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Rebecca Amzallag: Self-Directing & Following your Acting Dreams
In the Sailfin Sessions, the team behind Sailfin Productions chat to talented professionals in the entertainment industry to bring you exclusive interviews and behind the scenes content. We’ll be exploring the stories of actors, photographers, filmmakers, musicians and more!
Today we spoke with the amazing and talented Rebecca Amzallag about her career as a professional actress. She shared her views on acting classes, comparing herself to other actors, and preparing for emotional scenes.
Rebecca grew up with a desire to act, but was never encouraged to purse it as a career. She started modelling in her early twenties, but her mind kept wandering back to her dream career. Eventually, Rebecca enrolled in acting classes and landed her first union project at age 24.
Since then, Rebecca has continued to land exciting roles in a variety of professional film & television projects. She’s a firm believer in following your dreams, training, and surrounding yourself with a strong, supportive community.
How important are acting classes?
Rebecca Amzallag: Don’t get in front of casting directors until you’ve really trained. If you make a bad impression, with a casting director, they might not see you again because they think you’re the trash you were before you got classes.
In the same way as with an agent, if you’re a teenager and you’ve taken a class and you like acting, get an agent. But if you’re not a teenager, you better be good. Do student projects, get experience, because nobody wants to hire somebody with zero knowledge or experience.
Do you ever compare yourself to other actors?
Rebecca Amzallag: I have experienced comparing myself to other actors and it’s the worst thing in the world. It’s so unproductive. But what I will say, is you can also gain inspiration from people and that’s like comparing yourself too. But, this idea that the world is a pie and everybody’s got a slice is untrue.
How do you prepare for emotional scenes?
Rebecca Amzallag: It’s not even that there’s certain scenes that are emotional or not, they’re all emotional scenes, but sometimes the scenes have the output of crying or yelling.
An audition experience is very different from being on set. You have to self-direct in an audition and make assumptions. When it says, “she cried uncontrollably”, you don’t have to do that. You’ve developed this character, and it might be a very silent, internal experience for them.
In Transplant that we just did, the lead, Hamza Haq is heaven. So when you have another person who is so open, everything is easy. Everything is wonderful in the space, it all comes for free, if you’ve done the internal back work.
Is it important to learn accents in professional acting?
Rebecca Amzallag: I was taught that my voice is one of my primary tools. I’ve done (needed) a lot of voice classes and to do a daily vocal warm up. Being able to do accents is important but it’s helpful if you have a strong voice work base. Teachers like Rae Ellen Bodie and Peggy Redmond helped me immensely.
Learning accents is great once you’ve gotten the hang of how to use your voice. A large amount of the productions shooting in Ontario require you to have a general American accent. Canadians often think they don’t sound accented, but to an American ear it’s obvious, Rae Ellen Bodie teaches a great general American dialect workshop. It’s imperative to be self aware.
Mastering other accents can be super useful and fun but be sure to actually be well versed in the accents listed on your resumé.
Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
Rebecca Amzallag: I remember when I started and people said, “if there’s anything else you can do instead, do it, because acting is so hard!” And I say, f**k that. Enough! Do what you want to do! Go work really hard, get really good, continue to always take classes, film yourself, write your own stuff, do whatever you want. The encouragement won’t come from other people, it has to come from within.
Why is acting important to you?
Rebecca Amzallag: I remember feeling really suspicious of myself that I was a gratuitous, self-seeking baby diva. That’s what I thought being an actress was. So I was worried that I didn’t really love this work, that I was just looking for attention. But that’s not true. Through therapy, through having life coaches, working out, community, yoga and meditation, I realized that this is what we’re doing and it’s ok.
I felt like I was doing something selfish, that wasn’t helpful. But especially in the pandemic, we’ve seen how instrumental film and TV is. This is what we turn to for safety and comfort. Also through the Black Lives Matter movement, so much is gained from documentaries, from film, from series. To think that our work is unimportant or shallow, is completely untrue and I really had to see that.
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