Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Acting for the Camera: A Former Casting Director’s Approach

Jill Newton teaching a class.
SCR Acting for the Camera instructor Jill Newton has 16 years experience—in casting.  That’s not the usual credential for an acting teacher, but having spent five days a week, eight hours a day choosing actors for roles on daytime television, Jill bring a unique point of view to her class.

“I like to take the ‘scary’ out of the casting process by placing the students in a postion of casting a part themselves,” Jill said.  “Through this process, they can observe how each actor sees the role differently and why some stand out from the others.”

The main focus of Jill’s class is to put the students on camera in various circumstances so they can see how their nerves and reactions are projected on screen. “Even though my class takes place in a fun and safe environment, no one is entirely comfortable the first time the camera rolls, but by the end of the class, they can’t wait for their turn to shine.”

So that students come away with a better understanding of the business of acting, Jill’s first class is dedicated to the basics—resumes, pictures, agents, unions, building the experience.  The final classes are devoted to actually shooting scenes, which gives the students a sense of what is expected on the film or television set.

And it’s that set that is so different from the stage: “The camera is an intruder in your intimate world of conversation and especially your thoughts,” Jill said.  “The stage requires you to project your performance to the audience.”

And then there is rehearsal.  “Stage performances are a culmination of many hours perfecting roles.  In film and television, there’s much less rehearsal time, and in daytime TV, there is literally none—that’s right, none, except for a rushed camera blocking!”

In television and film, the actor needs to make choices and bring 100 percent to the first performance.  So Jill throws her students into the fire!  “But, again, we’re in a friendly and safe environment—a good place to prepare students for situations they may eventually face on real sets.”

Jill enjoys sharing her experiences with the students, helping them understand the process and getting them on the road to their passion.  “Whatever their degree of experience when they walk into class, we support each student at his or her personal level.”

At the end of nine weeks, they leave the class with a sense of accomplishment—and a copy of their on-camera scenes, edited by Jill and set to music.

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