Creating Physical Actor Training: an online A-Z | 10 Lessons Learned – By Paul Allain and Olaf Leiros

We created our collection of over 60 films with a lot of planning, two short periods of filming four months apart with the whole team, and a year of editing. Nothing can replace the intensity of live studio practice, but in working out how this might then be viewed online and be of use and interest, we needed to do a lot of hard thinking, supported by some bold imaginative choices. Creativity was not just for the workshops. Every one of our films has its own approach and atmosphere and presents and distils specific training/acting principles.

Here are the key discoveries that arose from the process:


1. Narrowing down what constitutes Physical Acting was vital, for everyone interprets it in so many different ways. As trainers, Frank and I needed to follow our own processes while also making these accessible for those encountering them for the first time. The A-Z structure forced us to do this, but this is still very much our approach to training, our alphabet, coming out of years of experience. What might your approach look like and what terms might it include?

2. Find a balance between filming your everyday practice and facilitating the editing process, otherwise this can become an insurmountable task. A lot can be done in the edit, compressing long workshop sequences into digestible chunks, but it is very time consuming. Audio voice-over commentaries, reflecting back on the footage, can help the viewer put isolated pieces of the training jigsaw back together again, enabling the bigger picture to emerge.

The Duchess of Malfi production image

3. Don’t forget the FUNdamentals. These are things that you think everyone knows or remembers but of course they don’t! It’s always worth getting back to basics.

4. Film documentation is of course different from the live training, but this doesn’t make such a resource any the less valuable. It helps you reflect on your practice, can be shared with others, and stimulates the creative juices. Ways of approaching it are as limitless as your imagination and inventiveness, so make sure to keep these alive as you struggle with the technology!

5. Don’t underestimate how long the process can take as you work out the right shape, rhythm, and content for your film/s. Be aware that the thrill of the process will carry you away and you will end up doing a lot more than initially envisaged.

The Duchess of Malfi production image


6. When I first started training, I was curious how I would stay focused in the studio. It might seem obvious, but as the A-Z advises, get into the habit of putting your bags, shoes, phone etc. securely and tidily away. I find it easier to work on my physicality if I am focused and do not have personal belongings to distract me.

7. Work in a space where you feel safe with people you feel close to. Some of these A-Z exercises, especially if you are doing them for the first time, can be quite personal and daunting. Always try your hardest to work in a secure environment.

The Duchess of Malfi production image

8.Encourage and support each other. It’s great if I make progress with a difficult exercise, but it is even better when my peers celebrate this success with me! Use each other to make yourself go further.

9. Stay open when training. I found it hard learning something new or unlearning what I had previously known. By being open, I discovered that reflecting on my own training became much easier. In order to challenge yourself and grow it is vital to be open in both mind and body.

10. My most important lesson is to be playful. Engage the imagination, work in the space with friends and play: this will take you a long way.

The Duchess of Malfi production image

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