It's opening night and the show is about to begin. The room is electric with anticipation as the lights dim and the crowd goes quiet. Adrenaline courses through your body as you walk to the stage while murmuring lines under your breath. As you come to your last line, the velvet red curtains seamlessly open in a musically synchronized fashion and the bright stage lights welcome you as you say your first line.
This is a feeling actor Scott Barker knows all too well as he navigates acting on stage and the big screen.
“I love film a lot,” Barker said. “I'm putting a lot of my energy into acting lessons, music, teaching and visual art. If I can be immersed in a form of artistic storytelling, I'm going to be so happy. My dream would be to have a feature film shoot in northwestern Ontario and be the producer, actor or director in it. That'd be cool.”
Barker grew up in Devlin and went to classical music school to study violin in Brandon, Manitoba. Knowing he enjoys theatre, he then auditioned for the Canadian College Of Performing Arts and got accepted. Barker stayed at the performing college for a year before transferring over to Sheridan College in Toronto where he got his bachelor's in music theatre performance.
He has appeared in commercials and a movie called A Song for Us, which shows how a musician revisits a lost love from the sixties that sets him on an emotional journey. Barker also acted in a CBC show called Christmas in Montana. He is also currently waiting for his latest movie, Night Raiders, to come out in the winter.
“[Night Raiders] is my first theatre release film that I've been a part of. I love it because the director is female and she is Métis-Cree. I thought that was really neat. It's produced by Taika Waititi, who also produced the last Thor movie. He's also indigenous from New Zealand. This was a co-production between New Zealand and Canada. It is a futuristic story that reflects residential schools in Canada.”
Barker, 30, discovered his artistic passion when he started taking violin lessons when he was 12. He then ventured out and started playing in a pit orchestra for one of the school musicals. Barker kept experimenting with different venues until he go into acting and film.
Barker has done everything from acting to teaching and travelling. Thus far, he lived in North Carolina where he learned some skills. He then moved to Korea where he taught English as a second language. Barker has been living the past three years in Toronto. He said his experience living in Korea for a year was eyeopening.
“It was such a major culture shock because I was actually in a very rural town. It ended up being one of the most fantastic experiences, but incredibly hard the first three months. It's such a cool learning experience if anybody has a chance to live outside of their culture at some point in their life for an extended time. You're so set in how your culture does something the right way until you go to like another culture.”
With COVID-19 throwing most businesses in limbo, including the acting and film industry, Barker said he decided to move back to Devlin for a few months. He said he is starting a music and acting studio in Fort Frances and Devlin. He said he is still working on his art and sending auditions to casting directors in Toronto.
Barker said although some of his travelling expenses got covered by leftovers from his student loans, waiting to get a call back from casting directors can add financial stress.
“It's a big financial sacrifice to be waiting on the next gig. I've had some 14 auditions in a couple of weeks. And I would have to tell my other job that I can't come in or get somebody to take my shift. I had flexible places to do that, but then I'm giving up my daily wage to go do an audition and to do that constantly, I can be down to a can of chickpeas and $3 in my bank account.”
However, Barker said the biggest sacrifice he made is moving away from his family and his close friends.
"I really love and value community and having a solid group of people around you. Community is something I'm really missing in Toronto right now. When you're younger, there are more opportunities to make friends through going to school every day. But when you're an adult, having to start over becomes a challenge,” Barker said.
"I think I'm just learning perseverance and then just to stay and keep finding that place of gratitude is really important.”
You can find Scott Barker's Instagram account @scottbstudio