even experienced actors admit to having stage fright, although they will be better armed with techniques for dealing with it. 

Here are some tips and suggestions to keep those dreaded jitters at bay.

Work with your nerves

Learn to view your nervous feelings as a positive attribute: it shows that you are keyed up for the performance and keen to be your best. If you didn’t feel any sense of tense anticipation, it’s a sign that you are not truly engaged with the role and this will be reflected in a lacklustre performance that doesn’t resonate strongly with the audience. 

Give yourself time to prepare

If you know that you usually get anxious before a performance, make sure that you arrive in good time at the venue, and find a quiet place to prepare away from any hustle and bustle. Focus on your breathing and do a few stretches to get the oxygen flowing to your brain and help you feel calm and in charge of your emotions. 

Get into character

If you have put the work in acting classes, learned your lines and know your cues, you have nothing to worry about, so focus on keeping your mind clear so you are ready to step into character. Think about the persona you are going to adopt on stage or in front of the camera, and mentally begin to step in their shoes. 

This will distract you from your own feelings and transfer your thoughts outwards to the character you are portraying. 

Get a sense of perspective

It’s easy to get caught up in your own emotions and feel that you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. However, as important and enriching that acting can be, it’s ultimately a way of bringing entertainment and escapism to the audience. If something goes wrong, no great disaster will happen. 

You are not performing open heart surgery or even driving a bus full of school children; a mistake can easily be corrected. In fact, dealing with a slip-up reflects positively on you as an actor, builds your confidence, and you will probably be quickly forgiven by the audience. They are there to enjoy themselves, and want to see you doing so as well.  

The success or failure of the entire performance does not rest in your hands, so avoid black and white thinking and embrace the moment. 

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Why Expanding Your Vocabulary Can Boost Your Acting Skills

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There are many skills that can help to improve your acting ability. Some of these are well known, such as developing your vocal and emotional range and cultivating your posture and body language. 

These are essential skills for anyone with serious acting ambitions. However, expanding your vocabulary can also be the key to giving you that extra ingredient for acting success. Here’s why it matters and some simple ways you can become a wonder with words.

What a rich vocabulary does for you as an actor

You may assume that an excellent vocabulary is the concern of school students and those in writing-based professions. However, as an actor, language is a primary mode of expression that helps you to understand stories, characters and emotions more deeply and precisely, and to interpret and express them more accurately and convincingly to an audience.

A good vocabulary will increase your range as an actor, because you will be able to understand and embody a wide range of texts and characters. For example, you will have a greater appreciation of historical texts such as Shakespeare, and the confidence to tackle different genres and key roles with a lot of dialogue or monologue. 

Once this understanding becomes more instinctive, you will sound more natural and convincing delivering lines even if they are in somewhat archaic and dense language, as much as Shakespeare’s plays are. You will be able to interpret these plays in a fuller context, boosting your confidence and clarity of meaning and expression.

A deeper appreciation of the subtleties of words will also broaden your understanding of a range of characters, stories and texts, and enable you to deliver a more nuanced performance that really resonates with the audience. This will help to evoke an emotional response and make your performance more powerful, authentic and memorable. 

The wider your vocabulary, the more confident you will be in improvising, which is an important skill for an actor to have. This is the art of reacting spontaneously to a cue in a creative way, rather than just delivering the lines you have learnt. 

Many actors find this a daunting challenge, but it can be essential for those moments when your acting partner doesn’t do what you expected, or you forget your own lines or lose your place in a script. 

It can also produce magical moments of vitality and humour during a performance. This improvisational quality will be much more effective and enjoyable if you have a well-stocked reservoir of words to draw from.  

 

Ways to expand your vocabulary

Reading

Reading widely is the first and foremost path to a more extensive vocabulary. If you are out of the habit of reading regularly, set aside some time to read each day, such as half an hour before you go to bed. Read material that you genuinely enjoy and find interesting, because this way you will naturally be engaged and it won’t feel like a dutiful obligation.

Memoirs, fiction, history, psychology, travel; there’s a huge range of genres so it shouldn’t be difficult to discover a real page-turner. However, be a little fussy about the quality of the writing so you are genuinely challenged rather than just skipping through entry-level prose. Look up any unfamiliar words in a dictionary or app to define the meaning.

Creative writing

Writing is an excellent way to stretch your abilities. Have a go at writing your own plays or scripts, or set yourself a short story challenge. If you struggle to get going, start by keeping a daily journal to get you warmed up, and progress to longer pieces of writing such as blog posts or articles on a particular topic, such as travel or a hobby or interest.

Use a thesaurus to swap out commonly used words for more expressive or appropriate words from time to time. Over time, you will develop a more fluent and original writing style that doesn’t automatically reach for tired and familiar phrases. 

Learn a new word every day

There are plenty of grammar apps and websites that feature a ‘word of the day.’ set yourself an alert and take your time to learn these words, making sure that you understand the context in which they can be used. Practice using the words in your writing or in social situations, so that you can road-test how they work in a more spontaneous situation. 

Some words will sound natural and enhance your communication skills, whereas others might take on a different nuance to what you expected. These conversations with friends or customer service staff will help to improve your improvisation skills.

 

If you are looking for acting classes in Liverpool, please visit our website today

What Should You Include In Your Casting Platform Profile?

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If you have been taking acting lessons and are thinking about applying for your first acting roles, you might be wondering what to include in your CV. Even if you do not yet have any professional experience, It’s important to highlight your training, education, any amateur productions you have worked on, and your particular skill set.

As you start to look for work, you will notice that there are various casting call platforms where you can post your details and apply for auditions. Some of them, such as Spotlight, require you to have a qualification from an accredited course or experience in the form of professional credits in order to sign up. They also ask for an annual fee.

There are some platforms such as The Mandy Network that have tiered levels of access, with a free entry level that anyone can sign up to. However, it is unlikely you will have access to large scale productions and major roles for the free membership. 

This may not be a disadvantage if you have no experience at all, and are just looking for something to get your feet wet and build up confidence. You will find plenty of opportunities for low-key and low pay work, such as presenting short videos for social media or corporate promotionals, student productions or low-budget independent films.

There are many other platforms with varying degrees of functionality and membership requirements. Look for features such as the ability to filter your searches, so that you can check theatre work or screen work depending on your preferences, and so on, and search different regions, age groups, genders, and so on.

Casting platforms usually have email listings so you can opt to be emailed about auditions or roles that are relevant to your profile as soon as they appear. This can save you time and help you to get ahead of the crowd when making an application for auditions. 

So what should you include in your casting platform profile to grab the attention of the audition panel? Generally, you will be asked to upload a headshot, list your skills, experience, and any acting credits. It’s worth taking your time to put up a good show, because it’s a highly competitive field and you want to do yourself justice.

Your headshot is important but there’s no need to spend a fortune on a professional photographer if you are on a limited budget. However, your physical appearance obviously matters to most casting directors because they want to cast someone who looks the part. Therefore you should have a good quality photograph that clearly represents what you look like, rather than a heavily edited image.

Avoid using a ‘social media’ type photo where you are with family, pets or friends. It should be a forward-facing headshot of just you, with nothing distracting in the background. The casting professional will probably print off the photo and shrink it down to a smaller size, so use a well-lit high resolution image.

For best results, take the photograph in natural light and get a friend or family member to take it for you (a selfie is fine if you do not have anyone on hand to take the shot for you). Wear plain clothing with no distracting logos or items of jewellery, and keep your hair and makeup natural and minimal. 

You can smile if you want to, but try to keep your expression relatively neutral so that the casting director doesn’t form any assumptions about what type of roles you might be suitable for. Only use editing tools to crop the photo to frame your face; never be tempted to use filters as this will distort your natural appearance.  

The next most important step is to fill in your ‘about me’ section. This is a brief personal statement that will appear near the top of your profile, so think carefully about what you want to say. If you are currently appearing in a production, you may want to include this information first to demonstrate your latest experience.

If you have little or no experience, then focus on your training, qualifications, or any special skills you have. What makes you unique as a performer? For example, can you carry a tune and have a great singing voice, or are you athletic and able to tackle physical challenges in your stride? Are you great at accents or fluent in a foreign language?

Finally, include other essential or useful information, such as your location, visa or passport status, age (and playing age) and driving licence.

Are you looking for TV acting classes in Manchester? Please visit our website today.

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Top Tips To Make The Best Of Your Drama School Audition

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Demand for places at well regarded drama schools and actors’ workshops is high, so it is important to make sure you are well prepared for your audition. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the opportunity and impress the audition panel.

Choose appropriate material

The drama school may specify the type of material, such as a monologue from a play, or a song if it is for musical theatre. The main point is to show off your abilities as a performer, so if you have free rein pick a piece that really resonates with you. 

If you genuinely understand and connect with the emotional state of the character, this will shine through. However it’s important that you are comfortable and confident in the material and do not feel as though you are overstretching yourself. 

Be prepared

Once you have selected your piece, practice and memorise it until you can recite it back to front. If you are struggling to remember the words, this will detract from your performance.

Practice saying the lines out loud rather than just reading them in your head, and ask family or friends to listen to you rehearse so that you have a stepping stone between the privacy of your house and the semi-public audition room. 

Be yourself

Once you have selected your material and are comfortable with delivering it, don’t worry too much about trying to please the audition panel or try too hard to be what they might be looking for. The panel will want to see your authentic self.

They will not be expecting a seasoned performer, but they want to know where your real talent and potential lies, so don’t be afraid to let your individual light shine. 

Be open to others

The audition panel will be looking for people that they can work with and help to develop as an actor. Be open to the staff and other students that you meet and curious about the culture of the school. If the panel gives you directions, listen and take time to digest what they are saying, and be willing to collaborate with others if you are asked to.

Don’t be thrown by making mistakes

It’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake during your audition. The panel will be looking for your future potential, not a polished performance. What they will be interested in is how you handle the mistake. Try not to get flustered or upset, but correct the mistake or move on. Maybe it will even open up a creative opportunity for you and others.

Make your own judgements

The audition is a two-way process. After all, you will be giving your time and money to the school, so you want to make sure that it is the right fit for you. Consider if the members of your panel are capable of bringing out the best in you, and seem genuinely interested in who you are and what you are capable of.

 

Looking for acting schools in Manchester? Please visit our website today.

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English National Opera Set To Move To Manchester

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The English National Opera (ENO) has chosen Manchester as its new home from a shortlist of five potential cities. The Times reports that the ENO has made the decision to ensure that it will continue to receive funding from Arts Council England. The move is a part of the UK government’s wider levelling up agenda.

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said that he was ‘immensely proud’ that the cultural institution would be moving to the city.

He said: “We’ve worked closely with them to set out a shared vision for a future in our city-region, where they can continue making groundbreaking opera, foster new collaborations with artists across the north and bring their award-winning learning and wellbeing programmes to communities here.”

He added: “Greater Manchester’s world-renowned history of radical art, activism, and affecting change, and the cultural renaissance taking place across our towns and cities, makes it the ideal home for the ENO. We can’t wait to welcome them and see where this new partnership takes us.”

The other cities in the running were Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Nottingham. It is thought Manchester was chosen because it is the biggest city in Europe without a resident opera company. It also has a well-established cultural history with a range of world-class venues and a strong creative economy. Leeds is already home to Opera North. 

The ENO will take until 2029 to fully establish itself in Manchester and move out of its London base. Initially it will not have a fixed location, but put on performances at venues across Greater Manchester, such as the Lowry Arts Centre in Salford. 

Jenny Mollica, the interim chief executive of ENO, said it looked forward to “embarking on a new adventure … as we create a range of operative repertoire at a local, national and international scale”.

The move to Manchester has not been universally welcomed in all quarters of the arts world however. Some commentators are concerned that there will be insufficient audience numbers outside of London, and if performances would be able to attract corporate sponsorship, which is important as state subsidies are continuing to fall.

Opera is a demanding art form that requires not just first rate singing abilities, but also good acting skills. The performers have to interact with other cast members as well as the audience, and tell the story of the opera much in the same way as they would interpret a play or screenplay.

Furthermore, operas are often in a foreign language such as French or Italian, so performers have to understand the text themselves and express it in an emotionally convincing way for the audience. They also need to learn how to work with props and costumes and memorise text just as other stage actors do. 

Therefore, acting schools in Manchester may soon be turning out not just future stars of films, plays, and TV, but also of operatic performances of world class calibre.

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How Do Actors Memorise Their Lines? Here Are Some Top Tips

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If you are considering taking acting classes, there will no doubt be an exciting learning curve ahead of you. Actors need a spectrum of skills, such as the ability to express themselves clearly, to use their voice and body language well to communicate characters and emotions, and the ability to creatively respond to stories and those around them.

However, one fundamental skill that can be most daunting for new actors is the ability to memorise all their lines. It’s crucial to know each line to the point of instant recall no matter how much pressure you are under, otherwise the whole performance will start to come undone.

If you are worrying about remembering the next line all the way through the performance, then this will mean that you are less able to react to what is going on around you and your acting will be less convincing. Therefore, you need to know your lines inside out so you hardly need to think about what you are saying next.

This can seem to be an intimidating proposition. Fortunately, there are plenty of memorisation techniques you can use to help you learn lines effectively. Here are a few tips.

Read aloud

When you first get a script, find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted, and read it aloud rather than in your head. During your scenes, read your partner’s dialogue as well as your own to get used to the pace and rhythm of the words. Do not worry about making mistakes at first, just try to understand the motives behind the words.

Repetition

For most people, repetition is the key to successful memorisation. Take on chunks of dialogue at a time rather than trying to memorise the whole lot in one attempt and repeat each section three or four times, or until you have committed it to memory. Many people find that reading at night just before they go to bed helps them to remember better the next day.

Use imagery

If you are struggling to remember certain key sections, try and link the words or phrases to images in your mind. Pick images that help to tell the story or otherwise convey the meaning of the words, so that they become linked in your brain. This will help you visualise the words rather than simply reach for the signifying language. 

Handwrite the words

Handwriting the words sharpens your memory  because the physical act of writing them down reinforces mental connections. You may need to repeat this process a few times.

Work with a partner

Working with someone to repeat your words back to you heightens your memory and also prepares for the transition from private to public performance. 

 

If you are interested in acting classes in Manchester, please get in touch with us today.

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Leeds International Film Festival Returns for 37th Year

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Leeds is celebrating its Year of Culture during 2023, and that makes the annual Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) even more exciting than ever. This event is celebrating its 37th anniversary, and it will be showcasing the work of some of the most exciting filmmakers in the local area, as well as from across the world. 

For drama students or anyone taking acting classes in Leeds, it’s an ideal opportunity to mix with writers, directors, and fellow actors at a manageable scale. This could help you to make valuable connections if you are looking for your first big break in the film scene, or just give you a better insight into the workings of the industry. 

The LIFF takes place at various venues throughout the city, including Hyde Park Picture House, Howard Assembly Room, Vue in The Light and Everyman Cinema. The quality of the films on offer is second to none, and the event acts as a qualifying festival for prestigious awards such as the BAFTAs and the Academy Awards. 

The Official Selection brings together the most anticipated films of the year and features some exciting new filmmakers. Highlights this year include Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers starring Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, and Justine Trier’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall.

For students of drama, it’s an excellent opportunity to study some of the country’s finest actors as they put in world-class performances. If you have an interest in specific genres of film, there’s bound to be something for you in the Fanomenon offerings, which include films from the fantasy, sci-fi, horror, dark comedy, and animation genres.

Fans of horror are particularly well catered for with the legendary Night of the Dead, an all night session of classic and contemporary horror films. A highlight this year is the Spanish horror/comedy The Coffee Table, which has already won the accolade of Best Film at Manchester’s Grimmfest film festival. 

The LIFF is an important contribution to the UK arts scene, and all the more special because it’s a scene that does tend to be dominated by London, especially when it comes to art house cinema. Leeds is easily accessible to anyone who lives in northern cities such as Manchester, Sheffield, and York. 

It’s an ideal opportunity to see some of the most interesting and cutting-edge work in the world of film, often months before the official opening. There are also curated retrospective showings, helping to bring some of the finest work of the past to a new audience. 

LIFF is an event not to be missed by any student of drama, for the sheer variety and versatility of the work on offer. The website also contains links to useful guides and educational resources for anyone keen to learn more about the creative process of filmmaking. 

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Tips For Breaking Into Acting In The Movies

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Many people embark on acting classes with a dream of breaking into the movies, no matter if they are from Liverpool or Los Angeles. Taking acting lessons is a great place to start, but it’s important to include some specific skills in your training to give you the best chance of success. Here are some top tips.

 

Camera training

There are some differences between acting for live stage performances and acting for screen, so it’s important for aspiring film actors to have some camera training. When looking for a suitable acting school, make sure that the course covers this aspect of your education. You can also practise interacting with a camera at home, even just using your phone. 

This will help you get used to seeing how you look, move, and sound on film, and to always be aware of your actions in relation to the camera lens. The camera can pick up subtle nuances of facial expressions and tone of voice, so you will need to develop good prosody skills and be able to express emotion without exaggeration or hamminess. 

 

Be prepared to start small

It’s unlikely that you will be cast in a big-budget movie straight away, and it’s a better approach to build up your experience in low-key productions. There are plenty of online resources with adverts for auditions in student-led or low-budget projects, for example. 

It may even be useful to accept an entry-level job as a runner on a production. Although you won’t be acting in this role, it’s a foot in the door and a great opportunity to observe how the whole process operates. 

It is also a good chance to network with more experienced and well-connected people, so even if work is unglamorous, it pays to be enthusiastic and show that you are not above hard work and are a good team player. 

 

Build up a network

Many opportunities in film come about through word of mouth, so it’s useful to build up a network of contacts. Attend small film festivals where you have a chance to mix with other actors, directors and creatives. The UK has a thriving independent film scene, with highlights such as the Leeds International Film Festival that takes place in November.

Even attending auditions is a great way to connect with fellow actors and get noticed by useful people in the industry. Therefore you should always try to be friendly and approachable with everyone you meet, even if you feel a little nervous and stressed out by the occasion. 

 

Put a portfolio together

You will need to have a professional portfolio including a headshot, resumé, and a demo reel. Make sure that your headshot is natural and accurately represents your appearance, rather than a heavily made up face and filtered photo. Wear neutral clothing that doesn’t distract from your face, and make sure that it is updated every six months to keep it current.