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.”
Uncertain. It’s a word we hear a lot these days, COVID has changed how we think, how we act, how we go about a regular day. In a way, we wake up each day a little ‘uncertain’ how that day will go.
As actors, we are use to that way of life even before COVID, since we are, by business purposes termed ‘self-employed.’ We’re always a little uncertain when our next gig will come. When the cameras will be rolling or the curtain will be raised. So that’s why its important to have as much control over your career as possible. To take away the ‘uncertain’, and make sure to have multiple revenue streams, so having various work is always a certain thing
The service industry has long been a flexible revenue stream with the opportunity to make the kind of money you can’t make at other part time jobs, while maintaining the flexibility for auditions and bookings. The actor by day, server by night is a reality for many professional actors as they are starting out. The character traits of the young aspiring actor have often aligned nicely with the type of person many restaurants are looking to hire as their front facing staff member to the paying customers. Many actors who choose this path dream of the day when they can finally book enough consistent work that they never need to serve again.
I stumbled upon another path early on my career, and nurtured the opportunities it created over the years to offer me the opportunities I am glad to have today. Instead of waiting on tables in the early part of my career, I discovered I had a knack for voices and was able to book work replacing voices on animated series that were originally recorded in other languages (primarily Japanese) into English. I was able to cover my basic needs through the early on camera bookings with the voice work. This still left me lots of time in my day to learn other things that I enjoyed and that could also provide me additional revenue streams. Next, I picked up work as a professional mascot, performing numerous characters for a local special events company. I’ve been doing things I love to pay my bills for decades now, all within the same category of “things I love doing.”
There are countless opportunities for actors to do the same if they just take the time to figure out what they love and how they can get paid to do it. There is a beautiful Japanese concept, called Ikigai, that focuses on the union point of four fundamental components of life: passion, vocation, profession and mission. It breaks down into finding something you are good at (your passion meets profession), something you love (your passion meets mission), something the world needs (your mission meets vocation), and finally, something you can be paid for (your vocation meets professional opportunity). Many people in this world are convinced you can find a job or career that makes you money, or one that makes you happy. The truth is… you never had to choose one or the other.
I now have multiple revenue streams, each in areas that bring me joy and fiscal compensation. I act for the camera, on stage, and voicing cartoons and video games. I was fortunate to work on some higher profile shows and I make some of my revenue from attending fan conventions as a guest. I own a production company that creates content for film and television. I write books. I own a post-secondary school. I direct. I produce. I write for film and television. I wish I could say I was lucky to have found a path that has allowed me the opportunity to have create revenue in various roles but it wasn’t luck at all. Nor is it a unique opportunity for me. This is available to all actors.
I think of all of the other actors out there who also have multiple revenue streams: Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba, Nick Offerman, Rupert Grint, Tom Selleck, and countless others. They all have other part-time jobs outside of their acting or music careers. The secret has never been to get down to one job, it’s to find multiple revenue streams that bring you as much joy as the acting does. This ability to create financial security also creates a confidence and ability to really focus on the kind of work you want to do.
Walt Disney Animation Studios says the new Vancouver facility will focus on long-form series work and special projects created for the Disney+ and streaming service.
Disney says its feature films will continue to be made at the company’s Burbank studio.
The Vancouver studio’s first project will be a highly anticipated Moana series for Disney +.