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
Blog by Josie Cerise
I'll be honest (that's what Both Feet classes are all about, right!?) when Steph asked me to team up with her to do this ‘Into the Body and Out of the Head’ series of workshops, my imposter syndrome kicked in. That negative voice I've managed to tame since I started classes with Steph, cried out, 'What do you have to offer? You're a student of Both Feet, no one will want to learn from you!'. But I took a breath, thought 'trust' and said 'Hell yeah, I bloody love movement!'.
Ironically what brought me to Meisner training was to get away from my physicality and focus on the simplicity of truthful acting. I'd got into a pattern of doing very physical roles and approaching characters in the same way. But I’ve come full circle and realised simple truthful acting includes physicality and the body. Our bodies never stop moving. It doesn’t matter if it’s close to my natural state or a dramatised version of an animal for a children’s show, every character I play demands my body to know how to move.
I really want this series to be PRACTICAL and USEFUL, so actors can take away skills they can use for the job (including auditions). I've done physical workshops before where I think, 'how can I use this in my work?!' and left feeling frustrated. Our priority will be finding what works for you. I'm passionate about making sure everyone can take steps forward, no matter where you’re at with the connection to your body. For me, the most mesmerising and believable actors are those who are fully connected to their voice, mind and body. That’s why I think movement training is as important as voice and text work. Movement is increasingly becoming recognised as vital in the arts; movement directors are now a staple part of many creative teams. There are physical theatre companies devising brilliant work such as Frantic Assembly, RashDash, Paper Birds and Complicite to name a few. I've picked the best methods and exercises (from these practitioners and more) that have helped me connect physically. Steph will be there too (thankfully!) with her holistic approach of making sure we are mindful and truthful. The aim is that we have fun and keep aware to protect ourselves as well as unleash ourselves!
If this interests you, here’s a little more on what to expect and why:
Part One: Exploring Laban & Multi-roling
(Thurs 9th Jan)
Every session will start with a warm up in order to stay safe and learn ways to keep healthy before an audition or show. More and more cuts in the arts are leading to smaller and smaller casts, which leads to actors being required to play numerous characters in the same show. In a two hander once, I played the sister, girlfriend and male best friend to the other character. It was in a small intimate space; I'd have seconds to shift into a contrasting character in front of the audience. There was nowhere to hide. I found the Laban efforts super helpful with quickly getting into a different energy. Rudolf Laban created a movement language perfect for the actor, combinations of his 8 basic efforts describe the full range of the human condition. When we explore Laban’s efforts, we discover our own natural energy and play with opposing energies so that we can move, sound and feel like the character. For example, I previously struggled with finding calm and centred characters who have a high status, Laban’s ‘floating’ effort was the key for me.
Our Laban exploration will lead on to multi-roling, we will look at playing a whole variety of characters in order to feel ready for anything thrown at us.
Part Two: Meeting the Physical demands of auditions
(Thurs 23rd Jan)
Another pattern I've noticed: longer audition workshops are becoming popular. They can be between 1 hour to full days. I once did a 2-day workshop audition, they really put us through our paces; devising, improvising, singing, playing games. When I studied Le Jeu (The Game) with clown master Philippe Gaulier, I realised the importance of play. Gaulier sees the actors as players and theatre as the game. Some people think games are a waste of time, but I think they help connect us to our inner child. When you watch a child play, they hardly have any inhibitions and are free to be completely in the moment. When we play fully and freely it helps us share beautiful idiotic moments. Often in auditions and rehearsals, directors will ask you to play games. This shows you can work in a team and that you don't take yourself too seriously. Also, in these workshop auditions they'll sometimes give you a task such as devise a piece of movement or share your story telling skills. During the day, we'll play games and devise in a similar way to the workshop auditions I’ve experienced. This way you can feel confident when put into these situations and most importantly get some feedback.
We’ll also spend part of the day looking at quick changes we can make to our bodies to help us with the directorial demands that often come with auditions. This will link nicely on from the previous workshop if you do that one.
Part 3: Exploring Given Circumstances
(Thurs 6th Feb)
This workshop will be looking at how the given circumstances (that come from a text/text analysis) can be explored and translated physically. Actors tend to go one of two ways: either by over complicating this part or doing nothing at all. Steph and I will guide you through a simple and easy process to character work which you’ll be able to use anywhere.
We either decide given circumstances on the day, or if there's a circumstance you’d like to try, we can explore that too. Who knows, maybe Steph will throw a curveball your way by giving you scenarios that will help you find something new. I've found breaking out of my typical ‘casting’ (small child or animal!) has been the most rewarding work I've done, it’s good to open up your casting options. Is there a type of character you want to play but you’ve never had the chance? Is there a dialogue that excites you that you’d like to try out? This is the supportive space to bring it and make some discoveries.
One last thing, these classes are OPEN TO ALL (as long as you’re an actor or seriously working towards an acting career) so please share with friends who could be interested. It’s a great way to get a taste of Both Feet training and for regular students, it’s always nice to work with fresh faces. Not only this, you get 2 for 1; Steph being an acting coach and me being a movement director means we can look at all aspects of your performance.
Both Feet classes were a game changer and helped me to get out of my comfort zone. I've never experienced such a supportive learning environment, it makes us all thrive. It’s also really exciting that we’re creating a collective of kick ass, lovely actors.
Post-Christmas blues are real and January is usually a quiet time in the 'business’. I don’t know about you, but sometimes the New Year can feel daunting rather than exciting. Instead of finishing off all the left-over chocolate, let’s get together and start 2020 as we mean to go on!
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.