2 March 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
The Applied Art of Acting Interview with David Scott
16 May 2017 : Laura Brennan
IFTN got the chance to speak with David Scott, the actor, acting teacher, Director of Company D Theatre, writer and theoretician about the Applied Art of Acting course he runs in Dublin.

While discussing aspects of the course in more detail, David also offered his own thoughts on the current international scope of the acting industry and its future progressions along with the acting talent here in Ireland.

With the course, David has infused 20 years of actor-training research and development into a cutting-edge technique that opens up the creative powers of the actor in new and incredibly effective ways.

The three-month training initiative is currently accepting applications for new students of all levels of experience. IFTN asked David a few questions to help offer some insight and tips for anybody considering or wanting to learn more about the Applied Art of Acting course and its technique. 

IFTN: Firstly can you tell us a little about how this course first came about?
David Scott: My journey as a teacher in Ireland has been quite intense. I first started teaching my own technique on the encouragement of students in a part time format in The Actors Wednesday Workshop, which still runs to this day, and it became very popular amongst aspiring professionals. 

Again on the requests of actors, it was suggested that I teach it intensely in a full time format. This was almost 8 years ago now and it took two years to fully design The Applied Art of Acting. 

There was a kind of gap in the market there too, so to speak. No one in Ireland was teaching a single-technique course in a full-time, intensive and immersive format. No one as far as I know had developed their own technique to the point of being able to teach it. 

The course engages with some of the most cutting edge approaches to acting to be found and the intensity of the learning experience even surprised me. It completely revolutionised the way the students approached their work. It took us all by surprise I think and illuminated just how powerful the technique is.  

IFTN: Who is the course for? What types and levels of acting?

David Scott: The course is for professionals, aspiring professionals and those who just adore acting and want to practice it at the highest levels. 

I only take 16 actors each September, so an audition process is necessary. But I don’t just pick the “best" 16 actors as such. I’m looking for interesting, artistically minded actors who I think will respond to this technique and become extraordinary actors. 

So I always encourage people to audition, even if you think you might not be “good enough”. My job is to make you good. That’s the point of a course. That’s my job.  

IFTN: The course is said to offer personalised and diagnostic training for each participant, covering both stage and screen performance. Can you tell us a little more about that and what modules and activities are done to fulfil this?

David Scott:  Sure. The Applied Art of Acting is a single-technique course. The technique is very specific and highly effective and applicable to the real world, hence the name.

So even though you can notice resonances of Stanislavski, Meisner, Adler and Chekhov, I don’t teach those techniques in this course. You can, however, notice the shoulders on which the technique stands.

The technique treats acting as an art-form. Not all actors or even directors or casting people see it as that, but those I liase with in the business do, which is why fine actors, casting directors and theatre and film directors like to come in and meet the actors and talk to them. 

It’s refreshing for them to see this kind of work being done with interesting actors. In terms of it being diagnostic and personalised, it has to be so. The technique resonates differently with different actors. It changes the way you think about acting, the way you think about yourself in the process of acting, and indeed it very often changes the students as human beings.

In this thing we do, we delve into the crevasses of the human condition. The course can be very moving in that way. We see the darkness and light in the world through the prism of the technique and that can be a life-altering experience.

As such it’s important that I take only 16 actors so that I can guide each of them individually and diagnostically through this three-month journey. The course is broken up into a series of modules that cover the entire technique week by week over 12 weeks, but it would be impossible to explain the complexities of those here. No time is wasted and students need to attend every single day of the course unless on death’s door. I’m very happy to meet with potential students to discuss the technique in more detail.

IFTN: How important is it for Irish actors to get experience with both audition and screen test techniques which are covered in the course? 

David Scott: It’s vital. And I was just writing something about this on Facebook today. The world is changing so rapidly in this way. Anyone can make a low budget feature film of exceptional quality. 

Self-taping is the way of the future and can bring actors to the attention of Hollywood and London directors without leaving your sitting room. 

Gone are the days I came up in of buying a plane ticket to London to go to an audition. You can be right on top of the game in this regard if you get a half decent camera and a cheap editing suite. 

The “trick” of course is to develop your wisdom. You need to know what’s good and bad and you can never put up anything poor. It could be there for all to see if you’re not smart. There are a billion showreels out there. You have to be exceptional, or you have no hope of getting noticed in that milieu. 

You have to put exceptional work out there, or none at all. Casting people are not monsters, but they are busy. If they see you being dreadful, even if the next thing they see you do is good, they remember the dreadful thing they saw. To them, it still means it’s possible that you can be dreadful. No one in The Applied Art of Acting has any reason to be dreadful once they’ve learned this technique.  

IFTN: What tips would you give for those applying who are wondering what they should look for when picking their selected audition monologue? 

David Scott: I always ask for a monologue from a stage play, even though the course teaches both stage and screen acting. The reason for this is that I have often found that actors tend, even subconsciously I think, to copy the screen performance they saw of a screen monologue. I’m not interested in how well an actor can mimic Matt Damon or Angelina Jolie.

Also, the choice itself is interesting to me. What you choose means something about your interests in the narrative. It also means that you have made the effort to go and choose something from the world of theatre, rather than just watch something on the box and imitate it.

In my auditions, I’m looking for four simple things. That you can learn lines, that you can interpret the piece your way from your own intellect, that you can perform that idea of the monologue for me, and that you can change it up if I throw something at you from the technique and ask you to do it again. This means to me that you can act and you can learn. Even if I think your idea is weird or wrong, that doesn’t matter. The fact that you are a thinking actor means you’re an artistic one. 

IFTN: Have you any success stories of previous course attendee's? 
David Scott: 
It’s hard to say. I’m generally not in contact with them once they finish up and fly the nest, although I’m always on call for them. 

I’m glad to say most of them are working consistently as actors, but there’s no mega-stars just yet as far as I know. The course is only 6 years old and generally, it takes actors up to 10 years after training to hit it big.

Moe Dunford is a good example. I remember sitting on the steps with him 11 years ago when I worked for The Gaiety School of Acting giving him advice. Now he’s bigger than Texas. But it takes a long time I’m afraid.

IFTN: How do you think Irish acting talent rates currently amongst others nations on an international scope? 
David Scott: 
Ireland is only just starting to truly emerge as a nation of artists when it comes to film making. Similarly, I think the theatre has fallen behind Irish society for the first time and is no longer fulfilling its role as an interrogator of the past, an analyst of her present or an imagining of her future. 
However, as negative as that may sound, never has there been such excitement for the future of Irish film and theatre. There are some excellent Irish actors on the mainstream film platform now, but there could be so much more if production houses and casting people opened up their doors more. 

I’ve known and taught in Ireland actors who I would rate as the best I’ve seen and they couldn’t get auditions here and left for other shores. The doors are still too tightly closed. But when you see the likes of Terry McMahon fighting for Moe Dunford for Patrick’s Day, you find hope. 

It’s just crazy that those directors and actors will have to tell you how they almost gave up and languished in dire poverty before someone took a chance on them.

I’m also hopeful because the casting people I know who come in to meet The Applied Art of Acting students are very influential people in the business and they’re not relying on agents or casting websites to find new people. They actively go looking for them too. And the fact they’re looking for them in The Applied Art of Acting means they’re interested in actors who are artists and actors who might not be in the purple of wealth, able to commit to two or three year courses at major institutions. 

That’s very encouraging and different to Britain where casting people only go to the wealthiest schools to find new talent and only actors from wealthy families can afford their school fees and subscriptions to casting websites. 

To see the work of Lisa Dawn, to see Selina Cartmell in The Gate and the playful courage of Wayne Jordan also means that to me, a revolution is afoot. And like many great revolutions, Ireland is the best place for it to begin. 

IFTN: How can people apply for the course?

David Scott: To apply you simply contact me personally on 087 759 6715 or email davidarts@ eircom.net

We then arrange to meet for a one-to-one audition. These are happening now for the September 2017 intake. 

All details are available on my David Scott website. Click here. 

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