Interview with Veteran Actor Michael Flynn (The Actors Workshop)

Michael_Flynn.jpgActing was Michael Flynn’s second choice. Playing second base for the NY Yankees was his first. He soon learned that the Yankees would never come calling – then came the acting bug. An active Mormon, Michael served his mission in France with Mitt Romney of all people!

It was a pleasure chatting with Michael about his acting career and his new job as an acting teacher.

Matthew Toffolo: Tell us about the The Actors Workshop

Michael Flynn: I started the Actors Workshop a few years ago because I enjoy working with actors. It was also my impression that a lot of actors with whom I was working we’re making some fundamental mistakes. Again, just my impression.

As I started working with actors I got a great deal of positive feedback. So I took my workshop to the next level and opened my own studio in Salt Lake City.

MT: What makes a great acting teacher?

MF: Wow. A great acting teacher? I think that is akin to asking what makes a great painter? A great teacher? Great singer?

I suppose, In my opinion, passion plays into it. Let me say upfront that I would never classify myself as a great acting teacher. I have my own methods. I am very passionate about the process. But I also believe that each actor should find his or her own mentor. His or her own teacher.

I don’t believe that there is one great acting teaching method out there. There are many methods that work for many actors. But through it all, I do believe that a great acting teacher needs to have passion for the process, have a great deal of appreciation and affection for the actors who join him or her in the studio.

MT: What should an actor look for in an acting teacher?

MF: Find a teacher or mentor who inspires them. Who is honest with them. Someone who understands the business on a profound level. Someone who can discuss agents, Unions, and someone who has a very specific approach to working with actors.

An actor should find a teacher who is willing to be brutally honest with him. I think one of the advantages of having an acting coach or mentor is that through the process of working with the coach an actor can determine if he or she is really cut out for this business.

It is important to remember that the entertainment business does not need you. It does not need me. Movies will be made regardless of any one person’s involvement. The movie business does not need us. It is doing just fine without us. Speaking on an individual basis of course.

So then the question becomes does the individual actor need the movie business? And is that particular actor qualified to work in the movie business? Does he or she have the talent to compete? A lot of these questions can be answered by finding the right acting teacher.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

MF: I must say that I don’t watch a lot of movies over and over again. I have of course seen quite a few films many, many times. I think the film that I most enjoy going back and watching again and again is William Goldman’s The Lion in Winter. I believe it came out in 1968. Starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. It is one of Anthony Hopkins earliest films. A brilliant script. Brilliant acting. Great story based somewhat loosely on history. O’Toole and Hepburn were up for Oscars. Hepburn won. Check it out.

MT: What has been your most favorite role that you have played?

MF: My favorite role. Well… I come from a stage background and I must say that my favorite roles have been on stage. I have been very fortunate to play some iconic rules in musical theater. Arthur in Camelot. John Adams in 1776. Harold Hill in The Music Man. Those are some of my favorites. In film, as I look back, the first film I did left an impression. Footloose. Enjoyed working with Kevin Bacon, but I especially loved working with the fabulous director Herb Ross. Funny story from Footloose. I played a cop and was accompanied by another cop in a scene where we pulled Bacon out of his VW Bug and gave him a bad time. The other cop, Russ McGinn, was about 6’ 7”. I’m only 5’ 8”. Herb kept getting our names mixed up. Finally started calling us by our correct name. During a break I saw two strips of white tape on the side of the camera. “Russ – tall”. “Michael – less tall”. I got a kick out of that.

MT: What type of role would you like to play that you haven’t played in yet?

MF: For some reason, that I cannot quite understand, I would like to play a general or commanding officer in a war film. I was scheduled to play the role of George Patton in a film. The film was put on hold and has never come to fruition. I loved the script and the story and character. That would’ve been a blast. Another role on my bucket list is to conduct a fabulous orchestra/choir.

MT: I direct screenplay table readings every single week and meet and work with over 300-400 actors every given year. I’ve learned a lot about actors and I feel that the great ones have learned how to stay in their lane. What I mean by that is any successful actor is good at doing one or two things and they keep doing the same roles over and over – but the camera lens, makeup, genre, and story tones just change. So it appears to the audience that they are doing something distinctly different, but in reality they are just staying in their lane. The ones who try to have too much range, eventually fail. Overall, would you agree or disagree with my assessment? Especially for young actors? Get better at what you’re really good at and stop trying to be/do something you’re not.

MF: Yes, for the most part I really agree with that. I’m a firm believer, and I teach this in my workshop, that every role we are asked to play is inside of us somewhere. So, we draw on our own personal experiences for any role that we are asked to play.

I also tell actors that they are going to be hired to be them. I look them square in the eyes and say you are going to be hired to be you. Not someone else. You simply need to find the character inside of you. And let the character out. Let that aspect of you come to the surface.

I remind actors that we have all said, after doing something that seemed completely out of character for us, that whatever you did that you did not like, whatever you did that seemed hurtful to someone, hurtful to yourself, whatever negative thing you did about which you are really embarrassed or sorry – you have to understand that that is you. We sometimes say after doing something really stupid or hurtful or mean “Wow that’s not me”. Actually, it is you. You did it. Nobody forced you to do it. You did it. It was your choice.

I love the word “choice”. I use it all the time when working with actors. I will often say make a different choice. But I think it’s important to understand that all of our choices come from within us. So yes, I believe that an actor should really understand his or her own talents. Who he or she really is. I like the quote of Ryan Gosling: “All my characters are me… I relate to these characters because aspects of their personality are like me. And I just turn up the part of myself that are them and turn down the parts that aren’t”.

MT: What advice do you have for an actor who has out grown their agent and must try to seek new representation?

MF: I recently switched agents. I had been with my previous agent for quite a long time. I was very good friends with my agent. But, I felt that I needed to be handled by someone else. So I went to an agency that I thought was more professional. One that would further my career. I would say if you feel like you have outgrown your agent just be honest about it. Be upfront about it. It would probably be helpful to have the confidence that you can actually get another agent before you leave your current agent; sort of like having another job lined up before you quit your current job.

MT: What advice do you have for an actor who is just starting out? Do as much work as you can no matter how low-budget or sketchy it seems?

MF: Sure, I tell actors go do a play. Go do a low budget independent film. Do a student film. Do whatever you can to hone your skills. But I also tell actors who are just starting out, make sure this is the business for you! Because this business is not for everybody.

And there are many, many talented actors who will never work in this business. For a variety of reasons. Maybe they don’t know how to audition. Maybe they’re really good but just not good enough. So when an actor is just starting out I always tell them the first thing you should figure out is if you like this business and does this business like you?

The entertainment field is like anything else. It looks different from the inside than it does from the outside. And once you jump in the pool and get a good look at it from the inside you may discover that it’s not really for you. And of course, it is better to find that out early on rather than later on.

MT: What is your secret to being a working actor for so many years?

MF: My secret? Persistence. I never gave up. And I am not saying in any way shape or form that I have realized all my dreams and aspirations in the entertainment field. No. There’re still many things I hope to accomplish. And I do not feel like I have had some sort of stellar career. I have managed to support myself and enjoy the bumpy, up-and-down ride.

It hasn’t always been easy. But, I think the real secret is you have to be passionate about it. And you flat out cannot give up. Some actors go into it with a ”backup plan”. My philosophy has always been that if you have a backup plan your backup plan will end up being your life. If there’s something on which you can fall back eventually you will fall back.

But if you don’t have a backup plan, if you just throw yourself in the deep end you have to learn to swim. And remember if you don’t have talent, if you don’t have the gift, the magic, the drive, you probably won’t make it in this business. And that’s okay. Like I said earlier, this business does not need you. It will do just fine without you. The real question is, do you need this business?


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Stunt Double Olga Wilhelmine (10 Cloverfield Lane)

Making her home in New Orleans, Olga Wilhelmine is a singer/songwriter turned actress turned stunt performer. Jumping out of planes brought her to her new career (see below). In the last year she has stunt doubled for actresses Haley Bennett and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in two of the most highly anticipated films of 2016.

For more info, go to her website:

olgaMatthew Toffolo: Are you an actress who also does stunts, or a stunt performer who also acts?

Olga Wilhelmine: I am an actress who does stunts, or I’d say it started out that way for sure. A lot of times depending on where camera is, you have to do your own stunts and this is of course also depending on what the stunt is, but it is certainly a big factor.

MT: You were the stunt double for Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the upcoming film 10 Cloverfield Lane. Tell us about your experiences working on that film? From complicated to simple tasks, what was your role as stunt double on the film?

OW: I was Mary’s stand-in, photo double and stunt double on 10 Cloverfield Lane so I was there every day with her on set. We filmed about 7 weeks in New Orleans mainly on a sound stage bunker set which was kept dark and lots of smoke, dust and special effects that add to the bunker feel. Being in the dark all day was a bit harrowing especially in the beginning and we really felt like we were in a bunker. As with all films I’ve experienced, waiting is the hardest part. There are so many factors that go into each camera shot and set up and those factors add up in time. Once camera rolls it goes fairly quickly, the set up is the longest part and the re-set after a take can also take time. Mary is a really wonderful and natural actress and very gracious. I actually learned a lot from her and she was brave and did a lot of the physical work herself because the camera was on her face. After a few takes it can wear you down, so she put up with a lot. There is a camera close up of her face in a gas mask which was a heavy and awkward camera rig set up she had to wear. I tested it out for the camera people several times and at one point and it on for an hour! It was heavy awkward and difficult to move with and certainly hurt after a while and she wore this rig too to film those scenes. I have so much respect to her and I did my best to help her wherever I could, which is part of what you do as a double.

MT: You also worked on the upcoming film “The Magnificent Seven”. How was working on that set and what stunts did you perform?

OW: I was doubling the actress Haley Bennett and had a shooting scene (imagine that in a western!). There was a lot of sitting and waiting on this film as it was filmed on location and lots of factors went into it; weather, horses, actors, background actors, camera set ups and resets…although I did meet quite a few people and spent time with some of the other actors. One day several of us had other auditions for other projects, so we used the downtime to help tape each other. That was fun actually!

MT: You’ve also done a lot of stand in work. What exactly does that job entail?

OW: A stand-in takes the place of the actor doing the camera set up and lighting. As I mentioned above that can take a long time depending on the shot and how many components there are. For example, you might have to remove a wall or two, re-dress the set, lay track for the dolly, light the scene and then rehearse the action or blocking with camera movements. I did a lot of this on 10 Cloverfield Lane and they also used me as a photo double, so they would roll camera and I’d do the take in Mary’s place. She was carrying the film entirely, so they used me to help with that as it is a lot of work for one person to do alone—it’s actually not possible without wearing the actor out. In some cases you may have several people fill in, but in this case is was just her and I handling the bulk of it.

When I first started out in film in New Orleans, I was hired to stand-in for Melissa Leo on Treme which was in incredible experience for several seasons. I learned a lot from her and learned a lot about lighting and cameras. Following that I had a tremendous experience standing in for several male actors on Django Unchained. It’s unusual to have females stand in for males, usually not done, but Quentin decided to have fun with Bob Richardson and hired me after I played violin for a party the production had one night. I wore men’s clothing and high heels in some cases, and we had a lot of fun laughing about that. Some of those set ups would take quite a long time but we had a blast, listening to music and plenty of joking around.

MT: How did you get into the stunt game? Did you take an extensive course(s)? How much time do you spend weekly working on your craft?

OW: This is something I recently wrote about for an article for Parachutist Magazine link here:

Through skydiving I got into stunt work as not many actresses jump out of planes, so it illustrates the ability to focus and perform under extreme pressure and that is impressive to people. There is of course a physical element to skydiving and you learn how to maneuver your body in the air and control your terminal speed, along with canopy piloting to reach the ground. Most people don’t know, is that skydiving is immensely psychological in that it all comes down to your mental headspace. The calmer you are, the better the dive, the more successful you are. One minute can become a very long time by slowing down your thoughts and streamlining your focus.

I met some stunt guys who upon discovering I was a skydiver, encouraged me to get into stunt work. Both stunts and jumping are continuous learning experience and I have gotten comfortable in the space of “not knowing what’s next” just going with it and trusting myself, that I will know what to do and I will be able to perform.

MT: What’s it like being a female in the “boys” club of the stunt performers on set?

OW: I grew up sort of a tom boy, so I was always around boys. I played plenty of sports and was on a ski team, but I was also a musician, composer, singer and writer and actress so I had a lot of other areas of talent and skill. I am quite comfortable around the guys, although now I’m all grown up and a bit more girlie, but I find they are easy going for the most part an easy to get a long with. I suppose one of the challenges is that is is hard to break into stunts and “the club” if you will, and so that can be difficult for women. But that seems to be the case in whatever business you get into, honestly. Don’t even get me started on the music business!!

MT: Have you had any minor or major injuries working as a stunt performer?

OW: Thankfully not (knock on wood). Bruises and scrapes and sore muscles though…

MT: What’s the biggest high risk stunt you’ve performed to date?

OW: I’d say jumping out of planes is my biggest high risk and I do that for fun! There are different kinds of stunts at different risk levels. Certain people are better at certain things than others and I very much respect people who do the things I cannot. For example, I know nothing about car crashes and car stunts. There are experts in that area and I would defer to them as it is a special skill.

MT: Do you have a stunt that you love to perform in a movie that you haven’t performed yet?

OW: I’d like to skydive in a movie!!

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

OW: Star Wars – A New Hope is my favorite and I’ve seen it a million times, it never gets old.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Stunt Performer/Actress Kayla Adams (Deadpool, Oblivion)

It was fun to chat with Kayla Adams, a definite artist on the rise. She gives us the insight on being a female stunt performer on Hollywood productions and moving to working as an actress (who can also do her own stunts!)

Go to and follow her on twitter @sugarKAYne

kayla_photo.jpgMatthew Toffolo: Oblivion was your first credited film? Quite the introduction: working on a large budget Hollywood film. How did you get initially hired to work on that film? How was the Tom Cruise experience?

Kayla Adams: Oblivion was my first experience on a feature film. I had booked commercials prior to Oblivion, but this was my first time working on a feature for the run of the show. I was like a sponge, soaking everything up. Initially I was hired as the Stunt Department Assistant which provided me with so much inside knowledge of the filmmaking process. As the project went on, the Stunt Coordinators, Robert Alonzo and Joe Box, knew I was very athletic and trained in acting so they threw me into a stunt performing spot that I was physically capable doing. It was a week in New Orleans in an old, leaky, basically condemned power plant. We had to shut down one day due to flooding! And that’s how I got my SAG card! Working with Tom is like being greatly inspired and challenged all at once. His level of dedication, professionalism and creativity is infectious and can only drive you to be the same. The film sets are some of the tightest run sets I’ve worked on, simply because efficiency is the only option when working with Tom. Outside of all the work, he’s truly a kind, welcoming man. Each time I’ve seen him since Oblivion he always welcomes me with a big hug and expresses genuine interest in you. I hope for the day to work on set as an actor with Tom.

PHOTO: Kayla with Tom Cruise, and Stunt Coordinator Robert Alonzo:


Matthew: How did you get into the stunt game? Did you take an extensive course(s)? How much time do you spend weekly working on your craft?

Kayla: I got into stunts through Oblivion. I grew up doing gymnastics, so strength and flexibility has been in my body since I was a kid. I didn’t pursue stunts as much as I pursued acting; However sometimes the universe gives you a path that you don’t plan for. I train in Martial Arts with Richard Alonzo who is a 3rd degree black belt and is an amazing teacher. Since my last stunt performing gig on Deadpool I have decided to pour my energies back into acting. Trying to excel in stunts and acting is nearly impossible as both crafts require a large amount time. That’s not to say I don’t stay physically fit and prepared for stunt roles, I just don’t actively pursue it as much anymore.

Matthew: As of this interview, the film “Deadpool” is out in theaters. The first blockbuster of 2016. How was that experience? Was it a hush-hush set?

Kayla: Deadpool. That was one heck of an experience. I am so grateful to be apart of that project. There was so many moments when I had to hold back laughter between the banter with TJ Miller and Ryan Reynolds characters. The bar fight scene where I played the waitress, Kelly, was one of those moments. TJ kept improving new lines and I was trying my hardest not to crack up each time. Working with the director, Tim Miller, and the writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, was an honour. They are so talented and dedicated to their work, yet stay so humble and make coming to work each day a pleasure.

Again, I worked on it for the run of the show so the amount of time and passion put into this film was huge. Being apart of the cast and crew for that many months developments a bond and comfortability that you just don’t get when you walk on as a day player. The set etiquette with privacy and keeping things quiet was similar to many big budget films I’ve worked on. However there was one particular paparazzi that continually followed us around snapping photos of Ryan in the red suit. But I hate to break it to the paps, it was most likely our stunt double in the same suit!

PHOTO: Kayla on set on Deadpool:


Matthew: You are also an actor (without the stunts). Is acting where you see your future in Hollywood?

Kayla:  I can say a line or two 😉 Yes acting is definitely where my future is. I just finished shooting a feature film called HEX where I play a character who is a super talented skydiver about to stumble into a stream of bad luck. Keep your eyes open for that project! Over the past few years, my passion and love for the craft and the business has really developed and become my main focus.

Matthew: What’s it like being a female in the “boys” club of the stunt performers on set?

Kayla: Haha…well… Speaking only for myself, I love it! I’m a bit of a tomboy myself so it can be fun hanging out with a bunch of guys all day. I think sometimes they are shocked when they hear me crack jokes with them, but in reality I’ve been very lucky to work with some of the best stunt performers in the business and they are all very respectful and kind hearted people. I am lucky to be apart of the boys club 🙂

Matthew: We are seeing a lot more female driven action/thriller films being produced in Hollywood. One would assume that is good for you because they obviously need female stunt performers. Is the future bright for female stunt performers like yourself?

Kayla: There’s a bright future for myself being the Female lead in these action thriller films! That would be my dream role. I love strong, badass female characters with heart. And the bonus is I could do most of my own stunts. Thats if the studio lets me 😉

Matthew: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

Kayla: It tends to vary depending on what I’m feeling at that time in my life. The movies I gravitate towards generally mirror something I’m going through or needing to see. Generally speaking, I love the film “It’s Complicated” with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

Matthew: “The Woods” is another film you worked on that is also coming out in 2016. Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect? What was your role on that film?

Kayla: The Woods was a super creepy set! They built the cabin inside a sound stage and it felt so real. The stunt coordinator, Loyd Bateman, called me in to double the lead actress. It was a sequence in the cabin and involved a lot of blood! I don’t think I can say much else, other than IT’S GOING TO BE SCARY!!

Matthew: Have you had any minor or major injuries working as a stunt performer?

Kayla: Thankfully no.

Matthew: What’s the biggest high risk stunt you’ve performed to date?

Kayla: Oddly enough, some of the smallest stunts can become high risk. Not to minimize the risk of any stunt at any level, but there is always a large amount of risk involved. I haven’t had to perform something where I felt it was out of my ability that could be deemed as “high risk.” I’ve been selective with that as acting is my main focus now and that plays a huge part when taking stunt jobs.

Matthew: Do you have a stunt that you love to perform in a movie that you haven’t performed yet?


PHOTO: Kayla performing Stunts on set:




Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Actor James Wallis (Shakespeare BASH’d)

I first met James Wallis 5 years ago when he performed at one of our Screenplay Festival events when we were working at the National Film Board of Canada. Right away you could tell he was an actor on the rise as he always served the story he was performing in while also bringing an original and unique take. That is something that is very rare to see in an actor.

I was happy to sit down with James as he’s preparing to play Hamlet at the Monarch Tavern in downtown Toronto, Canada from February 2-7 2016. Go to for more information.

James also serves as the Artistic Director for the successful theatre company Shakespeare BASH’d.

shakespeare_basdh Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you and your team to start the Shakespeare BASH’d company?

James Wallis: For me I was interested in doing Shakespeare’s plays very simply, with a bare bones approach to the work and making sure that the plays are accessible, fun, and clear. I also felt that I knew a ton of great actors who were not getting the opportunity to do great work with Shakespeare and I wanted to give them that chance.

It’s grown over the years, of course, but it’s always been about the work. The plays and the text and the actor. It’s a simple relationship that the stage highlights very well.

Matthew: You’re set to play HAMLET in your upcoming production. The who’s who of actors have performed the role. The list is too long to name. What makes you want to tackle this iconic role?

James: It’s a great chance, especially with the company that I have with me on this Hamlet. It’s a generous part, by that I mean it gives you a lot of text to experience and play with. He’s a hard character, of course, because of the depth of his emotional life but also because Shakespeare has made the character very ambiguous. He doesn’t give you a clear answer to any question, which is lovely and an amazing opportunity for any actor.

Matthew: How do you make your performance of HAMLET unique?

James: I’m striving for clarity. What is Hamlet saying? And what is he trying to do to the other characters in the play and/or the audience?

Also I don’t think that many short, stout, funny men have played Hamlet and I wonder why. At times, he’s very funny and at times he’s very emotional. Regardless, he’s working through everything. Trying to decide what to do. I don’t think he wants to hurt anyone but circumstances don’t allow him to be passive.

Matthew: What actor(s) would you love to perform with as you move forward in your career?

I would love to work with Graham Abbey or Jonathan Goad. I have admired their work for many years. They are fantastic Shakespeare actors. Also, I would love to work with Maev Beatty again, she’s amazing.

In a dream world, probably somebody like Gary Oldman or Ian McKellen.

Matthew: You’ve performed at our screenplay festival a few times and there was an exchange between the two of us way back in 2011 that I’ll always remember. You performed in a supporting role in a TV Pilot reading and the actor assigned to the lead role had a lot of trouble. It was a tough role and I was chatting with you, your agent, and the rest of the cast afterwards about it. I was in mid-sentence and all of a sudden you interrupted me and stated “I would of nailed that role without an issue!” I was taken aback because you weren’t arrogant or cocky about it, but just confident and so assured of your ability. I believed you right away. I told myself that I should keep an eye on this guy James Wallis. Do you remember this exchange? And as an actor what’s the difference between confidence and arrogance?

James: I don’t remember that specifically, but I wouldn’t put that past me ever to do that. I always say that as artists (whatever your discipline) you need a thick skin. As an actor, you are constantly rejected and that’s part of the business. You need that thick skin to know that you have the ability to do whatever is asked of you. That’s very important, emotionally, it will keep you rolling.

To me, confidence is knowing that you can do it. Arrogance is thinking you’re entitled to it. There’s a difference and it’s about what you bring to the table. You can be confident and collaborative. Arrogance is something about you and only you.

Matthew: What movie have you seen the most in your life?

James: That’s a tough one. Shawshank Redemption probably. Or Father of the Bride, the Steve Martin version. I love that freakin’ movie.

Matthew: What’s the key difference between working on stage to working on film/TV?

James: Theatre is more about the rehearsal period. Your building something very specific that needs to be alive every night. Film is more immediate and you need to be ready to go at the drop of a hat. Film is also more technical. Eye line, movement of head and such.

Of course, film is much smaller but with that comes a determined specificity.

Both are fun. I’ve done more theatre but film is always a treat.

Matthew: Do you have an acting mentor?

James: I love working with Ian Watson, he’s a Shakespeare teacher. He’s taught me a lot about everything to do with Shakespeare.

Matthew: Where did you grow up and why did you decide to become an actor?

James: I grew up in Newmarket. It started simply: I liked this girl who was in the musical, so I decided to join up to spend more time with her. From there I just fell in love with the theatre. I liked the people, I liked how hard the work was and I liked what theatre could accomplish.

Matthew: Besides acting, what else are you passionate about?

James: Theatre in general. I also am very interested in reading and non fiction books. Plus documentaries. I would love to do one one day. I also love and am very passionate about beer.

Matthew: What is the next Shakespeare role/play that you will tackle?

James: I’m going to be assistant directing Macbeth at the Stratford Festival this coming season, so that’s where I’m off to after Hamlet. Shakespeare BASH’d is also beginning our next season with our final production at the Toronto Fringe Festival at the Victory Café. We are doing The Comedy of Errors, which will be in July. I will have a small role in that but from there we have a lot of thoughts about what is next. I would say that I want to play Richard III at some point.

Matthew: What have you learned the most being an Artistic Director for your Theatre company?

James: It takes hard work and endless patience. You need to love what you do and know why you are doing it. Plus, you need people who will work hard with you. I have an amazing group of people who help me, especially my wife Julia, who works harder than I do.

Matthew: Where do you see your company growing in the next 5 years?

James: I hope to start doing plays from Shakespeare’s contemporaries. I would love to do repertory, with two plays by Shakespeare at once. I would also like to be doing Shakespeare in schools, teaching kids the possibilities of Shakespeare on stage..

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you and your team to start the Shakespeare BASH’d company?

James Wallis: For me I was interested in doing Shakespeare’s plays very simply, with a bare bones approach to the work and making sure that the plays are accessible, fun, and clear. I also felt that I knew a ton of great actors who were not getting the opportunity to do great work with Shakespeare and I wanted to give them that chance.

It’s grown over the years, of course, but it’s always been about the work. The plays and the text and the actor. It’s a simple relationship that the stage highlights very well.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Directing Actors. And Actors working with Directors. TIPS


Film Directing and being a Film Director

What Is A Film Director? How do you run an independent film casting call? How do you get the best out of the actors you’ve chosen to bring your film to life?

Whether you’re running your first independent film casting call or into your millionth day of shooting, you may find some useful ideas here. Below, we investigate some of the techniques you can use and pitfalls you may face in casting and directing actors. A good resource for actors as well as directors!

We’ll be posting more articles all the time, so make sure you come back and check every now and then.

What is a film director? More than anything, the person responsible for bringing together the technical aspects of capturing performances with the actors who will bring a story to life. One of the most important aspects of a director’s job is to have a rapport with the actors, and it’s not any easy thing.

INSECURITY is the evil heart of a bad performance.

You need the actor to feel SAFE and COMFORTABLE in the creative process. They need to be relaxed.

Ask the actors to do something, not be something.

The presence of a camera should never change people, it only changes the aspect or degree of a person’s response.

The main job is to prepare the ground for inspiration. You can’t decide to be inspired. If you try it, it only creates tension, taking you farther and farther away.

The DIRECTOR is the viewer and the ACTOR is the viewed.

Let the actors help out with blocking. It solves all kinds of problems.

Actor and Director must respect each others creative territory.

Adjusts your beliefs about a character if the actor sees something different.

– Not to give up until you get the performance
– To make sure it’s the best take before moving on
– Must have confidence that you understand the script
– Need clear, brief, playable direction
– They want to be pushed to grow and learn

LISTEN to the actors and hear what they have to say.

Actors need insight, in language that is experiential, not descriptive. Adjectives are generalizations. USE VERBS Actions speak louder than words.

Verbs describe what someone is doing. They describe experiences rather a conclusion about experience.

To believe
To fear
To accuse
To confront
To convince
To beg
To complain
To punish
To tease
To soothe

VERBS are also important to the basic understanding of a character

Acting should be a performance of the simple physical actions that tell the story.

Movies are made out of very simple ideas – A good actor will perform each small piece as completely and as efficiently as possible.

All good work requires self-revelation. The talent of acting is one in which the actors thoughts and feelings are instantly communicated to the audience. The instrument the actor is using is himself.


CONFIDENCE is an important element in an actor’s performance

-What stimulates them?
-What triggers their emotion?
-What annoys them?
-How’s their concentration?
-Do they have a technique?
-What method of acting do they use?

An actor’s personality always comes out in their performance.

Tell them to go as far as they feel. Never be negative.

MOVMENT OF THE ACTOR You can always tell if an actor is truly in character by looking at his or her feet.

Actors need to have a GOOD EAR

Sometimes they need to just speak and try not to hit the furniture.

They need to trust the script, and you have to guide them if they want to stray from it. Unless they have an absolutely brilliant idea that serves the story BETTER than the original script, they should stick with the words as written. It’s tempting for actors to add or subtract words. That’s seldom a good idea.

Most actors need to know the technology that is around them.
-Where is the camera?
How are they being framed – close up, mid-shot, long shot?


Acting is not pretending, is not faking something. It’s honesty. A director’s job is to recognize that and facillitate it.

For an artist there are two worlds the social realm, where we live and work day to day and the creative realm.

To enter the creative realm one must be free of the social realm, uncensored in the moment, away from concerns with result, following impulses, obeying only the deepest and most private truths.

An actor can’t lose trust in the process. As an actor, you need to:
1) Stay in the moment
2) Feel your feelings
3) Don’t move or speak unless you feel like it
4) Forgive yourself for your mistakes
5) Connect to the deepest and freshest meaning of the script
6) Turning themselves on and capturing their imagination
7) Connect with emotional honesty and get to the places they need to go

The best moments usually come from mistakes!

The scene is the event the words are the clues

Eye contact is very helpful to listening

Choices create behavior. The behavior dictates the way the lines are said

Discover what is person’s great need in life.
Michael Corlene To please his father
Andrew Dufrane To get out of prison
Every choice actors make about their character relates to their spine

How does my character see the world?


MEMORY (Personal Experience)
– Each individual is essentially unknown to all others
– Actors allowing their memory to occur physically 5 senses rather than intellectually


– Know the character
– Know their history and back story
– Know their habits and mannerisms, physical and spoken


– Energy and confidence to pull off a performance and scene

– What they observe through their senses

– Performances are usually more successful when actors play against whatever feeling they have

– Camera technique
– hitting marks
– not blinking
– ability to repeat successful performances and built on successes
– able to alter what’s not working
– Finding the subworld of behavior and feeling in the script
– Understanding the whole arc of the story to know how to play the scene

As a DIRECTOR you must stop JUDGING and begin to engage

Actors should remember that characters are real people. They don’t always tell the truth. They don’t always know the truth.

Certain questions an actor should ask about every character?
1) What is this person smart about?
2) What does this character find funny?
3) Where is his pain?
4) How does he play?
5) In what way is he an artist?
6) What does he most fear?
7) What profession has he chosen or does he aspire to?
8) What does he look up to?
9) Whom does he look up to?
10) What is the biggest thing that has ever happened to him?
11) How does this character differ at the end of the story from the beginning?


1) Actor’s ability
2) Whether he/she is right for the part
3) Whether you can work well together
4) Casting the relationship as well as the roles

1) Ideas of what the film is about, what it means to you personally
2) Spines and transformations of all the characters
3) For each particular scene, its facts, its images, the question is raises
4) What the scene is about, its emotional event and how the scene fits in the arc of the script
5) Candidates for each character’s objective
6) The beats of the scenes, how you might work each beat
7) The scene’s physical life and its domestic event
8) Research you have done and research you have left to do
9) Your plan of attack
10) Blocking diagram

No matter how small the role is, the actor should read the entire script several times. They need to be aware of the function the author intends for the character in terms of overall storyline.

REMEMBER: The actor is playing someone with a HISTORY, not a FUTURE

1) Extras
2) Non-professional performers
3) Trained Professionals
4) Stars

Know the skills and potentials of the actors you’re working with, and frame your suggestions according to their level of experience. What is a film director? Someone with the ability to help all actors grow. A good film director is someone who knows the power they have on set and uses it to guide a film to the best possible completion.


Matthew Toffolo loves actors to:
1) Arrive on set with their business planned and rehearsed and knowing their lines
2) Add extra ideas and business to the shoot, understanding what is possible and not
3) Do the same business on the same syllable of a speech in every take
4) Automatically ease themselves into the right position so that they fill the screen. Their two-shot is maintained or they come to a perfect three-shot
5) Understand the craft of screen acting and make additions and suggestions within the framework or what is possibly both technically and in the time available


Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information.

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