Category Archives Acting Studio

LA Times: “Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, life is no act”

LA_Times

Today let’s get a sneak peek at our founder Elizabeth Mestnik and her Meisner Technique class. Our founder and her teaching class was featured in LA Times earlier this week.

“To do truthfully under imaginary circumstances, that is our defining quality” – says Elizabeth.  According to her the truth and imagination come in close contact and what comes out is true feeling. Actors don’t pretend to feel sad, devastated,  joyous. The live those emotions.

“We work in a way that allows to truly get angry, truly get devastated, truly be joyous” – shares Elizabeth.

To see the full video by LA Times click here.

Academy Awards Discussion – Thom Rivera

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As the Oscars fast approach – we thought we’d get our On-Camera instructor Thom Rivera to share his thoughts on this year’s top performances:

THOM:  There were some tough choices this year because there were some many great performances and really, really good films. As always, these are my favorite performances, not who I necessarily think WILL win.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic – his work in this was simple, subtle, powerful, charismatic. I heard him with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW after seeing the film, and it all makes sense.

Runner up – Denzel Washington, Fences – This is probably my favorite performance that I have seen Denzel give (close race with Malcom X). He was powerful, flawed and not afraid to be unlikeable.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Ruth Negga, Loving – This was a tough choice, but I think Ruth Negga’s performance, especially after seeing the documentary of the real Mildred Loving, was spot on. sweet, yet strong, quiet power, grace, and a grounded optimism that was incredibly moving.

Runner up – Isabelle Huppert, Elle – Damn, this was a tough film to watch, but Isabelle Huppert was a powerhouse. A true master of film acting. She took me on quite a ride. If you haven’t yet, see this film.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight – He made a tricky role look easy. To play the opposites of that character so believably, so simply. Man. That said, I wish everyone from this film could be nominated. They were all amazing.

Runner up – Dev Patel, Lion. I thought he gave a strong performance, but wish his younger selves could be nominated as well.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – toughest choice to make this year.

Viola Davis, Fences – always gives such a truthful, powerful, heart wrenching  performance. Flawless.
Nicole Kidman, Lion – Best work I have seen Nicole Kidman do. It was a surprising, subtle, effective performance.

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures – Ms. Spencer makes it look too easy. So good.

I think in the end, I have to give it to Ms. Davis . . .no . . . Ms. Kidman . . . NO . . . Ms. Spencer . . . . shoot. I can’t pick

BEST PICTURE

Arrival – Amy Adams was so good in this and leads a strong cast. The picture was shot beautifully, imaginatively. The structure of the story was surprising, unexpected and gut wrenching.
Fences – Start with August Wilson’s words, a powerhouse cast, obvious love and care given to the process . . .
Hidden Figures – COME ON. They took a very well trod formula for a movie and elevated it to something so very, very good. And that cast! That Cast!
Lion – From opening frame to the end with the real life Saroo, I was entranced. The performances the director got out of the first time actors in this film was truly amazing

Moonlight – MAN. Powerful, moving, inspiring, story that has rarely is ever been addressed. Again, amazing cast.
It’s a tough call, but I think I have to give it to Moonlight

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An accomplished television, film, stage and voice actor, Thom Rivera is EMAS’ On-Camera Acting Instructor. Read more about Thom.

An EMAS Valentine’s Day Discussion: Romantic Movies

Seeing as it was our last EMAS faculty meeting before Valentine’s Day, we want to take a moment to have each of our acting teachers to share their favorite romantic movies & performances. We hope you might discover something new, allowing you to sink into a story of love, including the rough and the smooth :)

Have a favorite romantic movie ? Let us know what it is and why you love it!

Wherever you are and whoever you’re with, all of us at EMAS wish you the happiest of Valentine’s Days!

 

Tony Award Winner, Chris Bensinger, discusses Academy Award Nominations with Elizabeth Mestnik

With the Oscar nominations announced this past week, everyone (not just those of us in the business) takes a moment to reflect, analyze and appreciate the great films and performances that were released over the last year. In this spirit, we thought it would be interesting for Elizabeth and Chris Bensinger, EMAS’ newest faculty member and a distinguished theater producer, to sit down together discuss the work that they’ve admired in 2016.

 

EM:  Thanks so much for taking the time to give us your impressions of this year’s films.  As a 2 time Tony Award winner – It will be fun to hear what you have to say about another Award show.

CB:  Thanks – it’s been a good year for stories.

EM:  Absolutely – I love how many intimate tales, tales that are quite unique to each individual character are getting such universal recognition.  Stories that are a bit quieter and more soulful than we’ve seen in the past.  I am thinking specifically of Moonlight,Loving and my favorite of the year Captain Fantastic.  The characters in these films are what actors dream of.

CB:  I really felt that intimacy with Joel Edgerton’s performance in Loving and I’m disappointed he didn’t get nominated. He captured the quiet, unsophisticated, deeply expressed emotions of the time period and circumstance. His eyes led the way where his quiet subtle voice and cadence followed after. We see him thinking, processing, feeling through his eyes and not his words. Rich performance.  Viggo Mortenson- Captain Fantastic.  A mature, and again, patient and settled performance delivering a full commitment to this nuanced outsider in love with his children and in total fear and distain for our modern world.  His interaction with his children was so natural and mesmerizing. The kids were fantastic as well.

EM:  There is one scene in Captain Fantastic – where the camera settles on Viggo’s character Ben driving the bus – this is a non-speaking close up where he shows us every stage of grief. Again – it was all in the eyes- A stellar performance.  He’s a long shot – but I’d love to see this film get some more viewers and some recognition for it’s beautiful originality.

CB:  In a very different style of performance – I think Emma Stone has best Actress for La La Land… She swings from one side of the acting spectrum of human expression to the other with such compelling depth and ease. She astounds me. Here she manages to enter this world of fantasy with the absolute perfect blend of old Hollywood elegance to the “modern day woman”  filled with conflict and fast moving parts. Emma is exceedingly smart in her choices and her ability to convey that “it” quality where charisma meets craft, where outside beauty meets inside beauty.  I say this all the time to my students, keep forward, get it out, feel through your eyes.. “She had me at hello” and never lets go.

EM:  I wasn’t as big a fan of LaLa Land – I enjoyed it – but missed the dancing and singing that leaves me in awe (though I was quite moved by Emma’s song “Here’s to the Fools who Dream”).  Emma Stone is absolutely charismatic but when I think about what she had to portray verses what Natalie Portman, or Amy Adams or Taraji P. Henson (who should have been nominated!) did and it just didn’t have the same acting demands.  Though what struck me was the real diversity of film genres the actresses worked in, Romantic Musical, mystery (Elle), and 3 bio-pics with very different styles and povs.  Best Supporting Actress is also strong, but I think Viola Davis in Fences is the one to beat this year.  When you can identify the hurt, the rage and the love in one glance you are truly looking at a master of her craft.

CB:  Absolutely…but my favorite performance in this category was Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea.  She broke my heart in her quintessential poignant scene when the two meet up late in the film; she barely has enough breath to deliver her lines. Incredible. For that scene alone she should get awards.

EM:  Michelle chooses her parts so sincerely.  I have never seen her in a false moment.  Such a beautiful actress – vulnerable and strong.  Boy oh Boy…what about supporting actor – how do you compare Mahershala Ali in Moonlight to Michael Shannon inNocturnal Animals.  And Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors of all time (can we just talk about Crazy Heart?)

CB:  Jeff Bridges is one of the craftiest actors today. I put him up there in an elite category.  Just take a look at the moment his partner gets shot in his film Hell or High Water (which by the way was my second favorite movie of the year). Watch him shutter and absorb the trauma like he had been the one struck by the bullet while at the same time transferring his attention to the shooter.  Really good stuff there.  However, I would love to see it go to Lucas Hedges – he stole the show. I loved how he exuded such a protective coating to the immense childhood trauma. Here again, he allowed himself to sit in the moment allow us to catch up with his towering emotions delivered behind his veil of hormones and a drive to hold on to his community.  Loved his performance and very much look forward to his developing career.

EM:  So what do you think about best director and best film?

CB:  La La Land!  Hey, I teach musical theater.  What do you expect? When Damian Chezelle can transport the audience with complete emersion and entertainment into your cinematic world you deserve high plaudits. Damian deserves the crown this year. His use of pace (yet controlled) and musical numbers to transition scenes yet simultaneously drive the plot forward is a joy.  This film with a twinkle in its eye, set in contemporary LA with a nod to the 1940’s is a folly romp that will have you “singing in the rain” in Sunny LA.

Even with my bias…, La La Land is still is the best film of the year regardless.   What terrific filmmaking. An homage to old Hollywood and movie musicals yet is utterly fresh in approach. I was hooked in from the long opening musical sequence on the highway which took a lot of creative  courage  to the brilliant “what if” montage at the end. I was so enamored by the charm and elegance of this film. The musical numbers bind the plot and moved the narrative forward, which is exactly how it should be done. Not to mention, the chemistry between Emma and Ryan worked. The tone never waivers; lighting, sound, cinematography, editing, acting all working perfectly together… a masterful and utterly entertaining film. But… like I said, I am biased.


Chris_Bensinger_croppedA Tony Award winning theater producer, Chris Bensinger joined the EMAS faculty to help actors hone the skills that allow them to shine in Hollywood’s growing number of Musical and “Musical TV” productions.

Elizabeth Mestnik, acting coach The founder of EMAS, Elizabeth Mestnik has deep roots in the Meisner technique and extensive experience both as a working actress/director and as a teacher with a love for the craft of acting

 

Have your own thoughts on what performances deserve recognition? Let us know!

Now Enrolling: The Character; a beginning Technique Class

Beginner Acting Class
This New Year get into another person’s shoes, try out their voice, feel their pain and their joy by developing THE CHARACTER.  Learn to quickly bring life to a script through a set of tools that help you to grow into and fill out your character.

This 11 week course is not only about books and text, it’s about developing a personality. THE CHARACTER class at The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio in Los Angeles (EMASLA) will provide you with a foundation in creating truthful, dynamic characters and expressing the way that you will be heard. Doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, television or audition, beginner class will help you find a technique to develop character’s psychology including voice and body language. Through exercises, improvisations, monologue and scene work, students acquire a comprehensive set of “acting tools” to draw upon when approaching a role. At the end of the course you will know how to bring a character to life and apply their techniques in scene work.

Up for the adventure? Then register and start your New Year with THE CHARACTER!

Find more information about our philosophy and  the beginning technique class here.


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Time: Wednesdays at 1:30pm or Thursdays at 7pm
Date: January 11 – March 23 2017
Place: 11423 Moorpark Street, North Hollywood
Price: $510 for 11 weeks – 50% due at registration

 

Upcoming: SPIKE HEELS Staged Reading

The second in our four-part play play reading series at the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS), a cast of EMAS students will stage a reading of Spike Heels, by Theresa Rebeck.

spike heelsPygmalion goes awry in this contemporary comedy of manners which explores sexual harassment, misplaced amour, and the possibility of a four sided love triangle. The combatants are a sexy, volatile young woman and three Back Bay types a writer, a lawyer and a fiancee in sensible shoes.

Featuring EMAS students:
Jeremiah Hahn
Jessica Nielson
Cassidy Schiltz
Steve Suh

Directed by Andrew Rodgers

The Acting Studio stages these events for our acting students, our faculty, and the larger artistic community. Admission is open to the public but any donations are appreciated and help us to continue staging these and other events that benefit the community.

If you would like to attend, Reservations are required due to limited space. Please RSVP to director@emasla.com

When: Sunday December 4th, 2016

Time: doors open at 6:30 for wine and cheese mixer and reading begins at 7:15

Where: EMAS 11423 Moorpark St. Los Angeles Map and Contact

To read a detailed account of our last play reading and what this particular form has to offer,  please click here.

We hope to see you there!


 

About the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio:  Located in Studio City, Los Angles,The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS), our mission is to empower actors and acting students with a strong foundation in acting technique and a discipline that will last a lifetime. From our core Meisner classes, to acting workshops and seminars, each class aims to help students gain the “acting tools” that support successful acting careers.

 

There’s No Place Like Home – An Actor’s Search for the Right Acting Class

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.


actor aisha lomaxAisha 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!

 

 

Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio’s New Website!

Elizabeth Mestnik's new responsive mobile friendly site
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!

 

 

 

An Interview with Elizabeth Mestnik

Elizabeth Mestnik teaching acting class

 

1.  What made you decide to start the acting studio?

I had moved to LA from New York a few years earlier and tried to find a master class for people who had trained in a full 2 year “New York style” Meisner training program.  After auditing a number of schools in town, I just didn’t find what I was looking for.   I was teaching at another studio – and realized that if I wanted that – I was going to have to build it from the ground up.  Some former students of mine encouraged me to start something on my own – with about 12 of them committing to the 2 year Meisner Technique syllabus.  That was back in 2001.  We started with one group meeting twice a week, just me, renting out a theatre space – and gradually we grew to where we are now, with our own studio, 9 classes a week, and 5 instructors.

2.  What do you believe are the key advantages of the Meisner technique, when compared to other techniques of acting?

It’s all about working from impulse rather than intellect.  Every part of the exercises is geared to keep the actor working from their instinctual self.  Because it’s improv based – the actors are required to really stretch their imaginations – and that is invaluable because the imagination is limitless.  Some other techniques tether you to your own life’s experiences – which is really quite limiting.  Meisner asks that you keep expanding your connection to the imagination. Also, it is a building block technique. What that means is that each step builds upon the prior step.  So if you do step a, then step b, then step c you will end up at d.  It gives the actor a reliable process that they can do EVERY time.  It gives them a craft – and that is so much better than throwing the mud up against the wall to see what sticks.

3.  What are some of the attributes that make for great acting students?

Fearlessness, empathy, discipline, curiosity, a vivid imagination, a desire to have their voice heard, and a strong and supple instrument that allows for all that to be revealed in the character.

4.  What are some of the most difficult challenges your students face, and how do they overcome them?

Tension is always a big issue, it is what blocks a student from their impulse. It keeps them from having a free voice and physicality.  It prevents them connecting emotionally to their partners or the circumstances of the scene.  Often times students don’t even realize they are tense.  The tension has become such a habit it feels “normal”.  The first thing we do to help them is make them aware of it.  That’s half the battle – when they find themselves gripping, or holding their breath in certain moments they can release.  WE also have a series of breathing and focus exercises that help.
.  How are classes at your school different from classes in a traditional classroom?  Well if you mean by traditional classroom something like your high school English class – well – this isn’t anything like that.  Most of the work is done on our feet, up and moving around. Acting is a kinesthetic process – students have to feel it in their bodies – not just in their brains.  We learn everything by doing.

6.  What are some of the specific areas your courses focus on?

We have 2 main branches of our actor training.  Our professional program is based on The Meisner Technique as I was taught it by William Esper and Maggie Flanigan.  That is a 2-year program where the classes meet twice a week.  We discovered many years ago however that many people are interested in the acting process but don’t know enough about it to commit to something like our Meisner Program.  That is why we developed our Basic Technique series.  This offers 3 different 12 week sessions that meet once a week.  It is a more traditional style of training, pulling from a variety of techniques. It exposes students to how actors develop characters, break down scripts, expand the imagination and develop an expressive instrument.

7.  What are some common misconceptions people have about the acting profession?

That you either have it or don’t.  You need to have some basic talent for it – but it is a skill set that can be taught and developed.

8.  The acting studio has been running now for nearly fifteen years, and many of your classes fill up quickly.  What do you believe are the key factors of the studio’s success?

Quality control.  We are a small studio, with small classes so that we can focus on the students individual needs.  Our teachers are invested in each student.  Because we only take 90 students we can focus our time and energy on classes rather than on marketing and advertising.

9.  Can you think of any key thing (or things) you’ve learned since the studio first opened? That this craft is more important than ever. True connections between people is harder and harder these days.  Our communication is now buffered by technology and our vulnerability is protected by a screen.  Student actors come into class craving human connection on the deepest level.  Movie and theatre goers ask the actors to experience these honest connections so that they can vicariously live through them.  Actors are becoming society’s conduit to a fully felt and experienced life.  It’s a huge and wondrous responsibility.

For more information on classes, schedules, and our philosophy please check out the studio’s website.

ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL TECHNIQUE CLASS

Commercial Acting Workshop
November 12, 19, 26 and December 3

ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL TECHNIQUE WITH
HAL MASONBERG

“Any worthy casting director is thrilled to see Hal’s name on an actor’s resume. It’s a huge sigh of relief for me – I know that this actor’s been taught and nurtured in the skills of bringing to the audition the authenticity that I and my directors need. I innately know that my time with this talent won’t be spent battling the layers of elsewhere-learned “Stepford” commercial techniques. I want to bring this actor in.”
Vicki Goggin – Casting Director (Coca-Cola, Best Buy, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Allstate, Wal-Mart, Subaru, and many more)

In this workshop Hal will give you an in-depth understanding of what takes place behind the scenes at commercial casting auditions. You will leave this Workshop with a well-rounded grasp of the inner-workings of the audition process that will free you from second-guessing and allow you to do your best work.

You will learn:

-How to present yourself right off the bat in your slate as first impressions are crucial in the commercial world!

-How to break down the copy in order to understand what is most important to the client and how best to deliver that.

-What to expect from casting directors and session directors.

-How to break down a script to best optimize your time in front of the camera and how to stand out from everyone else.

– How to use your unique qualities as your single greatest asset!

-How to develop timing skills while working with a partner to create the proper rhythm and pace.

Hal Masonberg is one of L.A.’s most in-demand session directors working for top commercial casting directors like…

Craig Colvin, Popcasting, Terry Berland, Alyson Horn, Danielle Eskinazi, Joe Blake, Sheila Manning and many others…

“Hal Masonberg’s years of experience working deep in the trenches of commercial casting, combined with his vast knowledge of film history, enthusiasm, and respect for actors make him, without question, THE best session director working on the scene today and I trust him implicitly. Whatever he tells you, believe it.” —
Mark Randall, Casting Director (Capital One, Adidas, Audi, Campbell’s Soup, Fox Sports, Nintendo and many others)

WHEN: Mondays at 7pm
DATES: November 12, 19, 26 and December 3
WHERE: EMAS: 7600 Melrose Ave, 2nd Floor Los Angeles 90046
COST: $180
CONTACT: 323-528-6280 or director@emasla.com
More Information at http://www.emasla.com/acting-workshops.php

http://www.emasla.com