"I always found these acting books were taught from a place 'on high'," says Matthew Lillard. "It's not easy to look back and remember the really bleak times and the hard times. And even if you do, there's a sense of glorification of those times."
Lillard (Scream, Scooby-Doo) would love to break down the walls between Hollywood success and aspiring young actors. And, as a new Advisory Board Member for the Acting for Film & Television program, that's exactly what he's been doing, brick-by-brick.
Advisory Board Members play a vital role in keeping the curriculum at VFS relevant, helping to ensure that what students are learning in class is directly related to what they'll encounter in the industry when they graduate.
About a year ago, Lillard gave a special talk at VFS that made such an inspirational impact on Acting students and faculty, that he was soon asked to come aboard and help shape the future of the program through introducing intense Master Acting Classes. Open primarily to alumni as a way to keep them in touch with their craft and each other, Lillard says he's getting as much out of it as the participants are.
"I've never been involved like I am now," Lillard explains. "I've come up now three times - flown up especially to work with the kids, the students, and I love it. I'm just so excited to go up there, and it's just so fulfilling... It's an intense weekend. By the end, I'm beat up. But I leave with such a renewed passion for my own career, my own journey in this crazy profession... It's just been a great experience so far."
While he believes his relationship with VFS is the "end game", Lillard hopes to shed a little light on how young actors should approach their careers in the entertainment industry.
"While actors love each other and get along great, there is no 'how to do' in this business. There is no ladder to success. There is no direct way. And within that, there's also nobody saying 'here's how I did it'."
"One of the misconceptions of graduating from any program, not just VFS, is that once you graduate, you've earned this badge of courage which will get you where you want to be in this industry. That's not true in any way, shape, or form. And that's a hard thing to understand."
But with the proper preparation and constant training, students can better arm themselves for the demands they'll encounter along the way.
When asked what it is about VFS that encouraged him to come aboard, Lillard says: "I keep coming to VFS because [Head of Department] Bill Marchant and the school have crafted this incredible program that's got great students, and he's offered me this amazing opportunity to work with alumni, and I find that the kids I'm working with are super gifted."
"The great thing about the program is that, in this year, you get this really incredible, inclusive perspective on the craft of acting... You get a lot of information thrown at you."
The last time he was in Vancouver, Lillard had a chance to sit in on Cara McDowell's class, finding that her teaching methods fit well with his own.
"Cara and I speak the same language. Bill and I speak the same language. I think that's why it's been such a great transition and it's such a rewarding relationship both ways. It's because we all approach the craft of acting similarly."
That approach, Lillard explains, is "working from who you are and what you bring to the work, and connecting yourself and connecting what you have to the character."
With the entertainment industry evolving alongside developments in media distribution, he acknowledges the need for actors to do more than they've ever had to do in order to keep working.
"Our industry right now is more than ever about doing stuff and staying busy and finding new ways to find success. The days of old, when I came up, of just being an actor are over." He goes on to list almost a dozen projects he's working on just this week alone, from co-producing a $12 million movie, to acting in another alongside Kathleen Turner, Fred Willard, and Brittany Murphy, plus organizing a tour of comedians to support an upcoming film's release, pitching a reality series, pitching a sci-fi series, and signing on to act in a low-budget indie film.
"My life as an actor is so full of trying to do stuff that is not only in the industry, but maintaining the balance of happiness as an actor and as an artist. And all of that fuels me when I go to teach. I continually try to do more so I can be a better actor and, in turn, be a better teacher."
VFS is pleased to have Matthew Lillard as part of the Acting for Film & Television program's Advisory Board, and we all look forward to his next visit.