March 13, 2017

Spotlight on Alumni: Emily Coutts

Emily Coutts
Emily Coutts

Emily Coutts (BFA Acting 2011) is most recently a graduate of the Acting Conservatory at The Canadian Film Center (2016). Her most recent film and television credits include Murdoch Mysteries3-Way (Not Calling) (TIFF 2016), Come Back (CFF 2017), Dark Matter, Guillermo  Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, Steven Soderberg’s The Girlfriend Experience and Hallmark’s The Best Christmas Party Ever. Coutts is also a filmmaker and co-produced and starred in the indie feature Barn Wedding (Canadian Film Fest & Dances With Films Festival) and is currently co-creating a comedy series called Beattie and Mae.

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just about to graduate? about to join the job market?

DO NOT try to be anyone else. Agents, casting directors, and filmmakers just want to meet the real you. This is so hard to grasp and it’s a lifelong journey but honestly anything goes in the real world. People want to work with smart, talented and unique people so show the world the whole you, not just some perfect version of yourself. This will lead to maintaining autonomy which is incredibly important when working with an agent or manager and picking the projects that excite and inspire you.

Emily Coutts in Crimson Peak
Emily Coutts in Guillermo  Del Toro’s Crimson Peak

What was the most valuable thing you learned while studying in Theatre at York?

I have two. Firstly, that you need to create your own work. I always heard that throughout York but it wasn’t until I left that that really started to make sense. Working as an actor is such an awesome career but it isn’t consistent and can be really challenging to one’s self esteem. Creating my own projects has given me confidence and has inspired me to continue learning and expanding my craft. Collaboration is one of the most fulfilling things as an artist and watching something you created get made, whether on stage or on film, is an amazing feeling. There’s power in creation. There’s power in perspective and style.

Secondly, Wesley Connor, a teacher I had in first year acting once told me “every time you go on stage it has to cost you something”. I had no idea what he meant at the time but now it is something I think about almost every day. Acting is about revealing and when real work happens it doesn’t always leave you feeling great. It can hurt. It’s such a rough business but the process of shutting your eyes and jumping heart forward into an audition or role is a part of the thrill of this life.

Emily Coutts in her CFC Close Up

If you had the chance to go back and visit your younger self as you were beginning at York, what advice would you give yourself?

Take what you like and leave the rest. Challenge your teachers more, love your friends more, read more books, and watch more movies. Also, chill out, you’re going to be fine.

Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterward?

More than I could have ever guessed. When I started at York I felt like I was on a solo journey. Having come from a small town I didn’t know what “being an actor” looked liked at all and thought that if I worked hard enough I could make it on my own. Part of this mentality lead to me to have a ferocious desire to continue on this crazy path and that is something I am very grateful for. On the other hand, this challenged me to open up and let others into my journey- which is now looking back, one of the most important things a young artist can do. I met a group of women at York who I still consider my collaborators, creative partners and most importantly best friends. I took this concept from York and have since been growing my artistic community and depend on them for so much. I co-produced and starred in an indie feature 3 years ago and could not have done it without my co-collaborators, both whom I met at York and outside. I also created a piece for The CFC and collaborated with a Yorkie, Lisa Conway, on the music.

Emily in The Best Christmas Party Ever
Emily in The Best Christmas Party Ever

What was your favourite place at York, and why?

The studio! And the stage! I know it sounds cheesy but the luxury of spending days on end rolling around, growing and laughing with my friends was pretty amazing. Getting to work on plays, create characters and then have a stage to perform them on was such a gift. Having teachers and mentors watching and discussing your work, people who cared about your growth, was something you don’t always get in life. I’ll always miss sitting in a circle with my class.