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!

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