Choosing An Acting Class
Answers to various acting questions I get from aspiring actors and actresses.
Q: I have a friend that wants to study acting. Should she go to community college to try it out first or should she go to "regular" acting classes around Los Angeles? They seem overpriced and I'm worried she's going to waste all of her money.
A: Choosing an acting class is a really tough one as far as I'm concerned. They all have the exact same potential benefits as each other. There is just so much variation in teaching styles, methods, approaches, goals, etc. That said, all acting schools are (or should be) trying to teach a reliable, repeatable way to achieve good performances.
Every acting teacher on that has ever lived has struggled mightily on how best to achieve this. Sanford Meisner himself said that he estimated only 10% of the people he ever (over 80 or so years) taught actually got what he was trying to get across.
So, how do you pick?
A lot of it just depends on what she wants. I recently met an actress that wanted to get started and had spent the last two years acting at three different schools, spending 70 to 80 hours a week training. She's pretty hardcore, but she got good quite quickly and is now acting at a level where I would say she is "bookable".
If your friend just wants to see what it's all about, the community college might be a fun, inexpensive experience. If she wants to seriously pursue acting and start trying to make a living at it, the community college probably isn't going to be enough.
As far as the cost of acting classes outside of the community college world, I wouldn't necessarily say they are "overpriced" so much as I would say "more expensive". They would only be "overpriced" if they didn't deliver a good acting school experience and that is a very subjective notion which is endlessly debatable. But, many of these programs are less expensive than say, going to USC's theater program.
I realize cost is a factor, and acting school is a REALLY hard expense to justify considering how hard it is to get work after you've spent all that time and money training. If someone wants to do this professionally though, it's just a risk they have to bear. Practice is the name of the game in acting. It's just like any other skill, the more you do it WELL, the better you will get.
Having said that, a solid foundation is pretty key. I like, and have studied at, the Sanford Meisner Center in North Hollywood. If you're friend is one of the ten percent that "get's it", I think it's an amazing place to learn acting. But, it may not be for her.
She really needs to become better informed if she doesn't want to blow a bunch of money. If taking the time to become really informed is "too much work" than she should probably just stick to the community college, as she probably doesn't truly have the drive it would take to do this job for real.
So, books are a great place to start, because they cost very little. Books that I recommend are:
Sanford Meisner on Acting
Stanislavski's An Actor Prepares
On the Technique of Acting by Michael Chekhov
The Technique of Acting by Stella Adler
A Dream of Passion by Lee Strasberg
and maybe watch the Uta Hagen DVD's to round it all out.
oh, wait...I almost forgot the biggest, bestest one of them all...ACTING FOR FILM AND TELEVISION by ME!
They will pretty much cover the gist of where ANY modern acting teacher is coming (or stealing) from. Most of the acting classes I know of tend to gravitate in the Hollywood / Santa Monica / Westside / Valley areas of town. A simple internet search will deliver quite a few.
It all boils down to how bad she wants to act. If it's just for fun and a "maybe I'll get lucky" kind of thing, then don't spend a lot of money. Just have fun acting. If she really wants a career, it's going to take a TON of blood, sweat, tears, work, commitment, a sprinkle of luck and then maybe.
I like to tell people that if they are willing to spend the next TEN YEARS working at their craft and hustling to get their FIRST big break, then they're probably in the right business.
Hope all of this helps you and your friend find something suitable. Best of luck out there!
As always, if you have any questions or thoughts, or would just like to share some of your successes, please feel free to drop me a line. I actually answer them.
Best of Luck out there and remember, you can't fail if you don't quit.