I have been attending actupnorth for at least three years and I am still learning each term, there is always something new and fresh that is being taught at each session. I find actupnorth to be an exciting experience, from working on screen acting, theatre based scripts and casting workshops. Peter and the rest of the team at actupnorth put a great deal of planning to each one of their sessions. Being a student at actupnorth you are being introduced to lots of different techniques, and you can form a ray of different techniques to which suits you best. Because what works for one person may not work for another! I am a newly qualified drama teacher and for me I am not only progressing in my acting skills but also my teaching skills ☺ Actupnorth is a big learning curve for me and I would encourage as many experienced or none experienced actors to join. Wonderful!
My name is Simon Lennon and I am a former member of the ActUpNorth Liverpool Tuesday class. Just wanted to drop an email as I’m keeping up to date with all of the news and it sounds like all is going brilliantly. I absolutely loved my time with AUN and only left as I moved to London and live here permanently now. Just wanted to say how thankful I was for all of your help; from Erin, David and yourself. I learnt so much and have since filmed a supporting lead in a new 5-part BBC series called ‘Our Girl’ about a female medic in the British army in Afghanistan which airs on Sunday at 9pm (21st September – BBC1). I’m also now in rehearsals for a show at the Almeida in London called ‘Our Town’ and have made sure that the programme states that I trained/worked with AUN.
Hope all is as well as it looks and I’m forever grateful for all of your hard work in helping people improve and hone their skills – benefited me so much, in the time I was with you guys.
It is my third year at Actupnorth. I did not envisage staying this long at the school. I did not realise that it would be continuous learning!. It is fantastic, I am constantly changing and developing my acting skills. From where I began to the level I am at now is poles apart!
The Teachers encourage you from the start to “Get over yourself!” not in the terms of having a big ego but in the sense that yes you look like that on camera, yes you sound like that and that is essentially the true you showing up on the TV screen. Once you have grasped this fact then you can start to learn to hone your skills.
The weekly classes I have been part of is an encouraging in environment where people listen to your work, provide constructive feedback and support you when you may struggle with a certain scene or technique. Sometimes you have to get it wrong to get it right, it is a learning process and when you do finally nail it the sense of achievement is up lifting.
I have been lucky since I began at Actupnorth I have starred in Theatre at the R.N.C.M, The Lass O Gowrie, various short films and regularly featured on Key 103 with my self devised comedy characters. I have been seen for TV commercials and filmed a TV pilot. On Thursday last week I acted in my first interactive theatre show at the Contact Theatre in Manchester. I also have my first standup gig at the Comedy Balloon at the Ape & Apple in two weeks.
Actupnorth provides you will the tools to get the work. From training you to a high standard, audition techniques, current TV scripts, mock castings and meeting renowned casting directors. It is up to you to get out what you put in as you are your product so you have to market yourself but actupnorth with help you with the rest.
So if you are serious about taking your first step into acting or refresh your skills then I would highly recommend ActUpNorth.
Having worked in the industry for almost 18 years I felt that I had achieved quite a lot in my career as an actress. It was only when I discovered ActUpNorth that I realised there was so much more to honing your skills. You learn something new, every week, and not just about yourself, but about what acting really is and how to apply different techniques to each and every scene you approach, to bringing that scene to life in a natural and realistic way.
I have had my fair share of castings and auditions to attend,some successful others not, and each time I took in with me what I thought was the best and most appropriate way to approach an audition. However, having being taught skills in each class on how to closely analyse a script, from the‘objectives’, to ‘the moment before’ even down to how you ‘action’ a scene, I believe these are techniques that have successfully helped me in my more recent acting achievements.
Having secured an audition for Coronation Street, when my agent gave me the breakdown of the character I was auditioning for, I immediately looked at the technique of using the scene objective to enable youto play out your character. I also used this once I had received the script on arrival at my audition, breaking it down into how I would play that objective.When my script with the full scenes arrived in the post, I analysed it using the ‘action’ technique as to how you are driven to perform each line and how ‘the moment before’ allows you to live that part. This was invaluable to me whilst filming as you have to be in the moment when on set as you are working against camera angles, lighting, sound etc and to deadlines in having to work each scene back to back with only little rehearsal time.
One of the key things we do each week in class is working our scripts and performances on camera. Before I joined ActUpNorth I had no knowledge of how I came across on camera in castings/auditions and performances etc as you don’t get to see that once you have been in front of a casting director and also I am a performer who never likes to see myself on screen.However ActUpNorth has taught me so much about my facial expressions, reactions etc that when I was filming CoronationStreet, I felt confident in knowing how my expressions would play out on the screen and therefore knew what to avoid doing and so on.
For two hours in an evening every Monday working alongside people who are not only driven such as myself, but are supportive in helping you to be the best actor you can be, your knowledge is improved enormously and you grow in confidence week by week.
The tutor (Andy), not only makes the class a fun and relaxed place to learn, but in addition to this you are studying in a professional environment whereby you are given constructive criticism after each and every performance. Which I find only adds to your growth as an actor as it allows you to facilitate your own learning.
Whether you are a complete novice with a hidden talent, or are returning thespian who has taken time out, ActUpNorth has something to offer you, which can take you along that ever so unpredictable journey as an actor, with confidence and the reassurance that you are one step closer to fulfilling your acting career.
There is an old saying that there is safety in numbers well that’s not true if your class at ActUpNorth is running a workshop on group scripts!
On initial reading the script handed out on arrival looked easy peasy, a handful of lines scattered over a 3 page scene playing a TV personality Doctor with 3 flirty women! Boy were we in for a shock, the normally straightforward task in a one to one scene of sorting out an objective and analysing where the changes of tactics might be was suddenly a chaotic task as our group read it through desperately trying to work out who or what our character was about. Those early readings were painfully slow and wooden as we all jostled for position and moved around far too much trying to make our part work. We then progressed to us all missing the occasional line and butting in too early as we stopped listening or were too busy reacting to the wrong person. Mmmmm this is tricky!
At last some organisation, Lesley took control and started directing us where and when to stand and sit, phew! Now it’s coming together a bit but still not quite working. Rehearsal time over now for the acid test.
Luckily for us several groups were “on stage” before us so we benefitted from Lee’s critique of others attempts at running this scene from his favourite play, it became apparent that the scene should be all about Catherine (Kelly’s character) so with that in mind it was our turn next.
With a little luck and Lee’s insight we went for it! To our collective surprise it went rather well and for once better than our rehearsal with us all being pretty much in the moment as Catherine teetered around offering drink, drugs and despair to anyone who’d accept them whilst we reacted and tried to remain planted whilst Kelly added her touch of chaos to the scene. Time for our critique! Lee offered his usual forthright review of our performances; overall pretty good, the most pertinent point being we could have all pushed our performances bigger! Always an issue when a scene involves drunkenness and highly emotional content how big should you go?
What did we learn? Well I now appreciate that three or four lines per page in a chaotic group scene is way more difficult than it first appears, you have to be constantly listening and reacting to all that’s going on around to prevent it from being situational awareness overload! Good fun though.
PREVIOUS BLOG… ‘CASTING SECRETS’
Sue Jones Casting Director visited the Leeds classes on the 3 August to run what we thought would be “another mock casting” session which meant many people were pretty nervous in the waiting area!
Boy were we in for a surprise after initial down to earth introductions we were informed that rather than run it like a formal casting Sue was going to give us a lesson on what Directors/Casting Directors want and perhaps more importantly don’t want to see from an actor.
Thankfully we weren’t treated to the usual “be on time” and “be prepared” advice that is obvious for any interview instead Sue let us in on little secrets like Directors often don’t like directing as they are shy or nervous and that they just want to see the actor give them a good performance that needs little if no intervention from them. Also she couldn’t stress enough how much she wanted actors to come across as relaxed and confident in an audition, now this is a big ask from many of us new and aspiring actors, but it seems is an essential skill we need if we are to put nervous Directors at ease!
For the next part of the lesson we were each scrutinised and cast in half a dozen well used scripts Sue had brought along which had been carefully selected to provide us with traps and pitfalls that many auditionees fall into. We had 15 minutes to read the scripts alone and prepare, now for those that struggle to learn lines we were informed that we would be reading them, a skill in itself!
After our short preparation we were straight into our readings, if people fell into the prepared traps Sue quickly and politely pointed it out and gave us steps to avoid such calamities, if people read well then after any notes or direction the pitfalls of that script were again pointed out and tools offered to avoid them in future auditions.
A final few minutes of questions and answers followed before our all too brief a session with Sue was over, time flies when you’re having fun!
Tuesday 11th June’s Liverpool class was about portraying fear convincingly. Organic fear. Feeling it in your heart and bones, using your imagination to generate an icy hand squeezing your internal organs. How did we get on? Well it’s always interesting to me to see how different actors take the same text and give a different performance. I think for my own part I fell into the trap of playing the emotion instead of the objective, and having read and re-read the hand-out will hopefully dodge that bullet next time round.
I worked in a three with Jess Corcoran and the now departed Jade Easom-Samuels (not “dear departed”, just no longer a classmate) and I think we worked well. It’s difficult in a scene like this, I think, to get the starting level right. If you’re too scared at the start, you have nowhere to go that naturally follows the writer’s intent. If you start too calm, the stakes appear too low. Finding the right starting point for your character’s scene arc, especially in an emotionally-charged scene, is really important to me both as a writer and an actor. I’m not saying I always get it right – far from it, I’d imagine – but I’m aware of it. Creating fear – real soul-gripping fear – is more difficult for me than portraying something like love or hate. I’ve loved and hated, I’ve never really feared, not in a “this is it, survival time” kind of way, I think partly because scary situations often seem scarier afterward and somehow less real at the time. I definitely played “this is how I’d be if I were scared” rather than “I’m genuinely in need of replacement trousers”, so I know next time I’ll need to firm up my objective and play that.
You always hear actors and directors talking about performers who have ‘good chemistry’. It seems odd for artists to relate to their craft using scientific terminology, especially because I had always understood that chemistry between actors was not something that could be manufactured.
I now stand corrected.
Although everyone at ActUpNorth get along famously we all have a strong sense of personal space. This can be an obstacle for any actor as many scripts call for more than hand holding. I am generally comfortable with my own sense of personal space but I have always had this secret panic in my soul; I worried that my comfortable demeanour would evaporate in the face of the words ‘THEY KISS PASSIONATELY’ cropping up in a script.
In my head I had this nightmare scenario where I discover that whoever I had to get up close and personal with would not be my ‘type’; that they would have bad breath or just seem repulsive as a person.
That is worst case scenario though, more generally I had issues with physicality. A hug is usually a comfortable, natural occurrence. However, when you have to force dialogue and blocking in there it becomes this spanner in the works and suddenly it’s like you’re hugging a drunk at a family barbecue. It’s awkward and embarrassing.
Chemistry can be taught using a number of techniques that during the course of the class quickly dissolved those mental and physical barriers between performers. Within two hours we went from timidly patting each other on the shoulder to embracing each other like we were lifelong friends and lovers. It might sound strange out of context but as a performer you have to be able to display an emotional investment in the relationships you portray. No one watching you will believe your performance if you lack the courage of your convictions.
Also recently we were treated to a lively and informative workshop hosted by the delightful and talented Judy Holt. The subject was how to make the most of an audition opportunity.
Part of your job as an actor, predictably, involves auditions. Anyone who has ever been to one will tell you they can be truly terrifying. Even seasoned professionals claim it is something you never get used to. They are scary in the same way some people find rollercoasters or skydiving scary; it is an adrenaline rush. But sometimes those nerves can get the better of your performance and cloud your judgement. It makes you fumble your lines and forget to do simple things like listen to the other actors in your scene. The two hours with Judy equipped us with some useful tools to help combat the nerves as well as maximise your potential during that precious little time before you step into the room with the casting director.
Recently many of our fellow actors have been getting a lot of work in television and on stage. Others are in the midst of improving their CV’s and their show reels/headshots (we’re lucky to have a professional photographer in our midst in the form of Corrie Shelley.) I am looking forward to some upcoming auditions for short films and possibly even filming later on this year (working titles, dates still TBC.)
I have been at ActUpNorth for little over a year now and it is one of the best things I have ever done. Even if you class yourself as a performer ‘of a nervous disposition’ I would definitely urge you to give us a try. Acting is not just an art; it is a craft and the classes balance artistic integrity with practicality and technique.
Since graduating from East 15 Acting School in 2006, the best piece of advice I was given was to ‘keep training, keep learning, keep doing!’ At that point, I wasn’t really aware of what they meant by this.
After moving back up to my home in the north west in February 2011, I got myself a new agent, attended numerous castings, some with success, and generally pushed myself to the best of my ability. Then it all became a little stale. The castings got fewer, my skills were admittedly getting a little rusty and I was getting severely disheartened.
It was at this point that I came across a company called Act Up North. I was unsure of whether to join because I naively thought that I had done all of my training at drama school. Now 8 months on, I can honestly say that it has been the greatest decision of my acting career so far.
Each week we are met with new, current and fresh television scripts. These scripts are attacked differently every week and performed, some weeks infront of the lens, refreshing camera technique. Act Up North provide honest, constructive feedback to your performances EVERY week. There are opportunities to work with new people, make new friends and try new approaches to acting. Throughout the term, you have the opportunity to work with guest tutors, who are currently working in the industry, passing on invaluable knowledge. At the end of each term there is a mock casting with a casting director in which you have the opportunity to gain exposure by performing your chosen piece/script, along with asking any questions which you may have to help with your journey in the industry. All of the tutors at Act Up North are trained actors themselves. They know where you are coming from and assist you in progressing your skills to where you want to get to!
Since joining Act Up North I can honestly say that I now know what East 15 Acting School meant by ‘keep training, keep learning, keep doing! As an actor, you NEVER stop learning! Nor should you stop doing. You should take every opportunity you can to better yourself and progress to where you want to be. It has given me a new found passion to continue with the industry and has reminded me of all the reasons why I got involved in the first place! I can say that I am now confident in approaching a script again and pushing myself with new ideas in delivering it. When I walk into that casting room again I know that I will leave in the knowledge that I have done my very best and will continue to learn with the aid of my Act Up North weekly classes keeping my skills fresh!
And for a 2 hour weekly session, it’s only £54 a month – a bargain! Get involved and join Act Up North!
Some of you may have heard of the Lana Turner Myth. It’s based on the story about a young girl who was discovered in Hollywood whilstsimply going about her daily business. And what happened next? She went on to become a “Star”. This ideal of simply waltzing into Hollywood and being“Discovered” is one that most actors will have thought of. Perhaps in manycases even believe in. Is it possible? Sure, anything’s possible. However, the illusion of this great industry is such that we often forget to realize what itreally takes to launch a successful career. Not just in acting, but in any discipline. If you’re familiar with Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, it says thatthat is the approximate amount of time you need to do something in order tobecome an “expert” in it. Look at the greats, they’ve all spent massive amountsof time pursuing and practicing their craft so that they could reach that level. And the one’s that stuck it out got their rewards.
Now, the point of all this comes from a post that Peter puton Facebook to do with Hollywood networking weeks. As someone who has gone onone of these weeks (4 years ago) and is in the process of getting a US visa, Ithought it would be worth sharing my experiences. First and foremost, I canonly relate to the specific company I went with as I do know that some othershave cropped up recently. Was I slightly sceptical before going? You bet! It’sa sizeable investment to go on one of these trips. Do I regret it? Not for onesecond, because I didn’t go in with any expectations of getting signed, landinga job or becoming the next big sensation over night. That was never promised. Whatwe got was an incredible experience. We met a lot of top agents, castingdirectors and coaches. I made some great friends who I am in contact with tothis day. And the organizer himself is someone who I consider a friend and hasbeen a great help to me in consulting me on the visa process. Some people evendid get offered representation. One girl turned down an offer from a hugeagency. Two others got offered management representation. However, here’s the caveat to that. They were only going to get on the books if they had working papers.
And that’s the main point. No papers means no representation and no job. The one thing the networking week really hits home is that this isa business. More so in LA than anywhere else. And if you’re not legal, you’renot going to be in business. So, please do go and enjoy the experience of anetworking week. But understand that your main route to working there is tohave the visa to let you do so. Build your career up and conquer your ownbackyard. Perfect an American accent as well, as that was a huge thing thatkept getting repeated to us. Work towards getting the right documents. Then goto LA and give it your best shot. You may not get plucked out of obscurity likeLana Turner. But by then you’ll likely have spent so much time on your craft that you’ll be ready when the business comes calling.