Why Knowing Your Type Is Important

By Charis Joy Jackson

Previously published on Backstage.

I have a love/hate relationship with being typecast. I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking. Many actors endeavour to break away from being cast in the same roles over and over again. I think I speak true when I say it’s the actor’s dream to be one of those few who are known for breaking the mould. Gary Oldman comes to mind, the man is a chameleon.

However, I think it’s important to take note of your type.

Recently, I posted two of my head shots in a couple of acting groups. I was curious to read what people saw in them. Most of the people don’t know me, so I knew their answers would be purely on my look and not my personality or character.

It was a valuable insight for me and one I recommend you try too.

Knowing your type is important because it can broaden your horizon

We all have our own presupposition of the type of characters we should be playing. However, we’re not always as perceptive to the vast pool of character types we could go for.

For example, I only saw myself as the best friend type. Or the quirky girl on the sidelines. Not as glamorous as the leading lady types, but still fun characters for a lifetime career as an actress.

Then in one acting course, my classmates and I were asked to spend a full minute silently staring at each other, to think up the types of characters we could see that person playing.

I loathed it, but soon learned how beneficial it was to have an idea of how others saw me.

During the session, my preconceived ideas were replaced with a whole new bunch of characters I never thought about before. Knowing this, helped me to branch out in my acting too.

The same can happen for you. If you have a small circle of characters you think you’d be good for, try asking fellow actors what roles they’d see you in. Then use it to your advantage by workshopping scenes with these types of characters. Not only will it help you grow as an actor, but it may help you go for auditions you would’ve never gone for.

Knowing your type is important because it can save you time

As someone who has been Casting Director on two independent features, I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your type. You’d be surprised how often I put out a casting call for a specific character, giving information on the age range and look only to have a heap of actors apply who clearly don’t fit. My favourite is when I have twenty-something’s asking to audition for a character who’s six! (True story.)

It’s a waste of my time and a waste of the actor’s time too.

When an actor knows the types of characters to audition for, it frees up their time to go for roles they actually fit, versus waiting on auditions where they don’t. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend a day auditioning for characters I actually have a real chance to play, versus ones where I don’t.

Last bits of advice… Sometimes it can be disheartening to hear what type others think you could go for, but take what they say with a grain of salt. Learn where you can and dismiss it where it hinders. And definitely don’t see it as a part of who you are, it’s not your identity, it’s like a skill or tool for your trade. That’s it.

Knowing your type is important and can definitely be beneficial to the actor’s career, but at the end of the day, go for the roles which inspire you.

The One Thing You Need To Know About Acting: There Is No Formula

By Keaton J. Evans

 

One of the biggest temptations for actors, when they begin their creative journey, is the desire to have everything figured out as quickly as possible. Which is completely natural. I did this when I first started learning how to act, and I still find myself doing this.

 

Thing is, I like to make formulas for problems I find in my life and in my acting. The classic A+B=C right? Well, mathematically yes, but not in other areas of life. Especially for any problems you face as an actor.

 

With acting you have so many things to think about and work through. You gotta break down a script, learn about the story, your character, your relationship with the other characters and emotions and everything else under the sun. And while there are things you can do which will help, there is no formula.

 

One reason for this is because of how different techniques work for different people. I mentioned this a bit in another article I wrote, which you should check out. The basic idea is an acting technique which works for someone else may not work for you. You may find certain acting tips don’t work, while other ones will. The point is don’t rush to find a system. Know it will take you awhile to figure out this whole acting thing. When starting out, patience is key.

 

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The second case for no formula is this: art is fickle as well as acting. And an approach or technique which may work for you once may not work again. And if you stick to only one approach, especially early on, you’ll get stuck in a single way of doing things, instead of exploring all the techniques which exist.

 

There’s a “Creative Spark” starring production designer Rick Carter where he mentions how he never knows how he’s going to do a movie. He doesn’t go in with preconceptions. Carter is a major production designer in the film industry and his words surprised me at first. Surely by now he would have a system for making a movie after years of doing so many films. But in fact his openness and acceptance of his own limited knowledge is exactly why he’s so good. He understands it’s not about figuring it out.

 

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You gotta let go of what you think you know. As counterintuitive as it may seem, it helps to be completely clueless and open when approaching your craft.

 

Curiosity should beat out needing to have all the answers in a nice formula. If that makes sense. Just like Rick, you should always be searching for answers. There is no one method which covers all. If you think you’ll be able to find some formula or something that works each time, maybe you should try openness of mind and asking more questions.

 

You can’t have all the answers, and you’re not suppose to. My third point is exactly this. Have questions instead of answers. You’ll find answers when you ask questions. So ask away! There are answers to be found in the script, and you’ll be able to answer them. It’s the same as not going into the script with preconceptions. You come at it with a clean slate.

 

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There are definitely things you can do which will help you in acting. Little tricks and tips here and there which will help.

 

But needing to have a consistent overarching formula and approach won’t really help you here. Which is totally fine. Grow your curiosity, ask questions, and be free to be completely clueless especially at the beginning. That’s acting and that’s art folks.

 

As actors, we need to learn to let go of formula and embrace the journey.

 

How to Find Royalty Free Music That Doesn’t Suck

If you’ve ever been a film school student or a no-budget independent filmmaker, then you know the pain. Finding high quality music to fit your movie for free is darn near impossible.

God bless Kevin MacCleod, but if I hear “Sneaky Snitch” in one more short film I’m going to throw something.

Before you get started on the journey of including royalty free music, be sure you understand the laws surrounding creative commons and licensed music. Every artist may have different stipulations for the use of their music in your film; many of them refuse it for commercial use (you would make a monetary profit from the video) and almost all will require you to credit their work.

“Royalty free music” does NOT always mean “free to use.”

Please have a firm understanding of what is required of you in using the artist’s piece before including it in your film. When in doubt, contact the artist and ask them directly.

Here’s a list of resources for your own short films and videos to help fill it out and bring it to life.

1. Incompetech

I literally warned you about “Sneaky Snitch” two seconds ago, however there’s no denying Kevin MacCleod’s music is iconic to the fledgling filmmaker. It can also be a great introduction into the world of royalty-free music for film. If you’ve never used any of his music, check it out!

However, don’t be surprised when you hear it in every other student short film known to humankind.

2. Free Music Archive

With a wide variety of music, some with lyrics and some without, this is a great one stop shop for all your royalty free music needs. All the music is free to download and easy to use. It has a great search engine to better find the kind of music you’re looking for.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming composer, you can upload your works to this website for filmmakers (or whoever) to download.

However, like every royalty free music site, you really need to invest some time in separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality.

3. Bensound

Another website similar in style to Free Music Archive, but with a more limited library, Bensound is filled with royalty free music by French composer Ben Tissot. There is some great work on this site, but much like Kevin MacCleod’s works don’t be surprised to hear it in several other short films and videos.

4. YouTube Channels

Currently, YouTube provides me with the best royalty-free music on the internet, particularly if I’m looking for anything remotely resembling trap/club music.

You can find music one of two ways:

  • Look through the audio library and download the song you like directly from YouTube
  • Search YouTube the old fashioned way, find a channel with great royalty free music, and follow the channel’s instructions to download the track you like. Channels like RoyalTrax, AudioLibrary, and Argofox are great places to start.

You’ll find some familiar faces hanging out on YouTube as well (Bensound & Kevin MacCleod). The only downsides to using YouTube as a source are:

  1. It can be a complicated process downloading the track you like.
  2. Finding the specific style of music you’re looking for can be a bit more complicated than some of the other sites.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS….

Now before you start a download frenzy with the above listed resources, here are a few more options to think about.

5. Hire a Local, Up and Coming Composer For Free

Of all of the roles in film production, I’ve never had a group of people literally throw themselves at me like film composers. 60% of the messages we get as a production company asking for an opportunity are composers. I’m not kidding or exaggerating (if anything I lowballed the percentage).

There are people out there who are looking for a chance to score a film. Ask for their samples of previous works, and if you like what you hear, then you’re able to help them out as well as yourself.

6. Ask Your Musically Talented Friends to Help You

Other than downloading music from the interwebs, this is my go-to for finding music for my projects. Being a creative, I have no shortage of friends who are musical geniuses who have yet to make a break into the business.

They often appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves in creating something, as much as I appreciate receiving some great music for my film.

Be sure to ask a friend however who is open to constructive feedback and direction. You don’t want to ruin a great relationship over a short film.

7. Audiojungle

If I find myself in a pinch, I bite the bullet and purchase a song from this comprehensive music library.

While there is plenty of mediocre music on the site, there is just as much of good quality. I’ve never been disappointed by a track I’ve downloaded, and to date I’ve never paid more than $20AUD for a track.

There is some great music out there, free for you to use. Happy hunting everyone, and don’t be afraid to find creative solutions.

 

Written by Brenden Bell.

“The Expanse” Will Make You Feel Lost In Space

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Netflix’s new show, The Expanse, is extraordinary, visually stunning, and has a gritty, realistic look which makes the show quite unique and creative when compared to other sci-fi shows.

There’s a lot going on right off the bat, with colonies across the solar system, a futuristic Earth, a militant Mars, and plenty of water shortage on some smaller worlds. I would say there’s a lot going for the show.

This being said, there are also a few things which the show isn’t so great at doing. Below are some thing it does well and some things where it misses the mark. All points considered, you’ll feel lost in space watching this show.

Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Worlds Are Incredible

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The production quality is the shows number one quality, hands down. The worlds and ships they show glisten with details and have almost a Blade Runner vibe especially on the Asteroid colonies.

The show also hits well on the realities of space and what could go wrong. One example, is the water shortage on the asteroid belt. There’s moments where shipments of ice are delayed and the people on the belt suffer because of it. It goes even farther to point out that if a second shipment is delayed then people will die.

It was refreshing to see so much thought put into the mechanics of world outside of earth, and see the messy reality, and complications which could arise. The visual aspects of the worlds and the realism they present are both excellent.

Seeing all these real intricate worlds allows you to get lost in them, a feeling which was a pleasant surprise.

Wait, Who Are These People?

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After watching The Expanse, I noticed the one thing I didn’t quite like: the character development. Probably the weakest aspect of the film. While the production design is quite superb, the characters fall short, especially in the beginning.

I thought about why this was. The characters are interesting enough, they live in incredible worlds, and the plot is good, so what gives. Well, here’s the deal. While the characters may be interesting, it’s hard to know because they rush the character development.

It feels like we are supposed to know who these people are as soon as we see the first shot. It almost seems like the beginning of the show is the middle of a show. Now, there is development of the characters, a little.

But for the most part, all the introductions are rushed and end up leaving you feeling  little connection with the people you are watching. I think to myself, “A spaceship explodes and people might die! Oh no! Wait, who are these people?”

If they want the events to hold any weight, they need to let us get to know the characters, and then put them into dangerous life-threatening situations, or we won’t care.

If you feel stranded and not quite sure how to feel then don’t worry, it’s an effect of rushed character intros.

Feeling Lost Could Be Either Good or Bad

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Both the best qualities of the show and the worst qualities of the show will make you feel lost. But which feeling sticks with you? Does the production design and visuals carry you through the hard-to-know characters, or do you feel not knowing the characters takes you out of the show?

Either way, it’s an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a science-fiction show.

Anatomy of the Best Loglines

Knowing where to start in the creative process of writing can be daunting for a first time filmmaker. I know it was for me. I’ve tried building a story around every possible thing imaginable, and I found Blake Snyder’s longline method from his infamous book, Save the Cat, to be the most effective.

His argument centers around starting your writing process by creating something called a logline (your entire movie summarized in a sentence). He would say, if you can’t do this in a compelling way from the start, then you don’t have a story worth telling.

Many of you more seasoned writers may find this approach “formulaic,” however for writers starting out, this is a great place to begin.  

Ingredients for the best logline:

  • One Character
  • One Goal
  • One Source of Conflict with a dash of Irony

In short what you will be creating is the following equation:

Your hero is going for their goal, but something ironic happens to stop them.

If you cannot put your story within this simple formula, then perhaps your story is too complicated, OR missing a crucial element.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Disgraced pilot, E. Ripley is left with PTSD after her encounter with the xenomorph and tries to rebuild a life for herself. However, when a human colony is overrun with xenomorphs, Ripley may be their only hope.

From the film Aliens

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Element 1: Establish Your Hero

The first step is to insert your main character into your logline. This isn’t a place to go into great detail on their backstory; all that’s needed are one or two descriptive words. Sometimes the scenario they find themselves in is sufficient enough information.

As Blake Snyder says, you want to paint a clear enough picture in the minds of those who will hear your logline. They need to be able to see where your story is going. This includes who your character is.

In my example, I defined Ellen Ripley as a disgraced pilot with PTSD. We know she’s an underdog, and it will be easy for the audience to get behind her.

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Element 2: Establish Your Hero’s Goal

The next step is to show what the character is trying to accomplish before they are confronted by the story’s major conflict.

In Vertigo, Scottie is investigating Madeline for her husband (his goal) before he begins to fall in love with her (the conflict).

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle wants more than what her small town has to offer (goal) before she is held prisoner in an enchanted castle (the conflict).

Sometimes the goal can be something more passive, or simply keeping the status quo. For example, in Toy Story, Woody isn’t actively trying to do something new, but is enjoying the “status quo” of being the toy on top.

Don’t just tell us WHO your character is, but where we find them at the start of the story.

For Ellen Ripley, I have her trying to rebuild a life for herself.

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Element 3: Conflict with a Dash of Irony

Lastly, we introduce our story’s major source of conflict into the logline.

This is where people tend to struggle the most, either because they realize they have no real source of conflict throughout their story. Even if they do it’s lacking the crucial element of irony which gives a story it’s hook, edge, or bite.

Conflict is truly what starts your story and what moves it forward. Without this element, there is no story.

In my example from Aliens, the conflict comes from the xenomorphs overtaking a colony, forcing the corporation to turn to Ripley for help.

It’s conflict, because it’s both stopping her from starting a new life, while giving her an opportunity to gain her old life back.

Irony?

Before I explain how irony comes to play in this equation, let me explain what irony IS. There are two forms of irony: situational and irony of fate. Situational irony is when events defy expectations, while irony of fate is when it seems the gods, fate, the universe, etc are toying with humanity for their own amusement.

Situational irony would be getting robbed by a police officer (an amoral act practiced by someone who is sent out to stop such behavior). Jesus being crucified by the very people he was to save is another great example of situational irony. Both examples play on your expectations and subvert them.

Irony of fate is when something occurs with lasting consequence beyond a specific situation. A former athlete who is now paralyzed is an example of irony of fate. Beethoven, one of the world’s greatest composers lost his hearing. He can no longer hear the beautiful music he puts out into the world. Irony of fate.

Irony is all about subverting our expectations in an effort to hook us.

The irony in Aliens is drawn mostly from the situation Ripley finds herself in; she was seen as a pariah and a liability by the company at the start of the film, and becomes the very person who could save them.

That’s irony.

There’s no right way to go through the writing process, but by beginning with a logline my writing has grown simpler and stronger. I hope it helps you on your own writing journey. For more great film advice, check out Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat.

Written by Brenden Bell.

 

Top 10 Movies Every Actor Should Watch and Why

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Who hasn’t deeply been touched by beautiful cinematography, amazing performances by actors and successful adaptations of extremely creative and ingenious screenwriting?

Films speak to everyone on a deep, personal level. They reveal, celebrate and criticize humanity and are therefore a powerful tool.

If you’re an actor, you’re probably driven by the same desire to tell stories worth telling. I’ve compiled a list of movies that will challenge, inspire and help you in your endeavour to become a better actor.

1. Sophie’s Choice

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There are so many reasons to watch this film, if you haven’t already. Pay close attention to Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline’s performances. Their characters are so multifaceted, complicated and emotional, and both are able to portray them convincingly. Streep nailed not only the Polish accent when speaking English but also when she spoke German.

2. Wall-e

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This movie is an excellent reminder of the importance of story. The immense impact this film has on the audience is incredible. The actor is not the most important part – the story is. And it can be told without words. Films should be made to create a connection with the audience. The actors are merely servants of the director who carries the vision.

3. The Descendants

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In this film, director Alexander Payne chose to leave the camera on the cast longer than what would be a good point to yell ‘cut’. It’s fascinating to see how the actors explore this opportunity. You often hear the saying ‘the magic happens outside of our comfort zone’ and this is a perfect example.

4. Drinking Buddies

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Drinking Buddies is an example of successful mumblecore. What this means is, the performances are natural and more realistic because there are guidelines instead of scripted dialogue. Watching this will inspire you to really listen and react to your scene partner and see what happens. Don’t be scared of improvisation, it’s a breeding ground for magic to happen.

5. La Vie En Rose

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Marion Cotillard’s performance blew me away when I saw this film. No wonder it garnered her an Oscar. Her commitment and dedication to portraying Edith Piaf is inspirational. It’s a perfect example of Ugly Acting. She does not look flattering in her performance, she masters the degression of age and sickness and makes very bold character choices. I’m a strong proponent for watching foreign films as well, and to start with La Vie en Rose is an excellent choice.

6. Bronson

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Confidence is a key lesson that improved my acting, and Tom Hardy’s confidence in this movie is incredible. He seems to have completely forgotten the camera. His performance is raw and unforgiving. Also, Bronson is just one bizarre human being, and to understand his psyche and wrestle with the character development must have been a challenge.

7. Sunset Boulevard

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This is a classic black comedy and, even though it is an oldie, it still shows the ‘behind the scenes’ of Hollywood/Stardom quite plainly. It shows the extent and consequence of Norma Desmond’s love for fame, herself and greed. Stardom is fleeting, the fruit of pride is disgusting. Mommy Dearest explores this topic as well. It is definitely a topic every actor needs to grapple with for their personal life.

8. Singin’ in the Rain

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Whether you are fan of musicals or not, you must have seen this movie at least once. Film is first and foremost entertainment and should appeal to your audience. Gene Kelly is a wonderful example for his standard of excellence. Only dreaming for a breakthrough in acting will just continue to be a dream if you don’t work on your craft.

9. Amadeus

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Amadeus discusses many topics worth mentioning. But what struck me while watching the movie was observing how both Mozart and Salieri failed to steward their talents well and as a result, both their lives end tragically. Instead of composing for the love of music and others, Salieri chose to let comparison and jealousy get the best of him. And Mozart indulges so much in the futile pleasures of life, it results in a disgraceful death.

10. Kramer vs Kramer

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What’s fascinating about this movie is, it refuses to take sides. Humans are intricate, complicated beings. Their personalities and decisions change. There isn’t always a black and white, right or wrong. The focus is not on the child who suffers from his parents’ divorce, but on the ‘grown-ups’ who cry out for just as much attention and identity as the child does.

Read Roger Ebert’s review for a further exploration of the film.

Bear in mind

This is a very limited list and not ranked in any way from best to worst or vice versa.

My advice to you – watch ‘em all. But be strategic with your choice of movies. Watch good ones, watch bad ones, popular movies and unpopular ones, independent and foreign ones – but watch them all with a healthy dose of skepticism and awareness and take away from them what you can and apply to your own craft.

How To Dirty Your Actors Without Using Dirt

Written by Keaton J. Evans.

Across popular movies there have been teams of make-up artists getting the right look for characters who seem to never take showers. I’m talking Sam Neill in Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Matthew McConaughey in Mud, and Jack Sparrow.

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You get the point. Whenever a character rolls in the mud or falls off a pirate ship, there needs to be an authentic dirty look for the character.

I researched different ways to get the dirty look for any upcoming short films where I would need to portray a character who skips on the washing.

Here’s what I found.

Before I get into the steps of applying make-up, you’ll need to find these supplies:

Supplies needed:

  • coffee grounds
  • loose tea leaves
  • lotion (sunscreen)
  • brown eye shadow (I used Vino colour)
  • wet sponge
  • willing victim…er, helper

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After acquiring these supplies you’ll be ready to start with step one.

Step 1: apply eyeshadow

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In this step, you’ll use your index finger to apply the eyeshadow to the parts of the face where you think someone might get dirty. I noticed that the forehead and the upper parts of the cheekbones get dirty more than other parts, also the nose.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty then you can choose to use a small make-up sponge.

Gently rub the eyeshadow back and forth over the surfaces you think is best. After doing this in all of the appropriate areas you’ll be ready to move onto the second step.

Step 2: mix lotion with coffee grounds

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For this step, first ground the coffee beans, preferably of a darker variety, and then mix with the lotion. I used sunscreen in this step, and it worked well. This step is quite messy.

You don’t need to use much of either. Small chunks of coffee and a bit of lotion should do the trick. After mixing the lotion with the coffee grounds, then move onto the next step of applying.

Step 3: apply the mixture

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As far as applying the coffee/tea and lotion to the person’s face, you’ll need to do step 2 a few times, as there may be a few spots to cover.

Do a little mixing, then a little applying. A little mixing, a little applying, you get the drift. Apply the coffee and lotion to the same places which you touch in step 1, to have those layers.

Add to any place where you think dirt would be, say if the victim fell down face first into the dirt. With the coffee grounds, you don’t need to apply heavily, just a few small chunks here and there, unless you really want you character to look like dirt was just caked on.

After doing this enough times you should get a result similar to this one. (For me, I was trying to get a “stuck-on-a-deserted-island-for-years” look).

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After you’ve gotten all the shots you need with your actor, wash the makeup and coffee off with warm soap and water. Once you’ve washed the coffee and lotion off as well as the make-up, be sure to dry with a clean towel.

And there you have it! You now know how to make your characters look as dirty as ever, and best part is, you don’t even need to use dirt!

What is nice is you can also apply the make-up in a variety of places on the face as well as a variety of thickness, to get a unique look for each character in your film.

Hope this makeup tip helps all you independent filmmakers out there who are trying to get that professional look.