The voice is made up of different muscles that need to stay healthy through exercise and good vocal health. Lifestyle choices and busy lives can take a toll on the actor’s voice which makes it harder when projecting or belting out eight shows a week. Time and time again I have artists that see me with pre nodule symptoms and sometimes worse because they have taken their voice for granted through different reasons. The demands of theatre are much higher these days and vocal science has moved on over the years, so we can learn so much more.
There always comes a time when we meet the demands of stress through work and our personal life. The majority of the time, it will affect our voice just like when we are unwell, therefore we need to be aware of our technique. There is always so much to learn but the crucial thing is never forgetting to go back to basics. Keeping the voice free and forward. Don’t forget to stretch out the tongue, otherwise tongue route tension can play a dramatic part in tiring the voice (this is usually a big pain for most performers) and remember how to free your breath, sometimes we do not realise how much tension we hold in our abdominals from the gym or simply stress. The demands of life can create bad habits in our crucial tool “The Voice”. It’s like going to the gym or dance class. Keep the technique up, keep up class and be aware of vocal health. It’s always good to check in for an MOT, to make sure we are on the right track, plus there is always something we can learn. At the end of the day it depends how good you want to be.
What are the most important things to remember before a show?
Warm up is crucial. Warm up is not just for getting the voice warm but getting ourselves into placement. Releasing the tightness in our body from the day and ready for the show. Accessing the mechanics of the voice by stretching the head and neck and finding good posture. Use relaxation methods, Semi Supine is always good to do for five/ten minutes before a show, this helps correct our posture and allows the breath to be free by relaxing the stomach muscles and correcting our alignment. Therefore the voice will work better. Release any constriction that is held in the larynx by simple exercises such as silent yawning; this stretches your soft palate, throat and tongue as long as you’re keeping it forward. This takes no time at all. Gently work into vocal warm ups, working on using the correct amount of twang for the character of the show which also encourages good forward vocal placement, so the back of the auditorium can hear you. Remember warm up is your time.
What are the important things I Should remember when leaving the theatre?
Warm down is just as important as warm up. Warm down is resetting the vocal folds, bringing them back to neutral. A great tip is using a Lax Vox technique. A simple method, blowing and phonating through a tube, it is a holistic and cognitive approach and gives multichannel biofeedback. When we are vocally tired from the show, this useful tool can help by relaxing the larynx. If you don’t have one of these, blow using a straw or use fricative techniques.
Simple things to remember when performing
- Drink at least 2 litres of water a day, before and during a performance.
- Regular steam inhalation to lubricate the vocal folds, following a performance and the following morning. DO NOT STEAM JUST BEFORE USING YOUR VOICE.
- Warm up and warm down.
- Try not to lift heavy objects or lift heavy weights at the gym just before a show. If you do gym in the day, keep good form and alignment! This is essential.
- Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine and fatty foods 24 hours before a performance.
- Do not smoke
- Don’t drink iced water when speaking or singing.
- Don’t use decongestants.
Nathan Lubbock-Smith is available for vocal tuition via NLS Tuition www.nlstuition.com
Quote VLA MASTERCLASS to take advantage of the offer.
This month’s Masterclass Q&A is with TV producer Joff Powell,
currently Commissioning Editor at BBC Worldwide.
How quickly do you aim to respond to an idea?
I aim to acknowledge receipt of an idea the day it comes in. In terms of response it varies; I have a very clear commissioning strategy so can identify straight away if the proposal isn’t right for my channels. Ideas that resonate with the tone and ambition of the channel, I will then develop with the production company before discussing it in one of our commissioning meetings.
What do you want less of?
Anything niche, people assume that because our channels are still in their infancy, that we will accommodate ideas with limited appeal. It’s actually the opposite, I need big. bold and universal concepts that speak to an international market.
What’s a definite no for you?
Lifestyle/features. I commission for channels in LatAm, South Africa, Poland, Nordic, Asia and Australia. I target male skewing factual entertainment which needs to be lively and action packed so anything too soft, within the home or garden is less likely to get traction for our origination strategy – we can acquire that content which does a job for the channel at less risk/expense so to spend a big budget on an origination, I need something really unique that we cannot get elsewhere.
Who has final sign-off?
Tracy Forsyth is Genre Director but it is very much a collaborative decision. There are only 3 of us in commissioning so we talk weekly to decide what to take forward. As we are an international portfolio, we liaise with our channel heads, distribution team and global schedulers to ensure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.
What’s your riskiest commission and why?
Tribal Bootcamp from Rumpus Media. It’s an intelligent hybrid merging the genre of comedy and NHU content. The narrative entry point is looking at our obsession with aesthetic beauty but a fitness series just wouldn’t work for my channels. So we have taken it even further to challenge whether our high cost, tech addicted lifestyles can compete against mother nature herself in some of the most remote tribal communities around the world.
What would you like more of?
Original factual entertainment formats that can be ordered in high volume, that have the scale to be recommissioned for multiple series and have the international appeal for local format adaptations.
What’s your top pitching tip for producers?
Know the BBCW channels and territories, make yourself familiar with our output and don’t be derivative. If you can’t explain the format in the first paragraph, you’ve either over complicated it or it doesn’t work.
What do you wish you’d commissioned?
First dates on Channel 4. There is no other word than brilliant. It’s well made, has a theme that travels the world, is compelling, real and entertaining to watch.
by Anthony Holmes at www.showreelediting.com
Showreels are partly an art form, partly a showcase, but primarily a tool for career development. A successful showreel is one that helps actors get more work. Using the right clips in the right way maximises an actor’s chances.
I’ve been a specialist showreel editor now for over 15 years, editing reels for actors at all stages of their careers, from recent drama school graduates to established talent such as Andrew Sachs and Sir David Jason. I have a keen sense as to what casting directors are looking for in a showreel, and prior to that I worked as a producer, reviewing dozens of showreels for each available role – and I know first-hand the difference a showreel can make between being cast and missing out on the job.
Here are my top 10 tips to consider when editing your showreel:
- An opening montage won’t help; they waste valuable time and most casting directors don’t like them. Go straight into a piece with dialogue and substance.
- Your showreel should open on a close-up of you; where possible, avoid opening on group scenes or a scene with another actor of the same sex and age range.
- Your showreel should represent you as you are now, and reflect your current look.
- Always include the most appropriate scenes for the type of roles you’re keen to get.
- Include a good contrast of scenes in your showreel, but variety of character types isn’t necessarily good – bear in mind many casting directors are looking for a type, and you’re making their job easier to cast you if you don’t try to be all things to all people.
- A showreel should be short and punchy – it doesn’t need to show full scenes, but key moments – although don’t over-edit, give enough space for the characters to breathe and for the pacing to work. Each showreel is unique and will have its own ideal duration, but aim for 2 to 3 minutes or so. You don’t want to bore a casting director – show them just enough.
- The order in which the scenes play is crucial.
- An existing scene can be re-edited to minimise the screen time of other actors, and focus more on you.
- Focus on the higher production value and higher profile footage; your employability is increased if you avoid using self-tapes and ‘shot for showreel’ scenes (which casting directors can spot a mile away) – they want to see how you handle yourself in a fully professional environment. Self-tapes are the way forward for individual castings, but don’t belong in your main showreel.
- Keeping your showreel regularly updated is a great way to showcase your latest work, and gives you an opportunity to remind casting directors (and your agent) about you, and keep them interested.
- All rules are made to be broken! These aren’t strict rules, but general guidelines; there will often be occasions where individual situations require a different approach. Your showreel editor will be able to advise where this is the case.
Watch some recent showreels edited by Anthony Holmes at www.showreelediting.com, and to keep up to date on the latest showreel news, don’t forget to follow Anthony at www.twitter.com/showreelediting & www.facebook.com/showreeleditingservice
- Make sure you can be seen. Do a test. Check the light is good and all of your face can be seen (not half in shadow for instance).
- Check the camera is in focus. If there is movement required, do a test and watch it back to check whether you are in focus when you are moving and also that you are in frame throughout.
- The best frame is head and shoulders (fairly tight shot) so that all of your expressions can be seen.
- Make sure you can be heard. Do a test. Try reading a few lines from the scene to make sure your mic is picking up your voice and the sound is clear and a decent volume.
- Get someone to read with you off camera. In an ideal world it’s best to use someone who has some acting ability because a terrible reader can be extremely distracting and can detract from your performance. Regardless, make sure that whoever is reading with you isn’t louder than you are because this can again be very distracting.
- Only send 1 or 2 (max) takes of a scene unless otherwise instructed.
- Record your clips landscape NOT portrait if using a mobile phone.
- Use a site such as vimeo / Hightail / Wetransfer to upload and send the clips.
- Keep your clips / takes as separate files.
- It can be useful to Ident yourself at the beginning of the tape, either talking or by adding some text. Either way, keep it brief.
1. How do you approach networking?
I am not a conventional networker, I don’t attend specific networking events, I like (what I call) divine networking; rather than looking at who I would like to meet I look at who I am meant to meet, then, when I am out and about I keep a keen, intuitive awareness about me. All of my best projects and opportunities have come from simply following my intuition; I get a definite feeling of excitement when I meet someone that I am meant to work with, I always follow that feeling and it always leads somewhere good. Everywhere I go I know that there will be someone there that I am meant to meet, and that the introduction will often be nothing to do with the industry hierarchy.
I once got talking to a lad (a book seller) who worked in Waterstones, and the time I spent chatting with him (he was an aspiring writer, and he wanted to interview me) lead to me meeting – purely through synchronicity – his sister who produced two of my films, one of which was BAFTA nominated, and one that won a BAFTA.
This lad was not even in the industry, but I felt the divine pull when I met him and I followed it.
When you follow the divine economy every meeting no matter how seemingly insignificant, is a powerful networking event.
2. Are there any networking mistakes you’ve made in the past?
The biggest mistake I used to make was contrivance, trying to network, trying to meet influential people who might help me make my films or plays, trying to coattail.
I believed that it was all about who you know, but that was my worldly naivety. Actually, now I realise that it is not about who you know, it is about who you are. If you are genuine, if you are congruent, if you
have a talent and are selfless in your quest to work with others to develop that talent, you will never go too far wrong.
I used to say to my wife, I need to meet this actor, that director, those financers.
She said to me, Geoff, stop trying to meet people, do the work, make the work so incredible and so unique that they will want to meet you.
That has proven to be very true for me. Do the work. The rest will look after itself.
Good work has gravitas, and the right people will be massively attracted to it.
3. When approaching networking, what’s your main goal?
To serve people. To serve people through my work. Whenever I meet people I always ask myself (in my sub-vocalisation) how can I serve this person? In the early days I was not congruent,
so I was always unconsciously thinking what’s in this for me? But this selfish attitude made me feel miserable, there was no joy in it. When I genuinely wanted to help others, the profit, the joy was
huge, in every sense of the word.
You can’t fake it though, you have to feel it, otherwise it is just clanging symbols.
If you think about others, they will know at some level and they will want to work with you, because you will be one of the very few genuine people who understand the true nature of reciprocity;
when you serve others, it always comes back to you in the end.
I understand that people might think this unworkable in such a tough industry, but I find that it works beautifully in any industry.
4. What are your 3 key pieces of advice when networking?
1) Every encounter, whether you know it or not, is a chance to practice divine networking.
2) Do the work – you can network all you like, but if you work is average, your results will be average too.
3) Spend more time finessing your skills than you do practicing your conventional networking. If you work is good your work will be found, who and what you need will come to you.
5. Do you find there are any differences to networking in the UK to the US?
In the divine economy it makes no difference.
For more details on Geoff Thompson’s past and present work, go to www.geoffthompson.com.
Casting sessions are one of the most interesting parts of my job. Before that point you have spent time thinking about who may be suitable for a role but it is in the casting session the character is finally brought to life. We appreciate how hard it is for an actor to come in and meet us, and know that they want to get it right. There in lies the difficulty – there is no right way. You could for instance play the role exactly how we want it to be played but there may be something missing. It’s difficult to articulate why an actor does not get the role and it may sound like a cliche, but ‘it’s just not that actor’s part.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you the answers to what makes a good audition. There are no answers. The only advice is to trust your instincts. Remember the audition is your time. If you have any questions ask us. We are here to help you. You have been invited to audition because we feel that you can bring something to this role and want you to leave feeling that you’ve done your best work.
You may not end up getting the part but we will remember you. Far too often actors are so anxious about getting it ‘right’ that they are nervous and flustered in their meeting, this affects their ability to act and can lead to a casting director being hesitant to call them in for other projects.
Casting is an opportunity for us to meet you and see what sort of actor you are. So give us that opportunity. Many directors I have worked with have asked us to call in actors that have auditioned for them before, who may not have got the job but made an impression. So basically all I’m saying is to be yourself. I know that is much harder than it seems but the actors who do, tend to enjoy the casting process more. I also enjoy meeting them, as whether they get the role or not they will do something interesting and unique and you’re likely to call them back for different projects.
Aisha has worked for Shaheen Baig Casting since 2008 she has assisted Shaheen on numerous projects as an Associate including The Impossible (starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor) Starred Up (starring Jack O’Connell) Locke (starring Tom Hardy) and Black Mirror (Written by Charlie Brooker) and multiple award nominated TV series including The Unloved, Five Daughters, Southcliffe, Marvellous and the hit BBC series Peaky Blinders (starring Cillian Murphy). As a Casting Director she has jointly cast numerous projects including My Brother The Devil with Shaheen. In the last year she has started to work independently and cast feature film The Possibilities Are Endless and TV series Blackout, Youngers, UKIP: The First 100 Days and Cyberbully (starring Maisie Williams). She has just finished casting Nirpal Bhogal’s latest feature film Thea.
Aisha Walters’ IMDB page – imdb.com/name/nm3456755/
In 2010 my son was born and my life changed forever. As I came blinking into the light after the firsts few intense, sleep-deprived months and took stock of the new world it quickly became clear to me that I wanted him to be part of my theatre world and that the idea of giving it up was unthinkable. So I took a look around and realised very quickly that the usual channels of childcare used by my new non-theatre parent friends – nannies, nurseries, childminders – were not going to work. Then it gradually started to occur to me that I had another great resource at my fingertips. My friends. My lovely, open-minded, fun, adaptable friends collected from my years hopping from job to job in the theatre. Friends who were often available at short notice and at strange hours. Friends who needed the ad-hoc cash as much as I needed the ad-hoc childcare.
So I posted on Facebook and sent texts and, before long, had a group of people who my son knew and was happy to see. They would push a buggy round a park whilst I went to an audition – come and hold my sleeping baby whilst I performed in a reading on a boat on the Thames – even came to Denmark for a week to take him to the beach whilst I rehearsed. An actor friend moved into our spare room, providing us with an extra bit of cash and an impromptu babysitter. They helped me to keep my career moving through the exciting and unsettling time of negotiating a career in the theatre whilst having a family and then when, 18 months later, I got a job with the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon, we were able to settle for a while. It is possible to have a career as an actor and also a life as a mum. We are creative people and, with creative solutions, it is possible to have it all. Our greatest asset is each other and, if it does take a village to raise a child, the wonderful business we share is a great place to start creating a village of your own.
Emma can be seen in ‘Confusions’ directed by Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough as part of the celebrations for the theatre’s 60th year.
US immigration law is clear: Although professional artists and entertainers may enter the United States on the Visa Waiver Program/ESTA to attend meetings and auditions, they may not perform there—not even if they do so for free. So, the question is: What visa is needed and how much trouble is it to get?
The primary employment-authorised visas for entertainers are the ‘O’ and ‘P’ visas. (All non-immigrant US visas are designated by letters of the alphabet.) The ‘O-1’ visa classification is designed for persons with either (1) extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics or (2) extraordinary achievement in film or television. The standard for an O-1 is high, and not everyone will qualify. For detailed information about the O-1 and to evaluate your accomplishments against the O-1 requirements, check the website articles How to Prove You’re an Alien of Extraordinary Ability and Lights! Camera! Visa! Aliens of Extraordinary Achievement in Film and Television.
The applicant for an O-1 must be sponsored by an employer or agent, and the visa is granted for a specific event, such as a tour, lecture series or project. The sponsor must file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and it must be approved before the applicant may apply for his or her O-1 visa.
If your career doesn’t quite measure up to the O-1 standards, don’t despair—there are other options. For example, if the project on which you would be working in the US includes a high-profile non US citizen in an important role (lead actor, director, producer or the like), you may be eligible for an O-2 supporting visa on the back of the star’s O-1.
Alternatively, the P-1 visa is available to artists and members of entertainment groups. The P-1 applicant must perform with, or as an integral and essential part of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as being outstanding for a sustained period of time. The individual must have had a long and substantial relationship with the group (ordinarily for at least one year) and provide functions integral to the performance of the group. There are also P visas for artists and entertainers in exchange programmes or programmes that are culturally unique. As is the case for O visas, P visas require a USCIS-approved petition before visa application.
Although it can be tempting to forego the formalities and accept work in the US on a Visa Waiver Program entry, unauthorised employment in the US can hurt your chances of getting employment-related visas in the future. Don’t risk your career: Get professional advice and, if necessary, get a visa.
Susan McFadden is the principal of Gudeon & McFadden, a London-based US law firm practising exclusively US immigration law. www.usvisalawyers.co.uk