Acting for Film + Television CURRICULUM

Term 1 Course Descriptions

Students prepare mentally and physically for the rigorous year ahead. They learn to open up to the possibilities for acting by exploring core concepts, such as trust and play. This is the first time many come face-to-face with the camera lens, delve into text analysis, create an improvised project, dance, breathe as a performer, and learn to work as part of an ensemble.

Along with the discovery that students themselves are the most important part of every character they play, this class focuses on building self-awareness through trust and play exercises. Instructors stress honesty in engaging and committing to others. Students discover the difference that thorough text analysis makes to their work and also participate in improvisation and partnering exercises. They explore the basic acting skills and tools, learn the actor’s vocabulary, and begin to assume responsibility for their own creative growth.

Students learn that authenticity in pursuit of scene objectives is the key to success when acting for the camera. Relaxation and spontaneity of body and voice are as essential to a film set as any technical demands. Students have the opportunity to enhance these abilities through improvisation and filmed exercises that are reviewed in class. They also practice the technical demands of a professional film set, and gain hands-on training with equipment as well as set safety, protocol, and etiquette. The on-camera improvisations also supplement and improve students' text analysis skills. This course culminates with a transition to teleplays exploring classic single-camera shooting and the actor’s relationship to the camera.

Great acting involves evaluating the finesse and dynamics of successful performances. Students discover how appreciation and analysis of a film involves more than sitting in a seat and eating popcorn. This course offers students the opportunity to participate in group viewings and discussion of film and television classics, oddities, and art. Everyone prepares for these sessions by researching elements of each screening, drawing connections between the acting profiled on-screen and their own daily studies as an actor.

A heightened awareness is necessary to develop the actor’s body. Drawing from North American, European, and Asian actor training methodologies, students explore movement exercises, improvisation, games, and techniques. Utilizing a spirit of discovery and openness, they learn to inhabit their bodies more fully. This occurs through working deeply with alignment, breath, release, and neutral exercises. Once exposed to a range of movement for the actor, students interact, play, and explore unison movement – developing sensitivity to the energy of the group using periphery vision and listening. The course helps students build rhythmic acuity, a sense of timing, and coordination.

Students engage with the basics of speech and phonation; the mechanical movements required for sound creation. They explore, anatomy, vowels, consonants, operative words, and learn the International Phonetic Alphabet symbols. Along with practicing articulation, energy, and support for sound, they also learn the muscularity of the spoken word and the power of language. Students gain the ability to identify key components of speech and sound, freely articulating a piece of poetry by the end of the course.

Each student's instrument consists of their breath, body, voice; along with their imagination, impulse, expression, and soul. To be able to be expressive and present as an actor, students need to be in a healthy and exciting relationship with themselves, especially their voice. A student's voice can be characterized as the muscle of their soul. This course is the first step in students' journeys towards developing the courage and trust necessary to risk exploring a new relationship with their instruments, to support self-discovery in moving beyond existing physical and vocal habits, patterns, preconceived beliefs, and fears that may prevent them from reaching acting goals in this industry.

Improvisation is the only performing art where each student is fully responsible for all aspects of their work. Those who can improvise well are the most valued actors on any set because they complete every take, regardless of accidents and mistakes. The improvising actor makes discoveries whereby non-improvising actor may struggle. Through a series of exercises, conducted in pairs and groups, students explore the building blocks of character, as well as complementary actions and reactions. They learn how to use physical punctuation to create an interesting performance, how to share focus with other actors dynamically in a scene, and how to play with the cultural rules of social behaviour and expectations to generate comedy. Through practice, each student develops a heightened awareness of their scene partner(s), the circumstances of a scene, and ability to generate laughter effortlessly.

The Rehearsal Lab is a mentored time for self-directed preparation as well as rehearsals. It is designed to encourage and exercise the self-motivated work an actor must pursue: how to prepare for an audition, a scene, a class, or a gig. Each student's discipline and focus as an actor develop through practice as they work on projects, scripts, and auditions that need to be prepared and rehearsed for class. While some of this work happens individually or in groups, students meet in a “home room” environment at the start of each Rehearsal Lab and sign in to the worksheet with the work explored in the lab time.

Term 2 Course Descriptions

Students discover how to put the actor’s basic skills and tools to work by creating a dynamic and powerful scene for presentation. They use the skills acquired in the previous term to delve more deeply into creating an honest and authentic character. This course highlights how students can express themselves with confidence and serve their stories truthfully. They assume responsibility for their own creative growth and begin to follow impulse to discover surprises in honesty and engaged partnering. Through improvisation, acting exercises, research, and rehearsal techniques, students prepare and present a scene for evaluation at the end of the course. Performing for a larger audience at the end of term offers an opportunity to experience what a live audience does to the acting process.

This course illustrates the potential of physical communication and the heightened awareness required to develop a resonant and responsive actor’s body. Expanding upon the work students have dedicated to movement, they explore the use of rhythm in character creation and scene analysis. The focus is on spatial awareness, investigating the myriad uses of space and its impact on the body and relationships. Each student learns a variety of ways to adapt their physicality and create characters that prepare them for a range of stage and screen roles.

Students continue to investigate the body as an instrument, deepening their work in voice and speech. They have the opportunity to start putting the building blocks of voice together and apply this knowledge to rich, image-based text. Breath, range, power, placement, support, language, energy levels, grounding, imagination, and storytelling all come together to help students understand the capabilities and possibilities that lie within their own voice and how it pertains to their work as an actor.

Through each student's breath, body, voice, and imagination, they give life to intimate stories by discovering how to be at home in their instrument. Students learn to engage themselves, be present in their sensations, emotions, sounds, and breath – all embodied in the oneness of who they are as a performer. They experience the freedom to extend their sound into singing, and begin telling larger stories that include music (pianist), ensemble work (group song), and the technical requirements and acting fundamentals needed to perform.

An actor's power to transform their voice is a powerful tool for creating characters. Students discover how to alter their nationality, age, culture, size, status, period, gender, and even their species. This course teaches a practical, physical approach to speaking with accents, and nurtures a flexible voice and a broad range. Through instructor-guided practice, students develop the modern non-regional American sound that is the standard for the film and television industry, while also exploring regional variations around the world. By altering tone focus and facial muscles, they discover the right accent for every character and learn how accents develop and why we have them. The ability to identify and speak consistently in accent grows along with each students' understanding of how our voice identifies us.

This course allows students to navigate the technical demands of acting on a film set while drawing upon acting fundamentals to block, rehearse, and shoot high stakes ensemble television scenes. Self-confidence is essential to survive the rigours of performing on a professional film set, and this hands-on experience seeks to demystify the on-set environment by giving students the opportunity to fulfil the roles of various crew positions while shooting and acting in police procedurals and medical dramas. Students are challenged to execute cop and medical “tech speak” convincingly while simultaneously dealing with multi-marked blocking, continuity, and a variety of camera setups and shooting styles, such as master/coverage and moving master.

Landing a job in film and TV begins with a clear understanding of the audition room and the expectations, and standards, of a professional, on-camera audition. Each student's foundation is built on understanding the role of the casting director, the typical protocol, and the key components of an audition. Students explore the technical and creative demands of an audition using sides from commercials, film, and TV that are shot and reviewed in class. Preparation, performance, and technical execution during an audition are stressed, as well as beginning to learn how to make adjustments in the moment. The importance of character objectives, listening, and partnering effectively with the reader are also explored as the class intensifies with larger and more challenging material.

Students sharpen their critical sensibilities for performance dynamics through screenings and discussion of film and television classics, oddities, and art. They build research skills while reinforcing or questioning their interpretive assumptions. Through passionate discussion and critical reflection, students draw new connections from the acting studied on screen and their own daily practice as an actor.

The Rehearsal Lab is a mentored time for self-directed preparation as well as rehearsals. It is designed to encourage and exercise the self-motivated work an actor must pursue: how to prepare for an audition, a scene, a class, or a gig. Each student's discipline and focus as an actor develop through practice as they work on projects, scripts, and auditions that need to be prepared and rehearsed for class. While some of this work happens individually or in groups, students meet in a “home room” environment at the start of each Rehearsal Lab and sign in to the worksheet with the work explored in the lab time.

Term 3 Course Descriptions

In this course, students delve into the actor’s truth to discover deep personal connections between themselves and how they relate to the text. Through a series of silent, guided meditations, sensory and visualization exercises, and intensive writing sessions, students create a personal monologue using authentic and truthful stories from their lives. This awakens their understanding of how each life story directly informs an actor's performance, enabling them to bring truth to work on stage and screen.

In this course, students develop an awareness with how their may habitually limit their range of expression. They're challenged to express themselves outside of their comfort zones and let go of acting choices that result in safe, dull, lifeless performances. Each student expands their acting choices by uncovering inherent potential to mine the endless possibilities of authentic expression available to them. By practicing this open-minded approach to acting roles, they gain more certainty, become less hesitant, and feel free to experiment with a greater sense of childlike wonder. Students also continue to explore text analysis skills to discover emotionally charged circumstances, preparing them for later courses.

The roots of comedy lie in creating a believable character with an inflexible perspective and in playing the expectations of the scene more than the objectives. Students deepen their understanding of comedic character and comedic reaction to the unexpected through practice, developing a heightened awareness of their scene partner(s) and an understanding of the differences between given circumstances and their character. This course also challenges students to generate comedy effortlessly, focusing in part on unnoticed observation that assists effective character study. All of these skills are applicable on set and are tested in writing with an ensemble to create a scenario for film.

Students explore mask to realize their body’s full potential as a storytelling tool. They discover unconscious mannerisms and habitual movements that often go unnoticed. Beginning with “neutral state”, students create characters with clear and specific qualities while developing the use of imagery as prompts to create characters that are revisited in greater depth. In creating characters and scenes collaboratively, students discover how to employ a physical approach to their work, addressing performance in an integrated way and acknowledging the fusion of mind, body, and movement.

In this course, students acquire better diction by practicing the individual phonemes of spoken English as they are applied to acting and presentations. Scene work and poetry are used to emphasize reading, vocabulary development, and the ability to parse text. Each student learns to craft a style of speech consistent with different textual requirements as they explore ways to incorporate voice techniques into text work. They also develop the ability to carry the demands of the acting texts in terms of breath, range, resonance, and emotional freedom. Voice work is woven around the speech component of this course to form the basis of an integrated approach to creating the vocal and spoken part of an acting role.

Continuity, eye line, hitting marks, and partnering are the focus of this course. Students also develop an awareness of the editing process that can both change and enhance their performances and perception of what it is to be camera savvy. They fill various crew positions and handle film set equipment to produce a number of scenes. After shooting is complete, they assist in editing the projects and eventually view all edited scenes in a theatre on the big screen.

Mastering the complex demands of a mid-sized television and commercial audition can lead to a steady and potentially lucrative career. Building on the lessons learned in previous courses, students come out of this class with a better understanding of the expectations of the modern television audition and the typical genres they will be asked to work within. The audition experiences here expose them to the differences between the general guidelines of the audition room and the rules that they can choose to bend. The common practice of self-taped auditions is also introduced and developed.

In this course, students build on the discoveries and skills from earlier training in breath, body, and voice, moving from the fundamentals into more freedom and exploration of sound into singing. This includes exploring range of voice, line and flow, connection and partnering, as well as moving from group participation to individual performance. The focus is on developing one’s story through individual songs, creating the inner monologue that supports, and drives, the need to communicate through song. Each student explores the rehearsal process and learns what it feels like to be secure enough to let go of the work. This includes partnering with an accompanist and being coached on how best to utilize time and how much students need to commit to doing the work of an actor. Covering a period of approximately four months, this course culminates in a performance in the following term.

Each student becomes a confident performance critic, further enhancing their research skills by reinforcing and questioning their interpretive assumptions. Through passionate discussion and critical reflection, students advance their performance connoisseurship and draw new connections between the performances that are studied on screen and the challenges they encounter as actors.

The Rehearsal Lab is a mentored time for self-directed preparation as well as rehearsals. It is designed to encourage and exercise the self-motivated work an actor must pursue: how to prepare for an audition, a scene, a class, or a gig. Each student's discipline and focus as an actor develop through practice as they work on projects, scripts, and auditions that need to be prepared and rehearsed for class. While some of this work happens individually or in groups, students meet in a “home room” environment at the start of each Rehearsal Lab and sign in to the worksheet with the work explored in the lab time.

Term 4 Course Descriptions

It takes imagination, vulnerability, and skill to transform into a character who sees the world differently. This course encourages students to keep experimenting with the confidence, passion, and exactness gained from previous acting classes. They sharpen scene study and text analysis skills, deepening their character work and integrating what they have investigated in scene work from previous courses. Everything culminates in a performance at the end of the course in front of a live audience. Students are encouraged to adapt and develop a fresh outlook with every role.

The future success of each acting career depends upon technical versatility. Most opportunities available to students in theatre, feature film, television, and video games require unique physical and conceptual skills. In this course, students learn elements of combat and fighting. Physical extremes of pain, injury, fantastic situations, and costume are explored as well as playing the entire range of dramatic characters – from the average person to a superhero to animals to zombies. Material from popular genres are implemented as students perform in a green screen studio and discover motion capture technique. Comedic performance and acting for multiple camera setups are practiced with the rehearsal and recording of a simulated three-camera sitcom scene.

Students explore the dynamic and valuable link between their voice and acting, while also discovering how powerfully these two aspects of the work influence and inform one another. Bringing these crucial elements together give students a solid technical foundation on which to stand as they forge ahead in their craft. In addition, this course provides students with the opportunity to deepen and integrate the skills learned in previous voice courses, giving them valued time to work on their feet with auditions and scene material. They work with a variety of exercises to enliven and expand breath, range, resonance, and articulation, while also digging into the vital dynamics of language and text and how they affect voice.

This course delves into each student's personal story through an assigned monologue. With an instructor's guidance and support, they learn to confront the relationship between their own life experiences and those of the character they play. During the rehearsal process, students respond to a series of probing questions that help to identify key connections and take performances to the next level. This course also explores sense memory, substitutions, and role playing, culminating with a workshop presentation where students perform a high stakes monologue.

This course is a continuation of previous study in voice skills.

The Rehearsal Lab is a mentored time for self-directed preparation as well as rehearsals. It is designed to encourage and exercise the self-motivated work an actor must pursue: how to prepare for an audition, a scene, a class, or a gig. Each student's discipline and focus as an actor develop through practice as they work on projects, scripts, and auditions that need to be prepared and rehearsed for class. While some of this work happens individually or in groups, students meet in a “home room” environment at the start of each Rehearsal Lab and sign in to the worksheet with the work explored in the lab time.

Term 5 Course Descriptions

Students explore “genius”; the profound relationship with true impulse that is a key element in elevating a performance from mere pedestrian choices to the greatness exhibited by our acting heroes. Students are pushed, provoked, and enticed to move beyond the realm of safe, predictable work and into a place where their unique stamp of authenticity will allow their work to shine as honest, distinct, and playful.

Students take responsibility for producing and acting in their T6 Camera Final Film Project. They apply all of the acting skills they have learned, as they audition for, research, and rehearse their role. Students also actively participate in production and wardrobe meetings in anticipation of these projects. By the end of the course, students are prepared for an intense shoot schedule in Term 6.

This course introduces the student to the art of Voice Acting, and all the different disciplines required for this craft. Student learn through videos, discussion, guest speakers, and on-the-mic training. This course is designed to see if this is a craft they would like to pursue in addition to the other disciplines they explore at VFS.

Preparing for the potentially career-making opportunities in a significant feature film audition demands a high level of both analysis and creativity. Students tackle a series of increasingly challenging single-scene and multi-scene film auditions that become more and more tailored to their individual strengths and weaknesses. The art of the self-taped audition is also revisited.

Making the most of valuable one-to-one time with Voice Instructors, students dive into high-stakes text work and discover how to support the power and depth of emotionally expressive dialogue. At the other end of the spectrum, and just as challenging for the actor, students explore intimacy, subtlety, and style with a variety of texts. In between these two extremes, they discover how to maintain a dynamic and energized voice in all their work.

Students discover how vital argumentation is for breaking open the action of a scene. They deconstruct the rhetorical spine of a scene and put that into action through playing a monologue or a scene. In this course, students also experiment with different characters’ vocabulary, how it affects their speech, and how they use language to affect other characters.

Students prepare a business plan in order to support the transition from student to professional actor, and to develop the skills to navigate the industry from a business perspective. Instructors and guest speakers discuss topics, such as demo reels, online sites to promote on, industry trends, headshots, résumés, agents, casting directors, as well as how to formulate and execute a marketing plan.

The Rehearsal Lab is a mentored time for self-directed preparation as well as rehearsals. It is designed to encourage and exercise the self-motivated work an actor must pursue: how to prepare for an audition, a scene, a class, or a gig. Each student's discipline and focus as an actor develop through practice as they work on projects, scripts, and auditions that need to be prepared and rehearsed for class. While some of this work happens individually or in groups, students meet in a “home room” environment at the start of each Rehearsal Lab and sign in to the worksheet with the work explored in the lab time.

Elective Course Descriptions

A commanding Physical presence is a necessary element to the ever growing and changing actor’s body. Drawing from various social dance styles and a contemporary practice, students explore movement exercises, address musicality, co-ordination, and muscular control. They learn the basics of waltz, foxtrot, salsa and the structure of a North American line dance.  Dance Skills and movement culminate with a final evening social dance where students are able to practise their “moves”.

This course deeply integrates the work students have been doing throughout the year. Moving beyond the exercises of T3/T4 and honing their skills as “an actor who sings”, students explore the emotional and visceral world of the ‘words’ of their song. Students develop a deeper appreciation of the momentum of the words and the music as it applies to character, and prepare for an audition to determine the solos for T6 Cabaret. Coaching is provided by an accompanist and an instructor. Through this course, students continue to develop ease, confidence and trust in themselves as an “actor who sings”, readying them to take on more challenging stories.

Term 6 Course Descriptions

Our greatest film actors are able to portray characters so naturally, it seems as if we are in the film with them and they are not in front of a camera. Filmic naturalism is a pure acting class, preparing students for future work in front of the camera. Working in a professional rehearsal environment, students research their chosen character by employing a variety of modalities to immerse their imagination through a whole body, sensory approach.

This is a project based course that gives students the opportunity to apply the many skills they have been developing in their studies and training. Students perform a role in a professional-level film production under the direction of an experienced filmmaker, working in a professional manner on a studio set, and following all the protocols of an industry film production.  Over the course of this four-day studio shoot, students perform creatively within the pressure and technical environment of a studio film set. This film project is fully post-produced and presented on the big screen at the graduation ceremony.

Auditioning for guest star and lead roles in film and television demands a high level of creativity, personal work ethic and time management. Complex personalized multi-scene auditions with career making opportunities are fully explored, leading up to the presentation of a polished piece for a local Vancouver agent.  Each audition performed will be graded and discussed, focussing on refining the specific skills required to book the role and start a career outside the academic environment.

Taking the knowledge and experience from Term 5, students expand and improve their craft and mic technique, while utilizing their strengths to “find their voice”. Students are introduced to, and practise, Pre-lay and ADR for animation. The sound files created from these performances give students the basic material to develop a Demo Reel to share with potential Agents, Producers, and Casting Agents. Students discover the business aspect of Voice acting and how it differs from traditional acting: representation, networking, self-promotional materials, and financial opportunities. 

Talent agents often require a demonstration of acting ability prior to signing a new client. In Promo Reel, students create their own promotional reels which will be shot in an audition/screen test format in our film studio and will be used to promote themselves to agents upon graduating. Students gain an understanding of their marketability and enhance their audition skills. 

In this course, students are guided to approach the business as an entrepreneur ready to develop self-created work or artistic ventures in collaboration with partners. Students begin to understand the process of generating creative ‘start-ups’ and getting work out into the world to be recognized. Some of the topics we cover are: developing a website, navigating social media, pitching projects, accessing funding bodies, applying for grants, collaborating with the industry, promoting and producing independent theatre, also driving Film and TV projects.

For this on-camera scene study class, students seek out robust, challenging material to improve their rehearsal and performance skills in front of the lens. Instructor support, guide, and rigorously challenge students and their character choices. Some work is in front of a camera, in close up, as students apply all of the skills they have developed so far. Students prepare and deliver challenging film/tv scenes with a scene partner over the course of the term

As students enter the final term of their year at the Vancouver Film School, rehearsal labs are specifically focused on film projects and on Elective Experience Audience/Adjudication events: Movement, Embodied Voice: Song, or  Shakespeare. 

Elective Course Descriptions

To survive in a competitive market an actor needs to be versatile and able to create their own work.  The ability to harness ideas and collaborate with others to produce work that invigorates and challenges oneself within the ensemble sustains the career of the professional actor. The instructor/director will guide the ensemble through a series of workshops to create a strong storytelling experience for an audience, using skills and tools students have learned throughout the previous terms. Students are encouraged to use all modes of their creativity—musical talents, movement, set-building, costumes—to create personalized and distinct characters within the bigger story.

Students consolidate their journey in Embodied Voice by exploring how to become “the actor who sings”. They work with songs that challenge them as an actor and as a musician, applying the different exploratory processes that they have experienced vocally, physically, and emotionally. Working as a group, students take part in a choral song, developing their musical listening skills to create harmony. With the guidance of the instructor and the accompanist, students create a character and a storyline that weaves personal stories (songs) into an emotional journey for the audience. 

Over 900 hundred films have been made of Shakespeare’s plays. This makes William Shakespeare the most prolific screenwriter in history, and therefore a suitable subject for study in a Film Acting School. Building on the rhetorical skills acquired in Term 5, students learn how to apply argumentation in the formal manner of Shakespearian speech. They develop an understanding of poetic rhythm, wield a vast new Elizabethan vocabulary, and generally revel in the best words and highest stakes ever written by an actor, for actors. Here is a world of great villains, star-crossed lovers, fighters, and clowns, many of the same archetypes found in the best of current TV and film.