Embracing the Actor's Uncertain Life

I've been very deep in thought about 'uncertainty' because it's something I always find myself in...and I believe all our lives are in a place of uncertainty all the time yet we put ourselves in routine - is this to distract ourselves from the truth? We all feel safe in certainty don't we? I know I do. What's an acting career full of? Yep. You guessed it. Uncertainty.


I've found myself in countless encounters lately with fellow actors who just want to work out what the formula is to get more auditions, book jobs, know what the acting class is that will transform them in a millisecond so they become an overnight success... and if there is no answer they get frustrated, upset, down - you name it.

I fully empathise with this. These questions do rise up in me also at times also. However, there just can't be any formula, acting isn't an equation - I've had the pleasure of working in casting previously and I can tell you that there isn't really a formula to that either - in fact casting moves so fast a formula couldn't keep up with it!

Now I know what you're thinking "But Scott dude, if there isn't a formula how the hell am I going to know what to do in order to work in this business?!" - again, I ask myself this at times too...so lets jump back into the casting element as an example of the non-formulaic uncertainty:

A Casting Director, let's call her Jane, gets invited to read a script for a feature film and then have a meeting with the director and producer. Jane takes some ideas of actors to the meeting who she feels would be good for two of the lead roles, (this is basically how a Casting Director auditions to be attached to a project just like an actor auditions for a role). Jane has no idea if the taste of her ideas and vision will inspire the directors and producers - she may have looked back over the teams work i.e. projects they've worked on before to get an idea about them as well as put her own spin on things but just like anything else in life this is almost a shot in the dark...


I mean does Jane know exactly how this meeting is going to go? Does she know she will bag this job and be attached to this amazing shiny project? Will she and the filmmaking team work again after this? Will the discussion be smooth sailing? Will everyone be very friendly and open or will it be very business like, not as well connected and straight shooting? Will she get another interview again? Will she ever work again? None of these things are certain at all - all Jane has is what she's practiced for years and years (casting) but nothing other than that and herself - the rest are an array of variables that are out of her control. Uncertainty. 

What is certain for Jane?

The Experience and Time She Has Spent With Her Talent (and continuation of that)- Hopefully Faith and Self-Belief also.



It cannot be said more simply than that. I'm not saying disregard any amazing acting business courses that can give you tools just like an acting class can (shout out to some I've mentioned before Bonnie Gillespie, Actor Salon, Anthony Meindl Actor Workshop, John Rosenfeld Studios etc.) but what I am saying is that it is uncertain that a class will have all the answers for you, an acting business course, an acting guru, your mom - whatever and whoever it is - it will always ooze uncertainty - and the challenge is to get comfortable with that and trust we are doing all we can for ourselves, pushing ourselves in a very loving and nurturing way. Also, TIME, all this stuff takes time and more practice in your art, in the business and on self is the way forward for years.

I have a couple of rules I follow when it comes to delving into a new course or class that is going to cost me time, energy and money, feel free to apply them if it helps.
  1. I must be coming from a place of curiosity with the content not validation - I've found if I'm coming from a place of validation then I'm showing up for the wrong reasons. Self improvement is a must - a pat on the back isn't
  2. Discomfort must be showing up - the kind of discomfort you feel from when you are entering a new space of self development you've never really shown up in before or returning one that is mega dusty and rusty!
  3. Good People Only - sometimes it's hard to gauge this one but it's pretty darn important. The community of a space just needs to be supportive full stop, no trolls or debbie downers - just people who can relate to one another with little or hopefully no judgement.
  4. Must have fun! - I mean this ones a given ;)
Oh, also, break the rules. No seriously, break them if you want to. Hell, isn't there a saying Rules Are Made To Be Broken...you might be curious about what it would be like to break the rules and do it your way. You may feel discomfort from breaking the rules. Perhaps breaking the rules will help you find some really Good People in life. It may actually be Fun to break the rules!


Do what feels good and scares the crap out of you at the same time. I'll promise to do the same ;)

Till Next Time!

Scott Michael Wagstaff

Change

Feeling stuck?

I get it. You don't see where your next part is coming from. You have not had an audition or a call back or a job in months. It's hard to stay motivated. And sometimes I do this thing where I search for something 'new', like I'm now going to find the quote or the advise or the new skill that will change how I feel. 

But the truth stays the truth. There is no such thing as an overnight success. I think staying ready to jump up anytime your agent calls, to stay with right mindset, to keep working even when you don't see the payoff - that is the hardest part. 

I've recently let a lot of personal drama distract me from my career. Break ups and many, many nights of too many glasses of wine. Time goes by quickly.

So this is what I've been doing to find my balance again, may it inspire someone in need:

Meditation. 

I know, if you're not already doing it then you've tried it but it didn't do much for you. In that meditation is a great teacher - the benefits are proven but take time and dedication to be felt. It is the most effect way to find peace of mind. Get the app "Headspace" and do it.

Order.

I've decorated my space in my mid 20s and haven't changed it in years, so many parts of my apartment are cluttered and I feel that in order to feel calm and collected on the inside I need the outside to match that. My eyes need peaceful surroundings. 

Learning something.

I've realised that the three values I want to currently cultivate the most are "Focus", " Discipline" and "Patience" and they are all needed to learn playing the piano. I suck at it. I envy everyone who has been forced by their parents to learn it or was eager enough as a child, because it is so hard. But I can see how I'm getting better and I just realised if I simply not give up, I will play the piano. So I made a contract with myself to not give up for the next three years. Pick a skill and find a lovely teacher. Don't rely on being an autodidact - accountability is needed. 

Exercise.

They keep saying "find exercise that you enjoy". That is of course true. I'm for example a passionate runner but it doesn't actually form my body the way I'd like to. So now, I do do those little youtube videos. I try to not think too much about whether I want to do it or not - my gut instinct just wanting to watch another Netflix show is not always the best indicator of what is good for  me so I need to create new ways for my instinct to react.

Therapy.

I know that can get expensive, but same as meditation it just helps. I've done a few different kinds: classic talking, body-mind, singing- therapy and life coaching. Each session has helped me. Try out a few things and see what works best for you. I've never met a single human being who wouldn't benefit from therapy.

Reading.

Pick real literature. I'm just about to finish Anna Karenina. There is a reason why those stories make up our collective narratives and reading them, understanding them will help you. Plus nothing looks sexier than sitting in a cafĂ© and reading Tolstoy. 

Change.

Change something. Your hair, your body, your agent, your boyfriend, your apartment. Sometimes it is just that.


So yes, I'm not yet not fully balanced and some days I still feel confused but I know no day can be lost, if I've spent my time writing, meditating, exercising, reading and practising the piano.

That is all I can control - myself. 

The Most Important Question to Ask!


What's The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself as an Actor?



 


Why do you want to be an actor?


 Sure there are plenty of important questions to ask ourselves as artists and from a business perspective we need to know who we know, who we want to know, who knows us, our goals and our plans to get there, but can you answer any of that without the WHY.

 
You and I need to know what makes us special and what makes our personal brand unique so casting directors will know to immediately call us in for the right role and so agents know how to pitch us.  In order to do so, we need to know why we want to be actors!  I know you might be thinking but as long as I know what roles I want to play, why, do I need to know why I want to be an actor.


Well, What’s going to keep you going when you feel like quitting, when your agent does not call, when you are not getting auditions, when you don’t get that role you really wanted and you are eating RAMEN noodles and eggs to save money and praying for your next booking.



 

You need your WHY!


Why?


Everybody should ask themselves “Why?” If you can’t definitively, passionately answer why you want to become an actor, then it may not be for you.

Acting is a challenging career choice and you need to be truly in love with the pursuit. If you can’t confidently tell yourself you’re doing it because you want to and have to, then it’s probably not worth the pain.

Passion’s a powerful motivator but even passion needs a check-in from time to time to make sure it’s still going strong.



 


Drop me a line below and let me know your why...



Dhallywood - the next Bollywood?

by Guest Blogger Zayed Rizwan


With a population of 164 million, it is perhaps not surprising that Bangladesh has an enormous number of content consumers, and of course, content creators to fill that need. The Bangladeshi Film Industry, known as ‘Dhallywood’, has been a significant player in the international film market since the early 1970s, with globally acclaimed directors such as Fateh Lohani, Zahir Raihan, Khan Ataur Rahman, Amitabh Reza, and Mostafa Sarwar Faruqi leading the way to world class Bangla Language movies.
Dhallywood (Named after Dhaka and Hollywood) hit its stride in the 80s and 90s, with big hits like Beder Meye Josna, Shami Kano Ashami, and Qayamat Theke Qayamat. All the hit movies at that time were social drama or romantic genres. In late 90s however, business declined due to the death of superstars Salman Shah and Sohel Rahman, and as a result, the Bangladeshi Mafia took over the industry. The government pulled out of all kinds of financial incentives, which almost crippled the industry. But Dhallywood recovered slightly with the popularity of the actor Manna, who became a superstar, but then died of a heart attack suddenly in 2008, to the public’s shock. His legacy was sustained by Shakib Khan, who starred in back to back superhits from 2011 to 2016, including King Khan, Hero, Shikari, Love Marriage, Full And Final, and Amar Praner Priya


It was the release of Aynabaaji in 2016, however, that changed the dimension of Dhallywood.
A crime thriller produced by Gousul Alam under the banner ‘Content Matters Production’, proved that Dhallywood is not only about sophomoric love stories, but also about quality film-making. The debut film of director Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, the film starred Chanchal Chowdhury, Masuma Rahman Nabila and Partha Barua. Rafi Hossain of The Daily Star described it as "an instant blockbuster hit". It did a record 91 shows in 10 days - the highest number for any Bangladeshi film - and with an occupancy record of 98.89%, it collected BDT 20.3 million (USD 240,000) in its first eight weeks. Aynabaji received positive reviews from the critics as well as the audience. Zahid Akbar from The Daily Star said "The film provides the viewers with an empathic view to its characters, which is coupled with brilliant storytelling making the audience wanting more." He praised the film for its story, cast, Chanchal Chowdhury's performance, and "impeccable" cinematography, but criticized the film for being too long. The film won six awards at the Bangladeshi National Film awards, was screened at MarchĂ© du Film at 69th annual Cannes Film Festival, where it scored well, and had a limited release in theaters in the United States, France, Canada and Australia. 


Other filmmakers soon followed Aynabaaji’s lead, and Dhaka
Attack was massively hyped and attracted the attention of the corporate companies who saw a business advantage in marketing and began investing in Dhallywood. The film critics are predicting a massive upturn in the industry with the forthcoming movies Mission Extreme, Mrittupuri - Kill Zone, Rickshaw Girl, Saturday Afternoon, and Password. Dhallywood has always welcomed co-productions and has successfully co-produced films with India, Iran, Germany, Australia and England (including Agnee 2, Nabab, Saturday Afternoon, Mrittupuri - Kill Zone, Din the Day). As more corporate companies get involved in Dhallywood, the industry is expected to soon reach the heights of Bollywood.


There are 3 major film festivals in Dhallywood: 1) Dhaka International Film Festival (www.dhakafilmfestival.org); 2) Independent and Shorts Festival (isiff-bd.org); and 3) The Children’s Film Festival (https://filmfreeway.com/ICFFBangladesh). The prominent streaming services where Dhallywood movies can be watched are Bongobd (www.bongobd.com) and Bioscopelive (www.bioscopelive.com).



About the author: Zayed Rizwan is a Bangladeshi director who moved to Australia in 2003 to study Film and TV, as there was no proper media education facility available in Bangladesh at that time. After Graduating from Griffith University, Zayed completed his internship with Warner Bros Studios and started working as a freelance director in Music Videos and TVCs. Soon he started to work as an Assistant Director in various TV shows and in 2016 directed his first feature film Mrittupuri - Kill Zone featuring prominent Bangladeshi actors Arifin Shuvoo and Taskin Rahman. In 2018 he directed the successful webseries Aghat -Call for Jihad for an Indian web platform. 

Intimacy Coordination: An Actor Inquires


Actor/Writer Tiffany Hoy

interviews

Actor/Intimacy Coordinator Michela Carattini


[The following excerpt is from a transcript of the recorded interview.]


TH: So I'm curious about this - thanks for letting me ask all these questions.

MC: Of course! When people hear that I’m training and working as an Intimacy Coordinator* (IC), they ask me a lot of questions - so ask whatever you want, cause I'm sure others will want to know too!

TH: I guess what you do applies to both theatre and film, am I right?

MC: So there are two internationally agreed terms now. An Intimacy Director refers to somebody who does this work for theatre, and an Intimacy Coordinator refers to somebody who does this work for film and television. And that’s very much following the tradition of the titles of fight director or movement director for theatre, and a fight coordinator or stunt coordinator for film- it’s following the traditions of that language, but in essence they fulfil the same role in those two different mediums.


TH: So you’re focussing on the film- the coordinator- role?

MC: Yeah, I work mainly in film and television.


TH: So when do you come on board during the production?


MC: Good question. The answer is, as soon as possible. Ideally, people are thinking about whether they need an IC from pre-pre production, just looking at those scenes and thinking, do we need to put aside budget for wardrobe to provide barriers or coverings for people, do we need to put in the budget to be able to pay an IC the same way we would for a stunt coordinator? An IC can be really helpful in terms of best practice for running auditions and how to inform the actors from the very beginning around what the role will involve and having those conversations around expectations, consent and the director’s vision from the very beginning, so later on we avoid more difficulties.


TH: Are you like an expert in covers now?


Alicia Rodis photographed for Variety
MC: Am I an expert in covers, is that what you asked? (Laughing) Well look, I know a lot more about covers than I ever did before, I can say that. My mentor in the United States is Alicia Rodis, she’s head of HBO intimacy coordination and one of the founders of Intimacy Directors International (IDI). So when I was in NY she showed me her kit which is this awesome collection of pieces, many of them custom cut to be hidden from the camera from particular angles but at the same time provide that essential coverage for the protection and modesty of the actor or to provide a barrier between actors. The rule is that people’s genitals should never be touching, as well as working around the specific container of consent for those specific actors in very creative ways, and knowledge of the camera and cinematic technique is really important for this reason.


TH: Have you got a list of angles and tricks to make it look like something’s happening that’s not?


MC: Yeah, it’s a really interesting aspect that an IC brings to the work that people may not realise-- that specific knowledge, training and experience around those kinds of movements and those kinds of scenes for camera. Because something can be happening in real life, but it can still not look like it on camera or it doesn’t have the same effect on camera that a director was hoping for. As actors know as well, you might be standing what feels too close to someone, but on camera it looks miles apart- well the same thing applies for these sorts of scenes, and it’s part of our job to have experience with what can work in these types of scenes, in terms of wardrobe and movements.


Team IDI
TH: Probably equally important to those physical covers are the emotional covers. How much prep do you get to do, especially on those lower budget productions?


MC: We ask for at least one rehearsal with the director and actors, where we can have a discussion about boundaries, the intent of the scene, the key physical and emotional anchor points, and outline the choreography of the scene. Though tweaking may still be necessary on location, doing this work beforehand saves precious time on the shoot.





TH: Are you having conversations with actors before that rehearsal, or are they whispering in your ear, ‘Michela, I feel weird about this!’


MC: (Laughing) Yes, we have meetings with the actors privately before that rehearsal - it’s necessary that it’s private in order to try and mitigate certain power dynamics. Something we try and communicate to directors, producers, and actors with power, is that no matter how kind, compassionate, wonderful and open they are, by virtue of their position, it is very difficult for an actor to say no to them. It’s very much a reputation-based industry, and actors are worried that they’re replaceable and are generally trained to say yes. An intimacy coordinator is that third person who can have that conversation with all the actors involved and present to the team a container within which we can work and come up with creative ideas and choreography that will still serve the director’s vision. Some actors haven’t thought about what their boundaries are. Sometimes tough guys will say, ‘yeah, I don’t have any boundaries’ which ends up not being true, they just hadn’t thought about it before. Our work tries to remove the idea that the comfort levels and boundaries rest on one person who can be ‘blamed’ - which is why we use the term ‘container,’ within which everyone involved is consenting. And boundaries require no justification. And they can change. Consent is reversible. I know that’s scary for a lot of directors, but a lot of the work we do helps to minimize issues around this. Actors have said to me they were actually willing to do more than they otherwise would have without an IC, because they felt safer or more sure of the other actor’s consent.


TH: I was watching a video of this lady in the U.S. who seems to be credited with starting it all- I think her name is Ita- the one who did Sex Education for Netflix- and she was on set ‘OK, and now do this, and now do that’- is that what’s happening when you have an IC on set with you? It almost sounded like a guided meditation! I thought, I could go with that.




MC: (Laughing) So Ita O’Brien, who is my mentor in the U.K., is based in London, and founder of Intimacy On Set.** Here in Australia, guidelines are being developed by MEAA (Equity) as well. I’m on that development panel, as are many other relevant stakeholders, and we’re certainly taking from the best practices of other countries, including Intimacy On Set Guidelines and IDI’s.

Ita O'Brien
As for your question about whether all ICs recite or cue the action, there are different processes and different approaches for different ICs and different projects. That’s not to say that aren’t procedures and processes that we all follow, but it’s flexible, and can adapt to the particular process of a director or actors as well. Sometimes directors have clear choreography in their head, and it can happen that way, it doesn’t have to be the IC coming up with the choreography. I’ve experienced a director coming up with choreography, but then when they see it in the shot, it doesn’t look the way they wanted, and they say, ‘can you fix this?’. An IC can be very involved, as you saw in that video with Ita, or they can step back, and only step in when required. I step in when I see I can be helpful or it’s needed. You have to be able to get out of the way really fast on set and know how and when to step in. Your job helps free up everyone else to do theirs.




TH: A lot of actors feel like they want to be creatures of spontaneity, is there still room for that?


MC: Yes. One of the tenants of our work that there is choreography for intimate touching, so that -just like with fight choreography- actors will not have to worry about their physical safety, and will be freed up to be emotionally vulnerable, spontaneous and stay in character. We discourage actors from changing the agreed choreography without discussion and consent- not just for safety, but also for continuity, for camera, for story. However, there is absolutely room to come up with a new idea, and for that new idea to be discussed and embraced. It’s important not to assume- something that might seem casual and harmless to one person, might not be to somebody else. One never knows what emotional or physical trauma another actor brings with them to set on any given day, so It’s about creating a culture of communication, consent and safety where anything is possible within that frame.


TH: Why did we not do this before? Why did we just wing it?


MC: I know, as an actor myself, I think, I wish I’d had this! I think this area has been an awkward subject for  people- it feels like a personal thing and people tend to just put it to the side. We haven’t had language in the industry to address some of the issues and some of the occupational hazards we have to deal with both physically and emotionally. Bringing that knowledge and language into the conversation is an important part of what we do. Everyone does all this work for characterization, and somehow that all gets left behind in the intimate scenes. People bring in their personal selves all of a sudden: how would I kiss in this situation? Or the director says, ‘This is what I think good sex looks like.’ It’s not putting the story-telling first they way you would in every other aspect, in every other scene. How would the character express their sexuality? What is the geographical and cultural context of the character? What is the personality of the character? What does the scene need to communicate? We keep everyone accountable to the director’s vision by putting those questions at the forefront, bringing all that work into the intimate scenes as well, when previously the tendency has been to throw it out the window in those moments.


Film still from Remote Access

TH: That makes complete sense, and it’s so interesting - what an extra element of research you could do for your character!


MC: Yeah! Looking at time period, geography, culture and personality in the intimate space can be particularly fascinating and lead to really interesting character choices, increasing your vocabulary beyond your own experience. Creatively, it’s a far cry from two actors having to awkwardly come up with something on the spot, and it’s another tool for actors to be able to separate themselves from character and mitigate some of that spillage from carrying your character with you. Having that professional language, that vocabulary of choices, the training and the experience really facilitates that conversation - it’s a creative role, we’re not babysitters.


TH: I have to ask an awkward question, but this interview would not be complete without asking it. Bodies being bodies, what happens if someone gets aroused?


MC: Yeah, absolutely that happens, that’s a natural thing that happens sometimes when you’re touching another person. One of my favourite quotes on this subject, attributed to some famous actor or another, is: “If I get an erection, I’m sorry, and if I don’t get an erection, I’m sorry.” It’s not something we make a big deal out of, but we offer barriers, and a word to stop the action if the actors feel is neccessary - just as we would if someone had to vomit or had a panic attack. Coming from a Mental health background, I’m across that there’s so much coming out in the research about the real physiological effects of the pretend and imagined spaces- it can have many of the same effects of a lived experience. We all have or know stories of actors who had a hard time separating from a character or a character attachment. It’s being acknowledged for the first time in an evidence-based way that there is an emotional and physical load that comes with the work we do. I’m particularly interested in helping actors strategize to minimize that spillage.


TH: What do those strategies look like? Like a closing ceremony after the shoot?


Film still from Tendenza ad Amar
MC: If that works for you! It can look different for different people. I draw from psychology, social work, neuroscience, criminology, trauma studies and many other areas and offer them, based on the person and situation. I tell people to use what calls to them, and don’t use what doesn’t - and sometimes people are surprised by what works for them - not the ones they expected! Different things will work for different people, and be salient to different people. At the very least giving acknowledgement that this is a real thing that can manifest in different ways, give language and validation of it, as well as those potential strategies to minimize it if they would like to. That’s my intention and an area I’m particularly interested in.


TH: Thank you for being one of the torch-bearers of this here in Australia!


MC: You’re welcome! It’s still a very new field, and there will be mistakes made, but I’m so excited about the difference I see it making, creatively and humanistically. You know, I think sometimes you’re most interested, and you study and you learn, the things you most need. I’ve been an actor for over twenty years, and my study has also come out of the need I’ve seen for myself and my colleagues in the industry, struggling with these various issues. I’ve been able to take the different parts of my professional life and put them together in this unique way. You never know where your life is leading- sometimes you have a moment where you’re like, oh, this all kind of fits together in a way I never imagined. It’s wonderful for me to feel like I have so much to offer in this space, and I would love to share it and be of use to other storytellers. That’s always something that’s been important to me.

(END OF EXCERPT)


* More information on Michela and Intimacy Coordination here.
**Ita started developing the Intimacy On Set Guidelines in 2014, bringing together best practice from around the world, including working with Jennifer Ward-Lealand, President of Actors Equity New Zealand.The Intimacy On Set Guidelines advocate for open communication and transparency when working with intimate scenes, providing a structure that allows for agreement and consent of touch and a process through which intimacy can be clearly choreographed. Ita was invited by the Equity Foundation to share the work across Australia and New Zealand in November- December 2018, INTIMACY ON SET AND STAGE WITH ITA O’BRIEN, including WORKSHOPS FOR ACTORS AND DIRECTORS for SCREEN & STAGE, & AN INTRODUCTION TO INTIMACY DIRECTION: FOR POTENTIAL INTIMACY COORDINATORS, during which over 800 practitioners attended the events.