Story Institute is a Vancouver acting school with a unique focus on combining the core foundations of acting with the key business habits required for consistent success. Our Vancouver acting classes focus on the foundational skills needed to work in the Vancouver film industry. Our graduates learn the craft at the level required to perform on top series like Riverdale, The Flash, Batwoman, and the other world-class television series shot here. We also dedicate a portion of this program to the exciting world of voicing cartoons and video games, like the Far Cry series, or Lego Star Wars, or My Little Pony, to name a few. Graduates of our diploma program from this Vancouver acting school receive lifetime mentorship and guidance for free and they also receive fundamental tools like a professional demo reel and voiceover demo to help them find representation with one of the top Talent Agents in Vancouver. We think differently, and that is probably why our students see such different results.
We dream big and we live bigger!
Coaching can be expensive. In some cases it can be as much s $75 or more. Actors often have to ask themselves “Is this one of the big ones I should take more seriously?”
What if coaching was included at no additional charge? What if every single audition could be treated like “the big one?”
We see every audition as that chance, at this Vancouver acting school.
Even prior to the pandemic, the world have been evolving to more technological solutions in all industries. Film and television isn’t any different. This specific skill can make or break an audition. If it’s not lit right, framed properly, or of the sound is off… it can negatively affect an otherwise beautiful performance. Don’t give them any reason to say no. Always deliver your “A” game. Every single time. We are a leading Vancouver acting school.
This industry isn’t always trying to find out the right answers, it is sometimes trying to find the right questions first. We are here and happy to meet or take a call if you have any questions or need help with agents, headshots, resumes, or any of the other crucial elements of your career.
At out Vancouver acting school, our instructors don’t show you what should work in theory or what they’ve been told should make you better. They give you the same skills and knowledge they use in their everyday careers to book the roles they have been performing for years.
Art has two primary functions in society; it can entertain or it can educate, and in some wonderful cases it can do both. As actors, we serve stories that are effectively a reflection of society. It allows the audience to reflect on how our generation or moment in time sees itself in relation to the past, present, and future.
At Story Institute, a Vancouver Acting School, we appreciate the idea that great power comes with great responsibility. And in a world where it has become too easy to hit like or share, we feel we can be a greater catalyst for the change we wish to see in this world.
This is why we’ve created the Purpose Scholarship. Actors who train in our diploma program are given an opportunity to save $1,000 on their tuition if they commit to 4 hours of volunteer work to a charity or worthy cause for each of the six months of their training. This is 24 hours in total.
Michael Coleman credits a chance encounter with a comedy great for the path he took to acting.
In the mid-1990s, the Fleetwood-raised actor was working the local stand-up comedy circuit when Robin Williams strolled into the club where he was gigging. Backstage that night, the Jumanji star chatted with some of the budding comics in the room.
“He had a reputation of just showing up at comedy places around that time, when he was filming in Vancouver,” recalled Coleman. “We were like a community for him or something, and he’s such an incredible cool human being for it. For me, it was a game-changer, because he was huge at the time, and for him to be sitting around backstage with a bunch of aspiring comedians and actors, it was great. We just chewed the fat and he was like, ‘Ask me whatever you want,’ so we did.”
Coleman doesn’t have any photos of him with Williams, in the era before cellphone-selfies, but the moment clicked, and helped propel him into full-time work in acting.
Today, he’s among four co-founders of Story Institute (storyinstitute.ca), a Vancouver-based acting school, along with two former students of his, Dan Heinz and Josh Quocksister, and longtime pal Fred Ewanuick, of Corner Gas fame.
Coleman’s credits include a long list of TV, film, stage, video game, radio and cartoon projects, including the role of dwarf Happy on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, and work on X-Men: Evolution, Hello Kitty, DBZ, Inuyasha, Hamtaro, Supernatural, Smallville, Stargate and other shows. His TV debut was playing the character Howard Gordon on the Chris Carter series Millennium, in 1996.
Reached on the phone, Coleman is quick to chronicle his Surrey roots.
“Not only did I grow up in Surrey,” he started, “I’m 47 and I still talk to my Kindergarten teacher regularly and also to my high school drama coach. I keep the Surrey roots pretty tight,” he added with a laugh. “I still drive by the Surrey house I grew up in, in Fleetwood, and I see the Christmas tree we planted in the yard has grown quite large. Those are my Surrey roots.”
From Green Timbers Elementary, Johnston Heights junior high and on to Queen Elizabeth Secondary, Coleman slowly grew more interested in comedy and acting. After high school, he explored stand-up as a job.
“Back in the day, I used to get up on Saturday morning, go to the newspaper and look for gigs, and that’s how we did our business, pre-internet, right,” he said. “There was Lafflines in New Westminster, just so many different experiences, it was all pretty old-school.”
Ultimately, stand-up comedy just wasn’t his thing.
“I was pretty painful to watch, so I got out of that,” Coleman admitted. “I started to focus on voicing cartoons and acting and writing and directing. Stand-up wasn’t the platform for me. My last gig was around 1995, which is when things in the local film industry really started to pick up, too.”
Coleman recalls a gig on Stargate: Atlantis as one of the most memorable days of his early years in professional acting, in a 2008 episode called “Brain Storm.” According to a post on imdb.com, Coleman played “Front Desk Guy.”
“That episode had Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and it was just a nerd’s dream,” Coleman enthused. “It was one of those moments where we were having lunch and I was like, ‘How did I get here?!’ You know, ‘Just eat your food, pretend your supposed to be here and don’t let anyone know you’re a giant fraud’ – those thoughts in your head, right.”
Later, after years of acting, Coleman got into teaching others the craft, and Story Institute was launched in 2018. He’d worked for a few different acting schools and wanted to create something different – “a bit more unique,” he said. “Some of it was about paying it forward to the next generation.”
With that in mind, the school has launched a “Purpose Scholarship,” which offers students reduced tuition if they do charity work, “as a way of giving back and encouraging our students to give back, too,” Coleman explained.
A married father of two young girls, Coleman now splits his time between acting and teaching acting.
“Right now I work 12-hour days, six days a week, and when I’m not on set I make sure to turn it off at 6 o’clock,” Coleman explained. “My life is pretty much 100 per cent the school, the work and the family, and the school and work, that ebbs and flows depending on projects on the go. There are weeks where I do absolutely nothing at the school, and others when I’m there for literally 50 or 60 hours of the week.”
He’s also been leading some virtual acting classes with students at Semiahmoo Secondary in South Surrey.
In the COVID-19 era, Story Institute was able to transition from complete shutdown last spring to modified in-person classes a couple months later.
“Much like our local film industry, we’re just being smart and super safe with everything,” Coleman said. “You know, in North America, of the four major filming locations – Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and here – we’re the only one still running at full capacity. And our school benefits from that, being able to do things in-person.
“Filming (in Vancouver) is actually busier than it’s been in the history of the city,” he continued, “because all the other major film markets, they’re having a harder time with COVID. Because we’re in this pandemic, and all people are allowed to do is stay at home and watch TV, the one city where (content) is being created is Vancouver, in a really safe environment.”
A Vancouver-based film and TV studio has joined an elite group of companies known for putting people before profits.
The B-Corporation designation has been granted to fewer than four thousand companies — including Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
Vancouver Film Studios President and COO Pete Mitchell says having this status should draw even more production to B.C.
“They weigh concerns of employees, sustainability, and community engagements equally with financial performance.”
He adds the certification puts them in a group with other socially-conscious companies.
“The Disneys and Apples of the world who have the same intentions and, so they know when they come to our facilities what to expect and the standards to which we’ve been holding ourselves.”
Mitchell also has praise for Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry because she’s made it possible for crews to keep working during the pandemic.
“She has better information than any of us. Obviously, it’s frustrating with what we can and can’t do, but she has been bang on with her judgment … Because, if you look at California, they went on hiatus from their shows in December for two weeks and they haven’t come back because it’s obviously a much worse situation down there.”
Production in B.C. safe, strong amid pandemic
He adds only a few shows in the Vancouver area have had COVID-19 exposures because crews understand what’s at stake if they’re not responsible.
“Production has been going non-stop since we restarted, up to 70 [projects] at one point. People are looking to B.C. wanting to know how they can emulate us,” he says.
“Everybody’s observing social distancing, wearing masks and checking in with their productions to make sure that they don’t have any symptoms and washing their hands. So, it’s really been a very responsible kind of response from that group of people and I think it’s because they know, if they don’t do it, the industry shuts down. It’s so dependent on people. It’s not an automated industry and it’s very inspiring actually.”
Mitchell tells NEWS 1130 he’s proud and impressed with how crews working at Vancouver Film Studios have been able to co-exist with COVID-19.
“The creativity, resourcefulness, adaptability and all those things really are the key to us being a success and also, I’ve got to say the population of our province who does a really good job of listening to our public health officer and doing what she says.”
He says the BC Film Commission has been instrumental in coordinating current protocols along with WorkSafeBC and various unions.
“The film industry is so adaptable. When you go to set, any given day, you might be shooting a sunny scene with people in bathing suits and it snows or you might be having a world-wide pandemic, so basically, they adapt and move on. They take the people who test positive off set and bring other people in and there was even a case where key casts had a positive test and it looked like the show was going to shut down for two weeks and they quickly re-wrote and they only shut down for two days,” he says.
“So, yeah, there have been hiccups, but in general, it’s been super successful and the discipline of the crew on set is unbelievable because they show up at seven o’clock in the morning, put on their masks, and whether they’re inside or outside, groups or alone, they keep their mask on for 12-14 hours and at the end of the day, they go home.”
Some projects currently in production at Vancouver Film Studios include The Flash and Motherland.
The Deadpool movies starring Vancouver native Ryan Reynolds have also been shot there.
Vancouver’s Rio Theatre is reopening as a sports bar this month to get around COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting cinemas from operating.
Restaurants and bars in BC are currently allowed to be open with limited capacity and COVID-19 precautions, but screenings, movie theatres, and theatrical performances are prohibited.
“Screw the arts. We’re a sports bar now,” reads the sign above the Rio.
It’s welcoming back patrons starting Saturday, January 23, to “catch the big game on the biggest screen in town,” it said in a tweet.
Buttery popcorn, grilled cheese, and alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase, according to the Rio’s website.
The independent movie theatre near Commercial Drive and Broadway has been shut since November when BC enacted new public health orders to fight virus spread during the second wave.
Guests usually attend movies in safely distanced small pods — the same way people visit restaurants, the Rio’s petition says.
“Films are very different from community gatherings or ceremonial events such as weddings, or other similarly organized gatherings at churches or temples – our patrons do not congregate or socialize in large groups,” its online petition says.
BC’s current public health restrictions are set to expire on February 5. It’s not yet known if they will get extended.