Jame's Walsh-Heron's Blog

11 Dec 2013

James Walsh-Heron's Blog

This time last year I made a New Year's resolution to try something completely different and make new friends. I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to do this but then after a little searching on the Internet I found out about Actors Workshop. I had always wanted to revisit acting at some point in my life. I had studied drama GCSE at school but always felt that I didn't get as much out of it as I would have liked. 

I didn't particularly want to join an amateur dramatics company - not that there's anything wrong with that - because I wanted to start from square one. I wanted to know the how, why and who of acting as much as learning how to act. I also wanted to meet new people in a relaxed and friendly environment without the pressure of a large-scale production at the end of the course. 

That is why Actors Workshop appealed to me. Right from the moment I looked at the website I knew this was a different kind of acting course. Everything looked very professional and very well structured with clear guidelines on what you could expect from taking part in workshops and what, in turn, would be expected from you, which all seemed very reasonable and straightforward to me. Actors Workshop is a commitment, but taking two hours out of your weekend or a weekday evening is a small price to pay for  a ticket to pure, unadulterated escapism.

After taking part in a Discovering Acting course at the beginning of this year, I was hooked. I'd been lucky enough to work with some lovely, very friendly folk on different techniques and group activities and I wanted to take it further. That's why I signed up to the Screen Academy course.

Acting for television and film is a completely different ball game to acting for the stage and vice versa. Something that looks so simple to you or I is the product of so many different components - one scene can comprise of multiple different shots and you as an actor have to be so aware of what you are doing and what's going on around you. That's why we were so lucky to have a brilliant tutor. 

Rebecca took us through the process of acting in front of the camera step by step - whether this was hitting your marks or basic continuities in the way you moved or delivered a line. I never realised that there are some angles you simply can't shoot from and would look bizarre on camera. And of course, you can't break the all-important fourth wall, unless of course you happen to be Miranda Hart or Frankie Howerd! 

Although there was a lot to think about on the Screen Academy  I never felt overwhelmed. The course was designed so you learnt and focused on a new skill or technique each week and then you had the opportunity to apply everything you learnt to the final assignment which was acting out a scene from Jimmy McGovern's "The Accused". That was so much fun to film and I was really impressed by all the groups when we watched the scenes back.

For me the best bit about the Screen Academy was working in different groups and I wanted to continue with that in the following Trailer Term. This was possibly the most challenging of all the courses I'd taken so far but it was undoubtedly one of the best things I have ever done. 

I was lucky to work with two fantastic people who were totally committed to our trailer. Our original idea was very different to what we eventually ended up doing but as we developed the plot, story and characterisation and then moved on to scripting, we started to see something very exciting and original emerging. The end product was something that had genuinely been shaped by all three of us. I will never forget filming the different scenes in Chapter, particularly one very gory one which I think is probably worthy of the title of "best ever use of a pork liver in a film trailer -ever".

I must admit the thought of pitching our idea to a panel of experts at the trailer premier made me ever so slightly nervous! But I had nothing to be worried about. This was just a chance for us to promote and sell the idea of our trailer, whilst explaining a little about the story and the characters.

Each of the three groups in our class had brilliant trailers and made some excellent pitches. It was a real blast and I went away feeling very proud to be involved in such a fantastic project - made to look all the more fantastic by some truly brilliant editing on behalf of Rebecca. 

It's no exaggeration to say that my decision to join Actor's Workshop back in January was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Before joining I started to feel that weekday nights were becoming a little empty but I've now managed to fill that gap with evenings of fun, creativity, self-expression and of course the occasional pork liver! Most importantly I have made some wonderful friends and that in my eyes is truly priceless.