By Gage Picotte (B.F.A. Theatre ’21)

On Saturday, February 2, the Divisions of Theatre and Film & Media Arts collaborated in an interdisciplinary workshop in the Kathy Bates Studio.

Theatre Chair Gretchen Smith, Assistant Professor of Theatre Kara-Lynn Vaeni and Professor of Practice in Film Lorena Padilla simultaneously guided the students through exercises about acting for the camera and directing actors. The central concept the faculty wanted students to embrace was to focus on the process and not the product of the work, and to actively collaborate with each other. To begin, pairs of acting students were assigned to a film directing student and given a short film scene to prepare and rehearse in 30 minutes. Then, each group got 20 minutes’ filming time with the camera. After each scene was filmed, actors and directors received critiques and feedback from their faculty.

As a film professor, Padilla mainly works with actors already in the field. When asked how it was working with student actors, she said, “I found it really refreshing working with actors in training. They were really interested in collaboration, and for me, that’s the most important thing about directing a piece, when you find the right people to work with. I was very happy that our student directors had the opportunity to work with actors in training, because they are directors in training too. If they learn how to talk to actors from the beginning, hopefully they won’t get contaminated by the toxic behavior that some people in the industry show toward actors, like not rehearsing enough, not talking to actors after each shot, being more focused on the technical aspects of the scene rather than looking at the actors’ performance, etc. I felt these actors wanted to explore, and I felt that most of our directors wanted that, too. If we – actors and directors – start working together from the beginning of our careers, both fields would benefit tremendously.”

This is the first time the theatre and film divisions have collaborated in this kind of workshop. One of the theatre students, Lauren Floyd (B.F.A. ’20), had this to say: “The collaboration between the theatre and film departments is long overdue. We should be using our time at SMU to learn from each other, but film and theatre artists communicate using different languages. There has been a gap in understanding how to work together, but this workshop is a huge step toward bridging that. Getting to really collaborate with a film director, understand what their directions mean, and adjust to their needs on the spot in front of a camera was invaluable. The workshop was fun, open, and re-created a real film set on a digestible scale. Plus, after only four hours, we got real footage of ourselves to watch and improve from! If we want to have more opportunities as artists, we need to understand both mediums. This collaboration is absolutely vital for our future careers in both departments.”