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Film and TV has developed so much in the production department over the last couple of decades, that it astounds audiences how they managed to achieve what we thought was the impossible. Crazy stuntmen flinging themselves from buildings, explosive gunfights between characters and car chases that have you biting your nails and hanging off the edge of your seat. After the credits have rolled, and you and your viewing party trade your favourite lines and scenes of the film, the moments that stand out to you begs the question: “But wait… how’d they do that?”. Well, we cannot reveal all the tricks of the trade can we (got to leave some things a mystery)? But to find out the top 5 industry “secret” props, keep on scrolling…
Sugar glass (also known as breakaway glass and candy glass) is a prop used in many different forms- and is simply made from mixing dissolved sugar, water then heating to an extremely high temperature (about 150˚C!) until it can be formed into its desired shape (e.g. a bottle or thin sheet). To ensure it does not (re)crystallise, corn syrup is often used to aid the consistency. Because it resembles glass both in look- and when broken in a scene shatter similarly- and is unlikely to cause any harm, it is considered an effective and inexpensive prop to manufacture. The downside? Due to the chemical structure of its main ingredient sugar, it must be used quickly after it is made as the brittle quality that is achieved only last so long.
Considering the strict laws surrounding money, its distribution and usage, even the material (cotton instead of paper), lack of watermarks and security numbers all serve to make sure the illusion stays intact. If you notice, we never tend to see money in an up close shot whenever it is shown, sometimes even just being printed on the side the audience is viewing- all these add to the “authenticity” of the fake money. Ironic right? The faker the better as any attempt that may be viewed as duplicating real currency is seen as counterfeiting and is met by strict government investigation- ouch.
“Are they really driving…?
I know I am not alone in the thought of watching a scene of characters in a car travelling through the streets of a metropolitan area, casually engaging in conversation…but their eyes leave the road a touch longer than is deemed safe or their hand movements on the steering wheel don’t quite sync up? Come on I know we have all wondered: “Are they really driving and delivering their lines that perfectly?”. To answer your burning question, sadly no. Ahh but do not despair as it is really the safest option when filming a simple driving scene compared to a stunt driver commandeering a high-octane car chase.
Add to this that the actor must mime the driving process, it saves time and money compared the traditional (and slowly disappearing) use of green screen with a stationary car. With today’s technological advances, it sure is nice to see that we have moved away from the days of repeating background and bad “driving”- I am looking at you Knight Rider.
Drop your (Prop) Weapons!
Times gone by a trick like this was semi-difficult to pull off, making the use of quick cuts of the camera or miming the shot with the intended actor. Nowadays, like the prop mentioned below, it can be a combination of visual effects mixed with postproduction touch-up and image editing. It all is dependant on the budgeting, tone of the scene and action that is being performed, for example if it just a simple extra being killed by our hero without any consequences, it most likely will be shot in one quick wide shot with a blood pack being added to bolster the legitimacy of the gory death. However, if the scene is to depict a vengeful, violent killing meant to be shown in close up detail, there is a combination of a retractable blade (practical effects), with the squib (small, explosive device filled with fake blood- again practical effect) setting off, then if required adding those extra details in CGI to add to the illusion. This one remains somewhat of mystery to most, as there is a method called impalement illusion, wherein the actor wears a corset (or frame) around their body with “entrance” and “exit” slot for the blade to fit through. Again, this is something that screen productions have utilised over the years and even stage magicians as a popular act but there is still some secrecy shrouded around this technique. Hmm, I guess a magician cannot reveal all his tricks.
Either using practical effects such as elaborate prosthetics being produced by special effects props specialist to fit the scene, design and body of the actor it will be fitted on or the detail given in post-production VFX; the desired look can be achieved easily with todays options. In Marvel’s Iron Man, the iconic chest arc reactor worn by lead Robert Downey Jr was achieved without the need for CGI; accomplished by constructing a replica of the actor’s chest spray painted with makeup to match his skin tone, whilst holding the main design piece in the middle. In other more meticulous scenes, CGI may be needed to add an additional layer of legitimacy to the screen. This can be seen in 2014’s RoboCop, featuring a scene of detailed operation that looks so real you can see pieces of brain matter on the surgeon’s tools- but you will be potentially shocked to know that that was all CGI. I know blew our minds too.
So there you have it, our Top 5 industry tricks for the special effects and technically derived moments in filmmaking. There are many more industry tricks that create the wonders of film and television. From make-up to props, film has created these techniques way before CGI. It has always been one of the greatest parts of the industry is bringing together the tricks. What are some of your favourite film moments using these techniques?
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Have you ever been sat down glued to your favourite cartoon as a kid, hearing the vibrant voices of its characters that make them feel almost real? Voice acting is a diverse and changing industry and it’s not enough to just have a “good voice”- you have to offer some versatility the same way a screen actor would have to show their visual emotional range. From video games, cartoons, animated films and television advertisements these actors have had long running careers in the voice-over industry that spans over several decades. Read below for our top 10 voice actors to find out some of the names behind the voices: you might just be surprised and a little inspired…
Perhaps one of voice overs best kept secrets, Baker has voice acting credits to rival the greats despite being only 44 (arguably one of the youngest prolific voice actors in the industry); and he is steadily adding to his résumé. Typically working within the field of video gaming, Baker has shown a confident approach to the leading action man role in combat, fighting based games. However the role that brough critical acclaim and international attention was his role as Joel, the protagonist of zombie horror survival game The Last of Us, which incorporated the use of motion capturing in its development process, in order to fully capture the psychological core of the main characters. With this role, Baker epitomises the lone wolf persona, simultaneously offering emotional depth unseen in games before then. Baker’s Joel became a standout character and a landmark in the storytelling aspect of modern gaming.
Armed with a powerfully intimidating voice fit for kings and gods, Cummings is another staple in the voice acting community having played countless roles over the years. Alongside the legendary Mel Blanc, Cummings is the only other actor to portray the iconic Tasmanian Devil; a character known to communicate in growls and snarls instead of actual speech tells us that sometimes being a voice actor is being able to access those primal, animalistic sounds. Although another anthropomorphic cartoon character, Jim Cummings has portrayed the lovable Winnie the Pooh (and his energetic friend Tigger), demonstrating his skill at harnessing the cadence of his voice to suit the softly spoken Pooh (The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh-1988).
Long-time fans of the iconic animated series The Simpsons will know the man responsible for breathing into life our lovable, drunken patriarch Homer Simpson is none other than Dan Castellaneta. I would confidently say that Castellaneta’s Homer is one of the hardest voices to perform, as he achieved a voice quality into the Duff loving family man that few can replicate. Other fan favourites Castellaneta voices include Homer’s elderly father Abe “Grampa” Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Groundskeeper Willie, Homer’s perpetually inebriated cohort Barney Gumble, and hundreds of others spanning over his 690-episode credited appearances in this show.
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Aside from taking part in incredible fun, and acting in some professionally filmed material, we believe that there are many reasons to join acting classes! IPM team member, Katherine, has put together this latest blog post from her perspective of a training actor to help you make that first decision of joining classes today!
They looked so confident and I wanted to feel like that. I wanted to do something about my pesky nerves! I remember mustering up the courage to walk to my first acting class, having persuaded a friend to come along with me. I was shaking with nerves and curious as to what would be expected from me.
This is what I found by taking an acting class and what you can find too!
2. Become More Body Confident
I distinctly remember a presentation I did in front of the class. I had no idea what to do with my body, how to stand, what to do with my hands, where to look. The more I focused on what people were thinking about me, and the way I looked, the more awkward and nervous I undoubtably looked. It felt like an endless cycle. I was not used to having all eyes on me, but practicing speaking in front of people at acting class, I began to feel more comfortable with the spotlight on me.
We focused on relaxing the body. Inspired by yoga practices, we took time to feel in touch with our bodies, ready to focus and set our minds to the class or performance ahead. We would also experiment with movement exercises. This would be an opportunity to let lose, throw some energy around and have a laugh with group. When you begin to film your performances and watch yourself back on camera, you can see how important it is to relax and be aware of how you use your body when approaching a character.
4. Learning it is Okay to be Vulnerable
I mentioned I was an insufferably shy child, and I wanted to change that. I realised that pushing myself out of my comfort zone in acting class was really good for me. It was a safe space for me to experiment and tap into my emotions, directing them towards a creative goal.
Performing in an embarrassingly funny scene, a romantic storyline or an outburst of tears and terror, can feel scary. You are putting yourself in a vulnerable position, allowing yourself to express these raw feelings with all eyes on you, in front of the camera. As this became a regular exercise, I learnt that it’s ok to feel those emotions in real life. It is ok to be vulnerable. I continued acting classes throughout my entire education and beyond. As I continued to grow up and experience new things and feelings, acting has definitely made me feel more comfortable expressing my emotions - incredibly helpful as you navigate your way through life, and healthy for friendships and relationships.
5. Make New Friends & Have Fun
So, there you have it. 5 Reasons Why You Should Join an Acting Class. As you can tell, taking an acting class really did change my life around for the better. Now, I am not afraid to speak up, I can confidently express my opinions and make positive connections in social situations, and let's not forget that eye contact. My friends and co-workers today cannot believe I used to be a shy child!
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When training actors who are starting their career, the team at IPM often hear the first thing that people want or need to work on is their confidence. Building your confidence is not an overnight process. Many great names like Chris Evans, Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence all have bouts of nervousness and anxieties before performing. We are human, it is normal to feel nervous. But how you choose to overcome those anxieties will help boost your self esteem, open new opportunities and help you grow as a performer. Our team has put together some tips on building confidence for your performance.
Taking the first step to build you confidence may not be easy, but with time you will feel the positive changes in yourself. It takes time and practice, but it will get easier the more you keep practicing!
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Animals are a recurring element in cinema, and often roles will require interaction with them. It’s important to know what to expect and how to treat your furry (or feathered, scaly, chitinous etc) co-stars with respect and professionalism. Our team has put together some great animal performances on screen and tips on working with them on set!
Capuchin monkeys are intelligent, personable and easy to get along with, making them the most commonly utilized primates in film and television; see Marcel from Friends or Crystal the Monkey, Hollywood’s go-to tree dweller who has starred in films such as George of the Jungle, Night at the Museum and The Hangover Part II (incidentally, the highest paid animal star!). Chimps are also intelligent, but more erratic and less friendly; generally having them on set is a risky proposition, and for this reason chimps have become rarer in film recently. Put bluntly, when mistreated they can get violent. Pound for pound, chimps are much stronger than humans. Do the math.
The second thing to remember is to have patience. Animals, as intelligent as they can be, aren’t human beings; they don’t have a concept of what ‘film production’ means, and I can guarantee you that (with the exception of well-trained dogs) they won’t do what the director wants them to do in the space of a few takes. Be calm, and take it as an opportunity to observe your co-star; realise that they have their own intentions and interests, and learn to work with those to make the process more expedient. If you have a pet dog or cat, you’ve probably experienced this process yourself, so draw upon that.
The final tip for working with animals is to always be professional and ethical, small or large, these are living creatures with their own intentions, thoughts and way of seeing the world and we must respect that. We love our furry friends on set and on-camera. Who are some of your favourite animal performances?
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When starting out in the industry, knowing the name of the role you are going for isn't always just the character's name, production has titles for roles to help the production team know scheduling, placement in the scene and even how many lines you may have. Our team has put together a break down of the 'Walk-on' roles that will become a regular term you will hear in your career.
As your career moves forward and your CV grows, this is when your opportunities can be bigger. You get the chance to have larger roles on multi-episode bookings which are called Supporting Roles (not to be mistaken with Supporting Artist) or even Co-Lead roles. It is a great progression that an actor can make if they put their mind to it and continue to grow their skills for the screen.
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With some of our young performers recently attaining professional work with premium broadcasters and companies, it is no surprise that here at IPM we have a passion for fostering juvenile talent. Not only do we nurture our child and teen performers through in-depth industry training and on-set experience, we also think it is important for them to be inspired through the performances of fellow young actors. Here we will explore some of the most impressive juvenile performances seen in films, examine what makes them stand out and evaluate what our IPM performers can be inspired by:
1. Saoirse Ronan as Bryony Tallis (age 13) in Atonement (2007)
There is no wonder that Saoirse Ronan became one of the youngest actors to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Atonement. Furthermore, it is not surprising that Ronan has gone on to become one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood, and this can nearly be foreseen through this early performance. In the role of Bryony, Ronan is subtle and seems to be acting almost entirely through her piercing blue eyes. Her natural, childlike innocence makes her a thoroughly engaging onscreen presence and her ‘outside-in’ acting approach is no doubt something for fellow young performers to be inspired by!
2. Jodie Foster as Iris in Taxi Driver (1976)
Performing the role of a 12-year-old sex worker in one of the most iconic films ever made certainly must have been a memorable experience for Jodie Foster, who has now become one of the most reputable actresses and now directors of her generation. In the part of Iris, Foster is completely electric: she exudes charisma, charm and total wit. Acting against Robert De Niro as a kid certainly must have been intimidating, but Foster plays it off with total self-assured coolness. This is certainly a performance to look up to when looking for inspiration for onscreen confidence!
3. Abigail Breslin as Bo Hess in Signs (2002)
Breslin is perhaps best-known as a child actor for her role in Little Miss Sunshine (2007), although she could be seen as even more impressive earlier in her career with her role as Bo in M. Night Shamalyan’s Signs. She gives a staggering performance as the youngest daughter in a family who undergo the strange experience of extra-terrestrials invading their home. Breslin performs in of the most convincing crying scenes: in this dinner scene, we see the totality of her character’s vulnerability and desperation. This is a performance to be inspired by when considering how to compellingly and naturally convey a diverse range of emotions.
4. Christian Bale as Jamie ‘Jim’ Graham in Empire of the Sun (1987)
It is not at all surprising that the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures invented the ‘Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor’ in the wake of Bale’s tremendous early performance in this film. Bale conveys an outstanding versatility in this role, varying between a spoilt child living with his ex-pat family in Shanghai to an orphan left wandering the streets following the Japanese invasion. We may primarily associate Christian Bale with his strongly masculine, belligerent roles in the later Dark Knight Trilogyand The Fighter,although Empire of the Sunconveys the subtler, understated nature that Bale has about himself. This performance can inspire us through its naturalness and variability.
5. Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Despite being a younger age than what the original casting call had requested, Quvenzhané Wallis impressed with her head-strong personality to such an extent that she was cast immediately, and the brief was even changed to adapt to her as a performer. She is truly remarkable in this film: obstinate, assertive and thoroughly mesmerising while playing a young girl living in Louisiana with her father. In spite of her lack of previous acting experience, Wallis commands the screen and demonstrates that sometimes, it is simply a matter of drawing from one’s natural emotions and instincts for a performance.
5.Jacob Tremblay as Jack Newsome in Room(2015)
Brie Larson may have been the performer to win an Oscar for Room, although it seems shocking that the young Jacob Tremblay was not in with a nomination as his role as the protagonist’s son born in captivity. In this film, Tremblay conveys an overwhelming combination of innocence, fear, vulnerability and naivety which would completely overshadow some trained adult actors. The onscreen charisma he shares with Larson is extremely touching, and the intensity that Tremblay manages to generate in his performance as Jack is truly electrifying.
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The magic of cinema. It’s a hard thing to explain. The ripple of anticipation as the lights dim, the muffled opening of sweet packets, the collective gasps as the action unfolds. It would seem that nothing could replace this. But like most things, things are having to change. During the height of the pandemic a number of films chose to release straight to digital such as Trolls 2, Irresistible, and Scooby. In an unexpected move Disney also decided to side step the slowly opening but struggling cinemas. On September the 4th, the giant will be streaming the highly anticipated live action saga of Mulan on its own new streaming service Disney+, with an additional charge of £22.95 to members. The move has brought praise and criticism but one things for sure, cinema is changing.
Since social distancing measures lend themselves to the format of drive-in movies and provide one of the few safe experiences outside the house, the industry is now booming. But why has it taken a pandemic for this cultural experience to see such a raise in popularity?
The US and Australia also share a car-based culture where it is the norm for 17 and 18 year olds to have their own car – essentially for drive-in movies. For these countries, drive-in movies were a fun, sociable past time. Now however, it is one of only a few extracurricular activates that Britons can do safely.
The very popular Lune Cinema is hosting several location drive-in cinemas across the UK including guest locations, having visited Harewood House and upcoming venues can be found here. Whilst times are definitely different, We hope we can all continue to find comfort and solace in the stories and adventures we experience in film. Be it in our living rooms, cinemas or cars, the magic of film will continue to unite and inspire us for a long time to come.
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In the beginning of lockdown, one of the biggest questions from the industry and viewers was 'how will new productions go forward' Beloved dramas like Emmerdale and Coronation Street started this June as they adapted their story lines. But people asked what about Netflix, Amazon Prime and even Disney? Well, good news! Our beloved industry is coming back full swing with more and more productions casting for their new promotions, series and films. Methods have already been devised within the film and television industry to navigate the new social distancing measures and safety for cast & crew. Keep reading to find out the methods the industry has been adopting to make sure that we have new content ready for our viewing.
'Bubble' Casting Calls
As for in-person filming, there has been some creative thinking on how to film while balancing the costs of safety and practicality. One common solution that we’ve been seeing in many casting suggestions is utilising groups of people who already live together. If a film or commercial is in need of a family, then why not just hire a family?
As you can see, the approach the film industry has taken in facing these challenges is by changing its practices not giving up their creativity. What this ultimately shows is both the strong nature of the industry and the impressive adaptability with which it goes forward in its truly fascinating form.
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