I took part in the September session of Method with Mike. Again, some familiar and new faces among the students and my agent, Lisa Meuser, sat in on the session. Mike devoted most of the session to Method exercises designed to help the actor develop sense memory. He led the class in the coffee cup exercise. My experience as an actor informs me of the importance of ridding yourself of distractions when you perform. Sadly, throughout the coffee cup exercise, try as I might, I could not stop the Four sea interludes from the opera Peter Grimes playing in my head. Ah, well, practice makes perfect.
What I like about the Method with Mike sessions is the informality. It is a good space for novice and seasoned actors to loosen up and work on acting techniques. I appreciate Mike's honesty too. You will not hone your craft unless you are open to correction and criticism. The session concluded with an improv between a classmate and me, a new friend named Dimitri Abdul Nour, a fine and upcoming young actor. Mike praised my progress in the classes and told me to keep it up.
After several auditions and no callbacks, I landed my first screen role without having to audition. Instead, a director needed an actor to step in to replace someone who dropped out shortly before the shooting began. A cast member and another actor I know from my training at the Screen Acting Academy mentioned me to the director as a potential replacement in the role. I was asked to contact the director if I was interested in participating. I sent her a message expressing my interest in the role; she replied, sending a copy of the screenplay. I looked over the script and wrote back that I was interested. The part was in my character type, a just and wise paterfamilias. I asked where and when I should turn out for the shoot. Filming was scheduled and took place on Friday evening, September 16th. I had three days to get the lines down.
It was my first screen role, so I felt a mix of anticipation and jitters. However, I was confident in my experience as a stage actor and my training in screen acting techniques. It was not the first time a director asked me to step in to take over a role in a pinch. I wanted to give it my best and do a good job. I recalled what my grade seven industrial arts teacher, Mr. Balls, told the class: "there's always room for improvement." I applied what I learned about acting for the camera in my screen acting classes. The director told me my work was good, and we completed the shoot in an appreciable number of takes. The film will have its first screening at the next Kino Ottawa event on September 28th.
I look forward to attending the event and seeing how the finished product is received.
I took part in my first Method with Mike session recently. The venue was small and made me think of the classroom where I studied dramatic arts in high school. It was a small group of people, actors and actresses represented by the Meus Talent Agency. Our instructor, Mike, is a pleasant man. He got down to business; he stressed the method as he learned it at the Actors Studio in Los Angeles. He shared numerous anecdotes about his experience as a stage and screen actor in Toronto and Los Angeles. The session was informal; it did not have the structure of the classes I took at the Screen Acting Academy.
His recollection of how he started in the entertainment industry resonated with me. He began at Ottawa U as a drama major. However, he became disillusioned when he found it was about academics, not acting technique. Similarly, I had the same experience when I enrolled at Queen's University as a drama major in 1980. I arrived at Queen's thinking I would train as an actor, only to find it was strictly textbooks, term papers and exams. I think Mike and I got lousy guidance in high school. My guidance counsellor and drama teachers never mentioned theatre school or a Bachelor of Fine Arts program for an aspiring actor. As a result, he left Ottawa U after the first year. I stayed at Queen's, where I got a degree in sociology.
He returned to acting sooner than I when he left Ottawa for Toronto to seek his fortune. He moved to Los Angeles eventually and worked as a background performer and actor in feature films. He experienced the casting couch with a creepy talent agent; he recounted his experience as a warning to the class to beware as we make our way as performers. He survived hard times when he was out of work. His experiences had a familiar ring. I recall the summer of 1988 when I made my way through the ByWard Market during cocktail hour to line up at the Shepherds of Good Hope soup kitchen for a stale baloney sandwich and a watery cup of tea.
The session taught me the importance of ridding yourself of tension before performing. First, Mike spoke at length about the pitfalls of mannerisms and tics. Yes, I know too well about that; when stage fright takes hold, I flail with my hands, swallow and look down. Next, he discussed what I learned in the Screen Acting Academy about acting for the camera. The camera picks up every little movement; jerky movements and leaning make you out of focus. He also said we should take improv classes. I think the monthly sessions with Mike will help me keep a lid on the stage fright. That said, I will continue the classes with the Screen Acting Academy. I hope the Screen Acting Academy will offer its improv classes in the future.
My last stage role was Charlie Cheswick in the Ottawa Little Theatre's production of One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Charlie was a challenging character to inhabit. It took a deep level of concentration and the ability to unleash my imagination to be Charlie. Charlie was a voyeur; he started peering through windows to watch women undress as a child. As he matured, he made crude sexual advances toward women and voyeurism. Charlie did not fit into society, so much so that he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. Charlie accepted the dull routines of the institution and the medication in exchange for a roof over his head and three meals a day. Charlie was creepy around women, but the reality was he never expected the women he approached to return his interest. When a nurse in the hospital got a little coy with him, he was panic-stricken. Charlie was all bluff and bluster when it came to chasing women. Despite his flaws, Charlie expressed his humanity by befriending and looking out for another patient. Martini was a war veteran with PTSD; he relived his wartime experiences through hallucinations. Charlie took care of him and calmed him when he had an episode. Charlie leered at women, but he loved Martini.
The production got good notices from the critics, who mentioned the "strong supporting cast" in their reviews. However, what I remember most about my performance is the evening after a show when a woman in the audience struck up a conversation with me. We chatted a few minutes about the play when she exclaimed, "You're nothing like the character!" It might have been my imagination, but I detected a note of disappointment in her tone. Well, no, I am not a voyeur, and no, I do not make crude sexual advances toward women.
Furthermore, I am happily married to my husband, Mika; we will celebrate twenty-four years together this week. Nevertheless, it was pleasing to hear that I gave a convincing performance as Charlie, someone who is a world apart from the man I am. It gives me the confidence I need as an actor to take on a character and bring him to life on stage and screen.
I attended the July Kino Screening for Kino Ottawa last night. It was my first time attending the monthly event. I am new to the filmmaking culture in Ottawa, and this was my first opportunity outside of training with the Screen Acting Academy to meet others involved in the community. The host for the screening was Vincent Valentino, an actor and filmmaker who submitted his short film "The Upsidedown Man" for the screening. His film is a progression of dream-like sequences, a self-portrait with an introspective voiceover as he reflects on life and love with his girlfriend, Sara Chivot.
In addition, I met Lisa Meuser, my agent, for the first time in person. I was there to see the short film "Trigger;" Lisa wrote the screenplay, and Petra Watzlawik-Li is among the cast. I went to South Carleton High School with Petra in the latter half of the 1970s. Petra and I are on the list of actors Lisa represents. The film is a moving tale of the petty dispute between neighbours that ends in the tragic death of a woman with mental illness at the hands of the police. Petra and the rest of the cast gave solid performances.
Before the screening started, I sat at a table with Tyler Pope, an actor and videographer. While he sipped his bottle of Budweiser and I nursed my glass of ginger ale, we had a pleasing discussion about his experience as an actor and filmmaker and my recent transition from stage acting into screen acting. Tyler appeared in one of the films shown, "The Floral Project," and worked behind the camera in another of the films we viewed. He was duly praised by the appreciative audience. He is a multitalented young man.
In all, the films screened last night ran the gamut from comedy, drama and dramedy. While some films were firmly dramatic or comic, some had elements of both. It made me think of a quotation from Carol Burnett's mother, who sardonically remarked that "comedy is tragedy with timing." The short films screened at the July Kino Screening last night highlighted the creativity and imagination of all those who participated in their production. A discussion between Vincent, the filmmakers, and the actors followed the screening; they also took questions from the audience. A good time was had by all who attended, myself included. I look forward to the following screening later this month. Indeed, I hope to one day appear in one of the films screened.
I am a recent graduate of the Screen Acting Academy from the Screen Acting Room (a part-time acting program that spanned twenty-four weeks of instruction). I enrolled in the Screen Acting Academy as an experienced stage actor who aspires to break into the film and television industry as a screen actor. When I met Mike Migliara for the first time outside the studio for my first class, he impressed me with his forthright manner and knowledge and experience as an actor and casting director. In addition, Mike has an eye for talent, demonstrated by the impressive array of screen and voice actors and videographers he recruited as the faculty and tech crew for the Screen Acting Academy. These include Karen Cliche, Rod Williams, Chris Wylie, Daniel Garcia and Ben Bergeron (the resident videographer and technician).
The curriculum of the Screen Acting Room consists of a blend of classroom and practical instruction in acting for the camera. It is a challenging program for students, both beginners and more experienced actors. In addition, the Screen Acting Academy offers training for adults and children alike. Under the guidance of Mike Migliara and his fellow instructors, I received a comprehensive and thoroughgoing introduction to screen acting. The classroom instruction engaged my intellect and imagination, and the exercises assigned in the classes helped refine my talent as an aspiring screen actor. As I said, Mike is forthright as an instructor; he offered constructive criticism but inspired confidence in the process.
Following my graduation from the Screen Acting Room, I enrolled in the Just Scenes program for advanced scene study under the tutelage of Karen Cliche and Rod Williams. In addition, I am enrolled in the next Acting with Your Voice course. To date, the training I received at the Screen Acting Academy proved invaluable. Above and beyond the formal training, Mike and his colleagues always have time for a student to offer career guidance and opportunities for extra-curricular events, such as the fascinating and informative online seminar provided by Shawn Baichoo, a successful screen and voice actor, for my classmates and I.
Finally, the fees for the courses are very reasonable and trust me, you get what you pay for and then some.
I thought about Shane Kippel and what one of my acting instructors at the Screen Acting Academy said about him in class. Despite his potential, his acting career never took off. He started as a child actor; I saw him in Degrassi: the next generation; he was a chubby kid who played the bully. He grew into a fit and handsome young man during his run on Degrassi. Then I saw him in Dog Pound. The character he played in Dog Pound has an edge not seen in his role in Degrassi. Since then, he has continued his career in the entertainment industry. He is a drummer and played professionally in bands. Now in his mid-30s, his most recent IMDB credit was in 2020. He is not a star but remains a part of the culture and has a fan base.
Thinking about him and his experience as a screen actor made me consider what I learned in the courses I took with the Screen Acting Academy. I do not aspire to stardom; I am in the business because, as Chris Wyllie told us in Level 2, I love the craft. I do not see screen acting as a get-rich-quick scheme. I dream of getting bookings and receiving payment; this will supplement my pension income. In my training with the Screen Acting Academy, I also learned not to take rejection personally. I was told that before in previous acting classes, but it only got through to me this time. Yes, rejection is the rule, not the exception. When I audition, I do my best to leave a good impression. I learned to avoid falling into the trap of compare and despair too. It is all too easy to resent another's success.
If I cannot help but compare myself to others, then Shane Kippel and some of his castmates in Degrassi come to mind. They succeeded as child and young adult actors and actresses, and many succeeded in transitioning to adult performers. However, a couple left the business and pursued careers outside the industry. It is all good. Although I started late in life, I am determined to become a part of the culture. I hope to have a few IMDB credits to my name before I die. Stardom is not my destiny, but like Shane Kippel, I hope to apply my talent and leave my mark as a screen actor. Meanwhile, I will keep a stiff upper lip and celebrate my classmates' successes as they make their way as screen actors and actresses. As Doris Day famously observed, "What will be will be; the future's not ours to see."