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By Alan Wong

March 22, 2018

Since the release of last year’s financial report by accounting firm KPMG, sectors have been on the defensive, including ours. However, with the announcement of the provincial budget on March 12th, members of Manitoba’s film industry can breathe a (temporary) sigh of relief that no major changes were announced.

A coalition of industry representatives, of which ACTRA was a voice, proposed that a working group be formed to review the effectiveness of the Manitoba Film & Video Tax Credit, in order to help the government make an educated assessment. In his speech about our sector, Minister Friesen announced that they will be proceeding with this idea; the successful result of months of advocating by our industry associations and unions.

All of the research and information collected over the past few years on the impact of the creative industries, in particular – the booming film and television industry – will be used to help our case. Our stance is that a stable and consistent tax credit is a valuable and worthwhile investment in our industry: the hundreds of talented artists, craftspeople, technicians, and administrative staff who work, pay taxes, and are otherwise involved in making the city great. Not to mention all of the side businesses who benefit: vendors, hotels, caterers, just to name a few.

But this article is not to inundate you with facts and statistics, nor is it to tell you how great the tax credit is. You can find that information easily online and through organizations like On Screen Manitoba, or Manitobans for the Arts. This article is to offer gratitude to all of our members who have been pro-active during this time of insecurity. If you shared a post on social media, wrote a letter to your MLA, or even just talked about the issue with people in your circles, you were advocating for us, and for that – a huge THANK YOU!

The work isn’t done. however, as the committee has until June 30th to submit a report. We hope that the outcome will not only continue to support our industry, but see initiatives to help ease our growing pains (e.g. shortage of production space, skilled crew, etc.). It’s an exciting time to be an active and involved ACTRA member, and if it means more auditions, better roles, and more opportunities for you to practice your craft, then it is all worth it.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: John B. Lowe

Thanks for representing ACTRA members and adding your insight at our recent casting panel. You’ve had many years of on set experiences. Can you tell us how you prepare for auditions and for being on set?

Acting is my job, not my hobby. Auditioning is a significant part of that job. An audition is also an opportunity to perform in front of an audience that is interested and invested! I approach auditions as seriously as any working day on set, and there’s no difference in the kind of preparation I do. My rule of thumb is “If I’m not ready to shoot, I’m not ready to audition.”

I do what it takes to clear enough time to prepare, because there’s work to be done. I usually need 8 to 10 hours to prepare an audition, often more, depending on the size of the role. Sometimes that means cancelling family plans or social engagements and often giving up show tickets. Auditions don’t happen often in Winnipeg, so when they do, I make them a priority.

Of course, preparation means a lot more than just memorizing lines. There’s a performance to prepare for and I don’t have 3 weeks to rehearse. I need to be efficient, without taking shortcuts. I do all the work that needs to be done: I break down the scene, I do research, I do character work, I learn an accent, if needed. I explore the scene in as many ways as possible. Then, I leave all that homework at home and do what I can to be relaxed and confident in the room. I show up on time (which means early) and I do my best to present a performance that is Active, Truthful and Connected.

What has been your favourite or most memorable role thus far?

I’ve been very fortunate to be cast in a lot of fun and interesting roles, and it’s hard to pick a favourite. But I have a particular affection for my recurring role as Rupert Mowat in the CBC series “Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy.” It was the first time I got to develop a character over a series arc and it was a wonderful, creative experience. A team of great writers gave me an unforgettable gift when they created this strange, funny, interesting character and let me collaborate on his development over several years. Truly a highlight.

When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?

It was so long ago, I had to look this up on the ACTRA website and the titles aren’t listed. I joined ACTRA in 1986 or 87 and my first gig was probably doing a radio play for CBC or acting in a corporate training video. My first feature film gig was as a truck driver in Francis Damberger’s movie “Solitaire,” but the scene was cut out. However, I did get to work with Francis many times after that, most recently on the TV comedy series “Tiny Plastic Men.”

How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?

I joined ACTRA as soon as I could and am so glad I did. Being a member of ACTRA has allowed me to make a half-decent living as a professional actor in Canada. ACTRA ensures that I’m valued as a professional and treated well on-set. ACTRA ensures I’m provided with fair wages, decent working conditions, and receive recognition for my work.

Thanks to ACTRA, I also have an insurance plan, and I even have a sizeable RRSP. ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society has ensured that I continue to receive about 10-15% of my annual income through residuals, royalties and use payments. It also makes me proud to know I’m a member of a national (and international) community of professional actors.

How do you stay sharp? Do you have any training suggestions?

An actor always needs to be learning about their craft, themselves and the world. I believe the best training for an actor is acting. Every job I do is an opportunity to learn.

I jump at any chance to perform, including auditions for film, TV and theatre. I try to get on stage and do a play every year, or so. I also do a little improv, attend workshops, and volunteer for short film projects. I’m also learning as much as I can about filmmaking.

Of course, I think acting classes are important. At this stage of my career, I find teaching and coaching other actors to be a great way to develop my craft and grow as an actor and director. Acting is a collaboration which I love and enjoy sharing. Every actor has different strengths and needs, so make sure yours are being met. I suggest you look for instructors who have actual professional experience working on set and/or on stage. (Yes, I mean me, but I’m not the only one.)

Training shouldn’t be limited to just acting classes, by the way. In the last few years, I’ve taken singing lessons, tap dance classes, unicycle and juggling lessons, and I’m currently taking a beginner class in conversational French. I also write and produce short films. I’ve recently challenged myself by making a series of whimsical short films entirely on my own, to develop my filmmaking skills. I call them SoLowe shorts.

Do you have any advice for other actors out there?

If you want acting to be your profession, take it seriously and approach it as a job. Find as many opportunities as you can to perform and to grow. The more you do, the better you’ll be. Also, remember you’re a human being and so are most of the characters you play. Learn many things, learn about people, and learn about the world. Always be learning, always be growing.

Oh yeah, make sure your health and personal happiness are your first priorities.

Check out my website: www.broccolocreative.com

President’s Message – February 2018

After representing Manitoba at three solid days of meetings with ACTRA Councillors and various staff and representatives from across the country, I am refuelled with enthusiasm and pride for our union, our work and the members we represent. I am now on the ACTRA National Executive, and in April we are hosting for the first time an Executive Face to Face Meeting – in Winnipeg. Although our branch may be small in numbers, I maintain our super-strength is in holding up the integrity of ACTRA’s agreements for all our nation’s members who end up working in our fair province. Looking forward, we are celebrating Manitoba’s 60th Anniversary and ACTRA National’s 75th this year – check out ACTRA Magazine’s special edition. Also, plans for our Awards Gala on October 12th are already in motion – get your nominations in!

Although it is somewhat daunting, I am honoured to be sitting on the National Executive surrounded by so many intelligent and passionate voices.  In his opening address to Council at the February meeting, National President David Sparrow said, “ACTRA is leading the way on so many initiatives right now. We are being looked to by unions and politicians around the world as an association that has it right! ACTRA has become a go-to voice on the arts in this country.” I agree. The issues and initiatives are so far-reaching I won’t even begin to expand on them in this report, just know –  we have a big year ahead of us. We must find real and immediate solutions to dealing with personal harassment in our workspaces; we have to keep fighting for inclusion in our stories and on our screens; we have to be sensitive to the realities of our small branch economies and find creative ways of opening work opportunities.

Finally, I task you to think about what you would like to see in a newly negotiated IPA. We will be coming to the members and asking for input very soon.

See you at the MIP Event – March 24th.

Jan Skene

ACTRA Manitoba President

Casting Panel – February 2018

On February 1st, 57 people attended a casting panel discussion hosted by ACTRA and Film Training Manitoba. Panel members were Jeff Beesley (director), Kyle Bornais (producer), Kristen Harris (actor), Carmen Kotyk (casting director), and John B. Lowe (actor). Marina Stephenson Kerr was the moderator.

Marina started by noting that we all recognized auditioning was an imperfect process. She quoted a friend who told her we had to be tough as nails to get in the door and, once in, be open, confident, and sweet. This seemed to strike a chord with several in the room.

There was a consensus that the increase in film production seen during the past year would continue and that Manitoba and Manitoba actors had a good reputation among producers who had completed projects here. In short, the future looks good for the film industry in this province.

When asked about what sort of training was important for actors, the following points were raised:

  • Actors with distinctly more credits collaborating as peers with other actors.
  • A difference is noticed when an actor prepares with a coach.
  • Actor’s gyms are a valuable resource and one where you can make connections with producers and directors in a safe and encouraging atmosphere.
  • Members initiating small groups of friends or colleagues to prepare for auditions together.
  • Two people mentioned Cal Botterill, a sports psychologist and author, as being knowledgeable about handling performance anxiety.

When asked what panelists liked to see in an audition room, the following points were raised:

  • Strong choices
  • Pleasant manner
  • Confidence
  • Professionalism

When asked what professionalism at an audition looked like, the following points were raised:

  • Be prepared
  • Say thank you
  • Be considerate of fellow actors outside the room by keeping noise level and interactions at a minimum
  • Know your lines cold
  • Be prepared to shoot as if you actually had the job and were shooting that day

When asked what panelists didn’t like to see in an audition room, the following points were raised:

  • Not being prepared
  • Making excuses for not being prepared
  • Shaking hands (one person talking about the number of people seen in an audition day and spreading germs)
  • Weapons (even if just toys, but yes, it’s happened)

A question about how to get into the audition room was raised. The response was keep submitting. A casting director may have 800 submissions from local actors and cannot see all of them. Carmen Kotyk mentioned that now that she has her own studio she will be able to see more people. She also said that there will be facilities there for self-taping. If you are not sure you are right for a part or want to submit for more than one part, submit anyway. She may decide to read you for another role. An audience member mentioned that while casting workbook only appears to allow you to submit for one role per production, if you wait 24 hours it’s possible to make a second submission.

Quotes of note:

John B. Lowe: “The best actors in the world are always learning and growing. Theatre actors get the advantage of rehearsal. As an actor, hopefully you are always open to growing.”

Jeff Beesley: “Give us the tools to sell you. If you have something that shows your talent, put it on your website or your reel – record something and make it available.  Just give us the tools to sell you.”

Jeff Beesley:  “Carmen f’n fights for you.  She will go to the wall for Manitoba actors. You have an advocate here in Carmen!”

Carmen Kotyk:  “We often have no control over some of the casting decisions. If a director or producer wants something, and even if it doesn’t make sense to me, their choice gets priority.”

Kristen Harris: “A safe audition space is the most valuable thing for a performer. The safer you make that space, you are going to invite that actor into their character and audition.”

Thanks from ACTRA to Film Training Manitoba, the panelists, the moderator, and all those who attended.

Diversity News

By Alan Wong

S**THOLE COUNTRIES. This is what we get to start 2018 with? Nope. Not going to have it. None of us should. 2018 is going to be a great year. But it won’t just be great on its own; PEOPLE are going to make it great. People like you and me who work hard every day to make things a little better for each other. We all contribute in our own little way, and it’s important. It really is.

So, when I hear about events such as the 48-hour Anti-Racism Film Challenge, organized by the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation – the weekend of February 16-18 – I say heck yes. That is something worth getting behind. So get a team together and make one, or if you want to act in one – it’s cool; ACTRA is a sponsor! Members can perform in the films under the resume agreement, and ACTRA will pay for the AOS insurance. Here’s the info:

Join the Anti-Racism Arts Festival this February and March.
You can take part in the 48-hour Anti-Racism Film Challenge (Feb. 16-18) or the Anti-Racism Digital Arts Challenge (Feb. 1-28).
Winners get prizes and it’s free to enter.

The films and art pieces will be showcased and screened during the red carpet screening on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st.

More information about the festival here:

http://www.canadianculturalmosaicfoundation.com/2018-anti-racism-festival.html

https://www.facebook.com/events/143258839639493/

Now, go be awesome and have your voice heard.

WAIT!!! While I’m here, I  also want to promote the Afro Prairie Film Festival, happening on Friday, February 23rd from 7-9pm at Cinematheque. It will feature OUVRIR LA VOIX (SPEAK UP/MAKE YOUR WAY), a film about francophone European black women from the diaspora. There will be a Skype Q & A with the filmmaker Amandine Gay.

Here’s the event page:

https://www.evensi.ca/2018-afro-prairie-film-festival-winnipeg-cinematheque/242277340

Okay. NOW go be awesome.

 

 

President’s Message – January 2018

Hello fellow Manitoba members and welcome to 2018.

Our industry in Manitoba continues to flourish and, as a result, more members are working than ever before AND booking more significant roles.  I don’t remember, ever in my lifetime, turning on the television and seeing so many recognizable faces on the screen.  I can’t even single out any of our amazing members for congratulations in fear of leaving others out – there are so many!  If you want a fun exercise, go to our What’s Shooting  page and then check out the IMDB credits for the films and series that have shot here recently.

Council is very busy with our various initiatives, including:  Training – the new Accent Parties and the upcoming FTM workshop with Mackenzie Gray, plus the very much anticipated Casting Panel; Diversity and Women’s working on many initiatives and participating Nationally on inclusivity and RESPECT discussions; Political Action – always working behind the scenes to keep our issues front and center with funders and advocacy groups; Social/Networking – next up is MIP Night on March 24th and then we go full throttle toward our next Gala Awards Celebration. Thanks to the members who agreed to sit on our Discipline Committee – your support is much appreciated.  Finally a big shout-out to Toni Reimer who has brought our Newsletter into a new dimension and works diligently at bringing us closer together as a membership through her informative Member Spotlights, ASK ACTRA and member-driven announcements.

As working members of ACTRA I ask, as always, that you do your part to keep informed and advocate for your fellow performers and, in turn, yourself.  We – Council and staff – are always here for you, but we need your participation, support and direction. I would love to hear from you if you have suggestions or solutions or questions.

Jan Skene

ACTRA Manitoba President

p.s. RESPECT on SET: Do it  Be it  Say it

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Jaydee-Lynn McDougall

Congratulations on your role in Into Invisible Light! Can you tell us about that experience and character?

Being on the set of “Into Invisible Light” was the most eye-opening experience. This was the most recent movie I took part in and I felt it was the production that allowed me to find new levels of confidence through my acting. I played the role of Monica Astrov: a passionately artistic teenager and very gifted dancer. She is completely invested in establishing a career in dance and although she has an innocent persona about her, she would stop at nothing to achieve these goals. From my first audition till I heard “that’s a wrap on Monica”, I was wholeheartedly invested in this production. My character was easy to love and hopefully whoever watches it will find Monica as relatable as I did!

 

When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?

I became an ACTRA member as an Apprentice after my first role in 2015 as a member of the Sentinals Dance Crew in the movie “Bravetown” featuring Josh Duhamel, Laura Dern and Lucas Till. Once I got a role in Season 1 of “Channel Zero” TV series and a radio commercial, I then became eligible to become a full ACTRA member at the end of 2016.

How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?

Being a member of ACTRA has benefited me in many ways. Once you’ve become a member, you begin to receive information on all upcoming roles and training workshops that are offered through ACTRA. It has given me the opportunity to audition for roles and to connect with major casting directors in Winnipeg who have been so helpful in making my audition a comfortable one. I found that once the casting directors developed a familiarity with me, they assisted me in submitting for the roles they felt I would be best suited for. Being an ACTRA member also means that you are part of a union that will support you whether it means dealing with any discrepancies you encountered on set or any question you may have regarding ways to build on your training. You can take part in a number of workshops throughout the year that will help you to improve as an actor. For example, American Accent Workshop – with so many movies requiring the American accent, ACTRA makes it possible to practice these skills by offering workshops with instructors who understand what the industry is looking for in your audition.

What has been your favourite or most memorable role thus far?

In 2017, I was involved in seven movies that were all shot in Winnipeg. Three were extra special to me as they were all speaking roles. In the TV series “Burden of Truth” I was cast as Riley Smith, a mean jock at the high school. In “The Perfect Match” I was cast as Emma Jordan, a girlfriend and intelligent med student. As far as my favorite role thus far, “Into Invisible Light” playing Monica as mentioned earlier would be my first choice. This role asked me to venture into a world that I was already a part of – let’s just say there were aspects in this movie that were simply “Me”. I grew up in the dance scene of competition where working for that scholarship went beyond technique. I understood the pressure that was involved and mixed emotions that Monica seems to develop within herself. Working with such experienced actors such as Peter Keleghan, Kari Matchett, and Jennifer Dale enabled me to grow in my craft and follow their professionalism. A major contributor to my positive experience on set as Monica would be thanks to the director, Shelagh Carter. She cared for her actors as people not just the characters, taking the time to help us build our relationships before we walked on set. This was my largest role, meaning I was on set much more often than other productions. This allowed me to become fully comfortable within takes, in turn making lines feel effortless and the execution more clear for the audience.

What is your dream role?

This is a tricky question! I have had the opportunity to play a wide spectrum of characters since I ventured into this world of acting. I have always thought that playing a hockey player would really embody me as I played competitive hockey for 12 years of my life.

With the exposure I currently have, I would love to be the “Lead” role on an Action TV Series where I am able to demonstrate my physical abilities and energetic personality.

How do you stay sharp? Do you have any training suggestions?

Although I plan to be more involved in upcoming training opportunities in Manitoba, I did a lot of my initial training in LA just after graduation. I find it important to analyse the script to find ways to contribute to the role that will grab the director’s attention. Directors want to see your choices and want to see you can own a scene in front of the camera. So be you! When preparing for an audition I want to emphasize that being prepared and knowing your lines does not go unnoticed. The knowledge of the script or character will make the re-directs in the audition room easier on you. So practice the scene in a few different ways, be ready to give options because you never know what that audition room will present you with!

Do you have any advice for other actors out there?

If you are a beginner, start by getting your headshot and resume into the hands of background casting agents. Any time on set is time well spent. Those small roles are important and should be your time to be reliable, alert, and a good listener. If you are feeling uncomfortable in front of the camera, attend training workshops. This way the directors see you and you get time to find what works for you. I would also suggest getting a professional headshot and resume as it shows directors that you are investing in your talent!

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Matthew Stefanson

Congratulations on your recent role in Gone! Can you tell us about that experience and role?

Thank you! It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had on set. The cast and crew were so kind. It was my second time working with director Jeff Beesley, who is such an awesome hard working guy. And I got to drive around in a police car and carry a shotgun, so that was pretty cool too!

When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?

I believe it was about 10 years ago now. I just became a full member a few months ago.  My first gig was a Speeding commercial. I was the bad driver! That was a lot of fun ;)

How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?

It has benefited me by being able to learn more about the industry. There are a lot of workshops and training opportunities that I did not even know about before. It’s really great to have a union that protects and supports its actors.

What has been your favourite or most memorable role thus far?

That’s a tough question! I would probably have to say Frank James on The Pinkertons. It was such a cool show and getting to play an iconic character was pretty unreal.

How do you stay sharp? Do you have any training suggestions?

I do my best to take as many workshops as I can. I’ve worked with most of the coaches and instructors in Winnipeg and I advise any actors starting out to take as much training as possible. Like an athlete, you have to keep working out. I always go for coaching before auditions. I also teach acting classes for youth at Expressions Film Studio and I really find teaching has helped me as an actor, as well.

Do you have any advice for other actors out there?

Don’t get frustrated! I booked my first role after my second audition ever. Then I did not book anything for five years. This past year I booked six professional TV and film roles. Don’t compare yourself with others. Every actor has their own path. If this is what you love to do then go for it. Don’t listen to people who will try to knock you down because they will. Keep going!

ACTRA Manitoba Branch Report – December 2017

As the year winds down the ongoing productions are wrapping – Snowbound and Nellie Bly. The one production carrying over into the new year is The Parts You Lose. However, it sounds as though there are more productions on their way. With a bit of luck 2018 will be as busy as 2017.

The numerous productions in 2017 have brought many new members into ACTRA Manitoba. They are very welcome in our fold and I am confident they will make us stronger and more resourceful. It is heartwarming to see performers in Manitoba actively seeking union membership entrance. Some of our members are also working as crew and joining the crew unions. That too makes us stronger and more versatile.

I would like to thank our members who have shown great support for my efforts as Branch Representative. Your support is much appreciated. I would also like to thank Julie Penner, our new office clerk, for her outstanding work and diligence.

I wish everyone a great holiday season and all the best for 2018.

Rob Macklin

December 15, 2017

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Stephanie Sy

Congratulations on your recent role in The Perfect Match! Can you tell us about that experience and that role?

It was incredibly educational. I am fairly new to being involved in the film industry, and any roles that I have booked in the past left me feeling that I wish I had more time on set and in front of the camera so that I could do my job well without being a nervous wreck. In Perfect Match, I very much felt a part of the team. John Barnard our director, invested a lot of care and time with me, and I was able to get to know the whole crew and feel comfortable, and have a fun time, which made things a lot easier when it came to getting grounded and being playful with the character. I felt very very fortunate to be there and still do feel very grateful I was given that opportunity.

When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?

My first union gig was on Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, I played “Bra Stuffing Girl” a very fine moment in my career, a clip I’ll use on my reel for the rest of my days. The director and the crew were very kind to me, which helped immensely in a terrifying, unfamiliar territory. I became an ACTRA member in 2012, shortly after joining CAEA.

How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?

Well, it has definitely encouraged me to continue auditioning for film, and it has made me feel protected as an employee in the film industry. I never have any qualms when voicing concerns or asking questions to our reps. I feel very cared for in this union and I am very thankful for the opportunities that we have here in Winnipeg by being part of ACTRA. We have a massive, amazing talent pool, and the industry just keeps growing, so it’s a very comforting feeling to know we’re being supported.

What has been your favourite or most memorable role thus far?

In addition to “Bra Stuffing Girl” I was one of “Jimmy’s dancers” in the musical episode of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. I do not think I will have an experience like that ever again. But I will also say, I loved being Shar in Perfect Match. She was a real good time. (that’s two, I cheated.)

How do you stay sharp? Do you have any training suggestions?

Coaches. Get instructors/actors you trust to work on scenes with you. ACTRA provides free Actor’s Gyms. Dissect the crap out of movies and television! What’s working ? What’s not working? WHY is it not working? SUBMIT for EVERYTHING, get those auditions so you have things to work on, expand your comfort zone, and practice, practice, practice.

Do you have any advice for other actors out there?

Work your butt off for your passions, that way no matter which way things unfold, it will always be worth it.

Make time to enrich your own life in as many ways as possible. More real life human experience and interaction, means more real life human colour to your characters.

And most importantly, (some every kind of person advice) when you’re ready to lose it on someone, eat something first, then decide if you’d like to follow through.

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