Tag Archives Los Angeles

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!

 

 

Should Working Actors Continue Their Training??

Guest Post by Matthew Jaeger

Matthew Jaeger HeadshotMatt 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.

Yes.

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.

Why Take A Meisner Acting Training Program?

What do we teach?

I’m asked all the time “What do you teach actors? What do you learn in a Meisner Technique program?” I mean truly, the skill sets required of actors are often not visible to the untrained eye, the best acting is invisible, it looks just like real life, so I am not surprised that the beginning acting student isn’t sure what it is they need to learn to become a truthful exciting actor. So I usually explain to them that we teach you how to be truthful in your acting, you learn how to act from your instincts and not your head, we fine tune your ability to be in true contact with another actor, how to tap into your imagination to emotionally connect to the dramatic circumstances of the script, you learn to sensitize to the world around you so you can walk in your character’s shoes with emotional truth and integrity…and at some point in this long list they interrupt and ask “how do you do that?” . And that is where it gets tricky, because as “simple” as the Meisner Technique’s structure is, it’s ramifications are profound and address so many of the actor’s needs – it’s difficult to sum it up in a brief conversation. The best way to understand the work is by reading one of the two great books on the process, -William Esper’s book “The Actor’s Art and Craft” or, of course, Sanford Meisner’s book “On Acting”. But these conversations have gotten me to thinking that maybe we could give people a skeletal understanding of the Meisner steps and what skills they address. I do this because it is important for us to understand that the skills actors need go way beyond memorizing lines and hitting your mark.

REPETITION EXERCISE:
The Repetition Exercise is the most well known phase of Meisner’s work and it lays a really important foundation for the more complex exercises and important scene work that comes down the road.
For me the Repetition exercise has 3 phases:
1. Objective Repetition without changes
2. Objective Repetition with changes
3. Subjective Repetition with changes
All of which develop the actor’s ability to work off of their partner, work impulsively and stand up for their own feelings. Here is how this little repetition exercise does all that.

The Objective Repetition without changes, starts with someone commenting on the first thing they see in their acting partner and then their partner repeating what they said and this repetition of the same observation goes on and on – it’s a simple but very powerful exercise that teaches actors
· How to honor their impulses by commenting on the first thing they notice- honoring what they really see before the sensors of politeness and manners set in. Contrary to mom’s advice we want you to speak before you think! We are teaching you to stop the judgment of your observations – so if the first thing they notice is “big nose” they have to say it! We are developing their ability to act from an impulse rather than their intellect, responding from the heart not the head. Just repeating also removes the need to come up with the words also helps keeps the student from thinking too much.
· How to put your focus and attention on one thing – their partner, and be able to read their partner’s behavior. In a time where we are always distracted, by an email, a phone call, a billboard, re-learning how to stay focused over time is an invaluable skill. Ultimately this is about connecting with another human being and allowing all other distractions to fall away so you can truly be present with someone else, truly be affected by them, and live in the moment. Learning to put your focus somewhere outside of oneself is also an invaluable tool to calm nerves.
· How to allow yourself to be affected by someone else and how to give your body and voice permission to reveal how you are feeling. We are trained in life not to show our weaknesses, our worry, our vulnerability and that can create a lot of tension that keeps the actor from being expressive. We are trained in life to show only our “best” selves, but as actors we must show our “true” selves. Sometimes students become robotic in this first step for fear of not doing it right. We don’t care about being right we care about behaving truthfully. We remove the idea of being right or wrong and substitute the idea of either being present or not to your partner and to the moment.

Repetition with changes. Now the actor is allowed to change the repetition when their partner inspires them to do so. It may be as simple as a fact “you scratched your nose”, or it may go deeper to “you are flirting with me”. At first whatever they notice and can put into words is valid. And when they can’t find the words, they continue to repeat. We want to make sure that they aren’t thinking before they speak and they aren’t intellectually searching for a way to change the repetition. It is better to just repeat than to intellectualize. This phase
· Furthers the actor’s ability to read behavior, and now makes the actor commit to calling the behavior, without polite editing. Removing the editor in one’s mind is an important aspect of getting actors to be instinctual and emotional.
· Enhances the impulsive response, which is not within the actor’s control. Controlling the changes in the repetition exercise means the actor is still working from their head and aren’t completely free.
· Is the beginning step of the actors finding their own point of view, of really taking in how someone is behaving and having an opinion about it.

Subjective Repetition With Changes. Now instead of calling the first thing they see in their partner to start off the exercise, the actor is prompted to put their point of view out there – to have the courage to have an opinion about what they see. This can be a very difficult step – as we have been taught from a very young age to avoid being completely truthful when in dialogue with someone else. We are taught not to say anything that might make someone uncomfortable, and so saying what we really think is tough – and hearing it and really taking it in is also very tough. I once had a young man say to a really beautiful young woman “you are gorgeous”. It was completely truthful and heartfelt, and this beautiful young woman was completely overwhelmed by the honesty and genuineness that she welled up with tears. Why? Because the safe space of the classroom allowed he to let go of her defenses and show her feelings and because we don’t get opportunities for this sincerity very often in real life! But I say in this work we are not looking to behave as we would in real life – we want to be MORE TRUTHFUL than we are in real life. That is why audiences pay money to see us, because we will reveal to them something BEYOND what they experience in the every day. So this phase continues to solidify working from the instinct, and staying connected with the partner, but it’s most profound work is that it
· Teaches us to look for the TRUTH in all our work.
So that is the REPETITION EXERCISE broken down as simply as I am able. It is such an invaluable foundation to truthful, spontaneous acting – but it is only the beginning. Next I’ll talk about the Independent Activity, Emotional Preparation, Scene Work, Relationships and Shared Circumstances exercises. However, none of these more advanced exercises are doable unless the actor is able to work off of their partner, honor their impulses and have a point of view, all skills that are learned in the Repetition Exercises.

If you would like more information on The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, please visit us on the web at
www.emasla.com

The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio is the recommended training program for NBC’s Talent Development Program

THE MEISNER TECHNIQUE SUMMER INTENSIVE

The Meisner Technique was developed by Sanford Meisner over 65 years ago, and remains one of the leading actor training techniques today.  The summer intensive is a month-long course that meets three days a week for three hours. It’s purpose it to give student actors a full exposure to the philosophies as well as the structure of this demanding yet dynamic process. It develops sensory and emotional skills and introduces actors to the strength of using one’s own uniqueness within performance.  Students are expected to present work at each class. In addition, Ms. Mestnik expects students to rehearse in preparation for each class.

If you are ready to ignite your imagination, reconnect to your emotions, trust your instincts and develop the essential skills of great acting, and work harder than you have ever worked before…

This program is for you!

Auditing:

EMAS does not permit auditing of technique classes. We consider technique classes at EMAS to be a personal laboratory, where the students are encouraged to take risks. There is a sense of safety created by the closed classroom that allows for such risk-taking. EMAS does everything to encourage and support the actor in this endeavor.

Preparation:

We recommend reading On Acting by Sanford Meisner or The Actor’s Art and Craft by William Esper before interviewing for our program.

Attendance:

Students presenting themselves to EMAS for training must be prepared to undertake the rigorous and demanding work required to ready themselves for the demands of a professional career.

Ms. Mestnik is very strict about class attendance and students rehearsal in preparation for each class. Students who are not professional in conduct or undependable as partners and class members will be discontinued. Many of our students are working professionals and every effort will be made to accommodate student’s professional demands.  Students are allowed two absences in this 5-week session.

Tuition:

14-Class Core Acting Program $595

Add 4 Body/Voice classes for $150

Class Schedule:

Session A:  Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7:00, Saturday mornings at 10:00.

Session B:  Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 10:00

Physical Voice:  Mondays:  7:00pm

Blend Business with Enthusiasm

It’s often the case that newer and more enthusiastic actors overlook the fact that things need to be done in a logical and properly conceived order. According to Actingmagazine.com, many as a result go through a case of classic self-sabotage.

One of the best things an actor can do for themselves is make sure they have a great foundation in film acting technique. Even though this is the rule of thumb, many beginning actors don’t see it this way. They think acting is just acting and therefore a fair amount of their time is spent on plays and dabbling into a workshop or two. After their vicarious training, then they rush straight into film and the television market, and only then do they realize their training/skills aren’t quite winning over those casting directors.

Eventually these impatient actors will see that it will be over a year or more before casting directors would take another chance to see someone who had essentially wasted their time.
What does this all mean? Basically, that the industry is too tight knit, and the memories of casting directors too long for you to make that kind of mistake.

To ensure you get the right training, be sure you check out The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting School.  Located in Los Angeles, in the heart of Hollywood, Ms. Mestnik has taught acting for over a decade.  With her combined experience in the industry and with her expertise in the Mesiner Technique, she will help you develop those skills that will get you the auditions you’ve always wanted.

Key to Handling Auditioning Pressure

It seems like once you take that big step towards achieving your goals, a huge barrier comes between you and your success. And that can take many forms from self-doubt to the unknown pressures you may put on yourself to achieve those dreams. But the question remains: as an actor, how do you handle that sort of pressure?

D. L. White, an award winning filmmaker, who has worked in the film and television industry for nearly 20 years, has been asked this question before by aspiring actors who are attempting to make their mark in the industry.

His advice is to stop thinking about it. The creative process is a delicate thing, and you’re only going about disrupting the flow of your craft by stressing about things you cannot control, while focusing on what you can improve with rehearsals, research, memorization, preparation, and performance, will produce better and more effective results.

White writes that the more you try to control your craft, the more likely you will come across straining the creative process. Simply by letting go, and giving your talent leeway to breathe and grow, you will eventually learn and grow from it also.

White gives the example in his article for Actingreality.com of an absurdist play, a form of theater he is not all too familiar with, but where he finds the structured formatting stifling. Only during the more authentic moments of the production, where the actors’ emotions happened to slip through did the play really speak to him.

By the end of the performance, White was surprised to find that the things that stood out to him the most were these rare and spontaneous moments of emotion. The human connection that he felt through the player’s acting drew him closer to the scene and dialogue. What also lured him was the authenticity of the moment. By being real, the player was actually able to elicit a truer gift than any contrived monologue has ever done.

Join us at Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, located in Los Angeles, to discover your full acting potential. Currently enrolling for Spring classes for beginning actors and those who want to study under the Meisner technique, be sure you don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Acting: How To Get Started

Acting is a tough profession. It’s a distinct balance of experience and skill perfected over a period of time. A lot of patience and time ends up being thrown into the equation, and those who are disciplined enough to work hard and persevere for what they love and aspire to will reap the rewards in the end.

Rigorous training and practice – a minimum of three to four hours a day, six days a week for at least two or three years before you reach the bare minimum of becoming a professional. Which means you might have the potential, but you’ll have to work hard in order to be able to push that potential to the max.

It also comes down to how you present yourself. Imagine this: you are given a basic monologue and a rundown of what the casting director is looking for. What if you look down at the script in hand, your self-doubt gets in the way, and you freeze? The first few seconds are crucial. Your monologue either flies and you deliver, or you fail to sell them your speech, and you’re axed before you can unearth your character. Two seconds or so to prove youself – probably the most essential two seconds of your life.

The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, a dynamic Los Angeles acting school, is willing to help you unmask your potential in truthfully, emotionally, and courageously expressing yourself. Ms. Mestnik founded EMAS in 2001 to provide Hollywood actors the same comprehensive training she received in New York City. Using the Meisner Technique to help challenge and invigorate actors to fully encompass their roles, EMAS will help guide you in understanding and improving your craft.

What’s most likely standing between you and your goals, is yourself. With the help of some great acting instruction, you’ll be able to acquire the skills that you will need to deliver those lines with fiery appeal, or with enough pizzazz, or dynamic panache to impress the right people.

Enrollment for Spring Classes Beginning Acting Classes starts now!