Guest Lecture with Mr.Satyajit Bhatkal

Mr.Satyajit BhatkalOn 7th may 2013, DA students had a face to face interaction with popular television show ‘Satyamev Jayate’s Creative Director and Producer Satyajit Bhatkal. He was part of the core production in ‘Lagaan’ (2002), and made a documentary on Lagaan’s Making called ‘Chale Chalo’.

As most students were eager to ask about ‘Satyamev Jayate’, he gave some snippet views on how he approached Aamir Khan and the problems he faced while preparing for shoot. His major challenge was to manage the whole show . Mr. Bhatkal said, one should never see something as a problem. Any crisis, or conflict, on or off the set should always be taken as a challenge.

About Satyamev Jayate, he said ‘I knew Aamir had been searching for some different approach to television because he was the only star who never had its own show on TV. Unlike his contemporaries, he did not want to be part of some entertainment series or quiz show. He wanted to do something informative, something carrying a social message to the audience. As Mr.Bhatkal presented the concept to Aamir, he grabbed the chance. Continue reading

Guest Lecture by Purnendu Shekhar

Purnendu ShekharScreenwriter Purnendu Shekhar gave a lecture to DA students on 10th May, 2013. One of the topmost writers of Indian TV series, He shot to fame with Balika Vadhu. He has also written other notable series such as Astitva- Ek Prem Kahani, Saath Phere etc.

Strongly vocal in favor of women’s role in and outside their homes, Purnendu Shekhar categorized TV as a modern shaping tool for the family. “To be in the TV industry, we have to understand our families, our own lives, and especially the women at our homes. If cinema is a predominantly male medium, it is the TV which represents the female”, he said.

And the essence of TV is in the series. For most of the cases, television serials are known for the roles of the women characters in it.

It always begins with a concept – a plot grounded in family relationships. The script elaborates the plot visually, with event substantiation. “Whichever department you belong to”, Purnendu Shekhar addressed the students, “Direction, Acting, Editing or Cinematography, everyone has to understand the script thoroughly, and analyze it.

“Only then it becomes possible for an artist to create an impact as conceived by the writer.” Continue reading

Shooting with Green Screen

The usage of visual effects has become an integral part of filmmaking process, and it is not limited to fantasy or sci-fi features anymore which call for the creation of complex non existing creatures and locations. Today, it is increasingly being used in regular productions to add smaller nuances to scenes, to extend live action sets, to add locations and objects which could have turned out expensive to shoot and so on. So as to say, it is not confined to creating big bulky Transformers alone but is also used for something as small as TV and mobile screen replacement. And that is the reason why all new age filmmakers need to be equipped with the fundamental knowledge and understanding of conducting a chroma or green screen shoot.

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To chroma key is to composite two separate images into one. In video production, a blue or green screen, ideally made of non reflective cotton, is used behind the subject so that the green or blue color can be keyed out or made transparent and another background can replace it. Chroma keys are generally blue or green because these colors are furthest away from human skin tone. Green has become a more popular choice in this process as sensors in the latest digital cameras work better with green and green channel is the cleanest in them.

Certain basic things to remember: when setting up a green screen one needs to remove all possible wrinkles from it. Tightly pulling the ends of screen and positioning it with the help of a stand and tape or clamps helps in this process. Also, when storing, it is advisable to roll the screen.

Lighting on the background is also very important for getting a good key. Shadows and hot spots on the backdrop can prove very difficult to remove in the post. A three point or five point lighting set up done effectively to eliminate shadows is very essential in a chroma shoot. When it comes to camera, the white balance has to be properly set and ISO needs to be kept at the lowest. Higher ISO settings produce more noise in your image which makes keying difficult.

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Also keep the aperture in the camera as wide as possible. You will get more depth of field with wider aperture, which in turn will blur the background making it easier to key out.

Other pointers to keep in mind: Do not let your subjects wear green, as this will lead to the subject’s clothes getting keyed out along with the background in post. Try not to have reflective clothing and jewelry and glass props on the set as these might lead to a green glow which is hard to edit out. Make your subject stand at least 4-6 feet away from the backdrop to avoid green spill, wherein the green color from the background spills on the subject’s skin, which leads to a green glow.

With all these points in mind, when chroma key is done properly it can open a whole new world of possibilities only limited by the filmmaker’s imagination.

Seminar by MILIND KAVDE, Film Director and ex-student of DA

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December 15th saw Digital Academy – The Film School open their arms to welcome their beloved ex-student Milind Kavde, who now is a proud Producer and Director, to share his experience and knowledge with their students. His Marathi movie Yedyanchi Jatraa won the NBC Newsmakers Achievers Award for Best Film in 2012 and nominations for Zee Marathi and Maharashtracha Favorite Kon Awards. Not being the first movie that he’s worked on, 4 Idiots, a Marathi movie to be released next, was always first on his cards.

Bringing back his enthusiasm as a DA student, he first shared with the students how they can overcome issues when making a movie. “Be thorough with your subject, be clear with your vision!” quoted Milind Kavde. Talking about a situation he faced while shooting with Bharat Jadhav, he brought to the students’ notice how every Actor was asked to remain in the skin of the character they played.

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Speaking about his journey as a Director, he recollects his struggle of six years before dealing with the cameras. He recollects how he got his first placement with B P Singh – CID through DA when he was into an office job, scripting and ideation. Here, he formed his base. He played second assistant to Sanjay Leela Bhansali, where his job dealt with all the nitty-gritties of the production unit. This was driven by his constant need of learning new things. Gradually, getting an opportunity to work as an assistant director with Girish Mallik gave his journey a new turn. He then launched his own company named Out Of The Box production.

Every day, there’s something new to learn for this young, fervent Filmmaker on the block. For him, going back to movies like Tintin and Avatar inspires his Filmmaking style. At times it’s all about the location that brings the rustic feel to the movie, which he discovered while shooting in Wye (Satara district of Maharashtra) for Yedyanchi Jatraa. In his opinion, that’s not it! With these kinds of locations becoming immensely popular through movies like Gangajal and Dabang, the benchmark set for him was pretty high.

The elements of the movie need to be crafted, keeping in mind the viewer’s choice. And yes, when it comes to songs, sometimes they act as a break, so it becomes necessary for the audience. This 90-lakh-budget movie that went on to make profits of three crores, was completed in 27 days, including the first print marketing. He still recalls pitching this movie with just a two-page script and reminisces how it moved on to a 120-page solid draft.

When asked about difficulties he came across while making this movie, he said, “Being a comedy, it was easy because he enjoyed doing it.” Also, he got the signing amount, with just 2 pages in hand. What more could he have asked for at that point.

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Difficulties grew with the huge number of people and the star cast, like bringing together Actors such as Vinay Apte and Mohan Joshi. Apart from this, being a newcomer was always the biggest challenge. However, he came to terms with the fact that if your script is in place and the character has something to give; even the veteran Actors will be willing to work with newcomers.

Bringing light to a sensitive practice while pitching the movie, he said, “If you make a movie keeping in mind a particular Actor, you need to pitch the movie both to the Producer and the Actor.” After all, the Actor needs his space in the movie and the Producer is out there to give him that. Once the Actor believes in the character of the movie, s/he starts to live that life.

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Milind ended on a note about his experience as a student in DA. He beautifully put in words, how DA has been the Grammar for his Filmmaking language. With the exposure he got here, he just had to follow his heart and select the genre he enjoys most – comedy. He aptly quoted, “If you can’t enjoy, you can’t execute!” He believes, if you create noise in industry, the industry is there to absorb it. If you say you can, they believe you can!

 

RED Workshops for DA Students

Recently an introductory RED camera workshop was conducted by the RED India team, headed by RED India Managing Director Arjun Sablok. In 2006, when the RED One came out with the promise of capturing video signals as a continuous Raw, much like 24 analog still frames in full photographic resolution, Cinematographers all over the world reacted skeptically.

The first versions of this camera showed multiple problems, such as halting because of overheating. And it was normal for the camera, based on the wavelet compression method, by which one can get multiple proxies – low resolution copies of the same moving images – being recorded at the same time. With so many processes running at the same time, it was normal for the camera’s core processors to get overheated.

The complaining came mostly from the Indian Cinematographic circles where most cameramen were filmmakers, and at best dabblers in microprocessor field. Many of the early problems of white balancing, native camera sensitivity and overheating were solved with a major processor upgrade in 2010. With the Mysterium-X processor and specified fan speeds at specific shooting conditions, filmmakers could shoot undisturbed now. 2011 and 12 brought new camera models like Epic and Scarlet, with new modules and new firmware upgrades. Shooting at Redcode5 compression, with Redlog gamma and Redcolor 3, it became possible to give a true filmlook to the moving images.

In the workshop, Arjun demonstrated RED’s power, with promos of a few upcoming films like The Great Gatsby, Oz and Peter Jackson’s much anticipated Hobbit, which is releasing this Christmas. He clarified the mystery behind the much talked about RED workflow, and showed that all the goof ups came to be due to ignorance.

At the end of the two hour talk and demonstration, two latest RED cameras – an Epic and a Scarlet – were given to students for a hands-on experience.

RED Epic – Industry Standard, most robust camera available today, Records on 5K, with a highest frame rate of 300FPS at 8:1 compression.

RED Scarlet – A more affordable version of RED, with similar resolution as scarlet, but reduced functionality, like 30 FPS at 8:1 compression.

Guest Lecture by Mr. B. P. Singh

Adventure, Thrill, Crime! A workshop aimed to teach the students all the nuances of Direction was conducted at Digital Academy – The Film School by Mr. B. P. Singh. Being the owner of Fireworks Productions and producer of hit horror series Aahat in 1996, Mr. B. P. Singh is also the creator and director-producer of the Indian TV series C.I.D.

Commencing with providing his expertise of what determines the story, he expressed that the first scene of the shot is the most determining factor.

Honing his career with state TV-channel Doordarshan in 1973 as a news camera-man and moving on to handling the camera for another 10 years, he mentioned “Experience as the main key in shooting a scene”. When asked by a student about his interest development in this detective based serial, B. P Singh claimed his interest aroused when he started visiting the Crime Branch of police, and befriended Inspector Jayant Wagle. It was in this process that he developed a lifelong interest in detective based work.

Talking about his contour of work; it is ‘Story telling’ that is imperative, especially when it comes to crime or detective based story. A story cannot always be on the same chord. It’s like reading a book with a new chapter at every end. A story too consists of various scenes divided into segments, and then into shots. One can start with a long shot or short one depending on the criteria of the shot. It is not easy to make a serial marathon revolving around the same concept, same story, and same phenomenon. However he achieved this with his serial CID. Apart from being the longest running TV series in India, On October 8, 2004, a special episode, “The Inheritance” / C.I.D. 111, marked the completion of seven years of CID in December. It was shot in a single continuous shot for 111 minutes (one hour and 51 minutes), which landed the show in the Limca Book of Records as ‘TV show – longest continual shot’.

Amidst the understanding of what a story consists of, how does one know what is a good scene or bad scene? Throwing light on the whole debate he claimed “A good scene needs a good script, good dialogues, good lighting and then so on”. Giving an example of Vicky Donor, the latest Bollywood movie that moved the audience with its script, for him this one was a win-win when it came to good script and good movie. It managed to talk about a very different issue so skilfully. For this fiction – director some of the best scenes comes to an individual when he has experienced an analogous situation in his life.

Exposing oneself to good writing becomes of a paramount value to write a good script, because a good script will always be good even if the direction is not. When a student asked about how diverse emotions can be packed together in one scene, Mr. Singh enlightened them with his theory.

When you get script in hand you need to think of the emotions that will come in the scene. Special lighting, camera, trolley are just the means to enhance the scene. The whole scene cannot be shot at one time, you need to cut and decide how to combine the scenes and which ones to enhance.

No two directors can direct the scene similarly. Their thinking is different, their inspiration is different. What inspires one may not inspire the other. The same shot can be taken by two people in two different ways.

At the end what matters is ‘What the director does to transfer the scene on the frame’. Chop chop chop….

A Guest Lecture by – HOLLYWOOD ACTOR & PRODUCER MR. TOM MALLOY

Actor, Writer & Producer MR.TOM MALLOY is known for wearing many hats for his movies The Alphabet Killer(2008), The Attic (2008), Love N’ Dancing (2008). For this critically acclaimed actor, his passions do not end just here. His skills include Dancing, Martial Arts & Boxing, Singing, Street Magic & Juggling.

Known for his motivational speaking skills for students of all ages, he shared his experience as an Actor and Producer with the students at Digital Academy- The Film School.

Commencing with a short visual introduction of his movies ‘Love N Dancing’ followed by ‘The Alphabet Killer’ and ‘The Attic’ he spoke about his experience while filming the famous horror sequence in the movie. Even today sometimes he goes back and watches the scenes from the movie to learn and understand the details.

He then brought to light how Filmmaking is different in various cultures. Every country has it’s own aspect that can be captured in the movie. For him Slumdog Millionaire broke the trend of stylized Cinema and even ‘Crouching Tiger , Hidden Dragon’ for that matter. Slumdog Millionaire being a dramatic movie enveloped the assence of a thriller, a movie made from the prespective of the audience, what they would have liked to watch and yes they loved watching it.

Talking about his career from Acting to Production, and onto Writing – three different roles in Filmmaking was not an easy job. To give a better understanding of how Actors and Producers manage their roles, he stated “Filmmaking is like driving a car. You learn something about it everyday, on the journey”. When it comes to dialogues he mentions emotions being the key.

When it comes to globalized films, in the end a story is a atory. There is a lot of history in films which ever country you come from. John Cassevetes being the pioneer of American independent film gave new meaning to cinema and Film Making.

Moving onto important aspects in Filmmaking, he claimmed 5 rules to live by:

1. Killer script – Make a script which wakes up the audience. Best part of a good film with a good script is that you feel you are on a journey with the movie, you feel being a part of it. In his past ‘Star Wars’ was one such movie that made him feel like that. Writing a mind boggling script comes from reading good scripts. Try and make them your models. If a movie blows you away read its script rather than only watching the movie.

2. Pitch- Pitch of the movie… Pitch to yourself! Pitch your movie in a way that it cannot be rejected. Even if it means pitching it to your Actors, Producers. If you cannot sell it to them you cannot sell it to the audience. Have a strong Pitch of yourself. Which means knowing what you want to do and how to would want to do it. Especially for a Filmmaker, as he needs to be very confident about himself and his work.

3. BRBD- ‘Be realistic but dream’. As a Filmmaker you may have certain dreams to achieve, but yes they have to be realistic. Realistic in terms of it’s happening, financing, possibility and deadlines. It is very important to complete what you have started. When you start something finish it because if you do not you will never learn how to. You may have a mind set to achieve your goals and reach them one day. Let that one day be everyday.

4. Film financing- Film financing is like catching the wave of the economy. You set the budget and you are out there to reach it. The figures you might set may change your lifestyle. For producers it may seem merely like a business plan, however reality is what is needed.

5. A plan overall- Everything needs to be planned. Chalk out your plan. A fantastic actor will always say to himself ” I am awesome and it will happen”, to make things happen, and he eventually does. You can control that inner voice in you and programme it to be the best Director, Producer. Giving a classic example of Charlie Chaplin in the days when he lived hand-to-mouth. he still believed he was the best actor and thus it happened to him finally.

Ending on a lighter note, Malloy cited the biggest challenge one faces in Film Making is the word ‘But’. To be successful you need to change the word ‘But’ to ‘And’, and Filmmaking is your world!

You Join Lives When You Edit

The common perception about a Film Editor’s job is that he is the person who makes the cuts. A Director captures a good deal of unnecessary information during the shoot and then the Editor chooses the correct shots, trims the extra material and sculpts the final film.

How true is that? An Editor does cut the recorded material. But that is not the only purpose of his job. Instead, he joins chunks of action shots and creates a scene with the shot-changes hidden. He chooses the emotion that suits the Director’s vision and makes it as effective as possible.

The Editor can be called a Director in disguise. He directs the film, but on the table. He does not shoot. He doesn’t even make an appearance at the shooting floor. But he is the first viewer of the shot material, known as the rushes. He recreates the film, with the screenplay in hand, to tell the story. He plays the role of the film’s first critic too.

We talk about a film’s internal rhythm that develops in time. More than the Director, it’s the Editor who creates that rhythm. It is difficult to describe that rhythm in words. But as the audience, we realize when successive shots become shorter and the scene gains pace. Such accelerated mood becomes a creative tool during a suspense-filled moment or a chase scene. Thrillers regularly use fast cuts so that the story moves on from one aspect to another, leaving little or no time for the audience to concentrate on the details. It creates a mood of rapidness, an emotion of tension.

Shots tend to become longer when it is time to introspect. Sometimes the scene demands a slow moving camera, where the frame just stays where it is for minutes. Filmmakers such as Theo Angelopoulos make good use of such stasis in time. A brilliant example was where the little girl is molested inside the truck at the end of Landscape in the Mist (1988). We, as the sympathetic audience, want the camera to move, to recede further away or to come closer, so that we can get rid of the tension and guilt. But the camera does not move. It remains stationary, at a distance from the truck where the crime is happening. It is an Editor’s choice to use a scene like that. It does not matter if the Director has actually chosen the shot. It is the Editor’s mind which is at work here.

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In some ways, an Editor’s mind works like a musician’s. The Editor creates tempos throughout the film that sustain tension at particular points in the story. The ups and downs in the story act like musical notes which operate in time. Maybe that’s what Satyajit Ray meant when an interviewer asked him how he makes a film and he said, “Musically!”

So how did it all start? There was no Editor and no need for editing when movies were first born. The camera started and stopped only once throughout the entire film. Each scene was a shot, and that made an entire movie. The duration of such movies was limited to the capacity of film, which would hold not more than 100 ft at that time. More than 100 ft, and the film would become prone to tearing due to the stress produced by intermittent motion. That problem was solved with the introduction of Latham loop.

However, the problem with such one-shot one-scene set up is that the filmmaker cannot change point-of-view without changing the camera position during the shot. In the initial days, camera dollies were very primitive and jerky. Also it wasn’t always possible to change the camera position without damaging the flow of the story.

Hence, the films looked like recorded plays. In fact, most of them were exactly that – staged plays filmed from a typical theater audience position. They gave an impression of a third person point-of-view and the only way to focus the spectator’s attention to a part of the screen was to move character.

In 1903, British filmmaker George Smith carried out a highly successful experiment by changing the point-of-view in Mary Jane Mishap. He juxtaposed wide, establishing shots with medium close up of the characters, to make the audience empathize with them. Dividing a scene or sequence was tried even before that. Goerge Méliès attempted that in his film Journey to the Moon (1902).

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During the same period, Edison’s film company made two films that explored cinematic storytelling breaking them into sequences. Both the films, The Life of an American Fireman (1903) and The Great Train Robbery (1903), used the cross-cutting technique to portray simultaneity. Now the audience could see for the first time while an action was happening at one place while what was happening at another place during the same time. The concept of ‘Meanwhile’ was very effectively produced by the logical juxtaposition of scenes, connected through common cues by a set of conventions, later to be called parallel editing.

It was the filmmaker who chose these cuts. However, specialized people had to be employed soon for the purpose of physical joining of negatives of different scenes or shots. They rose in rank with time and started suggesting things to their boss. They were the world’s first Editors.

It was in 1903, when the first big close up (also known as insert) appeared in Edison Film Company’s short, The Gay Shoe Clerk, to offer a glimpse into a character’s psyche by shifting the point-of-view. A mini story was effectively told using only two shots and three cuts. Cinema had started in the magic tent. But now the magic went too far.

That year was indeed very auspicious for cinema. A young screenwriter called David Wark Griffith joined American Mutascope and Biograph Company that year, and twelve years later he would change the face of film making and establish cinema as modern art.

Griffith applied almost every possible camera technique from his time to make his first feature length film, Birth of a Nation (1915). Though he may not have invented the techniques himself, he was the first to show how narration in literature could could be applied to cinematic storytelling. He demonstrated how a shot could represent a sentence from literature. He showed the consistent way to cut and join shots to build an equivalent of a paragraph from literature and turn it into a scene in the movie, join scenes to build a chapter from a novel and create a sequence. Ever since Birth of a Nation, all filmmakers around the world, starting from Eisenstein in USSR, Bresson in France, Phalke in India and Hitchcock and John Ford in Hollywood, followed Griffith’s footsteps.

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Griffith was followed by a line of master Editors. They joined two shots and joined two lives which would otherwise remain separate. Movies still show two persons talking over telephones looking in opposite directions in different shots, so that their eyelines match. We still hide the shot changes in modern films depending on the action change; matching the two different shot magnifications. It is similar to a sentence change, or to the complexity of the sentence, depending on the change of the principal verb.

Editors make the movies lifelike. In life too, we want to cut the unnecessary parts from our memories, to erase the wastes of our folly and to make it focused and steady. Don’t we?

Role of a Director in Film Making

Often called the captain of the ship, the Director is the primary creative force behind a Film. He or she is the person who translates the screenplay onto the screen through a definite vision. In doing so, he is aided in equal measure by a host of creative & talented technicians, such as the Director of Photography, the Editor, the Actors. But the entire visual language and the final say rests with the Director. It’s the Director’s unique interpretation of the story and of the characters told through an individual cinematic aesthetics that makes the Director the torch-bearer of a Film.

Hence, the responsibilities that a Director has are many. Guiding and soliciting strong & believable performances from the Actors, communicating a defined visual treatment to the Director of Photography, so that he or she can translate the Director’s vision onto the screen, guiding the Editor through the editing process, so that emphasis and accent is put on pivotal plot points in the story. All this & much more is the prerogative of the Director. It’s a complex job that calls for a combination of the left brain & right brain functions – of organization & creativity, of order & exploration.

To truly understand these duties, every aspiring Director must train for years. Watch many Films, read relevant books and ideally work under a good Director to learn the ropes. But even if one is able to do all this, there’s never a guarantee that your education will be complete and you will have a chance of directing your own Film someday. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the Film-making business. The stakes are high and very few are capable of shouldering the immense responsibilities of being a Director.

There is however one route that can at least assure that you will have it all in terms of knowledge, learning, education and experience. And that is by studying Film-making at a world class center of education, like Digital Academy – The Film School. The Film-making program here gives hungry students an in depth understanding of everything related to Film-making & Direction, not just in theory but also via numerous practical Film-making exercises, instructed by the best Directors from the Film industry. Following your superb education, you also get the chance to be placed under a Director in Bollywood to truly hone your craft and seal your chances of becoming a Director.

There’s really nothing quite like the euphoric feeling of Directing a Film. And in order to do that you must direct your attention & energies towards a great education and see how far it takes you.

Role of an Actor in Film Making

An Actor is an artist; the most vital tool in the visual medium of Films, via whom the story and the journey of a Film is articulated. A fitting analogy for an Actor could be a race car driver. While many people and talents come together to create the racing team, like the engineers, the sponsors and the pit-stop crew, it is ultimately the driver’s performance that wins or loses a race, no matter how well-prepared the team may have been.

It’s the same when it comes to a Film. There could be great direction, compelling story and visuals, soulful music; but all this can be a let down if the Actors do not do justice to their characters and to the story. So what is the role of an Actor then? At the most basic level, it is to translate an engaging and believable portrayal of the written character onto screen.

But in doing so, an Actor needs many tools too. And this is one skill set that is limitless. Even if someone is a born Actor, his talent needs to be harnessed in a manner where either the Actor himself or the Director can draw on that talent and manifest it in a winning performance.

Therefore an Actor needs to be a good listener observer, be able to take directions, be intuitive and must possess a tangible acting range. It’s a skill set that eludes most and not everyone can learn it by themselves. Which is why in order to bring out the best in you as an Actor, it is advisable to formally learn Acting. With an institution like Digital Academy – The Film School, there is a truly world class education in Acting that awaits all young and aspiring students who are eager to become Actors.

Learn the craft from the best in the business and train using the most renowned methods to fast track your way to stardom. Not only will you learn the history and theory of acting at DA, you could also become the actual Actor in Films the students shoot, where you can experience the real process involved in translating a character onto screen while using your craft & learning. Act now, if you want to be a great Actor!

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