Claudia Jurt, Owner and Head Instructor, founded A.C.T. (Acting for Cinema & Television) in 2001. She has trained as an actor and teacher for over 20 years in cities all over the world, including, L.A., New York, London, Zurich, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, her hometown of Ottawa, and more. Claudia has worked in various aspects of film, television and stage, not only as an actor, but also as a director, producer, and as the owner to the original Ottawa casting company, Ottawa Casting. Claudia also teaches thru The Intensive Actors Lab studios in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
- WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ACTING TEACHER/COACH?
Excellent question. I think I’ve been a teacher since age 5 when I used to give ‘lessons’ to my younger brother in our toy room. As I got older, it was always my dream to one day open an acting school – I distinctly remember a conversation with my roomie in first year of University. Fast forward to taking part in an acting for the camera class at ACTRA. It was there that our instructor gave us the reigns to direct our fellow actors in the class. Something struck me the first moment I gave notes to an actor. It was an innate feeling. Somehow I just knew what they needed to be more true. I was so excited by literally every aspect of the film and television industry that later on I started a talent agency. That’s where my coaching began. I was so eager for the actors to do well, that I coached them for each audition. One of the mom’s kept asking me to teach a workshop and wanted to spread the word to all her friends to join. At this point I was uncertain as to how to set something up so I partnered with a professional actor and together we flew in a casting director from Vancouver to help us put together a formula for our very first workshop. Since then, I’ve had the fortune of teaching a multitude of amazing students, many of whom went on to successful careers in film & television. What I believe made and continues to make my studios successful is my absolute love and passion for acting, helping others share their talent and my own ongoing training and work as an actor.
- WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ANYONE AT THE BEGINNING OF THEIR CAREER?
Know that you have talent. Don’t ask for someone else to tell you that you have it before you consider doing something about it. Believe in yourself over and over, especially in the face of rejection. If you love acting, you will love it for life, whether you admit it and do something about it or not. Talent alone isn’t everything. A coach once told me that the more talented you are, the harder you have to work. The thing that keeps an artist going is the investigation of this beautiful art form. Study. Train. Work hard. Be humble. Have a sense of humour. Be willing to fall on your face and get right back up again. Give your whole heart, get rejected and give your whole heart again. Don’t wait to get ‘discovered’. Put the work in. Create your own work. Mastering the art of acting warrants and deserves the same respect, time and discipline as any sport or musical instrument. Most importantly, always, always LOVE WHAT YOU DO.
- HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR TALENT TO HAVE A DEMO-REEL?
A demo reel that consists of professional film & tv scenes is great for established actors to book work without having to audition. New actors may put a reel of pre-written scenes together to help land an agent, perhaps even for an agent to pitch a new client to a casting director. Just be absolutely sure the acting is solid and the sound/video quality decent. If you’re not sure, ask an industry professional.
- WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THAT PERFORMERS MAKE WHEN AUDITIONING?
I’ll answer this from my own experience as an actor. Sometimes I feel so in love with a role that I get anxious about it. When anxious, I am not free or focused on the task at hand: preparation. Instead, I start fantasizing about what it will be like on set, the financial windfall and what this role will do for my career, rather than: we have lines to learn, a character to build, an audition to prep (the things within my control). Going in to the audition room with the same ease that I walk into the local grocery store (on a good day) is key. Relaxation always wins. Tension does not. Take the preciousness out of it and break a leg!
- ARE THERE TIPS THAT YOU GIVE TO STUDENTS TO HELP THEM STAND OUT IN THEIR AUDITIONS?
Where do I begin?
Preparation, preparation, preparation. KNOW YOUR LINES. When you’re not in your head about lines, it gives you room to play.
Make choices that reflect YOU in the character. Imagine that the words are your own.
Breathe. Have FUN! If you’re not breathing, you can’t possibly have fun or be free and relaxed. When in doubt, do less. Less is often where all the good stuff gets captured on screen. It’s risky to do little, to let go of the control and to just exist, but so so interesting to watch!
- WHEN PLAYING A NEW CHARACTER, WHAT ARE TWO QUESTIONS A PERFORMER SHOULD ASK TO UNDERSTAND HOW BEST TO PLAY IT?
What parts of this character are just like me?
What scares me about this character, why?
- WHAT IS A BIG MISCONCEPTION THAT THEATRE PERFORMERS HAVE ABOUT FILM ACTING AND VICE VERSA?
I’m not sure how to answer that as there are so many different styles of acting for the stage and screen also. I think that bringing truth to the work is the same across the board. I’ve seen some great theater in New York City, where the storytelling and acting is so real that it’s cinematic.
Being ‘still’ on screen doesn’t mean being devoid of feeling. Being full of life on stage, doesn’t mean wild gesturing. The most beautiful acting is when an actor stands vibrating in his/her stillness.
- WHAT ARE TWO CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH BEING AN ACTING TEACHER/COACH?
It’s important for an actor to realize that as the coach I am there to help them on their journey, but ultimately each actor is his/her own, unique artist and no-one knows what that looks like better than they do. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find the perfect balance in collaborating with a student. Meaning that, either they want to lean on the teacher for everything or on the other hand already ‘know’ everything. Acting is nothing short of a collaborative art form. The ability to be flexible, to listen and to take direction is paramount.
- WHAT CAN CANADA’S ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY DO DIFFERENTLY IN ORDER TO GROW?
Stop perpetuating the need for women to be stick-thin in order to be ‘cast-able’. I worked as a casting director for approximately a decade and the things I heard from producers’ mouths was derailing. I personally dieted myself to a size zero and was praised for it by a producer who went on to complain about the lead of her current film who was ‘fat’. Anorexic is NOT FAT I thought. At the time I was too young and afraid to voice my opinion.
As a whole, the Canadian entertainment industry could take a stronger stand for inclusion of our talent in lead/supporting roles, especially in foreign productions coming to film here.
- WE ALL HAVE MENTORS. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO GIVE US THE HOPE, INSPIRATION AND THE DRIVE TO KEEP GOING. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MENTORS AND WHY?
My greatest mentors are my students. They consistently humble me with their generous and open hearts. There’s nothing more wonderful than a student leaving class happy with themselves for the work they just did or coming in with news of a booking that followed one of our coaching sessions. Making even a small difference in the life of an artist, is a gift that makes life worth living. Gratitude all over the place.
FOLLOW ACT OTTAWA AND CLAUDIA JURT ON SOCIAL MEDIA: