TV

Acting Class, Ohana Style: Sherilyn Robertson Teaches More than the Basics

Hawaii Five-O, LOST, The Descendants, Fifty First Dates, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are just a few movies filmed in Hawaii. Sherilyn Robertson of the Film Actor's Studio teaches ohana (family) to help actors cope in an increasingly competitive industry.

Hawaii-born, Los Angeles-trained actor Sherilyn Robertson understands the need for both talent and drive in order to be successful in the acting profession. She also recognizes the importance of being supportive of others, no matter where they are on the career ladder, a lesson learned first-hand by working with Paul McCartney. One of her favorite memories (so far) as an actor is of making a Visa commercial with the music legend. She remembers the former Beatle as “so sharp and fun to work with.”

Back home in Oahu at the Film Actor’s Studio, she passes on "the knowledge I have been given, inspiring creativity in both children and adults. There is too much focus on math, science, and politics these days in our country and less on the arts. I choose to contribute to the world creatively.” For Robertson, an important part of the curriculum involves building a sense of community among students of all ages and to help them “unleash new potential for personal growth and self-expression.”

Robertson, who has worked in theater, film, and television, has been a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) member for more than a decade. “Gremlins 2, with the fantastic Joe Dante, was my first speaking role,” she recalls. A high point on that movie occurred when “the gremlins were attacking a broken elevator in the Trump Towers and sliming Kate" (Phoebe Cates). Working with "that kind of action and the wild gremlin puppets” was thrilling. From this intriguing beginning, she has sought roles to stretch her as an actor. A recent “challenging and exciting” role in an upcoming film is playing Sable, “both a prostitute and an unfit mother.” Back in hometown Honolulu, Robertson references these and other on-the-set jobs as she helps her students prepare for their careers.

“I'm able to pass on personal experience and knowledge from my mentors, which give up-and-coming actors assurances of what to expect in the industry. Because she “was a professional as a child and has since worked behind as well as in front of the camera, Robertson is confident that “I understand what it's like to be out there studying the craft very seriously, preparing for auditions, [learning] the business side of acting, and doing plays, showcases, and on-set work.”

She also has seen the acting profession change a great deal in the past decade. A significant trend is the “swiftness of casting. It's just wonderful what the internet has done for this industry. Casting directors receive head shots and resumes in the blink of an eye, actors can upload reels, and directors can click on an actor's demos.”

Greater accessibility to an actor’s work, however, can also have an important downside for the unaware, because “actors often too readily place their film work on YouTube and showcase themselves in a poor light.” Therefore, when Robertson presents her "business of acting" seminars to her students, she emphasizes “the importance of getting feedback from industry mentors” so they can improve their performances and present casting agents or directors with the best online samples of their work.

Reality shows are another factor that can hamper especially a novice actor’s ability to find work on television. Robertson complains that “reality shows have stolen air time from strong television dramas [and] sit-coms. Many actors have seen their opportunities wither. I look forward to the masses getting burned out on the manipulated ‘real people’ programs and become satiated with high-quality acting on television again.”

To prepare for that day, Robertson’s students start with learning the basics and build their skills on a firm foundation, an approach that not all acting teachers take. “Beginning actors... often think they do not need to study and practice different exercises to help bring out genuine behavior and reactions from moment to moment within a scene. Instead they go straight to scene study classes that, I admit, can definitely be more fun. But once actors develop the foundation and the ability to operate with self-sufficiency, then they are able to understand and make use of these wonderful techniques and [can] advance to scene study work.”

This acting teacher believes it is crucial for students to “work on emotion and build subtext based on the truth of the action and on the other characters around them, rather than simply playing the action or playing the emotion.” Finding the truth in a scene and being able to convey honest emotion help new actors to work more effectively with cast mates. “We also work on sense memory, improvisation, on-camera work, and TV commercials. I do not believe in just one technique.” The beginning class provides instruction and practice on everything from overcoming fear in acting in front of others, to audition techniques, to blocking a scene, to working on set.

Surprisingly, Robertson encourages budding thespians of all ages to take a class, even if they do not envision having a professional acting career. She believes that creativity can help shape anyone’s life and emphasizes that, especially as adults age, “the mental and emotional stretch [of acting] keeps them flexible, curious, and growing, rather than being stuck in a particular pattern of response.” Older adults also discover that they “can let the social masks fall away. The older you grow, the less you have to pretend you're somebody you're not.”

A good example is a senior who never “really expressed anger much. It was hard and threatening for him.” To help him act out this emotion, “we really pulled apart a challenging monologue” that allowed this student actor to work “on repetition and sense memory exercises. He had a complete breakthrough, which gave him a solid performance for a show we did as well as another resource in his life for expressing anger.”

Sherilyn Robertson

Robertson hopes to share her knowledge of acting, as well as her philosophy for personal growth and creative living, with students on other islands within the next five years. She would like to “expand the size and frequency of classes, as well as teach personal growth workshops and expand her movie-making comedy clinics."

Despite living in a tropical paradise, Robertson’s methods are far from laid back, and she expects her students to be highly disciplined. Her enthusiasm for the acting profession is only matched by her interest in seeing her students implement what they learn in workshops into their professional and personal lives. “I love the students. They inspire me, and I hope to inspire them,” she explains. “It’s one feel-good ohana here.”

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image