Why Screen Acting: The Rounded Actor

Head of Screen Acting Tom Colley talks us through his career progression from stage to screen, the importance of diverse acting training and how our  4 week screen acting intensive will equip you for the industry and the opportunities that come your way. 

short film production

When I went to train in acting for screen I was obsessed with working within the television and film industry. It was all I wanted to do. I had brief stints doing theatre in several different guises through a university course at Leeds. These theatrical experiences filled me with creative enthusiasm, curiosity for the art, and a hunger for more chances to perform. But I kept coming around to the nagging little voice in my head, steadily rising in velocity, which said;

“WHAT ABOUT FILM?”

I couldn’t ignore it and so off I went to drama school with resolve and determination – I was going to be a screen actor. After completing my training all I wanted to do was play characters in front of the camera. I was desperate for it. Predictably, it didn’t work out like that. I found that I was still working in the theatre more than ever and the elusive TV or film role would come about once every blue moon. As grateful as I was for working the frustration that it wasn’t predominantly on screen was very present.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it took me a couple of years to realise … but the fact remains that the ‘rounded’ actor is the successful actor. ‘Rounded’ means a versatility for whichever artistic medium (TV, film, theatre, radio, site specific and promenade, performance art) you find yourself in when you are working. Why narrow your chances of getting a job by focusing only on one medium? They are all a chance to develop craft, explore character, and get to grips with understanding the nuances of performance. The training you embark on as an actor should be a reflection of the kaleidoscopic nature of the business. I can guarantee that all the assorted methodologies that I have been exposed to throughout my training and education have been useful in my working life. How’s about a couple of examples then?

ANIMAL STUDIES:

I went along to Spotlight (the main casting centre in London) for an audition for some TV drama (the name escapes me). Whilst I was in the waiting room I heard a bunch of noises coming from the adjacent casting room which sounded suspiciously like varying degrees of primate. Sweaty men in vests would leave one by one, rolling their eyes or joking with each other about how bizarre the last fifteen minutes of their lives were. I couldn’t resist a little smile to myself, along with the thought “thank God I’m not in there!” Of course, as dire fate would have it, my agent called to say I had a last minute audition for Tarzan, and since I was already there I might as well go for it. Of … course. Out I went to get shorts and a vest and the next thing I know I’m bouncing from floor to table to chair, howling at the top of my lungs. I’ll never forget that audition, weirdly one of most fun and exhilarating ones I’ve ever had.

JUST MAKE IT UP:

I was filming in Wales over a freakishly hot summer. The script was fantastic, the character had delicious depth, and the relationships between the protagonists unique. All my character preparation was done, false tattoos and gold teeth in place, the lines seared into my memory. We do a take and it fizzes, it’s electric, it’s alive. It doesn’t get better than this, I thought. The director saunters up, hat half obscuring deep and thoughtful eyes. “OK, let’s go for another everyone. Tom, you can say the lines, or not say the lines, I don’t really care. Do whatever you like.” My mouth drops open as I see him trudge back to his monitor. “And, ACTION!” From then on I don’t really know what happened, I just had to dive into the rapids improvisation without an idea how to navigate it. Those frustrating improvisation classes somehow got me through, and the film turned out pretty good too.

We can never expect how things will turn out as actors. We can’t plan what we don’t know. The best we can do is have a training that is ‘rounded’, full and extensive, giving us the widest possible knowledge and skills that we can utilize in our careers going forward. It’s the most relevant advice I’ve acquired – don’t narrow yourself down! We have our preferences, and we are entitled to them, but don’t let them get in the way of creative opportunities.

4 Week Screen Acting Course

Rounded training is something that we are passionate about in the Screen Acting department and is precisely the reason that we are offering versatile and varied training on our 4 Week Intensive Screen Acting course. It's full-time training that encompasses not only screen acting technique, but also movement, combat, Meisner, Method Acting, making your own work, industry workshops and a whole lot more!