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KU film and media studies lecturer Laura Kirk speaks in front of her acting for the camera class on Sept. 25. Kirk has acted in the films "American Honey" and "Lisa Picard is Famous."

In KU lecturer Laura Kirk’s afternoon class, acting for the camera, she teaches students a range of techniques — all aimed at showing them how to exist in front of the camera naturally.

In a recent FMS: 302 class on Sept. 25, she began her lecture talking about eye contact, concentration and ensuring students listen to their fellow actors. Don’t just recite your lines, she said to them, listen and respond.

Kirk, who has several acting credits to her name, expresses her speech using hand gestures and body language — she speaks in poetic quotes.

“You have to use yourself and your own access to your immersion, so if you're not willing to look at that pretty closely, I think [acting is] a tough job,” Kirk said. 

Throughout her lecture, she used several examples from her own acting experiences in films such as “American Honey” with Shia LaBeouf. Her goal is to teach the students about what to expect when working on films outside of college and to prepare them for what it might actually be like if they were to try their hand at acting here — or move to Los Angeles or New York.

“They're trying to get an exposure to film work and industry standards,” Kirk said. “The reputation of the class is that directors are going to learn how to work with actors, and actors learn how to work with directors, and by both trying what the other one does, they start to learn where they're coming from.”

The class is cross-listed so students in both film and media studies and theater can enroll. Kirk said it’s an experience for film students to work with actors and actors to work with film students. Part of Kirk’s method is to have all of the students try both acting and directing so they can better understand the others craft.

“She does make you do some acting just so you can get the feel for it,” said junior film and media studies major Ishan Parikh from Overland Park. “It does give me a better appreciation for acting — for the camera specifically.”

Parikh was working on a film of his own, "Ego," when Kirk encouraged him to take the class in order to learn new methods for directing actors. 

“I figured it’s like the perfect blend of learning about acting, directing and writing,” Parikh said. 

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KU film and media studies lecturer Laura Kirk, left, lectures her students, including Jake Honer and Venus Leung, in her acting for the camera class. 

Although the class is specifically about acting, many of the students much prefer directing or writing. Kirk teaches the students methods for directing actors in a natural way and writing for them so that their line recitals sound natural.

“The way that she puts everything is very real world and very from experience and it just resonates a lot better,” said senior Film and Media Studies major Ian Pittman from Shawnee. “I'm not an actor and she teaches a lot about acting, but she really does teach about directing, and I definitely feel I'm a 10 times better director than I was.”

Kirk has some independent film work in her acting reel with some larger films as well. However, at first it wasn’t easy for her to get roles so she decided to write her own film, she said. She wrote “Lisa Picard is Famous,” starring herself as Lisa Picard which released in 2000 and had cameos from Sandra Bullock, Carrie Fisher and Spike Lee.

“I really encourage them to write for themselves, to be creative, not just wait for work, but create their own work,” Kirk said.

According to Kirk, many students that have come through her class have gone on and collaborated with each other in LA and New York. This is something that she really emphasizes in her class; look for people you enjoy making films with and stick with them. 

“Find your tribe — find the people you enjoy creating with,” Kirk said.