A Class Act!
A Conversation With Cork Based Actors
This week we interviewed some local actors to get their take on the short film scene, and to find out what makes them tick.
The actors we interviewed are:
Ruth studied drama with LAMDA, here in Cork. She went on to study screen acting in both Cork and Dublin with the Irish Film Academy and with award winning writer and director Terry Mc Mahon. She has appeared in numerous performances on the Cork stage over the years, including Dancing at Lughnasa, The Country, A Serving of Pinter, Playboy of the Western World and Tons of Money. Her musical theatre credits include the lead characters in Guys and Dolls and My Fair Lady. On Screen, Ruth has featured in several short films including, Partly Cloudy, Th3 Room, Searching for Ten, Grief and Dying Wish. Ruth also played the lead character in the independent feature film The Far Road. http://osullivantheactorsagent.com/?p=396
John graduated from Kinsale College and has also trained under Hollywood’s top Acting coach Margie Haber of Margie Haber Studios, Los Angeles. He has performed leading roles in over 50 Short Horror & Comedy films.
John’s work on stage has ranged from Irish classics such as Brian Friel’s ‘Translations’ whereby he played the leading role of ‘Owen’ to farce comedy’s such as ‘A Flea In Her Ear’ whereby he played the role of ‘Etienne’(a role made famous by Sir Anthony Hopkins).
John’s latest performance as ‘Lord Henry Wotton’ in a stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (July 2012) earned him critical acclaim.
When Catherine was growing up she wanted to be either an actress or a nun! Thus far the acting is winning that rivalry. If there is any aspect film-making, be it performing, sourcing props, clapper board, or even making the tea, there is nowhere she’d rather be. This is her passion.
Catherine studied acting in the School of Music and the Actors Space in Vic, Spain. She has been involved in several productions including ‘Baby Boots’ [dir. Dan O Connell], ‘Flipping Channels’ [dir. Fiona Riodan] and most recently ‘Partly Cloudy’ [dir.. Mark Cogan]
Frank Hurley starred in the lead role in the recent award winning short film “A Selfless Act”. Prior to this he has acted in several short films which have been screened in film festivals at home and abroad. Frank hHas also turned his hand to producing and has produced his last three films, ‘Baby Boots’ Twinkle Toes’ and ‘A Selfless Act’.
Stephen studied acting in The Gaiety School Of Acting and St John’s College, Cork after which he went on to act in over a dozen short films including The Lump (RTE / Ed Godsell) and The Legend Of Jonny King (Stormlight Productions). He has starred in Fair City and other RTE productions.
1. What is the best part of the job?
Catherine: The best part to the job is meeting and working with people brimming with enthusiasm and talent. Being part of a friendly and passionate group also makes it not seem like work at all.
Ruth: I love getting to be someone else! I enjoy reading a script and discovering who the character is. Working out what makes them tick and how they respond to certain situations. Really getting under their skin. I’m obsessed with human behaviour, so the opportunity to play different characters in a disparity of situations is what I love most.
Stephen: Going home at the end of the day knowing that you did the best you could.
John: Personally, when you find a role that suits you perfectly where you have the opportunity of using your own unique qualities that colour a character uniquely. Particularly on stage where you have the opportunity of being in character for a long period in front of an audience playing a lead role where you really grow into a role organically. And not to mention the fantastic craic you have during a run of a show, mostly with an ensemble cast. Due to the long period of time you spend with a cast and crew on a show, everybody becomes very attached to each other in a good way.
Frank: I suppose I’ve lived in a fantasy land all my life, I think its fair to say I’m not in touch with reality at all, at all, and acting allows me to live out some of those fantasies briefly.
2. What is the worst part of the job?
John: The ruthless business side of acting. How hard it is to get seen whether it be on stage or screen, just to get Casting directors to watch any of your material or to come to a live performance. Most jobs in Cork or indeed Ireland are unpaid acting jobs so it makes it very hard to support yourself when you are committed full-time. Auditions also tend to be a horrible experience for most actors, particularly when you don’t get a fair opportunity to show your potential for the given audition due to a lack of understanding about acting or actors.
Catherine: I suppose the instability of the business. It’s always tough when your not sure when the next job is coming.
Stephen: Going home at the end of the day knowing that you didn’t do the best you could.
Frank: Getting nowhere fast!
Ruth: The uncertainty, for sure. It’s not the kind of job where you train and hone your craft and then opportunities will follow suit. You’re not afforded the luxury of that kind of career trajectory. You can have times when you’re constantly working, then times when you hit a dry spell. It really can be a feast or a famine. You need a lot of determination to stick at it in those quieter times.
3. What advice would you have for anyone who wants to get into acting for screen?
Catherine: Less is more. The camera picks up everything, it is totally different to acting on stage. The camera captures thoughts so the smallest glance will mean a lot. Keep going to acting classes/courses as you can always learn more. The day you stop learning is the day you die.
Frank: Don’t try doing it off the cuff like I am, go to drama school and do it the professional way.
Stephen: Take a screen acting course and act in as many student films as you can. Student films are a great way to gain experience.
Ruth: Firstly, I would advise on doing a course in screen acting. There are so many great courses and workshops in acting for camera. It’s a completely different discipline to theatre acting. Yes you’re still doing your scene breakdown and character study but the delivery is very different. A lot of these courses will show you how to deal with life on set etc. Many of them will record you acting on camera. Even though it can be a cringe worthy experience, it’s invaluable for highlighting little habits that you may have that you need to kick when acting for screen. Once you have that done, then go and get the experience. Send your CV into St. John’s central college here in Cork and put yourself forward for as many short films as you can. Keep an eye out online for opportunities also. Of course Egomotion is a great place to get to know people and find out what’s happening. Fellow actor Marcus Bale also runs the Irish bulletin for actors and actresses, on facebook, so make sure you join that too!
John: Get as good a showreel as you can get, ideally by finding duologues where you can be seen to be clearly working off another actor, actively listening, clearly in the moment with a substantial amount of reaction shots of you. As the saying goes acting is re-acting. And to have as good a contrast as you can both drama and comedy to show as much of a range as you can manage.
4. What was the biggest challenge you faced in your most recent film?
Stephen: Trying to remember that “LESS IS MORE”!
Catherine: Honestly, Heels. It can be hard working in costume for the whole day on set. Particularly if you haven’t broken them in beforehand!
Ruth: Falling forward on cue and making it look natural!!
Frank: The last film i did I played the part of a down and out. A real life homeless person approached me as if I was living rough and tried to give me some advice, I found it very hard to admit to this person I was only acting a scene so I stayed in character rather than embarrass him. There were also lots of times when people would throw me some money and it was also difficult to stay in character on those occasions so as I wouldn’t embarrass myself.
5. What advice would you have for movie directors when directing actors?
Ruth: I love to have an open dialogue with a director. I have always seen movie making as a collaborative process so I guess I’d advise a director to be open to suggestions by an actor and allow them the freedom to make choices in a scene. This is all within reason though and it’s important that the actor doesn’t go off on a tangent and veer from the essence of the character and the script. Good communication skills are vital here.
Frank: Give the actor direction! A lot of directors would leave it to your own interpretation, I personally think it would be easier for me if the director explained to the actor the story that was being played in his head but then, if I knew what to tell a director to do, then I’d be a director myself.
John: Be clear on what you want from the actor but trust the actor enough to do his/her job. Great directors, I think, give just enough guidance for you to fufill the requirements of a role without dictating the performance or restricting the actors’ own creative process.
Stephen: Listen to your actors before you shout “Action”.
Catherine: Everyone is different so it’s hard to say one thing that will work for everyone.
‘Communication is key’ – I know its a totally over used phrase but it is also very true. Be clear with how you want a scene to be, but be open and receptive to how the actor interpreted the script. This is why I personally think having rehearsals before going to set is a massive advantage. Also using storyboards in preproduction is quite helpful as you see what the director has envisaged and discuss it with them.
6. Who would you say are your biggest inspirations in the film world?
Frank: I’ve always admired the acting of Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks.
John: Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Bacon, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne.
Stephen: Gabriel Byrne and the late Donal McCann.
Catherine: Hard question as there are so many…
Males: Robert Di Nero, Al Pacino, Peter Ustinov, Dustin Hoffman.
Females: Maggie Smith, Meryl Streep, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sally Field.
Ruth: It’s really difficult to single anyone out. The people that inspire me are those who are not afraid to take risks, be it an actor, director or writer. Those who make the brave choices and see the job through. It’s tough to get projects made at times, so I have great admiration for those who have the vision and chutzpa to see a production come to fruition. Because we are such a small country, I always feel inspired and have a sense of pride when I see ‘our own’ doing well.
7. Are there any particular roles that you relish, or that you would love to get your teeth into?
Frank: I’ve always fancied the idea of being a renegade soldier in a war movie but I’d also love to get into more comedic roles, so if there are any good directors out there with comedy war movies give me a shout.
Ruth: I’m delighted to say that I’ve played a good cross section of characters over the years. I’ve gone from drama to comedy to horror! However I’d love to get my teeth into a great action role. I’ve played the victim a lot so the chance to play a strong woman who can kick butt sounds like fun!
John: Well recently having played ‘Lord Henry’ in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ directed by Cal Duggan for Kinsale Arts Week, I found it to be the role of a lifetime that suited my own unique quality of humour and found a substantial amount of personal parallels with the character that gave me a very specific avenue into the role and gave it 3 dimensions for me as a result. It was the best acting I’ve ever done as a result and those familiar with my work concurred. It just goes to show when you get THAT role that’s made for you.
Catherine: I want to do it all!! I never want to be typecast. However in saying that, villains appeal to me. When I was small I was always more fascinated with Maleficent and Ursula the Sea Witch than I was with Sleeping Beauty or Ariel. I love evil characters who are more fleshed out, relate able and fun.
8. What is your impression of the film industry in munster, and in particular in cork at present?
Catherine: I know it’s been said before in the other interviews on Egomotion but we can all feel a change at the moment. The Cork film scene is buzzing, gaining momentum and popularity. Our hope is that soon Cork will be one of the top spots for film companies to come and work in. We have hard working, talented people in Cork. We just need the funding so these people don’t have to move elsewhere to get steady work in our industry.
John: I think there is an incredible wealth of talent that has to break through at some stage, but something needs to happen for that to occur and I’m not so sure what that is yet.
Frank: Non existent.
Stephen: A sleeping Giant that is about to awake.
Ruth: Well there certainly is a buzz around Cork film making at the moment. It’s about time too. As part of this job I have to travel up to Dublin a lot. It’s nice to know that things are beginning to happen down here. There’s such a wealth of talent and experience amongst the film community here in Munster. What I love most about the community down here, is that people are extremely supportive of each other. There’s a sense of comradery and good will. We’ve all helped each other out in different projects over the years. Long may it continue to flourish.