Introducing Actor, and City Academy Screen Acting tutor Tom Colley - we caught up with Tom to find out all things Screen Acting...from what inspired him to appear on Film, to what it takes to become an on-screen actor, as well as his top piece of advice to all aspiring TV and Film stars...
How did you get into screen acting and what’s the appeal for you?
I first got into acting for the camera from watching films whilst studying at university. I was fascinated with the ability of great actors such as Marlon Brando, James Dean, Robert De Niro and Daniel Day Lewis, how they were able to create full characters on the screen, with great depth and nuance. The relationship between the lens and the inner life of a character is fragile, intriguing, and ever changing. Perfecting this relationship through my craft had great appeal to me, and it is something I have dedicated myself to in my work and teaching over the last decade.
What is the main difference between screen acting and acting for stage?
The main difference is that you have to forget an audience exists. The director, the crew, and everyone on set, is there for the same artistic reason, but for the screen actor, it is only the other person(s) that are your audience. You have to forget everything else. Theatre is different, there is an intrinsic relationship with the live audience at all times, and the actor must be aware of this.
What does it take to be an on-screen actor?
It takes dogged determination and perseverance, as well as an overwhelming understanding of your own vulnerability as a person. An actor for the camera is one who is willing to open up the Pandora's Box of their inner life, and in doing so allows the camera to capture it. It takes a lot of honesty to do this.
As many creative industries, acting on (and off) screen is reputedly hard to break into. What’s the best way to get a foot in the door to start learning the ropes?
I went to drama school to start the on the path. There I learnt the techniques useful for when I entered the industry and started working as an actor. However, this is certainly not the only way!
There are lots of other avenues too. I would say it is important to make your own work, and learn from your failures and successes that way. In doing so you aren't relying on others to make it happen, you are using your own resources to create the platform wherein you practice your craft. Be as curious as possible; write, film, act, and send your stuff out into the world. Be proud of what you do and don't let failure be a deterrent - it is the only way we can keep developing!
Can you share your favourite on-screen moment with us?
A favourite moment on mine would have to be a couple of years ago on set of a film about to come out this year. It was the start of a relationship between two characters, one that on paper seemed rather strange. There was no dialogue either; just the silent navigation of their thoughts as they tried to work out what the other was thinking. The beginnings of a flirtation. It was a moment where everything is in thought and reaction, about letting another affect you sincerely and recognising it truthfully. It is a joy to work with another actor that does just that, and a moment where you think 'actually, this can be really easy!' ''
Do you have any screen acting tips that makes people go “really, that’s how they do it!”?
I had a piece of advice once when I was on set. It was a tricky scene with a lot of action and speech all at once. After a couple of takes the director said, "do it like you would do a paint-by-numbers. First, you think this and then it makes you do that, then say that, then do that..." and so on. There was such a clarity of the character's journey when I acknowledged this, and it also helped for the camera to follow and document that journey. Sometimes, simple can be best.
What advice would you give to aspiring screen actors out there?
It doesn't happen overnight. Well, not for 99.9% of actors. It takes years of practice, trial and error, and dedication. Forget anything to do with profile, fame and notoriety; these are all the enemies of the actor. Instead, focus on stories and characters. Run with what intrigues you and makes you curious. In exploring that you will find that your craft will develop on a stronger level. Forget about success as being validated by a film, or a big TV series, instead focus on success as always developing and enhancing your craft. And make your own work, find friends with similar interests and work on creating your art. The more you practice, the better you become.
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