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Adventures In Acting - Success!

Updated: Jun 24

This month's collection of acting-related thoughts and feelings:


Connect 4 anyone?
Pic from Smodcastle Film Festival - Collecting Best Drama award for Dead on the Vine

"Dead on the Vine" is being screened as part of Unrestricted view film festival on 24th April @ 6.15pm at Screen on the Green, Islington, London. More screenings announced soon.


“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.

Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Mark Twain - Writer of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"


Success - In Acting:

How to be a "Success" in Acting?

Can you ever be truly "Successful"?

Well that's a worm hole worth digging into isn't it?

Success, It would seem to me, is something of an intangible concept and often those that have seemingly attained "it" confess that it doesn't quite feel as expected.

But it's good to have something to aim for right?

Considering how problematic it is to set out to be the "best actor ever" (given that the recipient of those little golden statues are very often disputed),

it might be worth having short, medium and long term goals to get you closer to the career you want in as healthy a way as possible.

Whatever success looks and feels like for you, can be, and maybe should be, more personal and flexible than "unless i get/do/have this or that then i'm not a success"

So what is success?

According to the dictionary success is:


noun: success; plural noun: successes


the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

"there is a thin line between success and failure"


the good or bad outcome of an undertaking.

"the good or ill success of their maritime enterprises"


mid 16th century: from Latin successus, from the verb succedere ‘come close after’

Ah!, That makes it clearer doesn't it.......?

OK, maybe not.

Maybe it is in the little things like a smile before sleep or being able to afford the nice toilet paper.

Recently i was asked how it felt to win "Best Actor" at Smodcastle film festival for the "Made It" documentary.

My answer was that it obviously felt good, but the award itself is a spray painted golden pig (a mooby to Kevin Smith fans) so what is it that gives the good feeling?

The recognition? The bragging rights?

The feeling of achievement was, i said in the interview, like running for and getting a bus you really want (bear with me).

The feeling of "success" for winning the award is heightened because on some level i have been trying to be good at this acting thing for over 20 years.

20 years of sweat and sacrifice.

That's a lot of running for, and missing, buses.

The thing you want only feels good if you have had to work and overcome obstacles to get it.

I guess no one is ever really finished trying to succeed at something until they are truly finished, so success is relative and ever-moving.


I asked a well known artificial intelligence bot to give me some good quotes about success and here they are:

  1. "Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference to the world." - Roy T. Bennett

  2. "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

  3. "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." - Albert Schweitzer

  4. "The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will." - Vince Lombardi

  5. "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." - Booker T. Washington

Whatever your version of success is, I hope you achieve it -and even more then you can imagine- right now.


What's my motivation?

This month's scene is chosen by Actor and Senior Lecturer in Screen Acting at Leeds Conservatoire, Philip Wolff.

Philip says:

I chose this because it’s a great example of Joaquin Phoenix’s external simplicity, immediacy and restraint combined with an utterly compelling level of internal emotional complexity and intensity! Without him having to hardly indicate a thing, you have absolutely no doubt that the shit is about to hit the fan


From "Joker" (2019) Joaquin Phoenix's title role is being interviewed by Robert De Niro's Murray Franklin after a spree of killings in Gotham City.

Trigger warning: Strong language and violence including blood (as evident from video thumbnail).

Scene less than 5min long.

Click on the video link below and then check my short interpretation underneath

This scene is an absolute masterclass in seamlessly switching from sad/mad/glad whilst listening and responding fully to the other actor.

Let's look at the scene from the perspective of Joaquin Phoenix, it seems clear that Robert De Niro's character is intentionally tough/stern throughout .

We start as he is about to tell De Niro about the time he killed some guys on the subway.

His vulnerability at the start is an excellent and sinister choice whilst admitting to the killings.

We experience the sadness as he confesses what he has done, like a naughty child apologetically telling a parent that they made a mistake.

As the story unfolds and the audience react, he feels the judgement from De Niro and the world, highlighting his isolation and beginning his transformation into his rage and the injustice fuelled madness.

When De Niro accuses him of being "self pitying" he really lets his blood boil and directs all his murderous attention at De Niro.

He uses all the pent-up shame and embarrassment to justify the ensuing rant and violent act.

Allowing De Niro to be the source of his danger and destructive energy means when he does draw his pistol and deliver the chilling line "You get what you f***ing deserve!" his sense of power and release as his revenge is enacted, is palpable.

As the audience and crew members flee in terror, he takes a moment to enjoy the feeling of "success" as he has flipped the bully/victim dynamic around.

He jumps up and does a victory dance to celebrate but not before shooting another bullet into De Niro's chest.

Side note: There are a few moments in this film where Phoenix has the same unpredictable/spontaneous quality evident in this scene, to the point where in my memory he goes to shoot him a 3rd time in this scene but doesn't.

Looking back it's barely noticeable but i believe he was free enough to let these moments into his work and other stories of the shoot seem to back this up (The "fridge" moment was completely improvised).

His emotional journey here is both disturbing and captivating, the absolute commitment to each moment and the balance of playful child and villainous madman is beautifully dark.

"Goodnight, and always remember, "That's life!"

Have a short scene you want to see simply analysed?

Click below to send link to scene:


The amazing multiple award winning Film maker Dan Sloan (

has been very busy working on a documentary we filmed recently between Liverpool and London called "Made It"

On the theme of "Success" we got together an incredible cast and crew to film the footage for what promises to be a very interesting 10 min short film.

If you can, and would like to help out with the funding to finish this project, the funding link is below. It ends on 2nd April though, so click quick!


As part of the documentary, we ran a 2 day acting workshop in central London and 6 amazing actors came and worked wonderfully to develop scenes based on relationships that were developed using a series of exercises.

I got so much from how quickly everyone managed to get stuck into the depth of the human experience - without question.

We had an incredible crew there and we caught some beautiful moments as well as the beautifully honest interviews everyone gave after the classes.

Cannot wait to see the final film!

Huge thank you to Amale Ferkoussi, Eduardo Gispert, Eva-Marie Becker, Linda Biney,

Russell Dean and Kat Kumar.


Any acting related news or questions email me:

Thanks for your attention - and stay in touch.




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