Original article at The Sydney Morning Herald by Neena Bhandari
Published 30 December 2013
Neena Bhandari from the Sydney Morning Herald visits a Sydney Acting School and discovers a course that prepares actors for the special demands of a screen career.
Acting has been Jordan Hinck’s favourite pastime but, as a country kid growing up on a Western Australian farm, he had not envisaged a career in the glitzy, glamorous world of film and television. It wasn’t until the pressures of an engineering degree took him away from acting that he realised how much he missed it. The two-year, full-time diploma of screen acting at Screenwise in Sydney’s Surry Hills became his obvious choice.
Jordan says, “I was attracted to the screen and wanted to learn and master something new as all my previous acting had been for stage. This diploma covers the full spectrum of creative and technical skills required to become a professional screen actor.”
Applicants are assessed on their talent, aptitude and storytelling skills. Level of experience in the industry is not a consideration.
As Screenwise director and chief executive Denise Roberts says, “The film industry isn’t made up of beautiful people alone, there are ample opportunities for actors who have something different to offer, something special that lights up the screen. However, an individual does need to have the passion, intelligence and drive to succeed as an actor.”
In this highly competitive industry, where budgets are low and schedules tight, producers want talented actors who are technically sound, too.
“With the majority of renowned acting schools in Australia focusing on theatre, this diploma gives students the crucial skills and knowledge required to pursue a career in the film and television industry,” Roberts says.
“Earlier, if you weren’t a theatre actor you weren’t really considered an ‘actor’. Today, the worm has turned and without a strong screen profile, it is difficult for actors to progress in any facet of acting.”
Roberts, who has worked as an actress and director in theatre, television and films for over three decades, says acting for the screen requires the same tools as theatre, but application of those tools is very different.
“For example, voice is still an important instrument in both mediums and both mediums require resonance and control. However, voice projection required on stage is not needed on a set.”
This diploma is designed to teach screen performance and screen presence. While the course includes theatre as a unit and the graduates do perform live on stage at their industry presentation, students are continually recording their performances on camera and use the technology in class on a daily basis.
Hinck says, “The camera captures every moment and nuance. The camera can be locked on your face and you have to put your entire body’s emotion in your eyes. Also, when performing in a play, the actor is required to perform each scene consecutively, but on a set the actor is required to shoot out of sequence over and over again, stopping and starting and often picking up the dialogue at different intervals. It takes great skill and discipline to create the same performance each time and perform the exact same tasks for each take.”
For aspiring screen actors such as Hinck, the course provides in-depth theoretical and practical knowledge of the industry.
He says, “We are groomed in not just the skills we need, but also how to confidently handle various aspects of the film industry in the real world. We work closely with leading and current professional actors, directors and casting consultants, which provides us with rare networking opportunities. So by the end of two years, we would have learnt the ropes of show business.”
The course comprises 14 core units, including screen combat, character building, movement and voice for screen, accents, and business management.
“Acting is a unique occupation,” Hinck says. “As an actor you never stop learning and you are always being critiqued so you must be open to learning and improving.”
The film industry is arguably one of the toughest industries. Very few succeed and there’s no fixed income. Hinck says, “An actor is paid on the basis of the work you get and that is the reason why it is so important to be the best in your field. I have 18 students in my class who will be completing the diploma end of 2014 and we will all be looking for work.”
Hinck would like to work in the Australian film industry before moving overseas to enhance his prospects. Screenwise alumni who have moved to the US include Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Todd Lasance (Spartacus), Stef Dawson (Hunger Games) and Ashley Cummings (Puberty Blues).
The diploma requires 20 hours a week attendance and costs $32,000 in fees. It is accredited with the Australian skills quality authority (ASQA), and approved for VET fee-help for domestic students and by the Commonwealth register of institutions and courses for overseas students (CRICOS). Applications open on August 31 and close on November 15 each year.
Image courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald