Panel Discussion with at-risk youth

Saira Peesker/CTV.ca

When Degrassi’s Stacey Farber started out in showbiz, it was a world that was brand new to her, from her mark on the floor to the miniature train tracks that carry cameras across the set.

It was a steep learning curve that led her to where she is now, knowing just where she fits among the myriad of people that go into any production.

For that reason, Farber was thrilled and flattered when she was asked – alongside Degrassi’s Adamo Ruggiero, Lauren Collins and John Bregar – to impart her wisdom on the subject as part of a panel on filming from the actor’s perspective.

Held at Toronto’s Drake Hotel on Friday, July 27, the event was a workshop session for “POV: Presenting Our Vision,” a summer program designed to give young directors from at-risk communities the tools they need to get into filmmaking.

“I wish I had an opportunity when I was first starting out to hear from professionals and hear personal stories,” said Farber, 19, adding she found it a bit weird to be the one with the expertise. “By no means do I know everything there is to know, but at the same time I do feel I have something to offer.

“Not only am I a professional actor, I am a professional teenage actor. I’m their contemporary, so I think it’s all the more interesting and relevant. There’s only so much you can get from taking a book out from the library or watching ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio.'”

Covering everything from how to cast a film to budgeting for large or independent productions, the program forces its 16 participants to cycle through the various roles in a production, including writing and directing their own segment of the script.

At Friday’s event, participants learned that while actors often hear how they can work for their directors, it’s not always obvious to young directors that there are specific techniques to working with individual actors.

The panel talked about everything from how to explain your vision to your cast to how to get an agent, taking questions all the while.

Following the panel discussion, the actors broke into two groups with the participants and performed dramatic readings of screenplays the young filmmakers had written.

“Having their scripts read by some of the top Canadian actors right now is wicked,” said program director Jeff Kopas, explaining a bit more about the process that came up with the screenplays being read.

“Each script has seven filmmakers in it. They have each written one scene, one page of the script. It’s very collaborative… We want them to be indebted, emotionally attached to their film.”

Many of the participants had no idea that the event was to include some of the country’s best-known actors, including Kris Holden Ried, Katie Boland, Joris Jarsky, Kate Todd, Art Hindle and Corner Gas’ Tara Spencer Nairn.

Participant Tanisha Santos has followed Lauren Collins’s career since before the Degrassi years and said meeting Collins in person was an inspiration and fantastic surprise.

“I didn’t know Lauren was going to come so I was really excited,” said Santos, extremely thankful for the chance to learn practical tips from her idol. “I couldn’t sit still, I was panicking… I have to know this stuff because I want to be an actress myself. She said some really helpful stuff.”

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