I'll be honest with you, without my teaching I won't earn a penny. Both Feet is my full time job and I'm the sole provider for my lovely little family so I'm not sure what our way through is yet but I'm trusting we will find a way. I also know that you will be in a very similar position and for many of you money is now a serious issue - potentially to the point that it's hard to put food on the table and pay rent let alone pay for training. SO...
For now all the online stuff, I'll do on a (guilt free) Pay What/If You Can basis and I'll trust that if you can give anything at all, you will and if you can't, from the bottom of my heart, it's OK. Yes, we all have bills and food to pay for, this isn't about money, this is about working together. This is about adjusting and exploring something new, our now.
(With that out of the way) Let's Play
Obviously there are certain things we can't do online, and that's good, because at least it means that when this all blows over we won't have created a world where everything can be done online so we will have to reconnect in person! BUT there are things we can do, which is ACE.
Let's keep working, keep challenging ourselves and flexing those muscles. It's good for our head, heart and gut.
So over the next few days and weeks we'll be releasing some fun challenges and things to do and we'd love for you to get involved. It might be for just you, you and another actor (familiar or not) or even you and your family. Either way, it'll keep you on your toes and ready for anything whilst continuing you on your journey of simplifying, calming the chaos and trusting.
We'll be looking at...
I shall be looking into online platforms which means some of these we can do and share together and others we'll do on a 1:1 or a 2:1 basis.
They're just the ideas bouncing around atm, I'm sure there's a million more. Do you have any other ideas or things that would be useful to you during this time? Tell me what you need - you know that's the most important starting point for me. Drop me and email firstname.lastname@example.org
ARE YOU IN? ARE YOU UP FOR SOME CHALLENGES AND SOME FUN?
Right, I've been working since 5am so I'm going to switch off now and pick up again tomorrow.
As actors, makers and creators many of us already live with a lot of uncertainty, it comes with the territory, sadly so does depression and anxiety. So I know that for many of you this may be feeling heightened as each announcement comes and jobs / gigs / shows / events get cancelled. It is with a heavy heart that I finally announce Both Feet classes will be putting their feet up (temporarily). We don't yet know what this looks or feels like and even though our heart is heavy we are still feeling optimistic. Why? Well...
There is one thing I know for sure: you and me, we're resilient f*ckers. We have the special kind of brains that adapt, that turn a challenge into something beautiful. We see ways to make use of what we have now. Yes our worlds are changing. Yes we may feel overwhelmed / scared / [insert word of your choice] but let's all take a moment, step back and check out the massive sack of resources we have.
What do we know from our training?
When Shakespeare was quarantined because of The Plague he wrote King Lear
If you're someone who can get stuff in your head and need to calm the chaos (and even if you're not!) then definitely take this time to connect with your present self. Replaying the What Ifs through your mind is probably not going to be great for you so trust you have loads of tools to help with that, if you choose to use them.
That's all I have to say right now. I'm going to figure out ways we can stay connected, because we need to so if you have any ideas, talk to me. We are a family, we'll get through this together.
All the love,
and of course, Adam sends his love too "Onward we go! We’ll be fine, we got this. Plus, if we can be useful to any of you you know where we are." 🙌🏻
Every time I design a new course or come up with a new idea, it’s always in response to listening to actors talking about things they’re struggling with or frustrations about the industry. I’ve seen a lot of headshots over the years. Some great and some really, really poor ones. When an actor joins this industry, how do they know what is good or not? How do they know how to prepare themselves properly for the shoot and do they even know themselves well enough to be creating their sales pitch in the first place? It got me thinking.
I approached my really rather talented cousin James of Shift Focus / James Green Photography to see if he wanted to join forces to offer headshots to actors training with us at Both Feet. He was totally game. And what a wonderful treat for me - I only have three blood relatives left and he’s one of them so getting to bring together our two lives/major passions is really quite special.
James is technically a phenomenal photographer, he absolutely knows his stuff. He is most definitely an artist rather than someone who’s just bought a nice camera so I knew our skills would be a perfect match.
The biggest hurdle with headshots is providing a space where an actor can be themselves, which means it needs to be safe. I figured if I’m working with actors who I’ve been training, they already trust me, they already know the space will be safe. Plus I know them well enough to be able to coach them on different looks and through any struggles they might be having and push them to be simple but bold and brave.
I’m a firm believer that we’re better together. So, instead of doing solo shoots I wanted to run a whole day shoot with up to 8 actors. This would mean everyone would have time to change clothes and hair etc without a load of pressure but most importantly comradery would lift spirits, ease nerves, offer inspiration and raise the bar.
James and I ran our trial shoot in January and I’ve got to say, we’re both pretty chuffed with the outcome. Always learning and ready for what's next, we’re now planning our next Headshot Day and designing a similar set up for Showreels - very exciting!!
It’s worth saying that I have zero interest in going into headshots and showreels but I do have a deep rooted investment in the actors I work with so, what James and I are offering will only be open to actors training with Both Feet.
See you soon?
I am chuffed with my new acting head shots, they have already got me some good auditions. James is a highly skilled, friendly and hard working photographer. During the session I felt relaxed and really enjoyed myself too. I have been acting for 10 years now and had lots of head shots done, but these are my favourite! ~ Josie Cerise
Despite Stephanie Morgan being pregnant for 7 months of 2019, having major surgery and then gaining another baby to be a little brother to Fox and Adam Stadius creating and launching the brand new Musical Theatre BA at Leeds College of Music conservatoire and losing our Leeds space twice we have somehow managed...
Really what is more important is that we are building actor training that is trusted by actors and other industry experts. Trusted for quality. Trusted for honesty. Trusted for a technique.
That list also doesn't represent everything the actors who have been training with us have achieved, the auditions attended, parts and credits gained, the drama school acceptance letters received and the many hours of mentoring we have offered. It also doesn't show the millions of beautiful moments of failure and honesty that we have shared in our spaces.
Every actor we meet and every class we run we are learning from too and we love it, deeply.
Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for being part of our journey and letting us be a part of yours.
2020 is going to be a big year for Both Feet. It will see the return of many courses plus newly designed ones, a retreat studio space with accommodation in North Wales, new relationships and collaborations (coz that's what it's all about, right?!), performance platforms, headshots and showreels collaborations and so much more.
We're even kicking off the first couple of weeks with 2 sold out Intro to Meisner courses and a brand new Into Your Body and Out of Your Head series - which makes our hearts sing.
Join Us as we jump feet first into a new decade.
July last year Nicki Davy cautiously made contact with me (we knew each from another life time) saying she thought she wanted to be an actor. She'd had zero training, just a suppressed hunch that this is what she should be doing.
After discussions she signed up to our Foundation training and by the end, despite being terrified of this giant leap she had quit her job, booked headshots and started to apply for roles. Lucky for us she's done almost every course we’ve ran since and been mentored by me along the way. She has not floated into this industry, she has bulldozed her way in. She has worked hard. She knows the development of her instrument and craft is essential to her success. Alongside our training she’s gone to dance classes, voice 1:1s, Play With Fire Productions’ Scene Studies and probably more.
Over the last 18 months she's done loads of script in hand nights, research and development projects, Slung Low Shorts, done student films, worked with Northern Film School, the bread and butter school theatre work and no doubt loads more that my baby brain has forgotten. Over the last couple of weeks she's been in her first two full length plays.
I managed to drag my sleep deprived self to King John by Cream Faced Loons on Sunday night in Manchester to see how she was getting on and I'm so glad I did.
I have a funny relationship with the word "proud" because it rings of ownership, maybe that's just a weird hang up I have. But it is the only word I can use to how I felt driving back home to Wales. She was unapologetic for taking up space in the room. She watched attentively. Listened acutely. Her huge chunks of text were powerful and human. She was present and honest and raw and unafraid.
Is she at The National being reviewed by Time Out? No. Not Yet. But she will finally be on Spotlight in the new year and then she can get an agent so she can be taken seriously as an actor (don't get me started on that entire statement).
I put this in a blog because she's an incredible example of what actors should be doing. I see far too many actors floundering and/or waiting or being too scared of failure to be all in. Be all in. No excuses. You might just be brilliant.
I am not taking ownership of her "exceptional" performance, as I said above, she's jumped into other training over the last 18months but I do feel like Adam and I have had a decent amount of input into the tenacious and open actor she has been developing (and continues to develop).
Recently I've had a few students who have now started at some of the top Drama Schools in the UK/world get in touch to thank me for the training we provided them and how thrilled they are that Meisner is being taught where they now are. This makes my heart sing.
For as long as I've been training in and teaching this work it has felt quite underground. The majority of actors I met along the way (The North being more behind than London) either saying they'd never heard of it or they'd heard the name but didn't know what it was. But recently there's been a shift which is seriously exciting.
There could be many reasons for this but my reckoning is based on the rise of mental health awareness.
Everyone teaches this work differently, of course they do, because no one is Sanford Meisner apart from Sandy himself but there are some key principles that I'd like to believe go wherever the training is:
Until I discovered The Meisner Technique I believed the only way to be truthful as an actor was by experience, therefore I relied heavily on emotional recall - because that'd what I'd been taught, even from a very young age. But here's the thing, if you've not had the training and grounding to trust yourself and be safe in the knowledge of all those beautiful emotions you're full of, how could recalling the most traumatic event of your life (for example) for the good of your role be good for your mental health? My mum died in 2014. The last week, the last day, the last hour, the last breath was horrific, I had nightmares for months. Is it a good idea to replay that over and over again in order to bring sadness or rage or guilt or relief to my character? I don't think so.
The fact is, I am made up of hundreds of thousands of experiences and memories and they fill me. Someone could stroke my face how mum once did and that feeling would rush through my veins like lightning. Because it's always in me, it'll never go away. I don't need to go digging for it, it's all there, available to me, if I let it.
My priority when I'm training actors is for them to be safe. That's why I love using The Meisner Technique as the basis of my coaching because we're exploring what it feels like to trust ourselves implicitly, to know that emotions never stop moving. That in a single moment sadness can turn to laughter because as an actor you've put your attention away from yourself and you're responding to the person in front of you with all the ease and availability of a child.
The Meisner Technique teaches you how to work in the moment. Once you discover the power of the moment you'll discover what it really is to be free. Free of expectations. Free of your inner critic. Free of your fear of failure. Free of your fear of judgement. Because as quickly as the moment arises, it's gone and we're into another moment.
Discovering this technique can also have a profound affect on how you view yourself and the world around you. When I discovered it I was also training in Neuro Linguistic Programming, something I was doing purely because I'm fascinated by the human being. During that time I learnt about me, about how I learn, how I am programmed. The more I learnt about me, the more I learnt about other people. Meisner trains you to see deeper, to listen closer, which in turn, I believe, makes you a better human and therefore a better actor. Surely if you're an attentive and open actor you're going to be far more employable than someone whose ego or fear stops them from being present?
Statistics from Arts and Minds 2015 research show that one in five people in the arts sector actively sought help for their mental health. There's also evidence that people in this industry experience symptoms of anxiety ten times higher than the general population and depression five times higher. Actors are often expected to expose themselves emotionally, often with little regard for how it affects their mental health. Add this to the overwhelming lack of self worth thanks to the financial insecurity, often poor working conditions and crazy high expectations set by themselves, the critics and the media it's easy to understand why actors are so vulnerable.
Actors need the strongest of foundations to base their work on so they can live truthfully under their given set of circumstances safely in the rehearsal room, on stage or in front of the camera and then go home at the end of the day leaving work at work. Drama schools owe it to their students to give them the tools to do this. That is why I believe every actor should get a firm grasp of this training. Once they have it, they'll be set for life.
Money is tight. Headshots are important, an investment, your marketing material. Yet for some reason I see so many actors be unprepared when it comes to choosing photographers and attending their shoot. Here are a few thoughts from me on making every penny count.
Since writing this blog we've actually started to run our own Headshot Days with me (Steph) coaching and James of Shift Focus behind the camera. Find out more HERE.
Just a wee update for those who have entered the website and are new to us.
You may have gone to the Dates page to see we don't have any courses in the diary at the moment apart from our weekly classes in Leeds. There's a simple explanation for it...
I (Steph) had my second baby, Pip, in July (yay! Zzzz!) so I'm just figuring out life with two small people and how I can gradually build running my courses back into it. Pip and I have already co taught the Voice, Movement and Meisner Intensive together in Leeds in August so I know we can do it, I just need to make sure I can still be the acting coach I want to be whilst also being the mum I want to be. Ah life, it's a constant balancing act ay?
As for Adam, he's spent the last year designing the brand spanking new Musical Theatre course at Leeds College of Music which opens it's doors to the first ensemble of students in a matter of days. This has meant he has also had to divert his attention temporarily as this part of journey reaches its crescendo. He's worked his backside off forging relationships across the country and beyond, researching, innovating and pulling incredible people to Leeds so I know each of those students will be in the best of hands - good luck Mr Stadius, you are bloomin' brilliant.
Fear not, when (if) my 8week old baby sleeps I am behind the scenes making some very exciting plans for the next year, tweaking our current training programme and building some fabulous new courses based on the feedback we've collected over the last year including the return of Barbara Houseman, Scott Williams, Camera work, BSL combined Scene Study, Auditions, Monologues, voice, movement and sooooo much more. It's very important to Adam and I to never get complaisant with the training we offer so we are always being inspired by, and adjusting to, the ever changing needs of the industry and the modern day actor.
Please make sure to sign up to our mailing list and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram so you don't miss the new additions - we'd hate to miss the opportunity to work with you just because we're quieter than normal.
Stay in touch and let's start our journey together soon.
Side note: We're also on the hunt for a space to call home in Leeds City Centre so if you know of anywhere affordable we'd love to hear from you.
When I run Tech Gyms I tend to start the day with "what do you need?". I'd rather mold a day around the needs of my students at that moment in time rather than predeciding how it's going to go. This course ended up being about split attention and honing different given circumstances including specific directorial notes and character traits and impediments. A LOT of fun continuing to explore simplicity even when we think it's more complicated than it needs to be. An *actors* job (in my opinion) is *not* to show/convey/explain to an audience, it's to live truthfully under those given circumstances and the audience will follow. For now, that's my last Tech Gym for a while, oh how I'll miss it and these beautiful actors. Don't worry folks, me and baby will be back as soon as we can ;-) Steph x
End of two days with this small yet perfectly formed group of actors at different stages of their journey with us, all who have pushed some boundaries, jumped into the unknown, flexed new and old muscles and worked with new texts in a slightly different way. Thanks you fab lot for being open to discovering. Please continue to trust yourselves, learn the rules to break the rules, and jump in irrespective of how silly you feel inside, the commitment to the unknown will feel soooo much better than the feeling of regret. Steph x