One on One with Russell Porter

by Patricia Cullen on March 13, 2009

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Founder of the First Step Actors’ Workshop, The Actors Centre, The Independent Artists Group and The North Shore Film Festival, Russell Porter, man of all trades and actor, embodies the make-your-own-work idiom entirely. In addition to starting up the aforementioned foundations geared toward strengthening actors and the acting community, Russell’s real passion is coaching.

Writer’s Note: There is no way to tell you this but with plain, good old fashioned honesty. I have in no way successfully captured the passion, inspiration nor energy that leaks from Russell like a puppy thrilled to play. How does one harness that energy?

What drew you to a career in acting?

Honestly, we’re gonna write this down? (Russell laughs) As a child I had a definite need for love and attention. (And laughs)

What keeps you in acting?

The challenge of overcoming personal obstacles to truly express our insatiable appetite to express and share, connect & evolve.

How old were you?

I think I was in Grade 7. My first audition was for a Tom Selleck movie called Runaway, shot after Magnum P.I. completed.

What was your first role/production?

My very first professional job, I’m pretty sure my very first paying job was Mattel’s Dream Phone. It’s a board game for girls where they call up fictional hot guys on this phone. And I played a bus boy serving milkshakes to the hot guys. They wouldn’t let me be a hot guy.

What inspired the creation of First Step?

I’m trying to remember literally the moment. I mean I was probably working 5 to 6 times a year. Decent things, guest starring and principal roles, but I was still going back to a construction job working in the pouring rain. The water was pouring down my back and I had just wailed my thumb with my hammer. I was just so miserable that I just had this epiphany that I have to stop being something I’m not. I started touring schools and talking about how I was an actor and thought it was about fame or something but I was acting. I needed to tell the truth. The inspiration was the truth and giving others the opportunity to do the same.

What do you enjoy the most about coaching?

OH. I love coaching. Discovery. I was just working with a girl on a Shakespeare piece and I just don’t get enough of that in my life and for me, that’s fun. I get to play the supportive role of empowering this person to listen to their instinct.

What is your process for preparing for an audition? A shoot?

There’s a preordained commitment to embrace and embody the character, their experience and to honour their wants and needs. The approach has to be storybook. You gotta read your script as though it has no consequence to you. You just read it. There’s a big difference in how you read a book and how you read your sides. You should pick up your sides and let the story colour itself like you would a book. Then when I see the experience of what the character is going through, I research that. I don’t research how to play the character. Teaching a student how to open a door won’t unlock it, teaching them why will unlock the door.

How is the Actors’ Centre different from the First Step Actors Workshop?

First Step Actors’ Workshop focuses on releasing the actor, bringing them to a place of total emotional availability. The Actors’ Centre is an advanced professional class where it’s about taking high risks with that emotional availability.

What is the Independent Artists Group?

The Independent Artists Group is a non-commissioned artists representation membership for non union artists interested in pursuing independent and non union production work.  It is open to all ages and ethnicities.

As Founder & President, tell me about the North Shore Film Festival?

Founded in spring of 2006, the film festival is a registered non-profit association dedicated to providing resources and opportunity to individuals wishing to write, produce, direct and act in indigenous independent film projects. Film Festival productions shoot between May & Sept and then there’s a massive gala taking place over two nights sometime in late Sept, early Oct. The films are absolutely non-political in any way in that it’s publicly funded. The Festival helps artists build their resume, gain experience, credits, demo footage and the confidence to move on. So far we’ve already put 35 films up on the screen and we’ve recently produced a TV pilot that’s going up for bidding.

What excites you about being a part of the film and television industry?

As an actor or otherwise. Not a lot really. Nothing really. I would like to pretend that our industry here is people here creating, collaborating on everything Canadian. But that’s not the case so…

If you weren’t an actor or coaching actors, what would you be doing?

I would LOVE to be a musician. I play a little guitar and sing a bit…I would love to be Keith Urban. (laughs) I know how that sounds. I would definitely have to be doing something with my hands, something in the line of writing, holistic medicine, missionary work. Something that enables me to reach others. Whatever is meaningful.

To learn more about Russell and his work, check out or

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Yu April 12, 2009 at 10:25 pm

LOVE IT Russell!

alice June 17, 2009 at 4:21 pm

your the best russell.

from your acting baddy alice.

dolphins rule!

alice June 28, 2009 at 8:04 pm

ernest goes to school is verry funny movie russell made it funy hoever wacthes this will love it and lafe its an old movie but its not bad at all.

david l prokop November 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Russell this is David. I hope you see this. Remember me? We were in San francisco and los angeles together back in 1994 I believe?!! We met at the English bay boathouse formerly known as the English bay cafe. I’d love to catch up with you again. I’m back in Vancouver now. David

daniel July 13, 2010 at 12:33 am

Hey russel it me Daniel Lehmann. I thought I would drop you a line in hopes you will stuble upon it at some point, I am now trying to get into the acting side of things as i just went for an audition. I was hoping to maybe get a few tips and learn the ropes a little bit better. Have a good one my long lost friend.

Yasaman Deriszadeh April 9, 2012 at 8:44 pm

He’s my acting teacher! He is funny! amazing! and inspiring…

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