Chinese film and television star Vivian Wei is coming to Toronto Film School next week to teach a Master Class in acting.
Wei’s guest lecture, which will take place at Dundas Campus on Aug. 7, marks the first collaboration between TFS and Beijing Film Academy (BFA) since the two schools signed a memorandum of understanding back in November.
Under that agreement, both TFS and BFA resolved to collaborate on student and faculty exchanges, visits, and workshops, as well as to discuss future program opportunities – all with an eye to enriching the learning experiences of students at both schools.
“Even though we come from different cultures and speak different languages, we share many similarities as human beings. Acting is based in emotion and situation, and the stories actors tell are about us as human beings, so there is a common ground here,” said Ling Markovitz, who was instrumental in organizing the faculty exchange that’s bringing Wei to Toronto next week and will send TFS’s John Tench to Beijing for 10 days in mid-September.
“I feel very fortunate that John has the time to go and teach (at BFA) on behalf of the Toronto Film School. With his expertise and stature, people will recognize…that our students are receiving absolute, up-to-date training from current working professionals. It’s very wonderful.”
During her three-hour Master Class at TFS, Wei is expected to not only share her vast knowledge of acting and experience in the Chinese entertainment industry – including her appearances in many films and TV series such as The Bronze Teeth, Love You Lifetime, Secret of Marriage, Defender, Flowers Bloom and Fade, and A Song From My Lover, among others – but will also discuss BFA’s acting program and its curriculum.
“I’m looking forward to teaching students with different backgrounds and various acting styles, and hopefully seeing the sparkles between the different cultures,” said Wei, an Associate Professor of Performing Arts at BFA.
“I also hope students learn more about Beijing Film Academy, our teaching model and the curriculum construction of the acting department at BFA…and to extend a welcome to Toronto Film School instructors to BFA for academic exchange and to students for further studies.”
Established in 1950, Beijing Film Academy boasts a nearly 70-year reputation as the top film academy in China, with esteemed directors such as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Jia Zhangke and Gu Changwei amongst its most famous graduates.
Today, BFA offers a “multi-disciplinary and multi-level” approach to learning that has embraced the entire spectrum of filmmaking in its approach to training China’s “advanced film talents” – from production and creation, to research and acting.
It’s the latter amongst those subjects – acting – that John Tench is excited to travel more than 10,500 km to teach at BFA’s campus in the Haidian District of Beijing.
“I’m very excited to go, from an experiential viewpoint – especially for the exchange of ideas and the trading of different techniques it will mean…because it’s ultimately when you go in and immerse yourself that you get to the real deal,” said Tench, a TFS instructor who launched his own successful acting career at the legendary Factory Theatre Lab here in Toronto, before going on to study and work in New York, London, Paris, and L.A., among others.
“Technique wise, there are explorations that the Asian theatre and film community do that we don’t necessarily do, so that exchange of information really excites me. It’s like what the Romans learned from the Greeks when they brought theatre to Rome.”
Likewise, Tench – whose many major feature film appearances include roles in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain, Antoine Fuqua’s Shooter, and Zac Snyder’s Watchmen, to name just a few – is hoping to impart on BFA students some of the knowledge he’s amassed over the course of an acting career that’s spanned more than 40 years in theatre, film and television.
Tench has also appeared in episodes of such hit TV shows as Schitt’s Creek, Private Eyes, Alias Grace, Murdoch Mysteries, Designated Survivor, American Gods, Supernatural, and The X-Files, among many others – although to gaming enthusiasts, his most beloved character is that of Raymond ‘T-Bone’ Kenney on Ubisoft’s award-winning Watch Dogs video games.
“I think one of the most important things in our business is the ability to develop different ways of looking at things, different disciplines, different techniques, different sets of experiences,” he said.
“That’s what this exchange will hopefully do (for students at both TFS and BFA), and that all goes a long way to developing a voice as an actor.”
Vivian Wei’s Master Class will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 7 from 1 to 4 p.m. at 10 Dundas St. E., 7th Floor, Studio 2.
While the event is almost full, students wishing to attend are asked to email [email protected] to be put on the waiting list.