The Women in the Director’s Chair (WIDC) workshop is an internationally-recognized professional development and mentoring program designed to advance mid-career women directors in Canada. It is presented in partnership with the Creative Woman Workshops Association (CWWA), The Banff Centre and ACTRA.
What’s in it for actors? Everything!
Each year 10 male and female ACTRA members are chosen to be part of the Actor’s Ensemble and work with the directors. According to ACTRA Saskatchewan member and Councilor Jodi Sadowsky, it was the experience of a lifetime – read her story below.
For more information on the WIDC program visit www.creativewomenworkshops.com. Applications are due before November 30, 2012 and can be downloaded here.
WIDC 2012: From the View of an Actor
by Jodi Sadowsky
This past January I had the opportunity to participate as an actor in the WIDC workshop at the Banff Centre. It was truly an extraordinary and one-of-a-kind experience. Upon first learning of the WIDC workshop, I knew I had to be a part of it as an actor participant. To my great surprise and joy, shortly after the holidays last year, I learned that I had been accepted into the 2012 program as one of the 10 actors in the two-week workshop.
First-off was a full day of auditions. Each director, eight in total, needed to cast a scene, which they had written and would direct as part of the program. The morning consisted of us actors auditioning for two scenes that we had prepared before arriving in Banff. The afternoon was callbacks which included cold reads of all the other scenes. We all knew we would be cast in two scenes, but we didn’t know which roles. Everyone gave it their all and felt free to take risks due to the supportive environment of the workshop. In total I auditioned for six scenes and seven different characters. It was an amazing rollercoaster ride of audition fun! A very full, exciting and tiring day.
Next was the ‘Guerilla Shoot Exercise’. These scenes, two in total for each actor, were given so the directors, actors and crew could work on a film set, learning and growing together. Very little prep time was given for these shoots, along with minimal lighting, sets, props, and costumes. It was meant as a warm-up exercise prior to the main scene shoots. A guerilla exercise it was in its true sense. Another great but also challenging day.
For the main scene shoots, the directors received coaching and mentorship from seasoned professionals within the film industry. They were joined as well by professional (ACTRA) actors, crews (IATSE, DGC), volunteers and work-study students. All worked together in hands-on exercises leading to the prep, production and post production of eight original short films all directed by the eight director participants.
Work-study students came from many educational institutes across Canada including the University of Regina. In fact the Media Studies program at the University of Regina has raised funds to scholarship two students each year since 2003, all who attend as work study crew and gain course credit for their work at WIDC. This year students Irene Tushabe and Emily Berntson participated.
Throughout the duration of the workshop, ACTRA member Carol Whiteman (co-creator and producer of WIDC, and President and CEO of CWWA) continually stressed the importance of the process. Process was the key not the product. As well she insisted on protecting the filmmaker’s freedom to fail. This created a truly safe and supportive environment allowing everyone involved the freedom to learn and grow, take risks and make mistakes. It allowed space for the wonderful adventure and ride that creativity entails – through the ups and downs of denial, determination, euphoria, letting go of fear, procrastination, anger, blame, self-doubt, wanting to quit, hope, all the way to the final celebration of success. It showed us we are all leaders and have something to learn, no matter the level of experience, working together as a team to create the magic of film!
It has been a few months since I returned home and I’m still thankful for the opportunity and experience. Every day in Banff during WIDC myself and the other actors involved continually expressed the joy, excitement and gratitude we felt for being able to participate in such a wonderful program. It was also amazing to be at the Banff Centre, a hub of creativity and support for the arts. The beauty and serenity of the environment only added to the extraordinary experience!
Carol Whiteman says, “Everyone that comes to the program, comes when it is their time.” Having participated in the program – I agree. This was my time and I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to participate. It was very exciting and a dream come true at exactly the right time.
All actors accepted into the program must be either full or apprentice ACTRA members. Both female and male actor participants are needed given many of the scenes have both genders. There have been over 600 applications from actors across the country over the last 15 years with an average of around 50 to 100 applicants per year. The selection process for casting each year goes back up to three years in the WIDC files and is dependent on many factors. If you don’t get in the first time – keep applying again. After applying three times over the last six years (first in 2006, then 2009, and yet again in 2011) I will tell you – persistence is the key!
This year marked the WIDC programs 15th Anniversary. Thank you to Carol for her continued dedication and commitment to the program. Thank you to ACTRA as well for its continued support as a presenting partner. This is a very important and life-changing program – I highly recommend it to all!
Jodi Sadowsky is currently an ACTRA Saskatchewan council member and has served on the council since approximately 1998 with a few short hiatus’ over the years. Select film and TV credits include: Vampire Dog, Rabbit, The Tall Man, Insecurity, Hard Core Logo II, Corner Gas, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Velvet Devil and renegadepress.com.