Last year we had the opportunity for some of our actors to partake in a heavily discounted acting workshop with Aotearoa’s top screen acting coach Miranda Harcourt, thanks to Dolphin Theatre. Actors: Forest Denize, Andrew Norman, Rachel Reid, Vicky Cairns, and myself participated and were enlightened by Miranda’s simplistic, yet hugely effective methodologies for presence on screen. She broke down into six simple ideas, a basis for her methodology: Connection, White Space, Internal Landscape, Vista & Objects, Journey, and ‘Unselfconsciouness’. She provided reference materials from Japanese art, cinema clips, examples from nature, photography, breath work, basic human connection, and practical onscreen work with the participants. Much of the work for the day was focussed on working with a scene partner. This included establishing a rapport with someone you’re working with (be it a scene partner, a reader for an audition, or even adapted to basic life skills!) – through a variety of simple stages progressing from a wave to a handshake, to a hug, and an intimate moment of drawing in breath together – and inhalation nose-to-nose with a partner, and then an exhalation.
In the practical onscreen work, Miranda focussed on the idea of ‘The White Space’. She had a few analogies for this, but the most memorable for me was the idea of old Japanese Master’s paintings on screens. The works have barely any ink on them, and surrounding the images is a lot of blank area or ‘white space’. She talked about how if the white space didn’t exist, the picture would be solid black, and lose our attention fairly quickly. Like with the paintings, writers use white space (be it consciously or subconsciously) to help tell a story, and well-skilled actors use this metaphorical space to help communicate a thought, a process, or a feeling a character may be going through. Witnessing this in action showed how there’s a huge tendency to give everything at once as an actor; but the real power comes in following the breath, and allowing it (and the white space) to inform the presence and state of mind for the character and is a whole lot more engaging to watch as an audience member.
This workshop was incredible, and gave invaluable insight to a world-class professional’s method. At the end of the class, Miranda asked us what agents were with and as both actor on HA’s books, and Live Events manager, I was stoked to hear her say she felt Human has a reputation of providing actors and performers who have great artistry, and a certain magnetic artistic flair beyond the commercial realm.
Miranda teaches at TAP, Toi Whakaari, and works nationally & internationally as a screen coach and actress on productions such as: Lion, The Changeover, The Lovely Bones, Bridge To Terabithia and many more. She has a YouTube series on her acting methodologies which we HIGHLY recommend here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCocFjkw0Eqke0UtTML_CW3g