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.

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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.

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.

Emma-watson-as-belle

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.

Warrior

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.

 

What A Stunt Person Needs In A Director

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

When it comes to knowing how to make movies, there’s one area independent filmmakers can not ignore. Stunts.

Pretty much everything else, you can “fake it, ‘til you make it”, but when it comes to stunts, you need to know what you’re doing. They’re dangerous and if you don’t have professional training, you’re creating an incredibly unsafe set.

A happy set is a safe set.

I love stunts. Watching Tom Cruise perform death-defying stunts in the Mission Impossible franchise are always a highlight. I mean, come on guys! The man hung off the side of one of the tallest buildings in the world. And, he held on to the side of a plane as it took off!

It’s inspiring to see stunt performers in action. They’re one of the most tight-knit community in film. Which, honestly, is no surprise because they have to trust each other with their lives.

As an aspiring director, I wanted to know what stunt professionals look for in a director. I reached out to a few and here’s what they had to say…

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Kyal Scott, SAP

The Tempus Elixer (2015) & Out of the Woods (2017)

Kyal is an incredible actor and stunt professional. He’s performed death-defying stunts as several iconic characters at Warner Brother’s Movie World in Australia.

“What I look for is trust. A stunt person doesn’t want to risk injury or death for the sake of a slightly better camera angle or perform a stunt that is deliberately difficult because an alternative action doesn’t adhere to the storyboard. 

“If a stunt person knows that their safety is the main concern then they will push their fear to the limit and risk their lives to create something incredible for the director to capture.

“Trust also helps both director and stunt person be far more efficient. Time is money after all.”

I think he’s hit the nail on the head. The biggest thing a stunt performer needs from their director is trust. They are putting their very lives on the line to serve the vision of the story. If they can trust they’re working with a director who will think outside the box to ensure their stunt performer is safe, the performer will work harder for them too.

It’s a mutual road.

Daniel Nelson, SAP

Deadline Gallipoli (2015) & Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Daniel currently works at Warner Brother’s Movie World in Australia and already has an impressive list of films under his belt as a qualified stunt performer.

“Sometimes directors don’t always have the same eye for action that stuntmen do. So having access to playback footage of each take and seeing what it looks like on camera is very handy. Particularly in a fight sequence.

“Directors can also spend too much time on the actors’ dialog that there is no time in the day for the stunt sequence. So a director who is aware of his time is definitely beneficial.”

This is great advice for the aspiring director. Keep an eye on the time. Stunts require a lot of work and time. The crazier the stunt, the longer it’ll take to make sure everything is set up and safe for the performer. The more a director honours this, the more a stunt person wants to make things work to serve the story.

Daniel Weaver, SAP/ Stunt Rigger

Bleeding Steel (2017) & The Shallows (2016)

As well as working for Movie World, Weaver is also a Stunt Rigger and most recently worked on Thor Ragnarok as a SPX Rigger.

“One of the things I look for in a director is being easy to communicate with. [There’s] nothing worse than trying to understand what someone wants to see if they are not clear. Some directors climb all over the ground and grab performers to show what they mean prior to shooting, so a director who is clear and not afraid to get their hands dirty is great!”

“Another is a director that understands action filmmaking. It’s awesome when you get a director that knows the value in seeing the stunts rather than a director that will just cheat the stunts to speed things up. A good director knows the time it takes to provide quality performance and maintain safety.”

I think Daniel makes an excellent point about being clear with what you want from a stunt person. The more concise and articulate you can be as a director the better. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say, learn their lingo. Find out what different stunts are called, it will save you time on set and I think it’ll make your stunt professional’s day.

Jason O’Halloran, SAP

Goldstone (2015) & The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

Jason also works for Movie World and has had an impressive career, working on shows like Sea Patrol and Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner.

“I like to see a director that’s excited about action. If you get on set and the director is pumped about the scene then everything just naturally goes up a notch.”

Jason gives some great advice here. At the heart of what I hear in this is, have passion for the action you’re creating. The more passion you have, the more your entire crew will want to get behind what you’re doing. Passion is a huge support to creativity. It gets the juices flowing, so to speak, and you may find your stunt professional coming up with even better takes for what you want to create.

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“All of the stunt men – these are the unsung heroes. They really are. Nobody is giving them any credibility. They’re risking their necks.” – Jason Statham

The next time you work on a set with stunt professionals, I hope you keep this advice in mind. What Jason Statham says above is so true. They really are the unsung heroes on set.

While it takes extreme effort for every crew member to serve a project, keep in mind these guys and gals are going the extra effort. Support and honor this community and listen well to this incredible filmmaking advice.