Post by Jordana Oberman
I’ve been teaching for about 15 years and I recently got into a conversation with someone who asked, “Why bother training? Isn’t that what instincts are for?”
To me that‘s like asking a spark why it needs kindling to create a fire. Training is your fuel as an actor. The genius of being an artist is that different fuels create very different fires – you the artist must know what the moment demands and then serve it.
The only way to know how different fuels affect you is to try them on for size. This is where I believe the foundation of acting technique is a must for any actor to explore. As new actors begin their journey into their craft how can they tell if they want to study Meisner, Stanislavsky, Stella Adler, Strasberg, etc? Well, they can read about each and every technique out there. Okay, but that’s book smarts. How will you know which affects your fire and sends you soaring? The only way is to try the techniques on for size.
This is why Elizabeth, Michael Yurchak and I created a curriculum developed for this exact exploration. We want to give students a chance to test drive different techniques to see how they work. In our Foundations classes we explore Strasberg, Stanislavsky, Improvisation, Fitzmaurice Voice Technique and Rasa Aesthetics – just to name a few. We ask students to try them on, work within them and then move onto the next. This is a class specifically about trial rather than mastery. We teach individual exercises created to employ aspects of each technique, which allows our actors to actively apply them to scene work. We wouldn’t ever expect a new painter to jump into the Sistine Chapel – but rather to explore their mediums: oils, watercolor, acrylic…are you into realism, pointillism, abstraction?
In this exploration we hope that every actor feels like this is a place where it is safe to fail and to fail brilliantly. They need that safety net where one misstep won’t lose them a job or affect the next moment in their career. They need a place to spread their wings and make mistakes. I truly believe that every mistake or failure is a beautiful opportunity for growth. Mistakes are our greatest teachers. We fix those mistakes through repeat practice. Most of the time when everything clicks into place for an actor and you ask them, “What happened?” Their response will undoubtedly be “I don’t know.” So we have to create a muscle memory in the studio of what works vs. what doesn’t. Our class is where student actors can rehearse techniques over and over again. That way when the lights are on and the camera is rolling our artist instincts can click in and we can surrender to the ride.
Once a student has experienced all the different exercises and techniques we teach, then they can decide if there is one they would like to explore in more depth. In the end all the techniques work on each actor differently. We are all artists with our own points of view and this uniqueness is what makes each of us extremely castable. We just need to develop our tool-box to call upon whatever the moment demands. And the only way to build those tools is to train. Training is the kindling that lights the flame.
An alumnus of EMAS LA, Jordana Oberman currently teaches the Meisner Technique at the studio. Jordana’s career as a working actor has taken her back and forth between New York and Los Angeles working in Theatre, Television, and Film. See her staff bio here, or see more on IMDB
The Oscars are almost here – a time of year when everyone looks back takes some time to contemplate on their favorite movies and performances of the past year. From academy members to cinephiles to casual moviegoers, everyone has their own opinion about which work merits recognition.
Getting in the spirit of things, we asked our staff of acting instructors to share their thoughts on which films and actors impressed them the most in 2015. Below are their votes for the 87th Academy Awards:
Jordana Oberman, Technique instructor
Best Leading Actor: Eddie Redmayne
Best Leading Actress: Brie Larson
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance
Best Supporting Actress: Kate winslet
Best Film: Spotlight
Best Direction: The Revenant Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Sandy Egan, Meisner Instructor
Best Leading Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio – just for shooting conditions alone (I also really liked Matt Damon)
Best Leading Actress: Saoirse Ronan – a beautiful heartfelt performance
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo – I like him in everything
Best Supporting Actress: Rooney Mara is the very soul Carol
Best Film: Spotlight – it worked on every level
Best Direction: George Miller – a great achievement so late in a long career [Mad Max: Fury Road]
Thom Rivera, On-camera Instructor
Best Leading Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio or Michael Fassbender
Best Leading Actress: Brie Larson
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vykander or Kate Winslet
Best Film: The Revenant
Best Direction: Alejandro Iñárritu
Ken Weiler, Meisner Instructor
Best Leading Actress: I’m going with Brie Larson. She won the Golden Globe for Room. Her performance was raw, and powerful. She’s new, even though she’s been working for over 20 years. Ha! Room is just the sort of movie the Academy gives Oscars to.
Best Leading Actor: I’m going with Leonardo Di Caprio. He’s overdue. His body of work is remarkable and he hasn’t won an Oscar yet. And he was incredibly good in The Revenant.
Best Film: The Revenant, Alejandro Iñárritu won last year for Birman and, as crazy as it sounds, I think he could win again.
Best Direction: Alejandro Iñárritu, The Revenant is just so cinematically magnificent and, like Birdman,left me asking “How did he do that?”
Elizabeth Mestnik, Founder & Director of EMAS
Best Leading Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio
Best Leading Actress: Brie Larson
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander
Best Film: Spotlight
Best Direction: Alejandro Iñárritu
Have your own thoughts on who did the best movie work of 2015? Let us know what you think!
Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) has announced that on February 22, 2016 it will move from its current location to a new studio located in North Hollywood, Los Angeles.
The new location’s address is:
Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio
11423 Moorpark Street
North Hollywood, CA 91604
The upcoming move coincides with plans to increase the number and variety of classes and seminars offered to acting students. According to Elizabeth, “EMAS is excited to offer more supplemental workshops, such as our on camera classes, commercial technique, and personal audition coaching. Furthermore, for the first time, we’ll be offering a musical theater class which will be taught by the Tony Award-winning producer, Chris Bensinger.”
Any inquiries regarding the new location can be directed to Elizabeth Mestnik by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling the studio at (323) 528-6280.
EMAS LA’s New Location:
Guest Post by Aisha Lomax
I needed to find a class. After spending almost three years at The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, (EMAS) (Summer intensive, two years of Meisner and scene study), it was time for something new. At least, that was what I had been told. All of the online acting forums informed me how imperative it was to not stay at the same studio for too long, lest I stop growing as an actor. I definitely didn’t want that to happen, so the search for a new Los Angeles acting class began.
This is what happened:
Class 1: The class started almost 30 minutes late, which was a red flag for me. The teacher was there, but a lot of the students weren’t, and the ones who were there didn’t seem to be in any rush to start class. They were chatting and playing around with one another and not ready to work. This was supposedly a “master” class, by the way. This studio used a hybrid of techniques, but the teacher really liked the Meisner repetition exercise. When he found out that I had studied Meisner, he invited me up to practice repetitions with the other students. Cool. I get up there and do the exercise with about five of the students. After about 15 minutes, I was exhausted and frustrated. Repetitions do that to you, but I was more upset by the fact that it was evident that the instructor hadn’t fully explained the point of the exercise so it went nowhere. Absolutely nowhere.
By the time that they were ready to put up the scenes, everyone seemed to check out, including the instructor. I decided to keep looking.
Class 2: Right away, the instructor informed the auditors that students don’t work every week. They only work when they are “ready”. What does that even mean? And who determines when the student is ready? Why would I pay my hard-earned money to maybe put up a scene once a month or so? Okay, I get it. There is a lot that can be learned from just observing and watching other actors work, but you mostly learn by doing. Final verdict: not for me.
Class 3: After doing research on their website, I discovered that that instructor didn’t allow audits. You had to have trust in the teacher and trust that he would be fantastic and that you would automatically jibe with his teaching style. Great.
These are only three examples of what I came across but, trust me, I could go on and on. Los Angeles is filled with dozens of acting classes, and I choose to believe that, for the most part, you will avoid situations like this. But, statistically speaking… well, you know, someone is filling those classes, I just didn’t want it to be me. I found myself back at EMAS one day watching the scene study class, the one I didn’t take because I thought I needed to “spread my wings”, wishing that I were on that stage, exploring a new character. And then the thing that Oprah calls an “ah-ha” moment hit me. I’d spent so much time and energy trying to find a studio to replicate what the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio does so well, and it’s the reason why I decided to make EMAS my acting home in the first place.
Every single instructor has so much passion for what they do, and it’s refreshing and reassuring to walk into one of their classes knowing that fail or fly, you’re going to leave that class with a valuable piece of information to make your acting that much better. And the students are there to work. Elizabeth has fostered such a sense of community and family, and upon meeting the incredible teachers and students, you can’t deny it. It’s why I continue to go back for the mixers, staged readings and, realize that in the New Year, this is the place I need to be. Some people may truly need to change schools to get all the training they need for this industry, but that’s just not the case for me. Far from stunting my growth as an actor, I feel like I’ve found a creative home that challenges me and hones my process. I don’t really need to look any further.
Aisha Lomax is a 2014 graduate of The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio’s Professional Meisner Training Program. She is currently making strides in the commercial world; you can see her racing across town from one audition to the next!
Sanford Meisner is famous for saying that “It takes 20 years to become an actor”. So now, 20 years after graduating from Rutgers University’s MFA Acting program, I am reflecting on what I learned there and realize that there are many lessons I learned while training that I take into auditions and performances today.
One of the most important things you learn while attending a conservatory is to rehearse. It sounds so obvious, but an actor must prepare. It’s almost common knowledge now with the popularity of books like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and the “10,000-hour rule,” (the idea that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill) but you learn that you just have to put in the time. There’s no way around it. A musician spends hundreds of hours practicing scales, a doctor spent years in medical school, and so the actor must rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
For me rehearsal and preparation are synonymous. You can’t escape the need to give yourself as much time as it’s gonna take to prepare for a role or for an audition. Sometimes you get material that’s in your wheelhouse or fits your temperament, and then it may be easier or less time-consuming. But to pull off a powerful or hysterically funny performance is not a simple task. It’s achieved through great effort and work, though the performance itself should appear effortless. As Hamlet said, “Therein lies the rub.”
If you ever studied with Bill Esper you heard these words asked of you a thousand times, “What are you doing there?” In this question lies the cornerstone of technique. I constantly ask myself this question when I read a scene for an audition or am preparing a role for a job. It may be one of the most important elements in creating truthful behavior and it’s at the core of realism in acting. Bill stuck very closely to Meisner’s straightforward definition of acting which is “Living truthfully under the imaginary circumstances of the play.” In Bill’s book he went so far as to change it to “DOING truthfully under the imaginary circumstances…” Stanislavski delved deeply into actions and objectives in his approach for the actor. And, I am constantly asking myself, “What am I doing? What do I want? How am I gonna get it?”
Finally, to keep from sounding too intellectual or clever, perhaps the most important lesson I learned relates to spontaneity. I have to stay playful. I have to stay almost childlike in my imagination and willingness to improvise. I have to stay open, loose, and relaxed. This is a part of your performance and preparation that is not intellectual. It’s an oversimplification to be sure but, simply put, I have to have fun. I have to play.
Ken Weiler received his MFA in Theater Arts from Mason Gross School of the Arts under the tutelage of William Esper and Maggie Flanigan. He has taught The Meisner Technique and Auditioning at EMAS for the past 8 years. He’s worked professionally for over twenty years with appearances in dozens of films and episodic television shows including Criminal Minds, Friends, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, CSI, Bones, and currently recurring in the STARZ series Blunt Talk starring Patrick Stewart.
He is also an accomplished musician, performing with his band The Four Postmen at various L.A. venues
Guest Post by Matthew Jaeger
Matt Jaeger is a 2014 graduate of The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio’s Professional Meisner Training Program. He is currently starring in Chinglish by David Henry Hwang at East West Players. Other credits include Recurring and Guest Star appearances on Criminal Minds, Switched at Birth, CSI and Grey’s Anatomy. See Matthew Jaeger on IMDB.
When I came to Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, I’d already been a working actor for four years. I worked primarily in commercials and television, doing the occasional film and the even more occasional theatre project. I came to EMAS because of one these more occasional theatre projects, a play called Short Eyes, where I played the title role. It was an incredibly demanding role, and I found I hit a wall when trying to access certain emotional parts of myself. I would get to a point and then just… nothing. It was scary and incredibly frustrating. So I faked it when I needed to, and got through the run. But afterwards I was left with the feeling that I should have gone farther, made the role not only deeper but given it more levels and color. My girlfriend (now wife) suggested I look at Elizabeth Mestnik’s Meisner Summer Intensive when it came around that summer. So I did.
To make long story slightly less long, in that short intensive, I dug deeper than I ever had before. I liked what I found, and what it did to me as an actor. So I joined the full Professional Program. What followed were nine months of some of the hardest work I’ve ever done as an actor. Remember, I make my money acting, so I was very nervous to mess with my process or give anyone else input as to how I approached my craft. But the more I relaxed and opened up, the better things got. It was SO much work, but every minute was worth it. I continued on into the 2nd year’s advanced work and my confidence grew as I solidified what I learned and absorbed it into my daily work.
In going through the 2 Year Meisner Program, I not only grew as an actor, but as a person. I made lasting friendships and came to know myself in ways I never thought I would. It was great. But if you’re like me, you want to know, bottom line, “Did the acting get better?” Aka “Did you start booking more?” Well, I’m about as anal retentive as they come and I actually track my booking percentages, so I can answer that question.
I started class in 2012. My stats for that year were:
Callback: 20.7%, Booking: 8.8%
(I told you I was anal retentive)
During 2013 I was changing my process and rebuilding my craft, and the numbers dropped.
Callback: 10.4%, Booking 5.2%
Needless to say, it took some real trust to keep with it when my stats dropped by half. But I believed in Elizabeth, Jordana, and Ken. And like I said, I could see my growth as an artist. And most importantly, I was ENJOYING acting more.
By the time I graduated, in June 2014, everything was back to normal. My stats for 2014 were almost identical to 2012:
Callback: 20%, Booking 8.6%
Today I’ve had a year to settle into my new process and really put what I learned to work. It’s the first complete year of acting work I’ve had since graduating, and my stats have definitely improved As of November, my 2015 stats are:
Callback 25.4%, Booking 19%
That’s right, my booking ratio more than DOUBLED in my first full year after graduating from the EMAS 2 Year Meisner Program. And my callbacks have increased as well.
Also, before and during the class (2012-2014) I averaged working 18 days a year. For 2015, I’m on track to work 91 days. True, this probably would have been a good year anyway, part of the ebb and flow of any career. But it could never have gotten this good without EMAS studios. My training there has upped my game to a new level.
So, to sum it all up, only someone as anal retentive as me can tell you, with objective proof, the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio works.
For every blockbuster star, their are a hundred actors who practice their trade on the “small screen.” With the productions from cable channels such as HBO, and the expansion of online streaming sites into the creation of their own “TV” shows, the quantity and level of quality on display in today’s series has increased tremendously. Season premiers now frequently generate more buzz than premiers on the big screen.
Wit that in mind, we thought it’d be interesting to take a look at what shows people have been looking up on IMDB this summer (through Google). The word cloud below illustrates the most-searched series in mid Summer of 2015.
If you have aspirations to act these or other series, check out our scene study/on camera acting classes.
Summertime is here, and the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio is proud to announce our Summer Meisner Technique Intensive. Meisner Technique is a transformative acting technique, which takes the actor away from the introverting exercises many methods practice, such as emotional recall and sense memory.
The Meisner Technique, on the other hand, seeks to do exactly the opposite. Meisner Technique believes in taking the intellect out of the acting process and having actors work entirely from their instinctive impulse. Sam Rockwell, Jon Voight, James Caan, Amy Schumer, Kathy Bates and Robert Duvall are just some of a long list of successful actors and actresses who have trained in the Meisner Technique.
The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio is currently interviewing for their 5-week Summer Meisner Technique Intensive. Classes begin on June 27th and run 3 times a week until August 1st. Daytime and Evening sessions are available. These classes will stimulate your imagination, reconnect you with your emotions and excite your spirit and passion for acting.
At the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, we pride ourselves on turning good actors into great actors. That is why we have been ranked as Los Angeles top acting studio by CBS.
We want people who are passionate, enjoy a challenge and really want to grow. That is why admission to the Summer Meisner Technique Intensive entails a personal interview. If you believe in acting as a craft, if you want to exceed even your own expectations, this summer intensive is for you. Visit our website for more information on the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio and the Meisner Technique. Call 323-528-6280 or email email@example.com today to set up your interview!
As the fundamental philosophy behind our acting classes here at the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, we’re excited to have opened up registration for two different Meisner Technique classes in 2015.
More than just “acting,” the Meisner technique teaches the actor to be truthful and honest, with both themselves and the scene. As powerful as this is, it is nonetheless a skill which is achieved step-by-step. This is the wonderful thing about the Meisner technique – it lays down a path which allows the actor to gain self-knowledge and skills that eventually lead to acting out of instinct rather than intellect.
As of April, 2015, we’re accepting interviews for two classes which will take actors on the first steps into the Meisner technique: the Summer Meisner Intensive, and the Fall Meisner Program.
The goal of Summer Meisner Intensive is to fully immerse the actor in both the philosophies and the practices of the Meisner technique in a short period of time (three days a week for three hours at a time). Despite only lasting five weeks, the nature of the class allows students to not only become familiar with the Meisner technique but also to take the first significant strides towards becoming an emotionally honest and intuitive actor.
The Fall Meisner Program is an opportunity for students to begin their first year of the Meisner Technique or to continue into their second year of study. We truly believe that the power of the technique and the commitment of our acting coaches will give the student at either point in their studies the best opportunity to grow as an actor and a person.
We’re proud to announce the launch of Elizabeth Mestnik’s new website. Designed to be responsive to mobile phones and tablets, the full range of content will now be available to users no matter what device they’re using. As LA’s premier Meisner-based acting school, we believe the site will not only provide a more user-friendly experience, but also better provide information, ideas, and news that’s relevant to the LA acting community.
We’ve updated the site with a significant amount of new information regarding our studio itself. Anyone interested in acting, from beginners to experienced actors can see exactly what we offer. From pages that will provide more frequent updates on upcoming classes and events, to new pages that contain biographies of our teachers, coaches and alumni, our hope is that the new site allows the acting community to better understand who we are and more easily engage with us.
Furthermore, we pride ourselves on bringing experience and a unique technique to our students. Emasla.com is not just a place where actors can sign up for classes, but rather a place where anyone can come to better understand our methods and technique specifically, and the acting industry more generally, in particular how they relate to you as an actor; we’re happy to share our knowledge and experience on this new platform. We hope you like it!