Sea to Sky actors are doing it for themselves 

Acting school friends make their own web series, Almost Actors, to show off their talents

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Health Nut Almost Actors is a new web series.
  • Photo submitted
  • Health Nut Almost Actors is a new web series.

Paul Newman once said, "To be an actor, you have to be a child."

That may be true, but these days it can't hurt if you are mature enough to create your own work, too.

Almost Actors is the name of a new comedy web series about the trials and tribulations of acting school — and is made by those who know it best, a group of students in acting school in Vancouver.

The nine-episode show is a collective collaboration between close buds, says co-creator Athena Russell.

"The co-founders, me, Tiarra Sulyk and Jessica McLeod, are three best friends," says Russell.

And there is a strong Sea-to-Sky flavour in the series, with those involved also doubling up on jobs as actors, directors and behind the scenes in order to get the project out.

Four of the team are from Pemberton: Sulyk, director and actor Ben Groulx, first assistant director Nathaniel Protter and make-up artist Paige Alfier.

Two are from Whistler: photographer Kristi Hemingson and actor Steve McCullough.

In an interview, Russell, Sulyk and Groulx talked about handcrafting their own online story while still in their early 20s.

"I was hosting Jessica's birthday in January," Sulyk says. "Athena and I had been talking about creating something together, anything, and creating content for quite a while."

Then they got talking about their experiences in acting classes — sometimes fun, sometimes bonkers and sometimes frustrating.

"I started writing them down and then we wrote three episodes in the first night. We woke up the next day and thought it was actually great, so we wrote the entire series — nine episodes — in seven days," Sulyk says.

Almost Actors took off from there.

"We had a table read and people were laughing and wanted to be involved," Russell says.

"What started out as three girlfriends writing jokes ended up being 20 cast and crew filming from 6 p.m to 4 a.m., the only time our set was available."

They got the set space for free, pulled together their equipment and the series became a full-fledged production.

The first episode aired on YouTube in March.

The show takes a wry look at acting school, says Groux, with the egotistic, the flakey and the ambitious clashing in a hilarious way.

Each episode is between three and five minutes, typical for webcast shorts.

The first episode, "The Health Nut," pokes fun at the New Age types who tell people how to live.

"She's the stereotypical girl in Yaletown who does yoga and drinks wheatgrass. We all know them," Sulyk says.

She got to play that role.

"My stepfather watched it and said he couldn't see what was different. I was, like, 'No!'" she laughs.

But there are serious reasons for the series behind the jokes.

"Many of our friends are so talented, but no one has thrown them a bone. So this is a credit. It is such a tough industry and they work so hard," Sulyk says.

"It's honestly the way to go these days. The Internet is the new medium; you can reach so many people, the cost is less and everything is mobile. Look at Netflix, it's the way of the future."

The learning experience of making Almost Actors is proving as valuable as getting the acting credits and experience.

"We shot the series over two days, four episodes the first night and five episodes the next time — they were two weeks apart," says Sulyk.

It cost $1,500 altogether to make.

"It was more expensive than we expected," says Russell.

"Insurance is expensive and we had some incurred costs with equipment. We ended up using the best camera in the industry, which is expensive."

Groulx says: "And the three producers ended up putting in the money themselves. All the funding came from their back pockets."

Russell says they were fortunate that they could get their friends involved, people who generously offered their time for free.

"People played different roles and some have picked up new skills. Ben did the most incredible design work. He made us look too good," Russell says.

The reaction has been good, she adds.

"People have been amazingly supportive," she says.

Groulx adds: "What is really interesting is that you get immediate feedback. People will like it or share it right out of the gates. It's helpful and encouraging."

Sulyk makes another important point.

"There is very little female-based comedy in Vancouver and a lot of women we look up to like Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham or Tina Fey all create their own content. So we figured we may as well start," she laughs.

To check out Almost Actors visit YouTube.


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