x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Get ready for your close-up: new acting workshop in Dubai

A new acting workshop in Dubai offers practical advice on TV and film work.

Greg White, the founder of CastMeOnline. Jeff Topping/The National
Greg White, the founder of CastMeOnline. Jeff Topping/The National

Acting in front of a camera requires different skills to theatre work, and a new workshop in Dubai will give practical advice on TV and film preparation.

The film director Greg White believes demand for UAE-based talent is going to increase, after last month's announcement by the media and creative industries hub TwoFour54 and the Abu Dhabi Film Commission of an incentive scheme for film production, as well as the recent formation of a Dubai Film and TV Commission.

What to expect

White is the founder of CastMeOnline, an online casting portal, and his most recent film is Separation, an indie psychological thriller starring Peter Stebbings and Al Sapienza. The Dubai-based Canadian national said students will receive a DVD of their performance and a certificate of completion.

"The industry should expect an uptick in film and TV production here," he says. "There will be a lot more opportunities and more demand in services from equipment rental to actors."

Most acting workshops currently offered are geared towards theatre, while film and television require different techniques, he says.

"I will be taking on-set experience and putting it directly into the classroom. It's about breaking down the scene, the script and understanding character motivation, who this person is and what this situation is. It's not an easy thing to do," says White. "You have to play the role like you don't know what's coming next."

White will dedicate individual time to each student, exploring the methods that work best for them, for when the time comes to apply those techniques in roles.

The actors' studio

During the first of the four days of the workshop, White will present an introduction to to various techniques through exercises, before diving into "cold reading" and what to expect during auditions.

"The first night is focused on the cold read, as if at an audition," says White. "Imagine you are auditioning for a certain character, and you are told: 'You're not right for this role but I want you to read for another role instead.' So I will be assigning scenes from a director's standpoint. I will try to infuse that kind of spontaneity."

Not everyone can be the star, and film and TV roles are not just about central characters, he stresses.

On the second day, scenes from specific movies will be looked at more closely, then rehearsed. Students will observe each other's work and be given feedback on their performance. Days three and four are dedicated to filming the scenes, with professional cameramen, lighting and sound.

Establishing relationships

"The best advice I can give is act as often as you can. CastMeOnline is set up to help this as well. Film schools in the UAE need actors for short films all the time," White says.

He has appeared in at least 15 student films, which he credits for landing him his first paid acting role. "Student filmmakers are the next professional filmmakers so by helping them, they will remember the actors when it's time to make their next project, which could be a paying job. It's establishing relationships in the industry at a seed level but really, it's also camera time," he says.

White hopes to make the workshop a monthly or bimonthly event.

The classes take place next week on June 14, 16, 21 and 22 from 7pm to 10pm at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates. Class size is limited to 12 people, over 18 years old. The price is Dh3,500 with a 30 per cent discount if you book by Saturday. Register via www.timeouttickets.com. For more details, email info@castmeonline.com