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Tualatin pair take a different approach to acting

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Suzi Smith will be conducting a film and TV acting camp with Anneliese Chapman at Horizon Christian High School.Suzi Smith never wanted to be an actress; Anneliese Chapman decided she wasn’t competitive enough to shoot for stardom. But the two knew the business, and wanted to help others find their way.

Together, Smith and Chapman pool their strengths every summer at Horizon Christian High School to help young acting hopefuls in the Portland area learn the entertainment business and get better at their craft.

At the pair’s Summer Industry Showcase, they teach students what they might encounter in the field, and even get them in front of agents, who usually leave wanting to sign some of the students. The goal for acting coaches Smith and Chapman is to make sure the students not only leave with better skills, but that they and their parents develop a better idea of how the industry operates.

“What I like is enhancing their lives, and helping them get from point A to point B without wasting time and money,” Smith said. “Several of the local actors have become quite successful here in Portland, and that just is a personal victory for me. They might have been able to do it another direction, but they have a lifelong friend with me.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Anneliese Chapman will be conducting a film and TV acting camp with Suzi Smith at Horizon Christian High School.For 15 years, Smith worked as an agent in Los Angeles, and found herself on the forefront of stardom for actors such as the Olson twins, Paul Walker and siblings Brandy and Ray J. before moving to Oregon with her family. Once here, the Tigard resident spent time as a casting director before going back to school to get her master’s in teaching. She’s also been a parent on set, as one of her sons was in several films. Chapman, also a teacher, was a theater major at the University of Oregon and loves being able to share the joy that acting continues to give her.

“I don’t think we’re scary,” said Chapman, who lives in Tualatin. “We have a different teaching style. This is that warm, nurturing environment. But we can read the students. You know, this one doesn’t need to be babied, this one actually needs to be told, ‘That’s not working, I don’t get it, try it different.’”

During the camp, which runs July 28 through Aug. 1, Chapman takes on many of the technique lessons, while Smith dives more into teaching preparedness about the industry itself. Both, they feel, are essential to successfully launching children into acting careers, and are what encourage Portland agents to continue to pull from their students. Though they don’t help land the actors roles anywhere, the business partners put them in front of agents who will.

“It’s not up to us if the agent represents them, but we present the opportunity. And we make that really clear to our actors, you know, there’s no guarantee,” Smith said. “(But) they always will get truth from us. Truth with love and kindness.”

And though agent signings aren’t up to Smith and Chapman, each year they have numerous students find placement. With their coaching also comes the support and reminders that the way an agent feels about you doesn’t make you who you are. This life of acting and make believe, truly is not real, and it shouldn’t consume you detrimentally.

“You’re trying to prepare them for what might be the worst. Because (with auditions) it’s not like you’re walking into a store and they’re all about customer service,” Chapman said. “They may not even look at you. But you don’t know what they need to do in that day — they could be busy in their brains. You may get halfway through whatever it is you’re doing, and they may say, ‘Thank you. Next,’ or something. So we try to expose them to that abruptness, that strangeness.”

The duo also finds great value in letting the students critique each other, and teaches them how to do it in a constructive and diplomatic way. Smith said the skills they teach, like good communication, patience and resilience, alongside interviewing and creating resumes, will go far with the students whether or not they ultimately pursue acting as a career. Since the camp allows an age range of 5-18, last year Smith and Chapman added in two camp counselors so students got the most out of their experiences.

Typically, the camp plays host to a third of participants who are already signed with an agent and just want to refresh their skills, a third looking to get signed and a third who are simply there to act and have fun.

“I just kind of help them along the road,” said Smith. “And that just fills my heart.”



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