I came to Acting at the tender age of fifty-two, when I read an article in my local newspaper saying that a local stalwart of the Amateur Dramatic scene was going to run adult evening classes for would-be Thespians. As long as I could remember I had always loved the movies, always been inspired by the great Actors and Actresses of the silver screen, and always had that little inkling that perhaps I could be an Actor myself. And so, the newspaper article was for me, one of those ‘now or never’ moments in life. I signed up. I was cast in a good role in an amateur production, and above all I was fired with a sense that I really did want to do this, and do it to the very best of my ability. I have since studied seven courses at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, have fallen in love with the Meisner Technique, and have worked with some truly wonderful Tutors who have given me amazing instruction and advice at Central and elsewhere. And yet, of all my training, the one piece of advice which I have found the most profound was given to me by an Actor of some forty years experience. His name is Colin David Reese.
One thing I realized from my time at Central, and at Meisner classes to some extent, was that much of the drama training in the United Kingdom is still geared towards working on stage. But my first love would always be, perhaps inevitably, acting for screen; and I am never more happy than when I am in front of a camera. So I was absolutely delighted to discover the Screen Acting Skills (SAS) workshops run by Colin, and from behind the camera by his brilliant associate, Ruggero Dalla Santa. The piece of advice which Colin gives his Students, and which I always have at the front of my mind on set is: “Our job as Actors is to give the Editor something he can work with.” And that really is the Holy Grail for the screen Actor, because it defines the difference between the final cut, and the cutting room floor.
The Screen Acting Skills workshops are designed around a simple premise: You have been cast in a cameo role on a big production. You are way down on the list, reading your book on the edge of set when you get the call. This is it. How do you make sure you shine, and that your thirty-five seconds of screen time survives the apocalypse of post-production to appear in the final cut? These are the questions which are dealt with at the SAS workshops. Colin brings his vast experience to bear in teaching those little things that define a mediocre performance from a memorable one. Ruggero will show you what you did on screen, highlighting for you what an Editor can, and cannot use and why. Make no mistake, these are not easy workshops. Colin will push you and test you, and he does a very good portrayal of the demanding Director! And you will find many of your ideas and previous training challenged when you hear: “Action”. I will never forget how Sanford Meisner’s injunction to “work off your scene partner”, and “don't do anything until something happens to make you do it” became very interesting when my sight-point was the top of a camera tripod, and I was delivering my lines in response to a fellow Student reading deadpan from the script!
I am looking forward with mounting excitement to attending the advanced SAS workshop this weekend, (my fourth one); and to anyone who is interested in the very specific skills required when performing for camera, I genuinely cannot recommend the SAS workshops highly enough. I can assure you that you would be very hard pressed to find better screen training anywhere...