The Institute provides a unique and effective approach to bringing actors (and screenwriters/authors) up to speed as (and on) the world of butling.
Actors tend to have jammed schedules and are under pressure to perform on deadline. So the first thing we address is anything that might be distracting them from the training, whether of a personal or business nature.
When they are focused, we cover the history, philosophy, persona, and mindset of the butler, so the actor can really live inside the head and skin of the butler and bring their role to life. We understand the actor may fall into the role spontaneously and so we play along, gently nudging them in one direction or another in terms of their grasp of the way a butler speaks and acts. We also suggest vignettes that the actor can propose to the director, and drill these so that each would be done accurately.
And while the skill with the required mechanical actions is important, we keep role playing and discussing until we know the actor is certain they have the role and can play it.
That is when we leave, but long-distance follow-up support and assistance on technical matters during the shooting is part of the package.
Recent Past Projects
“After forty-five years of hitting my mark with such greats as Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves and the like, I’ve learned that the best actor is the research actor—we say ‘he’s done his homework.’ So working with Mr. Ferry and reading his incredible book were invaluable in my preparation to play butler to the president of the United States in Entertainment Studio’s new comedy First Family. Thank you!….[and a year later] I am continuing to perform on the TV show the First Family as the butler Bernard. As a result of your training, I can totally take on the role.” Michael Roberts, 2012 & 2013
Forest Whitaker’s comments in the media during 2013 concerning his training for the lead role in The Butler:
“‘The Butler revitalized something in me,’ Whitaker says. ‘I admired Cecil’s quiet reverence and the appreciation of service. Service is one thing everyone can give to others in some way — even if it’s just a smile.'”
“The butler coach lived with me for a number of weeks and I learned how to set up a proper table and make a proper tea. It’s really difficult. I was trying to hold this giant silver tray in perfect alignment and I learnt about ‘synchronous’ serving.”
“I worked with a butler coach to learn about what it’s like to do service and how to do service.”
“I worked with a coach who trained me to how to serve, set tables, make tea – the whole thing. Well, it’s very interesting philosophically, because it revolves around the concept of service. I realized that service is one of the only things that everyone in humanity can do – everyone can’t give you money, everyone can’t give you food, but everyone can do something for you. Even if they’re trapped in a chair, just their thoughts alone can help you.” (November 2013 issue of GQ Magazine)
“Then there was the training to be a butler—a profession that’s all about being specific. Whitaker invited a butler coach to stay at his house, and accompany him to the shoot in New Orleans. ‘I thought his philosophy was really interesting. I hadn’t looked at service in the way that he did; the different ways of giving and giving with abundance——that was his motto. Never giving for equality, never giving to get something back, but to give, over and above, to bring joy. It was very powerful.'”
AwardsLine: “What did you learn when you trained with butler trainer, Steven Ferry, for the role? ”
“Whitaker: We started first in Los Angeles, where he was teaching me about serving, setting the proper table, how you measure the chairs, how you measure the plates, where you put everything. Then he came to New Orleans and stayed in a house with me, and we continued to train. I think one of the big things was (Steven) teaching me about the philosophy of service. It’s a very spiritual concept.”