Thursday, 29 April 2010

Meisner, Jack and Ridley Scott

A little while ago I was contacted by Jack Price of Studio Films. Over the coming months he will be running courses in Meisner technique for actors at the Tobacco Factory
Taken from the flyer for the upcoming course

The first course begins on Thursday 6th May 2010 and it's a practical short course that takes you step-by-step through Meisner's core exercise and text analysis over 6 days. But if you've never heard of Meisner or, like me, only know the name, you're probably wondering what it's all about and why you should be interested.
You can look Meisner up on Wikipedia, but for this blog post I thought it was probably best if the answers came from Jack:

Sanford Meisner worked with Lee Strasberg as part of The Group Theatre  in New York, but he left the group and developed his own technique. In a nutshell what is 'Meisner' and how does it differ from ‘The Method’?

"Meisner is almost anti-method, its not about you its about the other person. The oft quoted Meisner line is its “About Living truthfully under a given set of circumstances” To live truthfully in the circumstances of a man who has murdered do you have to know what it feels like to murder? I don't believe so."

How did you discover Meisner?

"I studied with Scott Williams at the Impulse company in London. Scott is generous, brilliant and supportive. One of the best teachers I have ever had. "

I see you are developing a film course with Impulse company. How does Meisner for screen differ to Meisner for stage?

"I don't believe there is any difference between acting for stage or screen, except you have to have different types of stamina and the voice work is different. I believe people's bullshit-ometters are the same, if it's great it's great and if it's pants, we walk."

What does Meisner offer that other techniques/practices don’t?

"Meisner created a set of core exercises which connect you to impulse, they tune your instrument, in the case of the actor the instrument is the body, mind. I have not found another exercise which gives me a workout, makes me a better actor, connects me more to truth and as a note improves my writing and directing."

Do you need previous experience of the technique to attend the course at the Tobacco Factory?

"No. You just need to want to act and be willing to have some myths destroyed."

Reading about Jack on the Studio Film website (and IMDB), I had a few questions about the man behind the course:
The Man Himself

You say you’ve filmed extensively for Ridley Scott Associates, have you ever met Ridley Scott?

"I worked for Ridley Scott for 8 years as one of his directors, I have met him. I have also sat at his desk naked with Russell Crowe's Gladiator Helmet and Sword."

As you do...That was a much better answer than I was expecting, but I'll leave it there and let your students quizz you further in the workshop.

I understand your most recent film is Indigo, tell me more about it

"Indigo is a short film I wrote and directed about a boy who has a gift. You can see the trailer online at The film recently won special mention at the Berlin Film festival and I am developing it into a feature film with producer Andrea Cornwell whose last film was Scouting Book For Boys which is in cinemas now. The film stars Thomas Turgoose who was in This is England and right now I should be rewriting the synopsis."

Indigo received a Special Mention at the Berlin Film Festival

Just before you get back to your writing, I have to ask the question anyone who looks you up on IMDB will really want to know… is it true you were in an episode of Blossom?!

"I love that! I only just saw IMDB had added that to my profile. Do you think if I pay for IMDB pro they will remove it? For the record, No, I was not in the episode where Blossom gets her period!"

[Meanwhile, somewhere in the world, another Jack Price is miffed that his credit has been allocated to the wrong 'Jack Price', and wonders if he could reclaim his rightful title by joining IMDB Pro.]

The course dates are 6th - 8th and 13th - 15th May 2010 and there are only a couple of places left. The cost is £265, but if you mention that you read about it on this blog, you will receive a £15 discount, making it £240.

Click here for booking details and further information about the course or visit the Studio Film website to find out more about Jack and his work.
If you can't make the course in May, he will be running a 5 day course 4th - 9th July 2010, a taster session 1st - 2nd June 2010 or, if you have experience of Meisner there will be a drop-in session on 4th June 2010.

Useful Links

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Why Iceni Needs Your Help

Over the last few days you may have spotted the trailers for the upcoming three-part BBC Drama, ‘Five Daughters’ about the murders of five young women in Ipswich in 2006.

Until I auditioned for a small role in the drama, I could only remember basic elements of the case. Like me, you may remember the hunt for the murderer; you may even remember the name of the murderer (Steve Wright), but you probably don’t remember the names of his victims or anything about their lives other than they were prostitutes.

The thing is, they were not ‘just prostitutes’, they were many things and Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Tania Nicol, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls were all someone’s daughter.

The production has a stellar cast and gives an insight into the lives of these five women currently consigned to common knowledge as a vague series of names and faces, defined by their work in the sex industry.
They all had something else in common: drug addiction. Ultimately, it was this addiction that led them to their deaths, not prostitution.

Each of the women was known to The Iceni Project, an innovative, pioneering centre that tries to tackle drug addiction in a different way, and its success has been phenomenal.

I recently received an email from Simon Lewis, producer of 'Five Daughters', explaining that Iceni’s local council has made changes to their funding, meaning the Project is now £70,000 under the amount they need to continue their work. As soon as I read the email I knew I wanted to write a post about what was happening.

I had never heard of The Iceni Project until I received the audition scene, which was set in ‘The Iceni Centre’, and I had to research the location. Through my research I discovered the amazing work taking place at Iceni.

Set up in 1999 by Brian Tobin and Patrick Palmer, after they lost loved ones to addiction, they felt the way  of tackling addiction they had observed wasn’t working and a fresh approach was needed. Instead of substituting the illegal drugs for legal versions before attempting to wean the addict, Iceni creates a controversial all-round care package to break the cycle of addiction.

Each package is tailored to an individual’s needs because they recognise that one-size does not ‘fit all’ and addiction does not just affect the addict, but people close to them and the community at large, which is invariably plagued by associated crime.

We tend to think that addicts turn to crime to feed their addiction and in essence they do, but it’s not that simple. If you take prostitution as an example, an addict may be working that night because they need to pay the rent, buy food or pay the gas bill the following day, not because, at that point in time, they need to pay for their next ‘fix’. This means that just focussing on the drug won’t change their lifestyle or help them out of the self-destructive situation they are in, they need support to find an alternative way to live.

The murders in Ipswich highlighted this problem, as women who felt there was no alternative still worked the streets, even though they knew a serial killer was targeting them. I remember wanting to shout at the TV as women, who knew they could be next, explained that they would be working the streets that night. If I felt like that as an observer, I cannot imagine the pain of those close to the women who watched those interviews and were equally helpless to prevent their actions. One of the victims, Paula Clennell, was one of those interviewed shortly before her death and this is surely the most painful viewing of all.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. As part of a tailored package The Iceni Project can help with the cost of rent and household bills, make sure the women are seen by doctors, and even ensure those in need of dental care receive it, as many addicts suffer from decaying or damaged teeth because of their drug use. They provide one-to-one counselling and even offer a range of holistic alternatives in their approach to helping those who battle addiction.

You may be sceptical, but they have been so successful that in 2008 they even received a Guardian award for their work. Click Here to view the article.

After hearing about the financial deficit The Iceni Project is facing, I emailed them and received a reply from Brian Tobin. He explained that the actual deficit is £90,000 and although they have now secured some funding (largely due to the support of individuals and local businesses), they still need to find another £30,000 to continue their work over the coming year. They have been forced to make redundancies and are incredibly vulnerable to any variables in expenditure which may arise.

I cannot help recognising that the role I read only existed on paper because The Iceni Project exists in real life, and although my involvement in ‘Five Daughters’ has ended, I believe the work of Iceni needs to carry on.

“The work they have done, and continue to do, is quite extraordinary - they literally save and change lives of people who are seldom noticed and live right on the edges of society. It would be a genuine tragedy if Iceni were unable to continue their work.”
Simon Lewis, Producer, ‘Five Daughters’

If, like me, you would like to make a donation, no matter how big or small, here’s what to do:
Send a cheque payable to ‘Iceni’ to:

Brian Tobin
64-70 Foundation Street

Alternatively, if you would rather pay directly into their bank account, email me (downstagewrite[at] and I can send you their bank details.

Below are links to some of the sources I have used and other sites or articles which may be of interest: