Recently, the largest talent showcase ever in Vancouver happened, and a fair amount of lucky actors who were underrepresented got a chance to shine. It’s a great opportunity for those, but usually those who in the union, specifically UBCP/ACTRA. If it hadn’t been for the brilliant Ellie Harvie and so many other people, this kind of showcase wouldn’t be possible. And wouldn’t you know it, I got a chance to speak to one of the lucky winners, Daniel Bristol. He got selected, and managed to meet with any casting director of his choosing to work with them one on one. Where will he go from here? A path of success. In the meantime, let’s get to know more about him… through this interview I conducted.
HNMAG: First off, congratulations on being chosen. How did you feel when you got the news?
Daniel Bristol: Honestly, I just started screaming. (laughs) I tried a few times in these showcases, and it just meant so much to get that stamp of recognition from UBCP/ACTRA. I was with a friend at the time and it was December of last year and I was on my holiday. When I got the news, we just both started screaming. Complete euphoria and I called my mom. It was really kind of surprising and amazing.
HNMAG: Which casting director did you get to meet with?
Daniel Bristol: Yeah, I got to meet with a fantastic casting director at the beginning of this year, and just for the sake of professionalism, I’m not going to name-drop them, but I will say we had an amazing meeting, we worked the scene again, and they took into an amazing direction.
HNMAG: And what was the process of going through the event? How did it go?
Daniel Bristol: Basically, I chose a scene: I played a young FBI agent, trying to track down the murderer of this young girl. The main climax of the scene takes place in a small town, there’s a lot of subtext: My partner helping in the investigation happens to be Chinese and is targeted by a bigoted law enforcement officer for a racially fueled hate crime. The officer gets aggressive towards her and it gets quite physical. My character stands in the middle of this and protects her so there’s a lot of physical stakes in this scene and there’s kind of interesting social undertones too that I really liked exploring. There were a lot of layers in the backstory going on. First thing that I did was choose a great piece, and then I submitted it. Then a panel of Film/TV industry professionals judged it and gave me amazing feedback, and then I just waited to see if I made it into the top 10. It was out of 197 Union Actor submissions. They were looking for 5 different categories in particular, it was the BIPOC Committee, Members with Disabilities Committee, Women’s Committee, Queer Committee, and the Young Emerging Actors Assembly Committee which is what I submitted into.
HNMAG: With what UBCP/ACTRA is doing with these events, what do they do to get underrepresented actors more recognition?
Daniel Bristol: I think it’s creating these amazing opportunities like these, the showcase was completely free to submit. Anyone as long as they were in the union, could apply. I think that does a lot and they’re not making any money off of this, they’re giving actors like myself that are emerging, this opportunity to be seen by casting. It’s people like The UBCP/ACTRA President, Ellie Harvie and Karla Laird the Director of Member Services, and Kurt Evans at Artist2Artist who are the people that are giving back so I’m really thankful that the Canadian Film/TV industry is so selfless in that way.
HNMAG: What are your new and upcoming plans in acting?
Daniel Bristol: Well, I have recently had a short film premiere at the Victoria Film Festival, called Cancelled Stamp. It was directed by Leo Award winner, Joyce Kline and it actually won the coveted audience best short film award. In that one I played a 1920’s doctor named Reid. He has a really interesting and complex relationship with some conjoined twins. It’s really interesting, the story follows these conjoined twin sisters, and then drama ensues. That’s kind of the project that’s getting some critical buzz right now and other than that, I’m just auditioning a lot and being open to what comes my way.
HNMAG: What was it like before you got involved in this showcase?
Daniel Bristol: Things were really good, actually. I was being seen but I’m at the stage right now where I’m trying to make as many great relationships with the casting directors as possible. There’s so many great ones in Vancouver, and there’s always going to be some that I’m going to want to strengthen that relationship even more with. Getting the opportunity to talk to my agent about it, we decided together over what my top picks were. It was amazing that almost every casting director in Vancouver was participating and the fact that I got to choose, was just insane (laughs)
Daniel explained that a lot of showcases don’t work in such a way, it’s usually one or two casting directors that are attached instead of every single one. He gladly took the opportunity because it was also free.
HNMAG: Let’s talk a little more about you and your acting career. How did you get into acting?
Daniel Bristol: Oh, wow, yeah. I’ve been doing this for so long, I started when I was 8 years old. It all started because my childhood babysitter was an actor and he ended up moving to LA where he became quite successful. As a child I knew and saw that it was possible, and I grew up on Vancouver Island, so there weren’t a lot of acting classes but I started taking great classes at Spotlight Academy for film acting. An agent saw me when I was on Vancouver Island as a child and I just started to work professionally as a child actor. I would take the ferry over to Vancouver and book roles. One of the very first roles I got was The Uninvited, and I played one of the ghost children, and that was just an amazing thing to happen as a child because I got to be on set with actors like Elizabeth Banks and David Strathairn when they were huge and now looking back on it, I think that did influence me a lot.
HNMAG: That’s interesting. And where did you get your training?
Daniel Bristol: Out of high school I ended up auditioning for Studio 58 which is one of the premiere acting conservatory training programs in all of Canada. I ended up studying there for 3 years and only 16 people get accepted in Canada each semester. I felt so grateful I could be a part of that and now that I’m graduated, I’m just moving on up and trying to keep busy. There’s something about acting that is so fulfilling, it makes life so exciting.
HNMAG: What are some of your favourite types of characters to play?
Daniel Bristol: Something that I loved about Studio 58 was that they instilled in us that there was great integrity in playing characters outside of our range. Whenever I am challenged by a character and get a role where my initial reaction is ‘I don’t know HOW I’m going to do this’, that’s always exciting to me. The funny thing is those are usually the roles that get the best recognition. So definitely, roles that challenge me and are kind of outside my personal life. If there’s anything that stretches me in that way, that was a huge thing in acting school. Some of the ones in my wheelhouse: I love psychological thrillers, and then on the flip side I love comedy too. The duality in those things are great, and I always love to find the drama in the comedy and the comedy in the drama. I find those two things fuel each other, so when I get to do one of those, I know it’s going to be a great time.
HNMAG: What do you do to prepare for getting into character?
Daniel Bristol: Yeah, it’s a really fun process and it’s always changing. Once I finished studying at Studio 58, I also took the time to train at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Los Angeles. They teach a lot of Sense Memory and Affective Memory. It uses all the senses of the human body, strengthens those senses, and connects it to something real. That way every time you’re in front of the camera, you’re completely focused, relaxed, and you can let go and let the scene play out in the environment. That way, you don’t have to act, the sort of acting I like to do is when there’s no acting involved and it’s completely authentic. Whatever I gotta do to get to that point where it’s real, that’s what I do. There’s also those kind of classic things from theatre school like, “What’s your intention, what does your character want?” those are great to start with to kind of get under the skin of the character. I like to work from the inside out instead of outside in and I like to create a backstory for my character too. I look for the unsaid truths. Living in the moment is what I’m really interested in.
HNMAG: Have you ever had any challenges while acting and how did you come over them?
Daniel Bristol: I’m challenged on a daily basis and the thing is, there’s the good sort of challenge where it’s so exciting and I can really sink my teeth into this, and it’s more of a scary thing to really go to those deep places. But those are the challenges that I really enjoy. Then there’s sometimes when a role just may not be clicking. This might not be because it’s a tough or challenging role, it may be because for whatever reason it’s just not clicking. That happens too and you just have to stay calm and go back to the training. So I’m really grateful that I have that training to fall back on. But one of the things that really solves any issue is that you should go back to the listening. Connect with your scene partner because at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what you’re doing, it really just matters if you’re serving the story. If you can detach from your ego of wanting to do a “good job” and chasing that result, and simply live moment to moment, be with your scene partner, bring that fullness of life allowing yourself to be seen, then that’s really the most important thing.
HNMAG: COVID must’ve been a real hassle. Now that things are clearing up, do you see working on set being much easier in the near future?
Daniel Bristol: I really hope so. I think there’s such a craving for that human connection. If we have to be separated by plexiglass, we have to social-distance, I think it’s human nature to try to find a way to tell these stories. I don’t know how soon it’s gonna happen that there won’t be any protocols, but I’m not really in charge in making of those decisions. Whenever I’ve been working on projects in the pandemic, there’s been such a sense of resilience. I did a theatre workshop a year ago and it was amazing. It was the first time I acted through plexiglass with a scene partner and it upped the stakes even more because there was such a need to connect. It helped the scene in a weird way and took away a lot of the distractions.
As you can see, Daniel is well on his way with casting. This is a good sign for such a talented actor, and I wish him the best of luck, especially the possibility of winning some awards in the future. That would be pretty cool.