Learn how to act at this Dubai Media City actor's studio
Chanelle Tourish embraces her inner Meryl Streep through the latest screen acting course, led by acclaimed TV actor and film director, Alex Broun, at the all-new Dubai Actor’s Studio, to discover what the programme has to offer.
We at Time Out Dubai are major movie buffs. Many of our weekends are spent munching popcorn and watching the latest blockbusters and for some – our editor – a trip to Tinseltown to hang out with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t out of the ordinary.
So with stars in our eyes and dreams of becoming the next Meryl Streep or Christian Bale, we trial the latest screen acting course at the all-new Dubai Actor’s Studio. The course will take place over six Mondays from May 25 to June 29. Run by playwright and actor Alex Broun, it aims to explore all the essentials of acting for the screen.
Broun has more than 20 years of experience, having played roles in well-known Australian TV shows including Home and Away, Heartbreak High and Neighbours. His CV is impressive. When he tells us he’s worked with acclaimed directors George Ogilvie (Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome) and Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger and Salt) as well as actors including Nicole Kidman, we suddenly feel the nerves kick in. Undeterred, though, we decide to give the workshop our best shot.
It’s clear that the course is open to all levels, particularly those interested in becoming professional actors. Those aiming to find work in commercials, TV or film also have the option to shoot a short showreel scene on location at the end of the course for an additional fee. In addition, local casting agents, producers and directors will be invited to meet the actors taking part, to consider them for future projects.
Participants are trained in confidence, on-camera techniques, characterisation, auditioning, cold reads and developing on-screen presence and charisma. The studio set-up resembles a TV or film set – including professional cameras, lighting and sound, and while it isn’t a full production set, it is enough to teach the basics of screen acting.
Our class starts with a discussion on the qualities that make a good actor, with Broun confirming that those who are best are those who are ‘believable and who can convince audiences they are actually the character they are pretending to be.’ He then puts us into pairs, hands us a short script and tells us to read it together, or ‘table read’, as it is known. And then we begin acting.
We’re told to read the script in character – first as an angry husband and wife, then as a potential couple – and act out the basic dialogue. We alternate between trying it seated and standing and learn that this process is called a ‘cold reading’, where an actor hasn’t seen the script before, but must perform it. We try our best to be convincing and in between exercises Broun plays back our performances (which he’s been recording throughout) so we can see how we look on screen and improve with each take. At first, we feel slightly awkward and uncomfortable seeing our performance magnified, but with positive encouragement and helpful tips from Broun, we’re able to relax. We also learn about camera angle techniques and how to best present ourselves and our performance, whatever the angle or shot in question.
Initially, we are very aware of the camera and unconsciously keep facing it. Alex says that this is down to our background in theatre, whereby it is instilled in actors to always face the audience and project. Even though we find the habit difficult to shake, by the end of the class, we’ve grasped the technique of avoiding looking at the camera, unless directed, much better.
One of the most helpful aspects of the course, we find, is the audition section, were Broun puts us through our paces, recreating a real-life audition scenario. It’s at this point that we encounter stage fright and fumble up our lines a bit. But after constructive criticism and guidance, we end the session feeling much better prepared.
After learning the techniques of screen acting, we leave with visions of stardom in our eyes. Who knows, maybe we’ll be hanging out with Leonardo DiCaprio next year in Tinseltown… Dhs1,000. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book. Mon or Tue, 7pm-10pm. May 25 to June 25. 1,002 Al Thuraya Tower 1, Dubai Media City, www.constellationdubai.com (04 438 5574).
More film courses to cut your teeth
The Desert Monologues The course is suitable for both seasoned professionals and absolute beginners. Dhs1,800-3,500 depending on the course. Sat 3pm-5pm, Sun 7.30pm-9.30pm. Until June 18. The Courtyard Playhouse, Al Quoz (050 986 1761).
Filmmaking Short Course Learn the basic knowledge required to produce a professional short video with SAE Institute, including screenwriting, directing, producing, digital camera operation, lighting, sound and digital computer editing. Call for days and times. Dhs6,000 (eight-week course). August 9. SAE Institute, Block 16, Dubai Knowledge Village (04 361 6173).
Acting for Film This four-week workshop, held by the prestigious New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi, is worth the journey and the cost, as it provides students with a thorough foundation of acting skills using theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavski’s System. Monologue work is also included. US$3,800 (Dhs13,960). September 6 to October 1. Between Muroor (4th) Street and Airport Road, off 15th Street, next to Abu Dhabi TV and Sky News Arabia, Abu Dhabi (02 446 6442).