written by: Cody Collier on November 26th, 2014.
There are numerous acting classes in Los Angeles that provide outlets for performers, but it seems as if there is only one that is specifically designed to give actors the necessary training for grabbing parts in Hollywood A-Picture films and that is the Screen Actors System. The system is helmed by director and cinematographer Ryan R. Williamswho bases his teachings in simplicity and his view from working behind the camera.
Rarely will one find an acting coach that is coming from Williams’ point of view. A number of said coaches will be either working or former actors, themselves, teaching new actors their version of a craft. It is believed that this is not the most practical way for a Hollywood film actor to be taught, as much of that type of (often theatrical) craft does not translate well to the final product on camera. The Screen Actors System is designed specifically to give film performers the outlet needed to truly perform in front of a camera and brings to light many nuances that remain untold in the world of acting for film.
A Gold Remi Award Winner and recent winner of Backstage Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best On-Camera Acting Teacher in Los Angeles, Williams not only provides necessary techniques in class for his students, he also will take them out on location once a month to shoot high-quality 4K footage of material that the actors construct themselves. His reasoning for this is to give the performers experience in front of the camera and on set so they are that much more prepared come time they acquire a role in a Hollywood film or TV show.
Although the Screen Actors System is still very new, Williams’ actors have proven to show a great amount of success in the entertainment industry already. Joe Fidler recently wrapped his supporting role in London, England on the upcoming action-packed feature Criminal starring Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds and Tommy Lee Jones. Another student of the system, Jes Selane, was featured as a principal role in a recent Sprint commercial campaign that was aired nationwide. Yet another student, actress Ramona Radnor has also been hard at work in Hollywood as she will be playing a featured role alongside Robert Pattinson and Dane DeHaan in a James Dean biopic called Life next year and is currently working on the hit CBS show Scorpion.
A great amount of performers from the Screen Actors System have been taking Hollywood by storm in addition to the aforementioned individuals. Quite a few more will be seen in an upcoming feature film that is being directed by Williams himself and will feature a cast coming solely from the talent pool held at the Screen Actors System. The film will be marketed and distributed as an independent feature, aiming to gain theatrical release and to compete in numerous festivals around the world. The synopsis of the film is currently unknown other than it will be an L.A. based crime/action dramedy.
Through training with the Screen Actors System, it is believed that an actor can obtain the necessities for starring in a Hollywood A-Picture. From the evident success the system has produced in such a short amount of time, it looks as if that theory is correct.
Readers’ Choice: Ryan R. Williams 4-Hour Class Will Make You Camera-Ready
By Jack Smart | Posted Sept. 8, 2014, noon
Ryan R. Williams’ approach to on-camera acting is radical in its simplicity. “I come at acting from a very practical, real-world position,” says the director-cinematographer, who was asked three years ago to teach a conservatory for the Screen Actors Guild while shooting a feature film. Intimidated and uncertain, Williams made a decision that would lead to the creation of his now-popular classes: “I just brought in the camera we were using to film the movie and decided to talk about the things that bother me about actors.”
Those two elements—using a legitimate movie camera and identifying actors’ bad habits—became the foundation for theScreen Actors System, Williams’ four-hour classes geared toward preparing both new and experienced L.A. actors for superstardom. The cinematic prime lenses and professional sound equipment are there to “simulate the production experience precisely as a production experience,” says Williams, while the training comes down to eliminating behaviors that detract from performance: “inconsistent points of focus…unavailable eyes, shifting the weight on the feet back and forth, ‘bobblehead,’ hand gestures that disrupt a close-up…” The list goes on and on.
“Most movie stars developed their craft over a period of years,” explains Williams. “George Clooney was mastering the camera while he was on ‘The Facts of Life,’ so that by the time he got to ‘ER,’ he was better. But also for the first five seasons of ‘ER,’ [he] was very shifty. He bobbed his head a lot. And then finally, as you start to get into his feature film work, [he] is like a mannequin on roller skates. He’s basically not blinking, not moving—just very specific, precise communication. I don’t think it necessarily has to take someone 15 years to get to that point!”
In addition to providing actors all-important reel footage, the Screen Actors System has a distinct focus on the business of self-promotion. By teaching the art of the elevator pitch and encouraging students to crash industry events—“Show up with cupcakes and a smile!”—Williams stresses the importance of forging emotional connections with casting directors and agents. “Then people will start to believe in your dreams and they’ll pull you toward them instead of you trying to push your way in,” he says.
Helping future stars catch their big break is so fundamental to Williams’ mission, it’s no wonder he’s the top choice among Backstage readers. Ultimately he just wants actors to succeed: “Most people wait the first two years in L.A. just figuring out the freeway system and trying to find a restaurant job they like. Forget that!”