I have been trying to take part in this workshop with Ron Leach for years, but the dates have never worked out, or the workshop got cancelled. Which is why I was so excited to finally be able to learn from him last weekend!

I had the schedule for the weekend, and I saw we would be watching Shurtleff on Friday night, so I was ready. Having read Audition, and taken multiple workshops with Tom Todoroff, I know all my guideposts, in numerical order, and was fully prepared to list them off. I even reread Audition, so it would be fresh. This is not what happened.

It started off with him sharing stories while we waited for everyone to arrive. They were not only interesting because they shed a light on the life of a prominent Casting Director, they all incorporated some advice on what we could do to impress casting directors, improve our acting, and book some parts.

I take a lot of these workshops, here and wherever I go, but I know to take them with a grain of salt. Often, there is conflicting advice, so I take note of it all, in order to act accordingly when I encounter the Casting Director in an audition room. Sometimes you should bring props, other times you should mime, and other times you just drop the stage directions entirely. This time, I still didn’t take everything for granted, but I also learnt so much!

When Ron started listing what we should do as soon as we get our sides, I was expecting him to go through the guideposts. Instead, he taught us mapping. Which at first sounded kind of a bit much, but when I saw him do it, or put it into practice myself…I think it really brings life to a scene, especially in an audition, where it is just you in an empty room. It also helped me achieve things that I struggle with, like being flirtateous. You wouldn’t think so, but there is something about the eyelines that turned looking down into something coy and playful rather than shy and hiding myself. It adds a little mischief 😉

The movie, which was done by Ron, reiterated a lot of the stuff that is in the book, but it was also refreshing to hear the words by the person who wrote them, rather than just reading them. Not to mention the interviews with the people the stories are about.

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We had all been emailed some sides, so on Saturday, we each did our scenes, audition-style. It was kind of similar to the Tom Todoroff workshops, as far as the stop and go to work through the scene, but it was on camera, and without a scene partner, and it was for auditions rather than plays. I remember the first time I did this kind of a workshop, my main goal was to get through it without being stopped. If that was still my goal, then I passed. But time has made me wiser, and I understand that these workshops aren’t about going in and getting it right, they are about learning new things and improving yourself.

Ron worked with me through the mock audition, offering insights and playing up things I had considered, but wasn’t doing justice to. I was really thrown when I convinced myself I was forgetting a line, and got into a discussion with my reader instead of staying in character. I left feeling happy that I took all the adjustments and didn’t need a million takes, but also convinced that I could have done so much better. Isn’t that always the case?

Something I love about these workshops or even classes is that you get to learn so much from watching the other people do their work. It’s why I get to go home with pages and pages of knowledge on all kinds of different scenes and emotions when I only got the one.

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We had a second scene for Sunday, but this time it was actually scene work, that we would be doing in over the shoulder shots, with reverse. While on Saturday, he chose the order, on Sunday it was up to us, so we went first.

Now, I have this tendency to try to justify behaviors by finding the backstory that would perhaps lead me to making the same choices. Sometimes this is useful, because villains often don’t see themselves as villains, but I often use it too much, or go too far. I find ways to make myself vulnerable and justified, whereas sometimes we do manipulate people and we know exactly which buttons we are pushing to get what we want. That was one of my adjustments.

I was happy when he suggested ignoring the stage directions, because I was supposed to cry during a lot of the scene, but my heart kind of fell when he told me I actually had to bring the tears to manipulate her into doing what I wanted. I took every note he gave me, but I did not do that one justice. I can get teary eyed, but I still have trouble bringing the actual tears. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m also not exactly sure how to fix it.

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At the end, we each got personalized notes on our performance and things we should work on. He mentioned my tendency to drop my chin, which I didn’t know I did, until I watched the DVD. Definitely going to remember that from now on.

My other notes were amazing. He told me I have a great grasp of comedy. That my transitions were very good. And that I took notes immediately. He said any director in the room would be happy to work with me 🙂

Since we went first, I got to spend the rest of my day absorbing knowledge, filling in for one-liners and really enjoying the creative environment.  He gave us excellent parting advice, and some of the girls are actually going to drive to Toronto every week to be able to keep learning from him. He plans on coming back to Montreal in September, and if you haven’t taken his workshop yet, I definitely recommend that you sign up!

“We don’t see the work. We feel the results of it.”

-Ron Leach

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