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Tag: acting

Editorials

Can We Predict How Likely You Are To Succeed As An Actor?

June 24, 2019

It’s likely that almost everyone has dreamt of being an actor at some point, maybe there are a few aspiring actors reading this now. A recent report by researchers at the Queen Mary University in London tried to work out how likely someone is to become a successful actor. Using IMDb and looking at actors from the birth of film in 1888, all the way up to 2016. It claims this model can predict if an actor or actress has had their most productive year with 85% accuracy, as well as shedding some light on the realities of how likely an actor is to stay in work.

Most actors are “One hit wonders”

Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” retired from acting after his one role (Paramount Pictures, 1971)

The study looks at 1,512,472 actors and 896,029 actresses and the number of credits they had each year of their careers, (a year without any credits, still counts, but scored a 0). “One hit wonders”, actors whose career spans only a single year, are the norm in show business rather than an exception, with around 69% for males and 68% of females falling into this category- over half of both the groups studied. Further analysis shows that while women are more likely to have a career that spans more than one year, it is often a shorter career than for males, which suggests a gender bias in men’s favour.

Work leads to more work

Johnny Depp (left) frequently stars in Tim Burton’s (right) films ( images2.fanpop.com)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study also found that getting roles increases the likelihood of future job opportunities. So while some mega stars have got discovered, the best route is to get a job, which inevitably leads to contacts and recognition, leading to more jobs, it’s all a big loop. Producers and directors often have a pool of actors and actresses they will reuse for subsequent films, like Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton casting Michael Caine and Johnny Depp respectively.

This creates a “rich get richer” effect, where famous actors are taking multiple roles while others are still trying to get their first credit. This is nothing new, however, the study does suggest that the circumstances regarding an actor “making it” are rather arbitrary and unpredictable, with no discernible pattern to success, meaning that actual acting talent may be less of a factor than networking when it comes to a successful career. Additionally, the career length is no indicator of activity. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio regularly takes breaks from acting, sometimes with a 2-year gap between roles, but has still managed to maintain a successful career since it began in 1979.

Actors have “hot” and “cold” streaks

Daniel Day-Lewis has had several cold streaks, mainly due to retirement (IMDb)

A “hot streak” refers to an actor having lots of credits over a short span of time, usually a couple of years, whilst a cold streak is a few if any roles. The study claims that both actors and actresses, experience hot streaks, where they work more based on if they worked the year before, interspersed between long cold streaks, where they work much less, if at all that year. These streaks of employment match findings with other creative and science industry jobs.

The biggest of these hot streaks, an actors’ “peak” (the year in which they have the most credits) takes place towards the beginning of their career, with an average peaking at around two and a half years from their first role, before experiencing a steady decline.

Conclusions

The main takeaways from this study strongly imply that most actors will be a “one hit wonder” with their career likely to span just one year. It also indicates a gender bias towards males, as the data shows that they on average have more credits each year and are active for longer, with just 2% being able to make a living out of the profession, whilst the number of actors compared to available roles means there as many as 90% unemployed at a time.

The more credits an actor gets, the more credits they are likely to get in future, as the industry works on a “rich get richer” scheme, with well-known actors being offered more work than newcomers, making it extraordinarily difficult to break into the industry. Actors usually peak around two and half years into their career, although this can vary based on how active they are, with their career coming in hot streaks with lots of work, followed by longer cold streaks, with little to no work. Perhaps most worryingly, their careers seem to show a steady decline after their peak.

Also Read: Great Scenes With No Dialogue

Editorials

My Journey From The UK To Bombay

February 12, 2019
Anisa and Shuja Ali

Although I grew up watching Bollywood films, (some prefer to stick to saying Hindi cinema) I am not sure if the realistic me thought that I would ever go out there and work in the industry. During university, I auditioned for a feature film to be shot in India, and to my surprise was selected and flew to Mumbai for a look test (screen test). This lead to a three-month workshop process, but unfortunately, due to differences in opinion between producer/director, a couple of us did not get to do the film in the end. Though this was heart-wrenchingly awful for me at the time, I realised this was just the beginning of a new journey, which would later show me, in India, anything is possible.

A changing Bollywood

I was recently featured in Anita Rani’s BBC 2 documentary titled “Bollywood, The World’s Biggest Film Industry“, we had a very candid chat talking about politics, culture, and sexism. The Indian film industry is the largest in the world and attracts thousands of people to the city of Mumbai every year – not only from smaller towns around India but from all over the world. Mumbai, at present, is more cosmopolitan than its ever been before. And with distribution channels like Netflix and Amazon now running, they’re also creating original Hindi content shows for audiences around the world. This surge is helping bridge the gap between the west and east. On a more positive note, we are also seeing more emerging actors on film. This is definitely refreshing. a major difference I noticed six years go in India, was that this did not exist as it does today. Fast forward to 2019 and the game is changing.

Anisa in BBC Documentary “Bollywood: The World’s Biggest Film Industry” (Instagram)

What’s the difference

As an outsider and an actor born and raised in the UK, there are definitely differences I recognised then, which still exist now. The positive being that web-based platforms are allowing new talent to come through, in what most definitely is an industry based on nepotism. I am super stoked that I have had opportunities that maybe wouldn’t have been possible when I first went out there, as well as seeing fellow actor friends thrive as they have never before.

Nonetheless, there are a few observations I have made, which I argue is still lacking in the Hindi film industry. The major one for me is work ethic. Through education in the UK and the work I have done professionally, be it on stage, or short films, I can definitely say the work ethic has been fantastic. There is a respect for all levels of cast and crew and no differentiation of treatment between actors, that I have noticed.

In India, the A-list actors are definitely treated in a different capacity to the crew and extras. Extras are often never paid and are sold the opportunity based on it being be part of a big budget Bollywood film. The concept of minimum wage, or specific unions such as Spotlight, do not really exist [in the way it does in the UK]. There are a few unions, however, if mistreatment has happened on a production, or a production pulls you out after you signing contracts, I haven’t seen any of the unions being able to take any stand.

Punctuality is also an issue within the film industry in India. Things rarely happen on time. I have been blessed to work with bigger productions like Dharma Productions and Excel Entertainment, who have definitely set better examples of this, which is encouraging. I do think there is still much room for greater improvement.

Anisa (on the far left) at the film premiere of Netflix’s Brahman Naman

Working with talent agents

Another difference which still exists is the formality of both industries. In the UK, it is somewhat impossible to hear about great auditioning opportunities unless you are with an agent. I struggled with this when I immediately graduated from university (studying Drama) because I did not attend a drama school. Presently, I feel due to the increase of management companies in the UK, there is a greater chance today to be able to get with an agent. The top 5 agency’s in the UK are still very difficult to get into, unless you’re a big name or cast in something great. I find it can be a vicious circle. As a new actor you want experience and of course you want to be cast ultimately. In order to get this however, you need an agent, yet the best agents want you to have had that experience. Tricky tricky!

In India, the concept of having an acting agent is fairly new. There are many more personal managers who tend to handle celebrities and make sure they accompany them on their shoots. Casting coordinators play a bigger role in the Hindi film industry. They take a commission cut for any audition you get through them, similar to how agents work in the UK.

What’s being made

Last but not least, I feel another major difference is the type of content being made, and hence the demand on the artist is different. Bollywood is known for creating fantasy worlds of escapism, with beautiful costumes, sets, music, and dance.
Though the industry is changing, and we now see more writers and directors emerging with their own styles. There are also more indie films being made for festivals, but the commercial popcorn cinema (as some call it) is still very much existent though. These are the kind of films the masses in India want to see.
For the commercial films, the typical model-like features of being tall, with a great figure is essentially what is in demand. The actor is seen as a product, and though this is of course true worldwide, there is definitely less demand on being physically “perfect” in the UK. One may argue Hollywood and Bollywood both, for commercial films, do demand a lot more “perfection” from actors in terms of how they look. The male actors, normally have a ripped physique and are required to have some basic dance skills. Though this was what was dominating at one time, the surge of young fresh actors, not always linked to film lineage, has meant we are now diverting our attention more to the craft than the actor’s body. Again, I think we have a long way to go, but the small changes are an indication of what is to come, and I am happy to see this.

I hope this article was able to shed some light on the differences of working as an actor in the UK and India. There is definitely no formula or guarantees for success. I believe hard work and perseverance is the ultimate characteristics to have, and the focus to keep getting better at the thing you love to do. I could have gone on and on about more intricate differences, but then I think I could write a book on this one day. Till then, I hope I was able to share a peak of life between both places. They’re both incredible and fascinating, and both have so much to offer in their unique ways. I am blessed to be able to work in both places.

Editorials

Advice For First Time Independent Feature Filmmakers

January 10, 2019

Making your first feature film is a pivotal milestone for a filmmaker. From getting the right cast to working with the right producer, it can be a very daunting task, particularly if you’re working with a limited budget. So, we spoke to filmmakers who have independently completed their debut feature film to get practical advice on what to do when making your debut independent feature film. Here’s what they said…

Dom Lenoir (Director / Producer) – Winter Ridge (2018)

The right mindset & getting into cinemas.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t achieve, set yourself a goal for the film you want to make and something that sets you on fire with passion and then comit to making it. Half the battle is just making a pledge with yourself that whatever happens you will keep going, every time you hit an obstacle you just take it one at a time and eventually you’ll have a film. And build yourself the infrastructure of a film before you even think about asking for money, when its ready to go and all you need is the funds then you are in a good place for investment.

Getting into cinemas isn’t nearly as hard as people think. The attitude is that if you don’t have Tom Cruise in your film it won’t fill seats, but you can target areas you have a base and market single screenings yourself and a lot of cinemas are receptive if you can guarantee some seats filled.

Winter Ridge (Trailer)

Winter Ridge is available to download and stream across all major platforms.

Jamie Noel (Writer / Director) – Lie Low (2019)

Getting the right location & filming with smaller crew.

Once I came to terms with the restrictions of a smaller crew and minimal kit, I was free to focus on the benefits. Sure, I couldn’t afford an Alexa, or an expensive lighting set up but by shooting with available light, a documentary size crew, a Sony A7s and a hand-held gimbal, we suddenly were so much more flexible and agile. We were able to capture more takes and grab coverage and cutaways on the fly, something that would normally add hours on to the schedule. Embrace your limitations, they will end up being the best ally you have.

Working on a micro-budget, very little was certain. It was especially hard to lock down locations. We had to stay malleable and adapt quickly when the ground shifted. Our main location changed weeks before shooting, this not only changed things in regard to the logistics of the production but also in terms of the tone of the film. You just have to run with it, every location will have something to offer if you’re open to it and fortunately, in the end, our final main location turned out to be a real gem.

Lie Low (Teaser)

Lie Low will be screening at film festivals later this year.

Andy Collier (Co-Writer / Co-Director / Producer) – Charismata (2018)

When is a script ready & raising money for your film.

I think you should never stop working on [the script]. Good actors should bring their own takes to a script right up to shooting (which may or may not be improvements but working through them is always valuable). The better question is when is [a script] ready to use as a basis for fundraising? That’s a “piece of string” question but I think you need to be 100% happy that you have a very solid script in terms of all of story arc, structure, characterisation/slick dialogue, themes, motifs. The structure is a huge one… rightly or wrongly, a huge part of the gatekeeping side of the industry (financiers, prestige talent agencies) is focussed on BeatSheet-type analysis so it will help you if the script broadly conforms to that so that reading it satisfies their expectations.

Two methods for UK producers [For raising money]:

  • Package the script with a well-made lookbook (or at the very least one sheet) and a sensible business plan starting from sales projections given your genre and attached cast, and reverse engineer the budget to hopefully ensure break-even… and take that to the main markets (AFM, Cannes, Berlinale) and get meetings at the booths of as many sales agents, distributors, financiers as possible. And expect to get a lot of very encouraging responses in person that will 99.9% of the time fizzle out to nothing.
  • Get the same package and try to get rich individuals to invest, using EIS or SEIS as a sweetener. Finding rich individuals can be difficult if you don’t know any, but angel investors or equity crowdfunding platforms can be found on the internet. Depending on where you shoot, there are often soft money schemes available. In the UK, HMRC will reimburse you 20% of audited UK spend, provided you get all the necessary admin done properly. Soft money can’t be used for production or usually even post-production budget (it takes a long time to arrive)… but it’s valuable for back-end costs etc.

Charismata (Trailer)

Charismata is currently available in the U.S and will be available in the U.K later this year.

Sheila Nortley (Writer / Executive Producer) – The Strangers (2019)

Things to consider in pre-production & post-production.

I’d say one of the key things to consider in pre-production is post-production. You’d think it goes without saying but when filmmakers are first starting out a lot of the focus is on just getting through the shoot and getting the footage. It’s so important to get your post-production team in the loop as early as possible so that they’re not having to fix problems which could have been avoided but rather the shoot has been shot and delivered in a way which is not only the most efficient and convenient for them to be able to crack on but also the best way for the film overall. This also includes budgeting properly for post and not going ridiculously over budget during the production and then trying to cut corners later.

'I'm a writer, a mother, a Muslim'

Sheila Nortley says she's a 'born and bred Londoner' with roots in Ghana. She spoke to us about her latest film, The Strangers.

Gepostet von BBC News Africa am Montag, 13. August 2018
The Strangers (Behind the scenes – BBC)

The Strangers will be screening at festivals later this year.

Mark A.C Brown (Writer / Director) – Guardians (2018)

Choosing the right producer & working on a limited budget.

On Guardians we had no money so my choice of producer was based on getting someone not for raising money but for their ability to use the resources we had at our disposal. So Fred Fournier was the man. We had worked together on many short projects and he had worked in several different capacities on each from sound, script supervisor, continuity, camera and editing. And he did a few of the scores. So his knowledge of and ability to communicate with pretty much every department was invaluable, saving us time, money and a fair amount of embarrassment for me as I knew very little technical stuff at the time of shooting.

Guardians (Trailer)

Guardians will be released on Video on Demand later this year.

That concludes our advice from filmmakers! Look out for updates regarding the films featured. Big Picture Film Club would like to thank all of the filmmakers involved for their contributions.

Interviews

Richard Goss: Breaking Through

November 24, 2018

Whether you’re pursuing a career mainly in theatre, television or film, gaining a foothold in the world of acting is notoriously hard and competitive. Long and often unsociable hours and lack of consistent work can lead increased stress and anxiety, so how can emerging actors persevere in such an environment? We spoke to Welsh actor, Richard Goss, to discuss his career in front of the camera so far, mental health & advice for fellow emerging actors. With a resume that includes roles in The Rise of the Krays & Wrath of the Titans, alongside a slew of short films, Richard Goss is a name to watch out for.

Presh [Big Picture Film Club]: “Breaking” into the film industry is notoriously difficult, what have been the most important lessons you’ve learned in helping you navigate in the industry and build those necessary connections?

Richard: Perseverance. You have to persevere through all the challenging times in this industry with no one replying to your emails, no phone calls, no castings, working in day/night jobs you hate just to survive between acting roles. You need to have a burning desire and a belief in yourself which surpasses all of those negative aspects, keep working relentlessly and applying pressure to be seen. Always be professional and courteous to everyone you meet, whether on set or auditions or workshops. You never know who will be in a position to help you in the future and likewise, you must help people in return.

BPFC: With that being said, organisations like ArtsMinds have highlighted the prevalence of mental health issues within the film industry. Are there steps that you’ve taken to look after your own mental health in a stressful industry? And are there any tips you would suggest to actors?

Richard: That’s a good question as the mental health aspect is often overlooked or not discussed openly.  Personally, I found concentrating on my physical fitness and physique has helped my mental health. It enforces discipline and commitment and honestly, I just feel fantastic after a good workout. I train 6 nights a week, a mixture of bodybuilding and martial arts. I’ve trained in Krav Maga for eight years and boxing several times a week which releases anger and stress.  It’s healthy to have other hobbies outside of acting. I love video games (obsessed with Red Dead Redemption II and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey!), reading, travelling. Also learning other skills which can be useful for acting such as horse riding, archery, martial arts, music, etc. If you live in London, it’s always good to get the hell out of there for a few days every now and then too!

BPFC: From acting in a war film (The Final leaves of Winter) to crime drama (Rise of the Krays), you’ve had varied roles, but also parts that are very distinct to a particular time period. What is your process for getting into character? How does this change with varying roles?

Richard: The process changes from role to role but always begins with the script. You develop an idea in your head from the page of what the character is going to look and sound like, you start practising in your room and building the character, the mannerisms, the voice, the accent. And you have to research the time period, the cultural setting, social class, the characters overall arc, does he change and grow throughout the course of the film? And ultimately does it serve the directors vision for not only that character but the film itself? You can’t get caught up trying to show off a character, it has to serve and respect the script. I hope all of that doesn’t sound too pretentious! For some roles, I will stay in character because it’s easier to maintain an accent or mannerisms that way, but there are some which luckily are easier to switch on and off.

BPFC: Short Films have seen a surge over the last few years, particularly with platforms like YouTube and Vimeo acting as their primary distribution platforms. As an actor, how have those platforms shaped how you are able to promote yourself?

Richard: You know, I’m behind the curve with a lot of social media platforms, I grew up in a time before anything like this even existed. Dial-up modems were just becoming a household accessory when I was a teenager. Jesus that makes me sound old. But I’ve discovered some great filmmakers through YouTube so I’m learning! I also think it’s interesting to see if YouTube’s original content will be able to match the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime, who put out so many good shows, it’s insane. Truly a great time for series and content.

BPFC: Finally, what films are you currently working on?

Richard: I’ve wrapped roles on two films this year: Straight Lines, directed by my longtime friend (and housemate!) Josh Crooks, starring Kacey Ainsworth from Eastenders and Grantchester. That was a really fun shoot as I got to perform an American accent on film for the first time whilst sharing scenes with Kacey and I also had a stunt scene. The second is “The Prince of North West” which is an indie crime thriller, directed by Todor Tragmar, I play an ex-boxer and enforcer for a London criminal gang. I believe it’s going to be black and white, a real film noir style. Both films are currently in post-production and from what I know will be aimed at the festival circuit before a general release which I’m really excited about! Aside from those, I’m developing my own script and I’ve just auditioned for two major US TV series so….fingers crossed!

Editorials

Breaking out of Typecasting

November 12, 2018

Steve McQueen has just released a heist thriller called Widows. This felt like quite a departure from his usual films and it piqued my curiosity immediately. McQueen normally makes “serious” films, they are about heavy topics with great dramatic performances from people like Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and Chiwetel Ejiofor. A heist film, quite frankly, seems too fun for a McQueen film. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy his previous films, they’re great, but you don’t always enjoy them – 12 Years A Slave is full of genuinely harrowing scenes. Directors, like actors, often get pigeonholed for the things they can do e.g. Steve McQueen wouldn’t have been at the top of my list for a heist film. So what attracted McQueen to this project? Was part of it just to stretch his directing muscles by trying something new? Will we see a slew of McQueen action films? I think not, whatever else Widows is, it is still a Steve McQueen film.

Unbelievable Transformations

It must be very frustrating for people in Hollywood when they feel typecast and in recent years there have been some startling transformations as actors move away from what they’re known for. The two most striking being Liam Neeson and Matthew McConaughey. Not very long ago Liam Neeson was seen as a serious dramatic actor, Oscar-nominated for his role in Schindler’s List, taking on difficult roles like pioneering sexual behaviour researcher Alfred Kinsey or Irish revolutionary Michael Collins. And then Neeson’s career pivots and he becomes one of the biggest action stars on the planet. Neeson, a man in his fifties, is suddenly cast in Taken and The A-Team. Neeson might have actually jumpstarted a recent genre in “old action heroes”.

Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe (IMDb)

Matthew McConaughey’s rise to Oscar-winning critical acclaim is even odder than Neeson becoming an action star. McConaughey was once a punchline, synonymous with starring in bad romantic comedies, and thought by many to be only getting by purely because he was a stunningly handsome man (this is literally a joke on Family Guy). Then came a transformation when McConaughey started taking on more serious roles and in a few short years became not only successful but one of the most respected actors working today. McConaughey’s change seems to have started around Killer Joe, a small indie film where he took the title role. I have not seen this film – partly because I derided it because it starred McConaughey – but it was well received by critics. McConaughey’s performance of what I’m reliably informed is a despicable and appalling character seemed to reinvent him and seemingly that’s all it sometimes takes.

The Rom-Com Trap

Women often find themselves trapped in romantic comedies. Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl are seemingly cursed to repeat the same role over and over again in indistinguishable romcoms, like some modern Sisyphus endlessly pushing a rock up a hill, despite being talented and likeable actors. Will Zooey Deschanel ever not be the epitome of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Many of these actors seem to be looking for their Killer Joe role where they can break out of this pattern; Cake, and to a lesser extent, Horrible Bosses seemed to be Jennifer Anniston trying to change her image.

Cake (IMDb)

Decent Americans and Girls-Next-Door

Then there are actors who while not exactly typecast do have a type. Tom Hanks has taken on Jimmy Stewart’s role of decent American and Julia Roberts was the Girl Next Door and both of these actors seem to revel in roles that play against this type, Tom Hanks as the intellectual criminal mastermind in The Ladykillers or Julia Roberts as the sinister spy in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. I am borderline obsessed with the career of Ben Mendelsohn who has carved a career out of playing dirtbag villains. He has even been cast of the Sheriff of Nottingham in the new Robin Hood film; one of the classic villain roles. I can only presume his George VI from Darkest Hour is a dirtbag villain version of this king.

Directing Differences

There are seemingly some people who have always resisted the urge to do the same thing. The Coen Brothers’ career jumps from violent crime drama to knockabout comedy and back again easily and you never know what they will do next. Stanley Kubrick seemingly built his career on wanting to make the best film of every genre – 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket are often cited as the best sci-fi, horror and war films ever made. Some directors are so successful and consistent in their own films that they create their own genre – J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 was held up as a film belonging to a “Spielberg” genre. Many eyebrows were raised when people realised recent horror hit A Quiet Place had Michael Bay as a producer, a director who has as much as a distinctive style as Spielberg, and “quiet” is not part of that style.

For me, the greatest director changeup has been the career of George Miller. Miller made his name directing the Mad Max films, brutal Australian exploitation films, and then seemingly got bored of this and decided to direct the sequel to Babe (yes, that Babe about the talking pig) and the two Happy Feet films (yes, with the dancing penguins) before returning at the age of seventy to his Mad Max roots. The questions this creates are endless – what were the motivations behind these choices? Why did a producer hire Miller for Babe: Pig In The City? Is there a violent director’s cut of Happy Feet?

Mad Max (IMDb)

For most people in the film industry, you don’t have too much choice, there are very few people who can truly be picky about what jobs they accept and it would take a strong person to turn down a lucrative role just because it’s another ditzy best friend in a rom-com or megalomaniacal sci-fi villain.