“I’ve been a Casting Director for a 20+ years and I am still amazed that drama schools and some agents send actors out completely unprepared and uneducated about the business of audition.
– Michael Jackson
Casting Networks: Can you tell us a little about this Northern based TV/Film acting school and how it came to be?
Michael Jackson: Some time ago, whilst trying to find new talent, as part of a busy casting house, it became apparent that there were some actors, being sent along by their agents, who had no idea how to prepare for or give a performance in an audition. As a consequence, I set up act4tv, whose USP was to teach audition technique as general acting methods, with playback via TV monitors. The school has now developed to opening four nights, over a period, which was geared mostly to finding suitable tutors, who were working TV actors, rather than academics who hadn’t been in front of TV cameras for some time.
CNI: Since its creation Act4TV has become a household name in the North. What are your expansion plans over the next few years (we did notice a recent recruitment push which is exciting)?
MJ: We added a studio in Leeds, in September last year, which has been restricted to two nights, again due to not being able to find tutors at the quality we thought necessary to continue the high levels we had achieved. However, we have now managed to recruit additional tutors, so that we can now start classes to mirror the ones in Manchester. This increase in classes will enable any student, who may have been to an audition away from home, to go to any class, on any of the four nights, in either Leeds or Manchester, as we utilise the same script for every class. Once the Leeds classes are fully bedded in, we will then look at other centres.
CNI: We noticed you have some high profile casting directors who offer workshops to your Act4TV students from time to time. Why do you offer these and what have been the benefits long term for the students?
MJ: Yes, alongside the classes we also run weekend workshops, led by external casting directors, directors etc., to give not only act4tv students, but other actors the opportunity to work with industry professionals who will have their own style and idiosyncrasies. For a lot of actors, auditions are a rare thing, and the workshops are another valuable way of widening the actors’ knowledge, giving them experience in auditioning for other people rather than their tutor.
CNI: Success is the name of the game; have you got any exciting stories of students who have “made it?”
MJ: We are achieving great success with students getting roles in various dramas, such as The A Word, Prey, Corrie, Emmerdale, Last Tango, Doctors, Happy Valley, Casualty, The Five, Brief Encounters, and one of our younger students, from one of our Sunday classes, has appeared in Game of Thrones! We have also had students achieving success in many TVC’s, including Nike, Typhoo Tea, Asda, Morrisons, Iceland, London Zoo, McDonalds, etc. All in all, great success for many of out students.
CNI: Since we have been partners (CNI and Act4TV) for quite a while, can you tell our audience why our software allows Act4TV to separate itself from other school offerings out there?
MJ: Of course. One of the main attractions of the courses is the ability of the students to be able to view back their performance almost immediately after the class, due to Casting Network’s software. I quickly realised, after the great success we were having using CNI as part of our day to day casting process, what a great tool it would be for use in the act4tv classes. One of its many functions allows us to playback, immediately after a take, whilst not interrupting the upload to the password protected site. The nightmare of spending hours uploading from cards, pre CNI, will remain in my memory for a long time to come. The ease of setting up sessions also makes it invaluable for the self tape sessions we offer free of charge to act4tv students. So I’d certainly say the software has been one of the factors making the classes the success they are.
CNI: We loved that you offer courses to 50+ actors as well. Has there been a significant take up on this?
MJ: You’re talking about our latest venture that’s our “PRIME” class, aimed at “mature” people, who have time available in an afternoon and the desire to come to class, at this stage of their life. The class has been quite a success in Manchester and will be added to by a class in Leeds, starting in September.