Meet the Trust - William Lee

Formed in 2017 and made up of people from all areas of the HFAS community, our Board of Trustees is a highly skilled group of individuals who will be working to ensure that The Studio is the best institution it can be. We've been introducing you to members of our Trust over the last few weeks, and today it's time for you to meet William Lee!

Actor William Lee

William is best known for his role as bushranger John Dunn in The Legend of Ben Hall, which received a worldwide release in 2017, and for which he won 'Best Supporting Actor' at the 50th Annual Houston International Film Festival. A competitive horse rider from a young age, William opted to perform his own horse riding stunts in The Legend of Ben Hall, and hopes to do more work with horses on screen throughout his career. At the start of 2017,  William worked on the Bushranger documentary, Lawless- The Real Bushrangers by Foxtel. William is now writing and producing, and endeavours to share stories of his family history, which includes European Royalty, and a prisoner of war in Changi in WWII. William was involved in a sold out season of The Scare at La Mama Theatre in 2013 and was awarded Best Actor at The Brown Paper Bag Film Festival in Melbourne in 2012.

1. Tell us three things about yourself (that we can't learn from your bio!)

  • I’m a middle child and my brother and sister call me 'the favourite'.
  • I almost died on the operating table as a child after falling off a bunk bed in my sleep.
  • I finally got the courage to become an actor while on the Amazon River in Brazil.  I got home from my trip and signed up for my first acting course at the Howard Fine Acting Studio.

 2. Why are you excited to be part of the HFAS Board of Trustees?

I have gone from being too scared to speak in my first class, to being invited onto the HFASA board of trustees. Words can’t explain how amazing that feels. I can now give back to the community that gave so much to me at my most vulnerable time. We are working on creating a space for actors and performers to present their work in a safe and supportive environment, through scratch nights and performance nights which is so damn exciting. The board is made up of students and faculty and we get to help suggest and implement the things that we always wished to have at the school.

 William as John Dunn in T he Legend of Ben Hall.

William as John Dunn in The Legend of Ben Hall.

3. What's the biggest lesson you've learned through your training at HFAS?

I was studying a double degree in Exercise Science and Human Movement and working 5 days a fortnight when I did my first course at HFAS. Laura Gardner said to me, “Don’t wait until you have more time on your hands to improve your work, get good now, because if I know you Will, you will always be this busy...” and she was spot on! Thank god I learned that lesson early on in my career. 

4. What do you love about being an actor?

To be honest I have written 5 answers for this already. I couldn’t choose just one. It's pretty special creating a character or a world that allows others to say, 'hey that's me up there. I totally relate to this character,' and in some cases allowing people to understand that they are not alone in this world through having their story told. It's such a powerful experience for both the actor and the audience. I sure as hell have been moved by other actors' performances and taken home life lessons. 

5. What do you not so much love about being an actor?

Unpredictable income and not enough hours in the day! I wish being an actor did not involve having a second or third job to sustain a living, although I understand that we all need have other interests and the best thing to do is find the love and passion in your day job rather than resenting it. Who knows maybe it's not forever?! 

6. What's your dream project or a role you'd love to play?

Cowboy, wizard, adventurer. Ok, I know that I have picked three, but who wouldn't? I also see Hugh Jackman and his career which makes me want to get up and sing my heart out and dance, but for now I'm more of a sing in the shower kinda guy, haha. I have to say though, a little bit of this dream was ignited after doing David Coury's SFA (Speech & Singing for Actors) program. I have since gone on to doing some vocal/singing classes incase the dream job did happen to pop up. 

Actor William Lee

7. What's a piece of advice you have for your fellow actors?

I knew I was meant to act. Something always draws me back in. When people ask me for advice, I say, you know it’s meant to be if you can’t stop thinking about it and if you understand that it takes sacrifice and hard work to be an actor. I was scared when reading Howard's book for the first time. He explains what it takes to be an actor and I remember thinking 'oh no, maybe that's not me.' Although as my confidence has grown so has my drive and I can guarantee its not through time alone. It's through study, trusting and understanding the process. I spent 5 years at uni and still didn't feel like an 'exercise scientist' so why should I expect anything less from acting? 

Thanks for taking the time to chat to us William! Be sure to take a look at our most recent blog posts if you'd like to meet more of our Trust members.

Meet the Trust - Sally McLean

We've certainly been enjoying getting to know the members of our Board of Trustees a little more through our 'Meet the Trust' series, and we hope you have too! This week, we had a chat with Melbourne actor and creator extraordinaire, Sally McLean.  

Actor Sally McLean

Sally is an award-winning actor, director, writer and producer whose screen projects have been officially selected for over 50 film festivals internationally. A graduate of The Actors Institute, London, she has appeared in numerous lead and guest roles in mainstream film and television, both in Australia and the UK, and over 30 theatrical productions. Her work behind the camera began with the BBC in London before forming her production business Incognita Enterprises under the Honorary Patronage of Oscar® nominated actor, Sir Nigel Hawthorne . Sally has worked in production for Channel Nine, Endemol Southern Star and others on programs including Comedy Inc., Big Brother, Australian Idol, and the The X-Factor, and is currently the General Manager for Melbourne WebFest as well as the creator, director, producer and ensemble member of the internationally multi award-winning web series, Shakespeare Republic.

1. Tell us three things about yourself (that we can't learn from your bio!)

Oh! Fun facts time! Ok, so …

  • I made my television debut as a singer/dancer on Channel 7’s Good Friday Appeal, aged 12, where I promptly knocked over the music stand of the accompanying live musicians standing nearby during an over-enthusiastic, slightly-out-of-control side step move – on live TV. I’ve been told that you actually heard the Floor Manager swear, as sheet music fluttered around me for the next few seconds and the camera swung wildly away from me to try to avoid broadcasting the ensuing chaos. If the late, great Shirley Strachan hadn’t made the effort to come up to me afterwards and tell me “Don’t worry about it – you kept going, just like a pro.”, I may never have got back in front of a camera again, I was so mortified. Will always be grateful to him for taking pity on a shaken and highly embarrassed pre-teen that day.
  • Aged 13, I led the Moomba Parade as my alter-ego “Bubbles The Clown” (a character I played as a storytelling stand up for most of my teenage years at various large-scale concerts and events at venues such as the Melbourne Arts Centre and Adelaide Fringe). This persona may or may not have been influenced by the Good Friday Appeal incident (if they’re going to laugh at you, you may as well be aiming for that outcome).
  • Finally, I started my theatre career in musicals (so clearly I didn’t give up on the singing/dancing thing either).

2. Why are you excited to be part of the HFAS Board of Trustees?

I am a firm believer in actors training for their whole careers, as hopefully we’re all in this to keep growing and improving and that’s a process that should never stop. I have been involved with HFAS Australia since taking Scene Study with Howard in 2012 and I honestly believe it’s the best training around for actors in this country. Having worked as an unofficial PA for Howard and some of the LA Faculty during their visits here over the years, I know how much effort goes on behind the scenes to make this work possible and I am thrilled to be part of such a fantastic team of actors and creators that will continue to enable this excellent training and these truly wonderful, brilliant teachers to be brought to Australian shores. Plus, I have a lot of friends involved, so it’s a great way to catch up with them all on a regular basis under the guise of work ;)

3. How has training at HFAS helped you in your work in the industry?

I came to audit my first Master Class at a time when I was thinking of walking away from the biz. It had been a difficult few years and I’d started to lose my spark and passion for it. The lovely Rachael Blackwood invited me along, as she was participating, and so I went to support her, really. However, five minutes in Howard’s presence, watching him work, listening to his philosophy on acting and being a creative in general and experiencing his passion and love for the work -  everything changed for me. Over that weekend, Howard reminded me why I do this work. Why I chose to be part of this crazy business and reignited that joy in the work that I’d been missing. I came home inspired and full of new ideas and energy. I then began working with Howard and the team every opportunity I could get and the work started coming in again, ideas for my own projects began stacking up and I came out the other side. I credit Howard, David, Laura, Karen, Marilyn and all the other amazing teachers at the Studio for seeing me through that period and for making me not only a better actor, but a better writer and director. And I will be forever grateful to all of them and Phil and Pat for making it all possible in the first place.

4. What do you love about being an actor?

 Sally working with Howard Fine and actor Mike Smith at the 2013 Melbourne Master Class.

Sally working with Howard Fine and actor Mike Smith at the 2013 Melbourne Master Class.

The people I get to work with. Those amazing, creative, inspirational human beings I get to spend time with on a regular basis. The acting fraternity is made up of so many interesting, fascinating people and I feel privileged to know and work with so many who are also generous, compassionate and so, so very talented. That also extends to directors, writers, producers, casting directors, teachers – you name it. Ours is a vibrant and exciting industry and it’s because of the people and all that amazing creativity they generate and build. The chance to continually grow, continually learn, continually improve – not just as an actor, but also as a member of the human race. The chance to take risks. To step out on the ledge and take that leap into the unknown. And the responsibility of giving voice to those people, issues, ideas that may not have a platform – to hold that famous “mirror up to nature” - so we can all take a look at where we have been, where we are currently at and where we could possibly be going. It is an honour and a privilege to do this job and, I believe, our responsibility to do it as well as we can.

5. What do you not so much love about being an actor?

I chose this, so I take the good with the bad with as much good grace as I can, as I realise I’m in a very privileged position to be able to do what I love. So, sure, there are downtimes, such as not knowing where the next gig is going to come from and the like, but that’s why I also write, direct and produce. I’m a big believer in continually challenging yourself and if you don’t know something, then finding someone who does and learning from them. Also, having a strong, supportive community around you and a stable home environment, which I’m lucky enough to also have, makes the world of difference. And if all else fails, going for a walk in nature to remember that we are but one small part of the larger universe really helps me get through any feelings of inadequacy or inertia that can crop up all too regularly.

6. What's your dream project or a role you'd love to play

Too many to list here! Anything that challenges me, stretches me and helps leave the world a better place :) My dream project is actually already on the agenda for production, which I’m currently adapting into a TV series from a feature film script I wrote a while ago, set in Scotland, so fingers crossed.  (Although, I’d love to play Claire de Loone from “On The Town” again, now that I’m older and understand her better, just throwing that out there).

7. What's a piece of advice you have for your fellow actors

Create your own work. The phone doesn’t regularly ring off the hook with work for any of us – no matter where we are at in our careers. Creating your own work gives you the chance to take some control back over your career. Do Shakespeare. Take a commedia dell’arte class. If you don’t sing, take a singing. Learn a circus skill. Never stop challenging yourself creatively and never stop learning about this amazing industry we are a part of. Know the history of what we do. It is rich, varied and fascinating and gives us a sense of place in the grand scheme of things, as well as the realisation that we are simply the next links in the chain of the long-standing tradition of storytelling. Lastly, be interested and curious. Never stop learning. And read, read, read!!! If you do all that, not only will you be able to contribute to this biz in a deeper and more impactful way, you’ll also hopefully have a truly fulfilling life – which will only inform your acting work, because it’s irrevocably connected. And have fun!

Meet the Trust - Chris Farrell

Over the next few weeks, we'll be introducing you to the members of our Board of Trustees, (an awesome team of individuals who will be working to ensure that The Studio is the best institution it can be!) and this week, we had a chat to actor, adventurer and world traveller, Chris Farrel!

Actor Chris Farrell

Melbourne actor Chris Farrell has worked on a wide variety of roles across a number of different mediums. Career highlights so far include working closely with Oscar winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, & working on HBO mini-series "The Pacific". Chris is constantly looking to collaborate with a diverse mix of enthusiastic artists regardless of the medium and is ready to take on the most challenging of directions. 

Chris is also a regular student here at The Studio, having completed many short courses and Master Classes. We asked Chris a few questions to help you get to know him:

1.    Tell us three things about yourself (that we can't learn from your bio!)

  • My time on set caring for the wellbeing of follow actors and crew outweighs my time as an actor…I am slowly trying to shift the balance! (Chris works as an on-set nurse on Neighbours!)
  • I am a film nut, with well over 700 DVD titles in alphabetical order and bags and bags of old cinema stubs! Most kids wagged school to get into mischief… I went to the cinema!
  • I am addicted to travel. Outside of the HFAS it’s the BEST school there is – the school of life! Highlights include Mongolia, Iceland, Morocco and trekking over 1700kms across Portugal and Spain

2.    Why are you excited to be part of the HFAS Board of Trustees?

I have grown immensely as an actor and person thanks to the environment at the Howard Fine Acting Studio. I have made friends for life and constantly fuelled my passion for the art. To be able to give back and potentially be a part of its growth in helping fellow actors is a tremendous honour.

3.    How has training at HFAS helped you in your work in the industry? What's the biggest lesson you've learned through your training?

HFAS helped me find the confidence I was lacking. It has allowed me to carry myself on set in a way I never previously did. Putting everything I had into the training HFAS provides has allowed me to believe I have what it takes to do the thing I have always wanted to do.

There are too many amazing lessons to name but if I had to say one it would be “Why NOT How”. Get this right and you've got half a chance of truly committing to the character and story.

4.    What do you love about being an actor?

Honestly it’s the challenge. The challenge to truly commit, empathise and find myself in service of a character. The feeling that comes from honouring the writing and having someone explain what a performance meant to them in that moment. It is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever experienced and unfortunately its addictive (run while you still can!)

5.    What do you not so much love about being an actor?

The lack of opportunity. The feeling I have when I see truly dedicated people, who sacrifice and give it their all, suffer. The constant high and lows. The doubts that creep in when I have lost touch due to having to “work” to pay bills. Learning and seeing the “business” side of the industry and how those wheels turn. When you see behind the curtain it can be pretty confronting. That’s why the magic of the classroom is so important.

6.    What's your dream project or a role you'd love to play?

Anything directed by PTA, Aronofsky, Gasper Noe, Steve Mcqueen, or Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Working alongside Daniel Day-Lewis & Michael Fassbender, because I know I would be pushed to depths only masters can safely guide you to! In addition, pretty much anything HBO creates and more recently ‘Black Mirror’. I haven’t been challenged as an audience member like that for a long time. Get on it!

7.    What's a piece of advice you have for your fellow actors

Be present now. Try not to focus on where you thought you would be or where you think you deserve to be. Enjoy where you are in your journey as much as you can. Even if you think things couldn’t be worse, the reality is that they probably could be. Don’t compete – help and learn from your peers. Be honest about your goals and how much you put in. I know someone out there is working harder, getting up earlier, and sacrificing more, so when they succeed, they probably deserved it. Let go in class, feel safe to truly be present with your scene partner or the work itself. Honestly the heights I have reached in class I rarely get to on stage or set. So many other factors make things difficult – that’s why I constantly look to get into a class when I can. The classroom for the actor is like the gym for the body builder. No athlete rocks up to game day without having trained. It's for a reason. Enjoy the ride!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Chris! If you'd like to get to know other members of our Trust, you can read our interview with Mark Salvestro by clicking here and keep an eye out for future interviews in the coming weeks!

Meet the Trust - Mark Salvestro

You might remember that a few weeks ago, we blogged about our new Board of Trustees (click here to read that post). Made up of people from all areas of the HFAS community, including professional actors, directors and producers, The Trust are a highly skilled group of individuals who will be working to ensure that The Studio is the best institution it can be, and that it continues to grow and service the needs of its community. 

Over the coming weeks, we will be introducing you to the members of The Trust, beginning this week with the wonderful Mark Salvestro!

Actor Mark Salvestro

Mark is an actor, writer, producer and founding member of independent theatre companies, Second Breakfast and North of Eight. Mark’s most recent accomplishment is his critically acclaimed one-man show, Buried at Sea, which he wrote, produced and performed. Buried at Sea has toured nationally, including successful seasons at Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, and a sold-out Snowy Mountains tour. Mark has trained extensively as a performer in Sydney and Melbourne, and in 2014, graduated from the Full-Time Program at the Howard Fine Acting Studio Australia. 

We asked Mark a few questions to help you get to know him...

1. Tell us three things about yourself (that we can't learn from your bio!)

• I've never had a coffee before...yep. 

• I'm the youngest of six kids 

• I have a pet sulphur-crested cockatoo 

2. Why are you excited to be part of the HFAS Board of Trustees?

I'm excited to be able to give back to the wonderful HFAS community. I moved to Melbourne to take part in the Full-Time program in 2014, and I certainly wouldn't be here still if it wasn't for the supportive, open-hearted and hardworking souls that surround The Studio. 

3. How has training at HFAS helped you in your work in the industry? 

Training at HFAS has refined my work ethic. It has taught me to keep exploring, digging, and questioning everything. This, in turn, has opened up a whole realm of possibilities in my career and personal life. 

4. What do you love about being an actor?

Probably the thing I also loath at times too. The work. The research. The never-ending rabbit burrow of possibilities and discoveries. 

5. What do you not so much love about being an actor?

The tight budgets I live by each day, and my bank account not reflecting the amount of work I do. It's the risk we take, but it certainly likes to test us at times. 

6. What's your dream project or a role you'd love to play?

Surprisingly they're from a musical: George from Stephen Sondheim's 'Sunday in the Park with George'...but I've got at least 10 years before that one! And Hamlet, of course! Because what actor wouldn't want to sink their teeth into that role?

7. Tell us a piece of advice you have for your fellow actors

Lately, I've started to learn the importance of stopping, breathing and checking in with myself. It's so easy to jump on the fast-paced ride of it all, and forget why we're doing it and where we're going. Make time for this. It's worth every second. 

Thanks to Mark for taking the time to chat with us! Mark's other credits include Lonely People are Always up in the Middle of the Night, La Mama Explorations; Navy Pier, North of Eight; Couch Potato and Fairy Tale News, WIT Inc.; Private Moments: A Double Bill, Anywhere Festival; The Popular Mechanicals, and Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. So keep your eyes peeled, because this hardworking actor is sure to be on a stage near you soon!

We have a board of Trustees!

We have a board of Trustees!

The Howard Fine Acting Studio Australia is very pleased to announce that we we are now fully supported by a dedicated Trust. In 2017, we decided to open up stewardship of The Studio and invited key individuals to become part of a leadership team here at HFAS, one dedicated to our ideas and principles.

The members of the Trust come from all areas of the HFAS community, including professional (and award-winning) actors, directors and producers. They are all intimately familiar with how we work, what makes us unique and how we can best serve our community. In addition to being working professionals they are all graduates and alumni of The Studio's Master Class, Full Time and Part Time programs. They are a highly skilled and impressive group of individuals who are committed to making The Studio the best institution it can be. They have the vision and desire to ensure the Howard Fine Acting Studio continues to grow, develop and service the needs of it's community. 

With the help of the Trust, we will be announcing an extremely exciting series of new initiatives in 2018, as well as introducing you to its members over the coming weeks. Stay tuned, there are great things coming!

LA Diary - Aaron Mapleback

LA Diary - Aaron Mapleback

For the next instalment in our 'LA Diary', series, we chat to Full Time graduate Aaron Mapleback, who is making his way in Hollywood. 

Q. What is different about your life as an actor in LA, compared to Melbourne? 

A. My life changed drastically, from living in a relatively safe, secure and simple environment, to a complex beast of an environment. I should explain. In LA, you are met with just as much welcoming kindness but your life also becomes a bit of a chess game, with who wishes to take you for a ride and who is actually real and who they say they are. There are so many more opportunities, but just as there are more opportunities, there are more opportunists. 

Q. What advice would you give to someone thinking about making the change?

A. Get a job! As funny as it sounds the most common progression (for most Americans who come to LA) is living in a nice big apartment, then 3 months later a smaller apartment, and then selling furniture to afford another month's rent, then sharing a living room, to facing the street or living in their car. Then most move back home. Why? because LA is ridiculously expensive! As much as you want to do voice and Alexander Technique practice every day and wait for a chance to use your acting skills, you need a job! 

Q. Got a funny anecdote?

A. You never know who anyone is, or who they roll with. The countless times that I've been in a conversation with someone, at some party, and as I get to know them, I find out, "you're best friends with the Franco brothers?" or "Oh you're an executive at this film company?" "Oh, you've won multiple Oscars? That's cool...". This town is full of super normal people that work their butt off, deal with all the difficulties and manage to still have the space for creative expression and to make something worthwhile.
I know at The Studio we champion people who make their own work. That is why I love this Studio! Tennesse Williams didn't say "I'm waiting for someone to give me a prompt before I start writing." He started writing and people started coming because they saw it was good. Kevin, one of my best friends over here in LA, when he was 19 or 20 years old he was living in NY Brooklyn, working for his Dad at a seafood shop, surrounded by crime and mobsters. Kevin got an old camera and made a short film and submitted it to a short film festival. Just so happens that Scorsese watched it, and loved it. Kevin won the film festival and Scorsese gave him a full ride to NYU and privately trained him side by side on set. The video he made was crummy quality on an average VCR camera. So I say to you it's less about the quality of the medium and more about the quality of the storytelling. Breaking Bad's first season was shot on film, not a RED dragon monster thing or an Aria Alexa! So just make something! 

Q. What's next for you?

A. My Green Card just finished processing so now I'm able to work. So I shall continue to pay my rent and work my day job, but in every moment available outside of that, I will finish writing a script for a series of short comedies and a feature length animation. Continue assistant producing a few friends' projects and finalise my contracts with my new management. But most importantly, I won't wait for the job to come to me. My advice to you is, do it, MAKE IT! And who cares the about the size of the stage, the cost of the set or the reach of the production. We are in this to act! And finally, you don't need to come to LA to do what you love, Acting is everywhere, and if that's what you want to do, you don't need to cross an ocean to do it. Make a film with your classmates. Just make something!

Technique Tuesday - Making Place

Technique Tuesday - Making Place

Students making place in acting class at the Howard Fine Acting Studio

At The Studio, our students use furniture and props to set up the room or environment in which the scene or play they are working on takes place. This is referred to as 'making place', and it allows the actors to have authentic physical life when on stage. As Howard says, 'it's about learning to be in a room rather than on stage.' 

It can also help actors to explore the world their character inhabits in great detail. In thinking about how the place should be set up, actors have to think about how their character lives in the space from day to day, what their daily habits and routines might be, what personal items, photographs, etc does the character have and why, all of which helps them to develop a richer understanding of their character's life and backstory. 

Below are some short videos filmed at previous Master Classes in which Howard discusses place, and how it can help an actor on stage. 

How to avoid being spaceless on stage. 

What to do at your first rehearsal. 

You may have seen some of these videos on our social media channels on #TechniqueTuesdays, or on our Youtube channel. If you'd like to see more, be sure to subscribe to us on Youtube, or follow us on social media via the links below.  We hope these quick lessons on 'making place' will come in handy in your acting pursuits this week!

Why audit the Master Class?

Why audit the Master Class?

With Howard Fine set to board a plane to Australia this week, and the Sydney and Melbourne Master Classes fast approaching, we're looking forward to seeing two ensembles of actors exploring scene work and delving into technique training under Howard's guidance. 

For those unable to participate in the Master Class, we always recommend auditing (observing the class) as a way to get in on the Master Class action. If you've never audited before, and you're wondering what it's all about, we've put together a quick list of reasons why you should most definitely clear your schedule, and come along as a Master Class auditor! 

 Notebooks at the ready, these auditors are soaking up all the lessons the Master Class has to offer!

Notebooks at the ready, these auditors are soaking up all the lessons the Master Class has to offer!

1. Learn the same technique as some of Hollywood's greats

One of the things we love most about The Studio is that our actors are undertaking the exact same training as actors in LA, including the many Oscar winners, nominees and well-known actors that Howard has worked with, such as Will Smith, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Carla Gugino. Auditing the Master Class gives you the opportunity to gain firsthand insight into Howard's technique training, pick up useful tips about acting technique, the rehearsal process, script analysis and more, whilst also giving you something in common with Will Smith ;) 

2. Pick up acting lessons that you can apply immediately

One of the greatest benefits of auditing the Master Class is that without the pressure of being a participant, you can sit back, take notes and absorb the lessons like an acting sponge. Howard's training is down to earth and extremely practicable (you can see an example in the video below), meaning that even if you're not participating, you will still take away innumerable lessons that you'll be able to apply to your current script or acting project straight away. Just remember to bring along a notepad and pen, because you won't want to miss any of Howard's gems!  

3. 'Audition' The Studio

As faculty member Marilyn McIntyre says to students auditioning for our courses, "you have to audition us as much as we have to audition you." In other words, if you're thinking of signing up for one of our classes, you need to know whether our training and learning environment is going to be right for you. And what better way to 'audition' us than by seeing a class in action? The Master Class provides curious actors with the opportunity to see how a class runs, how students apply the training, how faculty work with the students, explore our facilities, and ask questions of staff and current students. Auditing is the perfect opportunity for you to have a right old stickybeak and see what we're all about!

4. Connect with the HFAS community

One of the things that we're proudest of at HFAS is our incredible and supportive community of actors. Graduates, current students, Full Time students, or those who've done a short course here and there quickly become fast friends within the walls of our theatre, and they're always ready to welcome new actors into the fold. Many of our students return to participate or audit the Master Class, so whether you want to ask a Full Time graduate about their experience in the course or connect with some new actors for your next project, auditing the Master Class is a great way to meet some new acting buddies, because chances are you'll be seated next to one of regular students, and they're always up for a chat!

We hope this provided you with a bit of insight into what an invaluable experience auditing the Master Class can be. Remember, you can audit any or all of the four days of the Master Class, and the Sydney Master Class kicks off on June 24, closely followed by the Melbourne Master Class on June 29. Click the button below to book your auditing tickets, and we hope to see you there!

If you're reading this article in November 2017, the November Master Class begins in Melbourne on Friday, November 17, and will be co-taught by David Coury.

LA Diary - Taking a Chance on Los Angeles by Rachael Blackwood

LA Diary - Taking a Chance on Los Angeles by Rachael Blackwood

Actress and writer Rachael Blackwood graduated from our Full Time course in 2013, and has since make the move to Los Angeles. In the following article Rachael wrote for us, she talks about her experiences, and how her connection to The Studio and the Howard Fine community helped her take the leap.

Rachael Blackwood (right) at Howard Fine's 2015 Master Class

Do all kids dream of being in the movies? “Of course they do, it’s nothing special.”

I was seven when I asked that question about my secret dream. The kind of dream you don’t dare admit, not even to your closest friends. The kind of dream that hides in the shame-box of your soul, longing to be set free. For me, this dream was always tied to Los Angeles, a far-away fantasy place that couldn’t possibly be real. I don’t know why. Maybe I was brainwashed by countless hours of American film and TV, but as long as I’ve wanted to be an actor and a writer, I’ve wanted to make it happen in Los Angeles.

As a kid, my parents allowed me to dance and write, as long as my school work didn’t suffer. When I left home, I allowed myself to pursue acting, still with a secret eye to Los Angeles, and I eventually set up my own production company to create work for myself and my fellow creatives. Yet I never landed a commercial. I had a few bit-parts, a few theatre roles, and a couple of indie features to my name. The idea of Los Angeles seemed ridiculous. If I couldn’t make it work in Australia, how would I ever survive the cutthroat world of LA?

In 2012, I found myself at a crossroads, treading water as an actor, blocked as a writer, and feeling as if I couldn’t get a foot or even a pinkie toe inside what seemed to be the inner circle of the Australian industry. I began exploring postgrad training that would lead to a straightforward career, something I could do each day and fall asleep each night feeling as though I’d accomplished something. On a whim, I applied for Howard Fine’s June Master Class, and promptly forgot about it.

A few weeks later, I asked a friend about her career in natural medicine. She laughed at me. “Rachael, you’re not going to be any happier doing something else, you’ll just be distracted from your feelings.” That same afternoon, I received an email accepting me into Howard’s Master Class. I have a strong, visceral memory of the first set of notes Howard ever gave me. We were at Theatre Works with 150 people in the room. All eyes on me, my face burning hot, and Howard says, “Watch the tendency to make yourself smaller. You want in, this is your chance. You have ambition, you just haven't had a chance yet.” That’s a direct quote, because I still have the recording. Of course, Howard was talking about the me-within-the-character, but I sat on that stage willing myself not to cry, a deer in 150 headlights, because “our issues in life are our issues on the stage.”

Today, I know I could have cried in that moment without judgement. That’s the kind of safe space I found in the Howard Fine community. The twist is that I did return to study, but it was as a member of the 2013 Howard Fine Acting Studio Full Time ensemble. There’s no hyperbole in the statement that the Full Time program is a life changing experience, and I was determined not to let my momentum slip away after graduating. I also had a good dose of wanderlust, so after a late night Google search in early 2014, I whisked myself away to a writer’s retreat in a remote area of Canada, hosted by two producer/writers who happened to run the biggest pitching festival in the world. I wrote a feature film in four days. My hosts read the script, and LOVED it. They invited me to join them at their pitching festival, in Los Angeles, three months later.

Despite my secret dream, I’m not the LA type. I’m country born and bred. I like space. I like quiet. Melbourne is too crowded for me. I’m not the typical Los Angeles look, even though I am blue eyed and blonde, but I’m not tan or thin and I loathe sushi with a passion. I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I have no idea how to walk up to people and start a conversation, but that’s the beauty of the Howard Fine family. The faculty take care of you, wherever you are in the world, and The Studio attracts such a wonderful and warm character of human being, that when I turned up to the LA Studio on the second day of my trip, I found myself surrounded by instant, lifelong friends.

I spent three weeks in Los Angeles, and at the end, I met with a lawyer to discuss visas. My secret dream seemed not just reasonable, not just attainable, but the logical next step. I always assumed my writing and acting wasn’t quite good enough to progress my career any further. However, my experience with Howard and my results at the pitching festival proved otherwise, and it finally dawned on me that my stagnating career was a lack of opportunity and network, not talent and skill.

As I built my acting resume to strengthen my visa application, I also entered my scripts in the top six writing contests in Los Angeles. I’m proud to say my writing has had several awards and placements, including a Top Three placement in the Final Draft Big Break. That’s Top 3 from over 7,000 entries. Sidebar: I still can’t get anyone to read my scripts in Australia.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2016. My existing LA friends made the transition so much easier (I can’t stress that enough, and I’ll be eternally grateful to them). I imagine Los Angeles is terrifying without a place to call home, but for me, that’s HFAS. Without The Studio, it’s doubtful I would have had the courage to move to LA. It’s also highly likely I would be stuck at that 2012 crossroads, wondering what I’m doing with my life, trying to force something to fit, making myself small, hiding my ambition, and longing for a chance. Longing for the permission to do what I was being called to do, just like that seven-year-old girl so many years ago. Thanks to The Studio, I found my way back to that little girl, and when she asks me her question, I respond: “It doesn’t matter what other kids dream about. What do you dream about? Because, darling, you can do anything."

LA Diary - Stephen Lopez

LA Diary - Stephen Lopez

 Stevie Lopez at Howard Fine's 2016 Master Class in Melbourne

Stevie Lopez at Howard Fine's 2016 Master Class in Melbourne

Today on the blog, we're pleased to bring you the first in what will be a series of 'LA Diaries'. These diaries will take the form of Q & As with actors from our Melbourne Studio who have spent a significant amount of time in Los Angeles, furthering their acting careers.

For our first LA Diary, we bring you an interview with Stephen (Stevie) Lopez, who has acted professionally from a young age, and is known around The Studio as possibly the nicest guy in acting!

Q. Why did you move to LA?

A. As many before me have, and I’m sure many after me will, you come out to America for opportunity; Los Angeles is the mecca for Film and Television.

I’ve worked professionally as an actor since I was 13 years old in Australia and I can honestly say I probably never saw myself making the move over the pond. A few doors opened for me and I took my chances and now I hold a US Green Card and find myself out here in Hollywood. The US film industry is a big and diverse one and I’m here to be a part of it.

Q. What was your first impression?

A. LA is massive! I really had no idea how big the place was until I got here. You really do need to give yourself PLENTY of time to get from A to B otherwise you can find yourself smack bang in the middle of the LA’s wonderful traffic!

Q. What differences have you noticed about your life as an actor since arriving?

A. I guess coming from Melbourne, which I consider a very artsy place, Los Angeles is a very business orientated town. Things can move very quickly out here and networking is a big part of it. I myself have always been more inclined to take class and work on my craft, but I do believe a good balance of both is essential, particularly here in Los Angeles.  

Q. What's next for you?

 Stevie Lopez working with Howard Fine in his 2016 Master Class.

Stevie Lopez working with Howard Fine in his 2016 Master Class.

A. I was fortunate enough to work on the film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. From what I’ve seen so far, the film looks fantastic and I’m very exited for it’s release. Since arriving in Los Angeles, I jumped straight into class at The Studio (HFAS LA) taking Comprehensive Technique with the incredible Mr. Howard Fine. I believe Comprehensive Technique is a must for any actor- the class is brilliant. I now find myself in Howard's Monday night Masterclass here at The Studio in LA, which is an absolute honour and privilege to be part of.

20 Minute Master Class

20 Minute Master Class

Today, we're very excited to bring you an extensive insight into Howard Fine's Master Classes.

The below video was filmed at Howard's Melbourne Master Class in 2016, and features actors Philip and Emma Hayden, working on a short scene from Christopher Durang's 'Baby with the Bathwater'. In the video, you will see the actors run the scene once, hear Howard's critique, and then see the actors apply Howard's feedback as they rework the scene. 

If you've ever wondered exactly what happens at Howard's Master Classes, or you'd like to gain further insight into our training, then grab yourself a cup of tea and a notebook and settle in for a 20 minute Master Class with Howard Fine!

If seeing this has made you want to be a part of the Master Class yourself, you can apply to participate or audit Howard's upcoming Master Classes in Sydney or Melbourne, this June/July 2017. Click the button below to find out more.

Welcome to the Blog

Hello, and welcome to the brand new Howard Fine Acting Studio Australia blog.

Here you will be able to access resources and articles that provide further insight into The Studio and our training, including short video technique tips, interviews with graduates and students, articles from faculty members and more. 

Be sure to check back in regularly to see what's new on the blog and leave us a comment if there's something in particular you'd like to read about!

acting class taking notes