Course Catalogue - Film Workshop

Course Catalogue is a regular feature that highlights the incredible work the faculty and staff in UVU’s School of the Arts are doing to promote to engage students to rise to the occasion of becoming the best possible artists they can be.


Because the film department at Utah Valley University is not a part of the School of the Arts, acting students at UVU in the past have had to be proactive about working on camera. Though they have acting classes and plenty of live performance opportunities, it is a pretty different experience when you get to a film set.


Professor Ben Hopkin, who has newly been made a full-time faculty member at UVU, wanted to change that. He’s been teaching here since 2012, and in that time has developed a new and exciting program students can enroll in - an Acting for Film workshop.


“The real difference is a matter of medium and perspective. Television and film are very visual mediums. Plays are more aural. A question that should come up more than it does: ‘why are we doing it as a play, and not as a film?’” Hopkin said. “Films can be more realistic, give you a heightened sense of reality. A play is always going to be a three-sided box.”


The acting for film class meets at the same time as the directing and cinematography classes, and any time they need actors for a scene, they pull from that class first. In that way, they are providing those experienced and talented filmmakers with actors who are on the same level as them.


Hopkin also emphasizes set behavior, working lessons about thriving as a film actor and in the industry, from a business perspective. For example, no matter how helpful you want to be: do not pick up a camera or move any lights. Keep in mind that you’re in hair and makeup, and you shouldn’t mess that up.


“It comes down to being aware, and being kind. Listening,” Hopkin said. “One of the things I talk to them about is fear. Most of the actor problems we experience on set come from fear, and all of that goes back to us not feeling safe.”


His class discusses ways to be validated as an actor that are not disruptive on set. And how to be a team player by learning everyone’s names and thanking them for their work.


An actor, writer and director who “grew up” in theater, Hopkin has a deep love and appreciation for the medium and begrudges it nothing. However, he said the fact that film is so different requires somewhat of a different approach to teaching it.


“The ideas behind the acting are the same,” he said. “But it’s the difference between having a conversation with somebody who is across a football field, and having a conversation with somebody who’s right there in front of you.”


He talked about other differences, like how much the audience changes when you’re on film. The audience is a camera. You can create a bit more intimacy in a scene. Instead of being the ones moving, the camera (or audience) is moving. It changes some sensibilities for actors used to doing things like cheating out to face an audience from a stage.


“Film is a little more permanent than theater. And it becomes difficult to have a successful, lucrative career as an theater actor,” Hopkin said.


The future of the acting workshop might be somewhat of a studio model, Hopkin said. A total collaboration between screenwriting students, acting students, directing students and producing students working together to make an entirely UVU-produced product, with the help of professors.