We are thrilled to announce our newest addition to the ArtsBridge Summer lineup: Screen Acting! After hearing our students express their passion and excitement for on-camera acting, we’re excited to unveil this immersive 4-day add-on experience leading up to ArtsBridge Summer 2-week programs.
Through a series of exercises and hands-on experience, students will build foundational screen acting skills. The program will culminate in the filming and screening of partnered scenes, allowing students to experience the entire process from rehearsal to professionally edited work.
Heading this extraordinary program is John Benitz, Professor in the Department of Theatre at Chapman University and founder of its highly acclaimed BFA Screen Acting program. We spoke with John to delve into his wealth of experience and get the inside scoop on what to expect from ArtsBridge Summer Screen Acting.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m a full professor at Chapman University, and I’ve taught screen acting for the last 20 or so years, as well as being the architect of our BFA in Screen Acting degree program. My undergraduate degree is from Sarah Lawrence College and my MFA is from Brandeis University. My professional background has been a hybrid of acting and directing for both film and theater, so I bring an understanding of what actors, who are primarily theater trained, need when they want to be competitive in film and TV.
What is screen acting?
Acting for the screen is a craft that appears deceptively simple, meaning lots of folks think they can do it well easily, yet it can be rather difficult to master due to the complexities and challenges of the medium. Acting for filmed media involves leaning heavier on techniques that allow the actor to satisfy the emotional needs of the scene in a very short time and to have the stamina to deliver repeatedly through the course of multiple takes, sometimes with line changes, while staying flexible to deliver the adjustments of the director who may be seeking variations of your performance. Along those lines, screen actors need to be nimble enough to switch emotional and physical textures fully and sometimes quickly from one scene to the next, since films are shot out of sequence.
Can you tell us about the new Screen Acting program at ArtsBridge Summer? What will the students be working on?
I approach screen acting from the point of view that it is not so much about “doing less”, as you sometimes hear but, in fact, doing as much or even more … but to a scale that is appropriate for the frame size one is being filmed in. And I utilize wherever possible the previous training the actor brings to the table, enhanced by clear and thoughtful script analysis along with various techniques to access emotion, followed by a healthy dose of “letting it go” and simply being in the moment the film asks for.
In the new ArtsBridge screen acting program we will explore various exercises chosen to give students practice in the needs of screen performance, followed by practical application of these techniques in filmed and edited scenes where the actor gets to see their choices up on the screen.
Will this kind of work be helpful for self-tapes and prescreens, too?
In my position as Program Director of our BFA Screen Acting degree, I have viewed thousands upon thousands of self-tapes and can offer tips on successful approaches to material choice along with the execution of the material.
If a student is looking into stage acting programs, will this program be helpful for them? Do you think students who are looking at stage acting programs consider screen acting programs as well?
Nearly any actor, whether their focus is on stage or screen, will benefit from practice in front of the camera.
At Chapman University, the primary, though not only, difference between our BFA in Screen Acting degree and BFA in Theatre Performance degree (a classical theater training program), are the courses such as: film directing vs. stage directing; editing vs. theater tech; film history vs. theater history, screenwriting vs. playwriting, etc…
I think students can do well in either type of program, yet I highly recommend our BFA in Screen Acting at Chapman University if you have interest in the filmmaking process and creating your own film projects because the training will empower you to do that, in addition to rigorous actor training.
What do you love most about teaching?
It is incredibly gratifying to witness a student have a breakthrough, or simply enjoy what is happening in the classroom. And that gratification extends out to when I see a former student having success in the industry. I feel so proud and happy for them.
Anything else you’d like to share?
There are no big secrets to what we do, really. Work hard at your craft, take thoughtful, calculated risks, be that actor that people want to work with, and hope for a bit of luck and be ready when “luck” presents itself. Easy, right?
July 15 – July 19, 2024
Open only to students who are attending a 2-week ArtsBridge Summer program. Open to students in any grade and discipline.
Limited to 10 students.