Jay Scully is an acting coach who spent three months in 2018 coaching the main cast of the feature film SuperFly for Sony Pictures, Joel Silver and Director X in Atlanta. He has cast more than 50 feature films and television shows and worked extensively on set as an acting teacher and coach. Additionally, he has coached a number of Hollywood’s top actors privately including Frieda Pinto, Moran Atias and the late Paul Walker, as well as NBC Sports Color Commentators.
As the Theatre Conservatory Instructor of SCR’s Acting for the Camera class, Scully’s students learn audition, call-back and performance technique for use in on-camera situations. In our Q&A, learn more about Scully’s background, his teaching style and what students can expect in his class on acting for the camera in the winter of 2020.
How did you get interested in acting?
I became interested in acting in high school, but didn’t really pursue it until college when I was cast in an on-campus production.
What does an acting coach do?
An acting coach like me works on-set with actors filming and in a studio preparing actors for auditions. My job is to prepare actors ahead of time for a pressure-filled work environment so they can thrive when time constraints are a factor. I guide actors so they can show up and perform without much direction or rehearsal—something that is crucial in today’s fast-moving business.
Tell us a bit about acting for the camera—how is this different from being onstage?
Acting for the camera means adding a technical aspect to your work, plain and simple. There are elements to stage acting that transfer to camera acting and others that don’t, but the language tends to be similar. The camera is all-important and an actor’s work must take that into account at all times, being tailored for what the frame can sustain. Acting for the camera is not about merely doing less—it is doing less, but being more.
What is your proudest moment as an actor? As an acting coach?
My proudest moment as an actor was performing the title role in a production of Hamlet on the Lower East Side of New York, and having a homeless man walk right onto our set at the exact moment I began the ‘What a piece of work is man” speech. Nothing could be more like the original Globe theatre than that. As an acting coach, my proudest moment was being asked to coach the five amazing kids in the film Super 8 for the entire production. Working with a legend like J.J. Abrams is an experience I will never forget.
You also coach sports color commentators?
Color commentators [who provide commentary for sports broadcasts, usually filling in details when sports action has paused] are like actors in that preparation and clarity of your message is freedom. I’ve had the honor to coach a couple of sports personalities, one of which is Adam Snow, a professional polo player who is in the U.S. Polo Hall of Fame. He is the NBC color commentator for all of the big polo matches including the U.S. Open.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I just love when actors become empowered through their work. There is so much about this business that will work against you, making it absolutely critical that your work empowers you. Only you can be your own best advocate, and your high standards for yourself should be the only criteria that matters. That is about developing sound, positive work habits, and maintaining a sense of curiosity and wonder in the creative process.
How would your students describe your teaching style?
I think most of my students describe my style as positive, encouraging, determined and methodical. My style is based on actual experience in the real business of acting in film and television, and what it requires of today’s actors. It has changed significantly in the last few years—it is more transactional, and much faster-moving, which means only actors who know how to navigate current audition and on-set situations will thrive. My style is not theoretical, it is empirical.
What would you most like people to know about your Acting for the Camera class at SCR?
That this is a serious approach to working in today’s industry. As such, it prepares actors for working with a camera in whatever way they would like to pursue. Even if an actor is looking to perform recreationally in smaller productions, my class will give them the tools they need to succeed in auditioning and working on set. Oh, and that every single actor has the technology in their pocket to launch their career.
Learn more and enroll in classes.