Oliver Silver grew up in Dubai, then went to a boarding school in the UK before entering The University of Nottingham in 2008 to study Modern Languages. Throughout University, he was part of the Nottingham New Theatre and participated in two plays a year all during his time here. He went to Mexico for a year abroad, and after graduating decided to make his dent in the film industry by moving to London in 2012. As he tells me about the hardships and achievements he encountered during his almost 5 years working in this industry, it’s almost hard to imagine him ever stumbling to get his foot on the the door. This because during our Skype conversation from his home in London, he confidently tells me about his striking acting method and his plans to enter the wider world of Los Angeles filmmaking not far in the future.
Oliver’s relationship with acting began in school where he played Mark Anthony in a play. Even now, after years spent working on stage, then on independent films and commercials, Oliver recalls “the feeling of being alive, and the reaction from the audience” that enamoured him with acting. In Nottingham he was quick to joining NNT, where he learnt the academic side of acting. “I started to understand there were so many ways you could convey something” he says.
This academic approach to acting is something Oliver has clearly carried over to his work on screen. When I asked him about his process at the time of embodying a character, he gives me insight into The Chubbuk Technique.
“When you’re reading a script you read it like a book, imagery will start to plant ideas in your head, how they talk, how they move” he explains. After preliminaries, he likes to work on his own, starting from identifying the character’s motivations.
“Work out their motivation in life, and in each scene, work out what they want in that situation”
“Many scripts will describe characters generically (..) tough, rough around the edges. […] the biggest part is finding what is the key motivation for a character. When you arrive at that conclusion, it gives you an indication as to how they act”. He explains that a character’s motivations, as with any person, carry into everyday life more than you would expect.
Once he has identified this motivation, he works backwards, thinking what are the things that the character will want to do and has done to reach his goals. “Work out their motivation in life, and in each scene, work out what they want in that situation […] It’s trial and error” he says. To an onlooker like myself, this trial and error process seems incredibly precise. Finally, this technique ends up teaching you a lot about the story of the character, and “the more things you learn, the richer the character becomes”.
This method and Oliver’s incredible capacity to play a variety of different characters has catapulted his career. He has done a lot of big commercials for the likes of Vodafone, Heineken, Fiat, Hugo Boss and others, and most recently he did a commercial in the US for Cox Communications which ran during the Super Bowl.
In this experience he had the pleasure of working with legendary music video director Joseph Kahn, known for his work with Taylor Swift, Eminem and many others. “Working with someone on that level was amazing” he says, and jokingly recalls how he “didn’t even realise they were going to air it during the Super Bowl. I was in America yet missed the game”.
Aside from commercials however Oliver has worked in a number of independent films which have brought him all around the world. One he remembers fondly is Walkabout, a 2015 film he shot in Mexico and Scotland which went to Cannes. “It was about a young guy who just left school having to decide whether to go into a grad scheme or go into work […] It mirrored what I was doing with my life” he states. He has also worked on The Witch which also went on to Cannes festival for short films category.
On his plans for the future, Oliver confesses he’s been looking more towards the US West Coast. “I went on a road trip through San Francisco with my brother and loved it. There’s so much more going on in the states” he says. So he booked a few meetings and finally signed a management deal with the Gotham Group, an LA based management company. “They suggested I move there permanently and I’m in the process of working out my Visa” he says. “The scale is massive, it’s the hub of the entertainment business. It’s a no brainer to try to gravitate there”.
But it hasn’t always been big productions and even bigger dreams for Oliver. When I inquire about his suggestions for any students trying to pursue acting he says there are two big decisions you need to take before you embark on your journey.
Firstly, in what specific industry you want to act in, whether it’s theatre, or film. “The nature of the industry is very categorical. The people who make decisions will put you into brackets. You’re at a disadvantage if you’re ambiguous about what you want to do”.
“If you go down the road I went you need to be hugely proactive and think outside the box a little bit.”
Secondly, whether to start from scratch or go to drama school. “Drama school is a fantastic platform, you get to showcase your ability”. However for many people, him at the time included, it may be a cost too hefty to bear.
“I wanted to work with cameras and started from scratch. […] If you go down the road I went you need to be hugely proactive and think outside the box a little bit.” At the beginning of his career Oliver narrates how he was constantly writing to agencies, building up his experience by acting as much as he could, and working nights in order to afford rent and be able to go to auditions in the day. As weary as it all sounds to me, his voice resounds with a sense of pride for it, and I have a feeling it must’ve been more than worth it.
When I ask him about the most important qualities to make it, he puts above all resilience, “There will be a lot of closed doors. There are many variables that determine whether or not you get a job that have nothing to do with your capacity to act”. Off of this he also mentions confidence in your own ability, and industriousness: “you will need to work hard. Read more, learn more, be in front of the camera more. Continually be involved in the process of acting so that it doesn’t feel like a chore”.
Finally, as our conversation draws to an end and in the midsts of me trying to scramble all the notes together from a truly insightful interview, I ask whether he has any messages for students, particularly those at the NNT. He replies “Enjoy it as much as you can. I spent a lot of time in University thinking about the next stage in my life and sometimes forgot to enjoy what was happening. (…) do as much as you can.”
Images courtesy of Oliver Silver.
Media sourced from YouTube.