A struggling method actor (Alex Karpovsky) in New York City resorts to medical acting, a part-time gig performing the symptoms of various illnesses for student doctors.
“Actor Seeks Role” tells the story of the difficulties of pursuing a career in the arts, and to what lengths one person is willing to go to follow his dreams. Through one method actor’s passion for performance, we see how deeply internalizing a role can actually work against a performer. As two competing mentors direct our protagonist in his craft, their incongruous advice creates a complicated tug-of-war. The film is a darker-toned character study that explores what happens when preparing for a role turns into an unhealthy obsession.
Director Michael Tyburski did a lot of research into standardized patient programs (better known as “medical acting”), as they were working on the script.
New York naturally has a big acting community, so there’s a lot of talent within the field here. So that I could better understand how it all worked, I visited several medical schools around the city that had the mock exam rooms with all the hidden cameras and microphones. We of course fictionalized aspects of it, but it’s essentially based on how the real programs actually work.
The film had a low-key tone but built up its pace through the fabulous attention to detail, to the story and the on screen as well. Michael tells us how he visually thought his film through:
One thing that I got really excited about to portray visually in the film, is all the subtle connections between the theatre and medical worlds. Hospitals have rooms called things like “medical theaters” and there’s of course curtains around a patient’s bed. In my romanticized version of how medical acting works from the performer’s perspective, I like to think that this is essentially still a sort of stage for the actor. At the end of our story, our main character has essentially found his “stage” and “audience”, but it’s not quite what he envisioned. In one draft, I had the medical curtains closing on Paul after he takes a bow to an empty medical theatre, but settled on the more subtle spotlight being powered down off stage.
Another important visual theme I wanted to come across in the film was the contrast between the look of the medical and theatre world. Even though the medical world is essentially hurting him, it’s inherently clinical, so I wanted those scenes to feel clean and bright. Paul has a real future there. The acting world Paul strives to succeed in on the other hand is gritty and old. We found the most depressing locations for him to take acting classes in and go on casting calls. And then there’s the other idea, that as Paul gets deeper into his assigned illness role, that the two worlds start to blend a bit more. We wanted the hallway of the casting office where Paul finds himself at an audition, to have a kind of subtle doctor’s waiting room feel, complete with sick, coughing patients/aspiring actors.