Study Exchange: LA & AADA

After months of planning, worry, and anticipation, it’s finally here – study exchange. Over the next 5-6 months, I’ll be traveling around the US and Canada whilst studying at Concordia University in Montreal. First stop… LA!

My journey began at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles, where I completed a two-week camera acting intensive. Here I learnt the art of auditioning, sitcom acting, commercial acting, and the ins and outs of performing on camera. The school is internationally renowned and boasts some impressive alumni, including Anne Hathaway, Danny DeVito, Paul Rudd, and Adam Scott. The teachers were encouraging, personable, and have a wealth of experience in the industry. My peers had come from all walks of life but we found commonality in our love of acting and the sharp sense of humour and fun that film and television has given us all.

The course was Monday to Friday with at least four hours of class time each day. The majority of those in my group (or “section” as it was known as) had already been there for five weeks as part of the seven-week program, and had formed close friendships with one another. The camaraderie was noticeable from the very beginning with plenty of light-hearted banter and inside jokes being thrown around the classroom. While this can be a daunting environment for any newcomer to walk into, the generous and affable nature of everyone in the class helped create a safe place for expression and participation regardless of ability, something that as an anxious introvert and a novice actor I was incredibly grateful for. It didn’t take long for us “two-weekers” to slot straight into the group.

When it came to acting, I didn’t know what to expect from myself. I have done acting classes before and I have been happy with how I performed in them, however this felt different. This felt like it was on a whole other level. I knew that I would be surrounded by industry veterans and students with far more acting experience and talent than myself, and I had originally been concerned that this would overwhelm me and that my inexperience would stick out like a sore thumb. Thankfully, despite their talents, everyone was humble and respected each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and showed a level of encouragement and support that I had never experienced before. This enabled me to quickly shake off my insecurities and give each moment in front of the camera everything I had without fear of ridicule. I played a stuntman who couldn’t say “whiskey”; a boy who struggled with mental illness; a camp airline agent; a camp blind date setter-upperer; a creepy kid with a crush; a cynical university student; an unlucky-in-love imbecile; and a criminal who felt strongly about tipping waitresses. I expressed my flamboyance, my humour, and my sensitivity in front of the camera and in front of people I had only just met, and I did so without feeling the need to impress. Whether I was good or bad is inconsequential, I still felt an invigorating sense of freedom either way.

My AADA section (a few were absent for the photo)

When I wasn’t in front of the camera, I had the enjoy of watching everyone else perform and develop over the course of the two weeks. There was a girl from Georgia who was brilliantly diverse and unpredictable; a guy, also from Georgia, who was hilariously skilled at playing a sassy bitch; a girl from Argentina who made everyone’s heart melt each time she got on camera; a girl from California who had an enviable natural screen presence; a girl from Arizona who shone in both dramatic and comedic scenes; a guy from Portugal who was capable of displaying heartbreaking vulnerability; another guy from Georgia who exuded warmth and charm; a girl from Oregon who was already good enough to be a regular on a sitcom; a guy from New Mexico who excelled at improv comedy; a guy from Sweden who made everyone cry tears of laughter each time he performed; a girl from Sydney who had a wonderfully unique take on every scene she performed; and a guy from England whose sense of humour and infectious smile livened up every scene. They were truly a remarkable group of people.

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View of LA from Griffith Observatory

During the times outside the classroom, I took the opportunity to explore the weirdness and grit of LA. I navigated Hollywood; went to Universal Studios; ate at popular American franchises like iHOP (enjoyable), Arby’s (reasonable), and Hot N Juicy Crawfish (terrible); checked out the Griffith Observatory (as seen in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’); and on one occasion went to a party in Beverly Hills. The city is loud, dirty, and bizarre which is initially confronting and just slightly terrifying but makes for a memorable experience. Thankfully I was not alone and did all this with many of my classmates, my surrogate family of roommates, and other friends that I made at the Academy. Without these people I think LA would have chewed me up and spat me out.

Now that my time in LA and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts has come to an end, I must goodbye to all the friends I made there. Thanks to social media, mobile phones, and airplanes, it’s not goodbye forever but it’s goodbye all the same. Next stop Vancouver!

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