Welcome to our Blog Page. Here, our Artistic Director gives an insight into the sessions, which allows students to reflect on the previous week's work.
It's All in the Edit.
Tuesday morning, 9.00am and we set off from West London, to Ashford, in Kent, to visit the edit suite of Mind Your Own Media and editor, Chris Lewis, as we began the process of editing the full versions of the filmed scenes, which were part of the filming project, last term.
Each of the students in our London School will end up with a professionally filmed and edited showreel, which comprises scenes filmed, on industry standard equipment and edited, by a professional editor, to give them an authentic look.
It's already been a very long process, to get to this stage and now the critical work begins.
After and hour of sitting and watching Chris Lewis work, I realise that I don't need to tell him too much. His eye for detail is matched only by his ability to use the footage laid in front of him, to compose a story that draws in an audience.
I have always had great respect for the editing process, but having a keen interest in how these scenes are edited has allowed me an insight into how well good editors can re-tell a moment, with such clarity- it's all in the editing.
This process also highlights areas for me to work on, with our students. They have come a very long way, in a short space of time and their newly acquired skills have given them a great base, upon which to develop their 'on-screen' technique, but it has highlighted a few areas for improvement.
At each new stage of this course, as a creative team, we are re-evaluating the teaching, based on what we think the individual students needs are, at that particular time. Many of them have never acted on screen, before attending the classes and the transformation is remarkable, but in a highly competitive industry, we need to ensure that we take each opportunity to develop the students in the most pertinent areas.
What we have seen over the course of the day has created much excitement amongst the creative team. We have worked in this industry for a combined total of 80 years, between us. We still get excited, as actors when arriving on set, or location to work. Now, seeing our students growing in skill and awareness, we get an even greater sense of fulfilment.
The scenes will be presented at the student's industry showcase day, in July.
ALL SYSTEMS GO!
This week's BLOG is written by one of our creatives, Gemma Wardle.
This week, our artistic director has been away filming, so it's been left to me to comment on the past week's work.
We now have all three terms running at the same time. In London, our morning group are in their third term, the newly formed afternoon group are into their first term and the school in Leeds, is just into it's second term.
Seeing the process (the same teaching methods employed with each class) at these three points, it's clear to see how our current 'Third Termers' have developed and this week, having seen all three groups working, just why they have progressed so much.
Our Artistic Director, Paul David-Gough, has a very direct style. It's light at times and quite jocular, but he is keen to insist that mistakes are not passed over. The emphasis at the moment, for all of the students, is accuracy. Even from the very beginning of this course, everything 'stop's when things go even slightly wrong.
There are certain words that have been mentioned in each of the four classes this last weekend. They crop up very regularly - 'Focus' and 'Awareness' being the main two.
Awareness is the element that our very first group of students have begun to master. It is the element that the current new crop of students in London are working closely on and the element that the Leeds school are developing.
This week we will begin the very laborious task of editing the London Students showreel footage. It's extremely intricate work and not a fast process, but one of the most creative areas of the filming process.
Editing will take place in the edit suite of Mind your Own Media, under the stewardship of professional editor and IGUN Pictures Director of Photography, Christ Lewis.
There will be some changes to the website shortly, including full profiles of some of our 3rd term students, along with links to their showreel.
For our afternoon class, we will be rounding up a very detailed and concentrated series of classes, looking at Focus, Awareness and Ensemble, prior to beginning their first filmed projects… …the casting session!!!
Watch this space!
Saturday April 26th
New Term and a New Beginning!!!
This Saturday (gone), we quite literally took one step forward and two steps backwards, as we started the third term of our first group of students and then in the afternoon, welcomed a new group of students, embarking on their first steps towards Film, TV and Theatre Training.
I have always thought of the phrase (one step forward... ... Backwards) as a negative statement, until this last weekend, because in the space of a couple of hours we have experienced the joy of seeing just how far our first class of students have come, in just seven months and then seen the raw talent and potential of a whole new class of students, at the beginning of their journey.
The original class of students will this term receive the benefit of 7 months of work, as they now prepare for their showcase performance. On Saturday 3rd May, they will have their Headshots taken, and continue to work on selecting and rehearsing scenes for presentation to an invited audience of industry professionals. This term, they also film their next showreel scenes with actors from UK Film and Television. It's a very exciting time for them.
Out afternoon group met for the very first time and we have been really keen to get started with them, as they have already shown, at their auditions, just how talented a group of students they are.
It's nice to go back to the beginning again and the first term is a combination of teaching basic film and tv acting technique, a lot of camera exposure and creating a group/ensemble.
Chemistry is extremely important and having invited 6 other young people to sample the work, it becomes extremely clear just why you have to get the right balance. A few lucky ones have been accepted onto the course and will dovetail nicely into a very talented and disciplined group. A few others were not lucky enough, or in fact ready, to work at the pace that those already there have set as 'the required standard'.
It's not the nicest feeling in the world, to reject people, but it helps you to realise why you select the right people, when they come along. It's not enough to want to be something. It's not about being famous, or showing off. It's about understanding that those that work in this industry have a work ethic and are able to take responsibility for themselves.
We now have 21 students signed up between the two courses. By Wednesday that could be 25. Each one of those students enrolled in our school have shown that they have an awareness about them. They have a genuine passion and desire to be better.
That's what makes my job enjoyable and ultimately simple.
Welcome to our new friends! And to our regular students... ...you're nearly there!!!
Monday 7th April 2014.
So it's all been very quiet on the "Blog" front, due to a fairly hectic schedule for the Totally Lit! team.
We started this term with the aim of filming seven short stories for our students' showreels, by Saturday 5th April. On Monday 7th April, we completed our filming, for the first round of scenes, only 2 days behind schedule- which, with a week to go, did not look possible.
Due to a couple of location failures, we thought that we were going to run on into the Easter Holidays, but we managed to 'jig' our schedule and bring in more professional crew members, to push us over the line.
Working with a professional crew, it is fairly easy to predict how the day will go. Working with first time students and those who have had no previous camera, or film set experience, becomes, in essence, a test of how the teaching is going. I am delighted to report that we have had tremendous success and the students have really stepped up to the mark.
We made it quite clear that we would attempt to simulate, wherever possible, the real life experience for our students. This also extended to attempting to simulate the nerves one feels, on your first day on set. It was important that we made the students feel nervous. They were made aware from the beginning of the session that we would heap some pressure upon them, as we wanted them to experience that pressure and find a way of coping with it, still being able to deliver a great performance, whilst finding a coping mechanism. That coping mechanism is simply, breathe, focus, don't rush and trust your preparation.
We have been telling our students that the important work takes place, prior to turning up on set. Knowing your performance, or turning up with your performance, already planned, knowing what you are doing and being able to repeat it, multiple times, exactly the same, is their starting point for the shoot day. They also have to be flexible enough to be directed and re-directed, within the scenes.
There were no disappointments for us. Each and every one of our students has come up with an excellent performance, that, on first viewing of the rushes, look to be work that they can be really pleased with/proud of.
Next term we welcome a new class of students to Totally Lit!
It will be a very important time for us, but also extremely exciting, as we continue with the next round of filmed scenes, whereby our students get to work alongside recognised film and tv actors. In addition to this, our new students will be embarking on their first term. They are a really talented bunch of actors and already have the making of a strong company.
Since opening our doors to this special program of work in late September, we have already expanded our operation in London and Leeds (the Leeds School begin their filming project In April/May, having just completed a very successful first term). Our primary aim was to 'deliver' what we have promised to deliver. That is why so many actors and industry professionals are supporting us, because they believe in the program.
Despite a few location disappointments almost setting us back, we are on course. We are barely 7 months old and yet we have already been taken on an amazing journey, by some wonderfully talented young people. The future looks very bright!!!!
Saturday 22nd March 2014
Filming continues to crack on at a fair pace and despite a few problems with locations, we have now completed 4 of the 7 scheduled scenes for the students first showreels.
On Saturday 15th March, we filmed at Tower House School, in East Sheen, where the Head Teacher and Head of Drama are preparing for their annual school production- this year it's "The Magnificent Seven!". Previous years have seen them re-enact "The Great Escape" and "The Hobbit". Amidst the building and painting of the set for their school production, they were still very happy for us to have full access to classrooms and hallway to film 2 of our school based scenes "Hot off the Press".
The students have really adapted well to the additional pressure placed upon them, with having the responsibility to carry scenes, on film. Their technical ability has really improved, quite substantially and their professional attitude, not only to the wary that they are on set, but to the way that they prepare, before the day's filming has been extremely pleasing to see.
On Saturday 22nd March we held auditions for a new class, which will be starting the course just after Easter. This class will operate, also from Diorama, but in the afternoons, on Saturday's.
We had an amazingly talented and disciplined group of students attend the auditions and despite there still being a few places left on the course, which begins on Saturday 26th April, we are happy to proceed with the group that we have gathered.
Also on Saturday 22nd our regular students took a short break from the filming schedule to attend our first Masterclass, with Hollyoaks and Eastenders actress, Gemma Bissix.
Hosted by presenter Jez Edwards, who has been teaching the TV presenting course this term, we opted to use a 'single camera' set-up. This allowed the students an opportunity to see how an interview is conducted, then questions repeated, once repositioning the camera, in order to give the impression that there is more than once camera rolling. It's a very common technique used by TV News journalists and other presenters and was fascinating to watch. The Interview itself was amazing and will be available to watch on our private Youtube channel, for our students only, in the near future.
So having had a full-on Saturday, we then drove up to Leeds to have our first Agent interview with the parents and Students of the Leeds School, which was then followed by a class for the students, run by 'Hello' magazine reporter, Francine Cohen.
This class took our students on a journey to instant fame and gave them an insight into just how quickly your life can change. Very enlightening and incredibly engaging.
A quick journey back down the M1 to London and we begin our search, again, for a location for filming on Saturday 28th March. It's all go and very exciting!
At Totally Lit! it doesn’t take long to improve the students, technically. The Creative Team have a unique teaching method based around six simple principles:
It all sounds profound and ethereal, but the truth is that it’s a very simple strategy.
Quite early on in the training process, we cover the six underlying training principles, which relate to almost everything technical about the acting process.
In following this teaching method, we achieve very quick results, making our students technically aware and this allows us to then concentrate on the acting.
For us, the first term is like recording an inventory. We assess the students all term, getting a good idea of how they work and we also drill them on the audition process; how to prepare and what to expect. The most important thing for us is to constantly recreate and simulate real-life experiences for them, with regards to the casting process. This allows us to see how the students cope in a stressful situation. The danger is that the performance disappears and the reading is rushed. Ensuring that the students bring something to the table is vitally important. There are so many actors, especially young actors, who don’t know how to prepare well enough for a casting.
Despite opening a second school, the ‘team’ are eager to keep the teaching method and staff exactly the same.
Totally Lit! are not looking to ‘franchise’ and are keen to manage the project in a way that keeps the same standards and same detail across both schools.
“One of the motivating factors behind starting this project was the fact that I had been to a number of auditions and witnessed child actors, not understanding what was expected of them. Many of the mistakes that are made are very simple to fix. These are the things that we start with at Totally Lit! Even though our students may not be right for a casting- we aim to ensure that the casting director remembers them for being able to bring something into the room.” – Paul David-Gough
Part of the process is also to encourage the students to get to know themselves. To be prepared to talk about themselves and in doing so, find their own individual personality and accept and embrace it. It is a difficult thing to master in a casting, for an actor- to be comfortable enough to take themselves into the room.
It is for these reasons that Totally Lit! has gained so much support from professionals within the industry.
We have a vast amount of experience of working with the students on a weekly basis and a large network of recognized British Film, Theatre and TV actors lending their support and offering their services.
When we opened our doors to our first students last year, in September, there were just 5 names on the register. Since then the numbers have continued to grow. Maintaining that we only work with a limited number of students, our second school opened in Leeds in February, and was virtually up to capacity within a couple of weeks.
All of the creative team are based in London and artistic director Paul David-Gough has assembled a team which combines artists with a range of experience from within the industry- actors who entered into the business as children (Gemma Wardle, Anthony Lewis), those who have approached it from a different angle like Jez Edwards (TV Presenter turned actor), or from a more conventional route (Drama School). All are still working as actors and will continue to do so, yet have also committed their time to helping develop the next crop of British Acting Talent.
Despite opening a second school, the ‘team’ are eager to keep the teaching method and staff exactly the same. They are not looking to ‘franchise’ and are keen to manage the project in a way that keeps the same standards and same detail across both schools.
Paul’s background is quite varied and he has been combining work as an actor in Television and Theatre along with his work as a director, with both adult and child actors, for over twenty years.
“The ‘method’ that we employ at Totally Lit is an amalgamation of all of the different influences that I have come across in my life, working as both an actor and as a director. I spent a number of years working as a youth theatre director and had the opportunity (because I had a fantastic budget), to bring in artists from some of the leading theatre, dance, puppet and physical theatre companies, not only in the UK, but also in Europe. Each workshop that I programmed for my students taught me so much about the similarities between the different art-forms and having so many practitioners deconstructing their methods in front of me, was hugely influential in how I approached my own work.”
Totally Lit! will be auditioning a prospective new students, for a limited number of places at their school in London. The new group will work Saturday afternoons, from the end of April.
If you are interested in auditioning, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow the instructions after pressing the following button:
Saturday 1st March 2014
So our first day of filming with our first class of students got off to a great start, despite a number of "hitches".
We finally managed to secure a primary school in Islington, after our initial location fell through at the last minute.
We were then blighted by sound problems, including a helicopter, which was circling us for a good half an hour.
Problems aside, we were extremely pleased with the day's filming. On Wednesday I saw the rushes and it's all looking amazing.
Totally Lit uses a unique programme of work, to enable the students, some of who have never acted for camera before, to understand the technical requirements of 'acting on film'.
In deconstructing the process into a series of games and exercises, we end up with a generic set of "tools" which the actors can refer to, given specific situations. This allows them to understand what is required technically, so that they can then concentrate on their performance.
Saturday 1st March represented the first opportunity for our students to apply their newly acquired skills on a professional set.
The results were amazing. The two students who featured heavily in the scenes filmed on Saturday, were magnificent. They displayed a maturity beyond their years and their attitude, focus and stamina, for dealing with the long session was just one pleasing element of how much they have learned and grown in the 16 weeks that they have worked with us.
It is often easier to explain with a sporting analogy:
We've done the training and we've honed in the technical skills, but can we deliver when the pressure is on?
The answer in this case was a resounding "yes!"
We didn't do anything to take the pressure away from the students as we wanted them to experience the responsibility of carrying the project. We had to try to recreate, or simulate the nerves and anxiety that they may feel on their first day on set, in order to see how they responded. We then asked them to accept the pressure and attempt to deal with it and not let it affect their performances- the danger is that they can end up rushing through the scene and losing the detail in the process.
Our students didn't take much time to adjust. There was not one moment of "drying", or a wrong word, or line in sight.
It was an incredibly satisfying conclusion to the process that started in September. A process which has seen these students develop beyond recognition!
The filming process continues this weekend. The bar has been set quite high. Let's see what happens.
Saturday 8th February 2013
Our final session before we begin filming didn't quite go as planned, but despite our excursion out if the building and a late change of plan regarding a masterclass appearance, we concentrated on some acting… …for a change.
We are due to start filming in the next couple of weeks and locations and crew are being finalised for the first 6 scenes to be filmed, for our students' first filming project. We have employed the services of IGUN Pictures for this project and that means that we have to brief them fully and ensure that there are no unexpected problems, when the equipment arrives on location, on March 1st.
Acting is a very technical art form and in television and film, the technical requirements border on scientific. It requires, from our actors, an understanding of the environment that they will be working in and the technical aspects to their own performances, which they have to prepare and rehearse. It's not just a case of knowing your lines- and to be honest, I don't think that any of our students had thought about just how well they are going to have to know their lines.
We have encouraged our students to learn and prepare and rehearse their performances, to the point that they know that they can turn up with everything already decided. They have seen how we are shooting, as they have looked at the storyboards, so they will be in no doubt, when they get onto the 'set', that everyone working there will expect them to deliver. It's a lot of pressure and we had already discussed that actors get paid, not necessarily for the work that they do on the day, but all of the preparation that goes into it.
So on Saturday, we were able to cast aside some of the technical aspects of the project and think about 'acting'.
We started by discussing "Method" and I explained that however you prepare, it's your own method, but we explored using actual physical experiences for moments within the pieces that they would be filming. It's the first time that some of the students had worked in this way and it was clear that they were enjoying the process.
In theatre, we often get chance to grow into a part and into scenes. Pitching in and finding certain moments organically. The requirement for the students to find a performance that they will be happy with, once they hear 'action', has made them realise that there's not a gentle easing into the role. We are filming out of sequence. It's not a play and if you've not got it on the day, we move on and you live with what you produce.
Some of the students may have coped with this situation 6 months ago, but most of them would have frozen. The past couple of weeks has shown me that all of our students have grown as actors and their technical awareness is now becoming innate. How fabulous it would have been to have just acted on camera, from day one. How amazing though, that our students have matured and relaxed sufficiently around the camera, that their own personalities are starting to come through again. The technical expertise is present and the real actor is being awakened in each of our students.
Such an exciting time!
On Tuesday 28th February, stars turned out to support the opening of Totally Lit North, our new school, which will open in Leeds in mid-February under the artistic direction of Anthony Lewis.
Following on from the success of the London School and the unique working methods which we employ, Leeds was selected as the perfect location to launch our Northern school, as it is offers the same opportunity to a wide net of young people across Yorkshire and the North West of England.
Based at the Yorkshire College of Music and Drama, the classed will take place on Sundays, during school term time, with the same members of the creative team from our London school delivering the sessions. We are also delighted to have been able to unveil Gemma Bissix and our latest Patron, to join our team.
Below are a selection of photographs, from the event
Saturday 18th January 2014
This week we spent some time reducing the size of the space that we were working in, to get used to making our performances non-theatrical. We encouraged the students to confine their acting, so that it was exclusively for the benefit of the other person in their scene and no one else.
The reason for this being that we are trying to teach our students about playing the scene, only between the actors in it and trusting that the camera will pick up the subtleties of their performances. We also spent some time, playing games, which required you to keep eye contact, with an opponent. When eye contact was broken, or if your opponent 'blinked', you were the winner.
In term one, we spent a lot of time talking about awareness. Actors need to be constantly aware of so many things- yet we have to give the impression that everything is happening in the here and now. In film, more so than television, the role of the eyes in a scene is crucial. Where you look and when can affect the story, so completely and yet, when young and learning, we are unaware of how much we move them.
In the scenes that were presented during the session, we talked about "Hanging on to the other actor's eyes", in order to keep the scene alive. This one simple technique transformed the performances of the students.
Since we have returned after the Christmas break, there has been a noticeable leap forward in the students' performances. As we get closer to finalising our shooting schedule, for the showreels, the camera has become just another tool that we use on a regular basis. The awareness is there, regarding the camera technique that the students have been taught, but the tension has disappeared. It's not a big deal anymore- and that is an important milestone to reach. Now it's about keeping the scenes alive and allowing the camera to capture the performances.