Casting Directors Nicci Topping and Lee Mountjoy at our Christmas Event
Casting Networks will be back at the 3 Minute Theatre for the next installment in our regular series of FREE Q&A events on Thursday 21 July.
Our special guest will be commercial producer Nicki Casey of Vertica and Skinny Films and all Casting Networks members will receive an email with information about how to submit for a chance to secure a ticket nearer to the time. (The event is strictly invite only)
Nicki is probably the best-known commercial producer in the North. She has run TV departments in creative agencies, exec-produced for established production companies and ran her own very successful production company in Manchester. In her time she has produced ads for the likes of PlayStation, Greggs, Subaru and Aldi.read more
Still a very fresh organisation having only been created in 2015, MAP, Manchester Actors Platform, has already made a name for itself. Led by Simon Naylor along with Alexandra Jones they are dedicated to guiding actors of any levels of skill and experience through the varying stages of their careers with honest, affordable and achievable advice and development.
Casting Networks: Tell us about MAP, success in just the first year since the outset come as a surprise?
Simon Naylor: Was it a surprise? Absolutely. I thought we might be able to gain a little momentum and maybe spend a few years building the brand and getting our name out there, with no real idea about whether we would succeed. It’s not even been 12 months yet and what we have achieved is incredible. I don’t say that with any arrogance – at times it has been moving too fast for me to keep a firm grip on the reigns, however, I now employ two amazing ladies, Alex and Stacey, who do an incredible job of keeping me and the company moving. When it was set up, I guessed we’d have some interest, because there was a huge gap in the Manchester and North-West market for affordable services for actors, that still provided an industry recognised level of professionalism, but our growth has far exceeded anything I could have hoped for.
CNI: You’ve got experience teaching and coaching all over the UK, why did you choose Manchester as the home for this organisation.
SN: Mainly because Manchester is my home! I trained as an actor in London and since graduating in 2005 I slipped into teaching actors. I taught for about 7 years down there, primarily on the BA (Hons) Acting Course, where I eventually became Head of the First Year and wrote and managed the Foundation Course; all the while, I was lucky enough to maintain a career as an actor. I also taught at several other Drama Schools and began taking private clients, but Italia Conti was where I was taught how to teach by some incredible people and I’ve just finished directing the graduating actors there in their final show. I left London because I fell out of love with it. It’s too big, lacks community and in the ‘arts’, despite it having an abundance of work, it’s so saturated that it’s incredibly difficult to make an impact as a training establishment. Manchester was just on the brink of exploding onto the scene; the BBC and Media City were established, the Royal Exchange was huge and HOME opened; all prompting a flurry of activity not only in major screen and theatre work, but in the fringe world too. Quite by chance, my leaving London coincided perfectly with this and it seems MAP have (so far!) managed to ride the crest of that wave.
CNI: We all love success stories, have their been any individuals excelling in the industry due to MAP’s influence so far that you can share with us?
SN: MAP will always push the actors that they believe are ‘industry ready’ and we have links with casting directors across the country; from our 1st mini feature, ‘Maybe Definitely’, an actor was cast in a film project which will soon be released nationwide. We have had actors in Game of Thrones, at Hope Mill Theatre and, most recently, an actor spent 11 weeks filming for Coronation Street. This said, whatever ability you come to us with, we can’t guarantee you work (anyone that says so is stretching the truth!) but we will make you a better actor and that’s important.
CNI: MAP is still at the beginning of it’s journey having only formed last year, how would you like the organisation to grow in the near future?
SN: We’ve spoken a lot about what direction to grow in. As we gain more and more momentum we’re slowly moulding ourselves into what we want to become; an actor training centre that is highly respected, demands exceptional professionalism and is recognised across the North West, whilst still remaining affordable. Every week a new course starts up somewhere or another company advertise a workshop with a casting director. MAP will always strive to provide not only quality training and services, but we will endeavor to stay ahead of the melee and continue to bring new and fresh classes/services, delivered by some of the best practitioners in the industry. All of our tutors are currently teaching at Drama UK Accredited schools, and as such, our training mirrors the highest-ranking Drama Schools in the UK. Alongside this, we are always pushing into new territory and we’re hugely excited about our upcoming 48 Hour film competition; MAP48. We’re still looking for actors, writers and directors so get involved! www.maplatform.co.uk/map48
CNI: You’ve had a successful career yourself as an Actor and Director, how do you feel being part of MAP benefits you as well as the students?
SN: The moment I stop acting I will stop teaching. Similarly, had I not been lucky enough to have the experience I have had, then I would never have dreamed of standing up and saying ‘I’ll teach you that’. I think it’s also important to say that the best actors don’t always make the best acting teachers and just attending a part-time training course or a 1 year intensive course, does not mean you can or should teach acting – it can be damaging to people and is definitely damaging to the industry itself. I trained for 3 years on a Meisner course and now also teach the methods of Stanislavski, Boal, Uta Hagen and more – there is not one process, everyone is different and it’s important to understand there is not ‘one way’ to act. As an actor myself, I’ve combined being lucky and working hard. I’ve respected the industry and the work required, taking my job seriously, but never myself. Being an actor is not just about being good at pretending (although that is a huge part of our job!), it’s also about being present in the industry, knowing what is happening all the time, constantly networking and ‘playing the game’. There’s a really fine line between being enthusiastic and a bit ‘full-on’ and it can cost you a job. At MAP we will aim to instil this mentality in you; turn up late? You’ll be under no illusion of just how unprofessional we think that is and repeated lateness has ended with us asking students to leave a course. However, if you can’t relax and enjoy a rehearsal room then you’re maybe not someone that will enthuse others and you certainly wont deliver your best work. All of these things I feel I’ve learnt either by failing miserably (and my word have I!) or by being advised by my incredible mentors. I never profess to be the best ‘actor’, but I can present myself as an exceptional industry professional and that’s something that is far too often overlooked. On top of this, working as a director and teacher, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with actors every day and this not only requires a keen understanding of how to understand their processes, but it has also meant that I have never stopped learning how to develop mine; an actor never stops learning.
For any actors, young or old, that want to get in touch and join the ranks of MAP:
SN: MAP are constantly launching new classes and providing services in the guise of Showreels, Self-Tapes, audition prep, 1-1 tuition, advice and more. Nobody is ever turned away from a class, however, we will tell you if you’re falling behind. As such, we welcome every actor whether experienced or just starting out and we let them decide if the industry is for them. The best thing to do is visit our website – www.maplatform.co.uk – where we list all our classes and constantly update what we are offering. From here you can see more information on the classes and services we offer, apply directly to be a part of them, join the mailing list or just ask a question! Also, give us a follow on all social media sites, where we are always throwing out photos and information about not only our work, but exciting things happening around us. Subscribe on YouTube to see examples of Showreels and other work within the organisation.
Danielle Slater, CNI North, had these positive words to say:
‘Simon and Alex kindly invited me along to sit in on their screen acting classes which was great as I was curious as to what MAP was all about. The classes take place in their studio at Ardwick Green in Manchester and as soon as I saw the set up I knew this was serious business. The class was run by Karen Henthorn, who clearly has a wealth of experience in front of the camera, and her attention to detail really makes these classes special and well worth attending. I was really impressed with what I saw at MAP, the standard and quality are high and I’d recommend them to any actor serious about their acting career.’
A Midsummer Nights Dream by the Butterfly Theatre Company performed at Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean. Photo by David Broadbent.
We interviewed Carla-Marie Metcalfe of Butterfly Theatre, a London based group, whose mission is “Breathing new life into much loved texts, immerse audiences in classic tales, using unusual spaces to set our story – such as caves, castles and woodlands – and truthful, responsive acting to excite and delight in every moment.” They specialise in the Meisner Technique and have worked across the UK and Germany.
Casting Networks: Can you tell us a little bit about the theatre company you’re a part of?
Carla-Marie Metcalfe: Butterfly are a London based theatre company who specialise is site-responsive theatre. We have travelled both nationally and internationally performing in some of the most unique and historic venues from Caves to Castles, Forests to Medieval towns. Breathing new life into classic texts, Butterfly interact with the amazing spaces and immerse the audiences into these truly alive and moment to moment promenade style performances. Whereas other companies simply erect a stage in the grounds, Butterfly are passionate about making each place we visit very much a part of the performance rather than just a backdrop and giving the local communities the chance to experience the history and culture on their doorstep in a truly memorable and magical way.
Dr. Rob Speranza is a production manager, line producer/producer, and co-founder of the South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network (SYFN), a not-for-profit organisation that promotes and enables film-based networking and filmmaking activities in South Yorkshire.
His credits include the feature films Dementamania, Inbred, Entity, and Small Creatures. Recently, he co-produced the feature film Arthur and Merlin, which involved many SYFN members and was partly shot in the South Yorkshire region. Casting Networks interviewed him to find out more about his organisation, and the opportunities it affords filmmakers.
Casting Networks: Tell us about SYFN and what was the initial aim at the outset? Over the years, has the aim of the network changed?
Rob Speranza: The SYFN is a not-for-profit organisation that helps filmmakers from all over the region. It says ‘South Yorkshire’ on the label, but really we help people from all over the country, but, yes, with mostly films that are shooting up North. People come to us with all kinds of needs. Equipment, locations, crew, cast, script help – whatever they need. We seem to now be the largest filmmakers’ network outside of London, with about 1900 people today in the network. We started with only about 7 people hanging out, talking about films, and filmmaking in a pub about 14 years ago, so this of course took some time!
Casting Networks is always looking for organisations that create their own magical work and promote actors, so when we first heard about Scripts Aloud, run through Acting & Directing Partnership (ADP), we had to find out more about this Manchester based organisation. We touched base with one of the founding members, Diana Atkins, to find out how it started, why a cast member of Downton Abbey comes along to watch, to hear more about its roaring success up North, and to try to get the low down on what they plan to create over the next few years.
CNI: So what is Scripts Aloud/Manchester ADP?
Diana Atkins: Manchester ADP (Acting and Directing Partnership) hosts Scripts Aloud – a regular (twice a month) performance of new writing with script-in-hand. On the last Monday of every month, we pick four short plays. Then each team of professional actors and directors have just 3 hours rehearsal time on the Sunday before a Monday show, where there is live audience feedback to help writers to know how to take their work forward.
In January, we also started doing full-length readings in between our regular Scripts Aloud nights.
CNI: How did Scripts Aloud come to be?
DA: I moved up to Manchester from London just over a year ago. I had been involved in a script reading group in London (Actors and Writers London) that has been so successful that it’s been running since the 1970’s! When I moved up here, I looked around to see if there was anything like it. And there wasn’t. There were a few script reading initiatives but they were either irregular or sat round a table, as opposed to being performances up on their feet. I thought to myself, well, maybe I’ll start something.