I don’t normally post about ‘day to day’ stuff here, but I wanted to write a little about teaching my first ever Performance Workshop. A little while ago, I was approached by the very talented Fern Nicholson about running a one-off “Intensive” for her school. NASA (Nicholson’s Academy of Screen Acting) has a great reputation, so I was excited to be asked.
The exercise itself was simple – the students would draft 5 scripts and we’d workshop each one. Fern had invited a collection of great indie directors to take this on (including Co-Conspirators of mine Peter Gurbiel and Damian Giglietta). After reading the scripts, I marked them up with notes and then thought about how I wanted each piece to be pitched and paced. The great thing about the exercise being that the students would perform the script their way, and then I would follow with notes.
I found that the exercise ended up being quiet theatrical in nature. The students would perform their particular scene for the class, and then once they had finished I would give them feedback. I discussed with them that I’m a big fan of being collaborative. I like my performers to have a sense of ownership of their deliveries. If they’re not happy with what they are creating, that can only lead to issues down the line.
So, after each script was performed, I would ask ‘How did you feel about it? Did it work?’. From there, they would feedback to me what they thought worked and didn’t work and we’d move on from there. Funnily enough, I spent the most amount of time saying I wanted things paced up. I also spoke a lot about how I don’t really dig lots of dialogue, preferring to work in a visual way where possible.
I was really impressed with how quickly the students took on my notes, and I found them all very effective at what they did. Fern’s influence was evident as they all had a very realist approach to both their performances and career goals. After we ran each script a few times, I spent about an hour chatting about the indie film industry and “making it”. It was a very frank discussion of the WA film industry and how things were moving in Australia.
I basically ended up saying what they already knew – the Arts is hard for everybody. It’s especially hard for creatives in WA, where we have solid funding bodies but zero commercial organisations. I said I couldn’t imagine being an actor in Australia, with it being hard enough being a creative. They asked me what I thought would happen and all I could say was that I didn’t know. The one thing I did commend them on was that they were making it happen. The best bit of advice I had was: Don’t wait. Get out there and do it. Make mistakes, learn, grow your network and be “politely aggressive” with producers and agents.
I found the whole experience really positive and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I found the students all really refreshing and I wish them and Fern all the best for future. I’d love to be apart of that future if possible.