All posts by Elizabeth Mestnik

5 Tips for Successful Self-Tapes

1. Create a non-verbal moment before the lines start. Before the first line is spoken create a response to the moment before. This will draw the viewer in before the speaking even starts.

2. Craft before you memorize. Knowing more about your character, what they want and why they say what they say will make memorization easier.

3. Introduce yourself in your slate – don’t announce or present yourself but think about how you would introduce yourself at a dinner party. Keep it warm and friendly.

4. Be in response to your scene partner. Remember you are being seen even when you are not talking.

5. Keep your eyeline close to the camera. However, don’t look directly into the lens. If you talk to more than one character, use sticky notes to mark your eyeline.

Acting and Basketball

As my students know – I think in metaphors. They pop out of my mouth on a regular basis. One of my favorites is the comparing actor training to athletic training. A lot of actors don’t see the disciplines as similar – as though being a great actor is some sort of mysterious gift that you are born with or not., but being an athlete is something that you can develop. Kobe Bryant’s work ethic was legendary. He was famous for his 5am-7am workouts in high school. No one got to practice before him or left after him. He fine-tuned both his body and his skills. He made sure his body was able to do everything he needed it to, whether it was greater speed or the strength to match up against a LeBron James. He found that type of intense preparation fun! Without that work ethic and a love of the process – he might have just been another talented high school player. That’s the physical side of his training.

For actors, day in and day out work on flexibility, using the breath, emotional access and strengthening the voice is important so they can consistently meet the emotional and physical demands of the work. Do you have an argument scene? Will you be able to take multiple takes yelling at the top of your lungs without damaging your voice? Will you be able to repeatedly access emotional moments and not dry up? Can you handle the tongue twisting dialogue of a medical drama or a Shakespearean play? We stretch, do yoga, study voice, do articulation exercises and work out our imaginations and emotional temperaments every day to get in actor shape – so that whatever the scene requires, our body, our voice and our emotional life is ready to convey it.

What’s the actor equivalent of Kobe’s workout? His famous 1000 shots a day? In the Meisner Technique – it’s our repetition exercises. At least 1000 moments daily of connection and focus, deep listening, and riding impulses. This exercise has the actor repeatedly being affected by every little nuance they receive. Working on these exercises every day removes defense mechanisms and gets actors out of their heads so that being spontaneously reactive is in the muscle memory. It allows actors to feel deeply with no fear of showing those feelings to the camera or audience. As any athlete knows – the minute you engage the intellect on the court is the minute you miss a shot. The minute you think about your performance you are no longer living through something truthfully in the imaginary circumstances. Kobe also made sure to continue working on his strength and flexibility because it’s not enough to just be able to make the shots, you need your body to be able to handle the demands of 48 minutes of running, jumping and physical tussles with opponents. Actors need to be able to handle 8 shows a week and grueling emotional and physical demands.

But there is more than the physical side of basketball and acting. In acting we call it the craft. It is all the stuff you need to do before the opening night or the big game to be completely free and at your best. Crafting means breaking down a script into beats, objectives and actions, using personalization to connect to the stakes and understand the emotions of a scene, and researching to help interpret a character. Actors need to be insatiably curious about those characters, learning how to effectively research the time, place and genre that character lives in or the performance will fall flat. The same way a great athlete spends time breaking down a defense an opponent and referee positions, actors break down dialogue, characters, and storyline. The important thing for both an actor and an athlete to remember is that once the performance begins you can’t be working on any of this – you either prepared enough or you didn’t – and it’s time for the instrument to take over – the muscle memory to step in.

So, at EMAS we are always reminding our actors that they need a finely tuned instrument as well as the ability to craft personally and effectively. It is not enough to just know the plays and understand the opponent, without being strong, flexible, and able to work instinctively – your basketball prowess will only go so far. Actors who have all the craft training but lack emotional availability, a dexterous voice, an expressive body or imaginative stamina will not engage their audience. The story might make sense – but it won’t compel anyone to watch.
I like to leave my students with this quote from the Black Mamba himself:
“Those times when you get up early and you work hard. Those times you stay up late, and you work hard. Those times when you don’t feel like working. You’re too tired. You don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream.” – Kobe Bryant

A lot of people say they want to be great, but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness. They have other concerns, whether important or not, and they spread themselves out. That’s totally fine. After all, greatness is not for everybody.” – Kobe Bryant.

“The mindset isn’t about seeking a result—it’s more about the process of getting to that result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life. I do think that it’s important, in all endeavors, to have that mentality.”

“A lot of players don’t understand the game or the importance of footwork, spacing. It’s to the point where if you know the basics, you have an advantage on the majority of players.”

Many actors are given gifts. It is clear that with James his dedication and work ethic is what has made him one of the best to ever play.

The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio Returns to In-Person Classes at new studio location in North Hollywood Arts District

Los Angeles, CA, March 5, 2022 – The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) has moved to their new studio home in the vibrant North Hollywood Arts District.

EMAS had to close its Studio City location due to the pandemic and the need to shift to online training. EMAS returned to in-person classes in July of 2021.

“Although we have been offering in-person classes for the past 8 months, we didn’t have our own home. We were graciously welcomed by a number of North Hollywood theatres to hold our classes there, but it feels so good to have our own location again.” says owner Elizabeth Mestnik.

EMAS is already offering their full 2-year Professional Meisner Program as well as Scene Study and Acting Technique for Beginners.

The Summer Meisner Technique Intensive will start June 27th, 2022 and is currently accepting applications.
Director/Owner Elizabeth Mestnik explained “As the Covid-19 numbers continue to drop we look forward to returning to offering our full offerings of classes including Movement, Voice, Audition Technique and Shakespeare by the fall.”
The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio is now located at 4713 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91602.

About EMAS
Founded in 2001 by Elizabeth Mestnik, EMAS is celebrating its 21st year as a boutique, training program in Los Angeles. EMAS is for serious actors who want the rigors of a true 2-year Meisner Training program in a personalized environment. Since its inception EMAS trained actors have worked in television, film and theatre and have found representation from some of Los Angeles’ top managers and agents. EMAS is also proud to be recommended by CBS and backstage as one of LA’s premier training programs.
As Alumni Charles Michael Davis said “My best was demanded every class. The program is challenging enough that it really prepared me for the demands of working on set. Set seems easy compared to what we did at EMAS!”

For More Information about The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio contact us at [email protected] or visit the website at www.emasla.com

Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio
4713 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91602

The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio Returns to In-Person Classes while maintaining popular Online Option

L.A.’s Top Meisner Training Program will be offering classes at The Two Roads Theatre in Studio City this summer.

Los Angeles, CA, May 14, 2021 – The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) will be returning to in-person acting classes this summer with their 5-week Summer Meisner Technique Intensive.

In-Person Intensive will start July 7th, and be held Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the Two Roads Theatre from 10am – 1pm.

Online Intensive will start June 14th, and will be held on zoom on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4pm.

Elizabeth Mestnik explained, “We are so happy that the Covid-19 numbers have dropped low enough in LA that we are able to offer in person classes. We had incredible online programs this past year, and we will continue to offer those for people who aren’t able to join us in Los Angeles, but returning to in-person has our entire faculty excited to be able to do this work face to face. We are ready to prepare our actors for the full return of our film, television and theater industry”

Covid-19 protocols will be strictly enforced. Applicants for the in-person classes do have to show proof of vaccination to maintain the safest possible training environment. Class size has been reduced and classes have moved to The Two Road Theatre : 4348 Tujunga Blvd in Studio City to offer a larger training space to adhere to LA County protocols.

About EMAS
Founded in 2001 by Elizabeth Mestnik, EMAS is celebrating its 20th year as a boutique, training program for serious actors who want the rigors of a true 2-year Meisner Training program in a supportive yet challenging environment. Since its inception EMAS trained actors have worked in television, film and theatre and have found representation from some of Los Angeles’ top managers and agents. EMAS is also proud to be recommended by CBS and backstage as one of LA’s premier training programs.

As Alumni Charles Michael Davis said “My best was demanded every class. The program is challenging enough that it really prepared me for the demands of working on set. Set seems easy compared to what we did at EMAS!”

For More Information about The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio contact us at [email protected] or visit the website at www.emasla.com

Meisner Brush Up Class: Begins Summer 2019

We are calling it Meisner Brush Up class. Essentially it’s an 8-week review class that will help get you back on your impulses and taking those big emotional risks that you were doing in our 2nd year of Meisner Technique training.  The syllabus will really work those skills of listening and taking things personally, crafting for the highest stakes, as well as justifications, impediment and point of view work.  You know, all the work that really made you feel like you could conquer anything.

We developed this program because we know how invaluable the tools you developed during your training are, and how gloriously unpredictable it is to take off the mask and really be with another human being in the moment through the entire span of emotional circumstances. It has been built understanding that the world of auditioning can sometimes shrink your range and this is here to help you really swing for the fences in regards to your crafting.

Please note this class is tailored specifically for actors with prior training in the Meisner Technique.

What: Summer Workshop for EMAS alums

Where: 11423 Moorpark Street, Los Angeles (Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio)

When: MONDAYS AT 7PM

Tuition: $380

Instructors: EMAS FACULTY

Contact: Call us at 323-528-6280 or fill out the appropriate form on our Registration Page.

 

Video: Shakespeare’s Relevance to the Modern Actor

EMAS faculty member, Diana Jelinek shares what studying Shakespeare means to her and how it is relevant to the modern student of the Meisner Technique.

Read more about our upcoming LA Shakespeare classes.

Stage, Film and Television: Differences for the Beginning Actor

Theater vs. Set for actors
Stages and Sets: Very Different Working Environments

There are three major platforms for actors: stage, film and television. Decades ago, it was relatively rare for actors to successfully crossover between these mediums. Instead, most actors would establish themselves on the boards or before cameras and largely stay in their lanes for the rest of their careers. However, those days are long gone, and many actors move freely between mediums, enjoying the unique artistic experiences each one provides.

That said, every actor needs to begin somewhere, so here is a guide to help new actors understand the major differences between working in stage, film and TV and which medium, or mediums, might appeal to them most.

Location

New York and Los Angeles are the two main acting meccas in the U.S., but they have little in common other than their thriving entertainment industries. The weather, culture, rent prices, transportation systems and professional opportunities in each city are very different, and actors should consider which location fits their personality and career aspirations before booking a plane ticket and signing a lease.

Stage
The Big Apple is the unrivaled king of stage, with more than 40 theatres on Broadway alone. While there are plenty of stage opportunities in L.A., New York’s storied theater scene still isn’t rivaled on the West Coast.

Film
The City of Angels is the center of the film universe, and actors who aspire to a film career will find the most opportunities there by far. However, New York is a good secondary location for film hopefuls who prefer the vibe of the East Coast.

Television
Again, L.A. is the most desirable location for actors who dream of breaking into television, but many TV dramas film in New York as well. Also, cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago and Atlanta have strong television production industries, and actors may feel more at home in these locations than L.A. depending on proximity to their family, work and more. However, L.A.’s pilot season will draw most TV hopefuls to the the city at least once a year due to the volume of casting that takes place.

Audience

Stage
Theatre actors play in front of a live audience, which greatly impacts their performance. Patrons in the back row cannot hear quietly read lines or see subtle expressions or gestures, meaning an actor must put on a performance large enough to fill the space (often larger than life). Stage audiences also give live feedback, which actors can feed off of, both for the good and for the bad.

Film
Cinemas have massive screens and top-notch sound systems, which means the slightest facial expressions and softest whispers can be seen and heard by film audiences. As a result, film acting offers a platform for very nuanced performances – the smallest bit of overacting is difficult to overlook when amplified by cameras, microphones, lighting (not to mention the score and digital effects). Actors also have to wait months, or sometimes years, to see an audience’s reaction to their work, which can look much different than they expected due to editing and other post-production additions.

Television
Over the past couple of decades, television has become much more like film in terms of its acting requirements. Movie-quality production values paired with big screen TVs mean that many television projects need the same less-is-more approach to acting that film requires. Unless a show is filmed before a live audience, which is increasingly rare, TV actors also typically wait months to experience an audience’s reaction to their work, which can feel isolating.

Schedule and Pace

Stage
Actors working in theatre productions usually go through substantial rehearsal periods that allow them to familiarize themselves with their character, thoroughly learn their lines and bond with other cast members. Once the production goes live, they get the chance to perform their role multiple times, growing and learning with each performance.

Film
Although dependent on a movie’s budget, production schedule and director, most film actors may get little or no dedicated rehearsal time with the rest of the cast. They also work notoriously long hours that can start at odd times and be filled with lengthy periods of downtime between scenes. Some movie productions can also require actors to go on location for weeks or months, which can be exciting but can also cause lifestyle disruptions.

Television
TV actors tend to work at a much quicker pace than film actors do, with several pages of script going before cameras each day. They also generally work fewer, and more regular, hours than their film counterparts. Sitcoms, in particular, are known for having comfortable shooting schedules that allow actors more personal time.

Material

Stage
Because of theatre’s repetitive nature, stage actors get extremely familiar with their characters and the script as a whole. The most successful plays and musicals require acting companies to put on hundreds of performances each year, and audiences can become attached to certain portions of the dialogue, meaning that mistakes aren’t easy to hide and improvisation is impossible. Some actors love this familiarity, while others may become bored after a while.

Film
In general, film allows actors much more creative freedom than stage productions. Depending on the goals of the script and the personality of its director, a film role could demand that an actor stick strictly to the written page or improvise huge parts of the script. However, in general, there will be limited changes to a film script once production begins and actors will usually have ample time to prepare for each day’s shoot.

Television
Unlike film actors, TV actors get to spend several episodes, and sometimes several seasons, exploring their characters. While the director is king in film, TV is a writer’s medium, and an actor’s ability to influence the direction of his or her character varies greatly depending on the needs and personality of the showrunner, who is often the head writer. TV scripts also tend to be written fairly close to an episode’s filming dates, so it’s common for actors to be presented with line changes on the day a scene is shot.

 

Each actor is different and may enjoy different acting platforms. However, the only way for an artist to truly know what he or she likes, and understand where his or her greatest talents lie, is to embrace new opportunities and give every acting medium a try.

An Introduction to LA Pilot Season for Actors

LA Pilot Season for Actors Introduction Banner

 

Pilot season in Los Angeles is a bit like the holiday season everywhere else: Some people are celebrating, some people are depressed and everyone is spectacularly stressed. However, instead of trying to find the perfect gift to put under the tree, showrunners and casting directors are searching for the perfect actors for their casts and TV networks are looking for the perfect shows to add to their schedules.

What, Where and When Is Pilot Season?

For decades, pilot season has been the wheel that keeps L.A.’s television industry turning. Each summer, writers and producers pitch hundreds of TV show ideas to major television networks and, of those, TV executives order around 70 pilot scripts to be written. Of those 70 scripts, around 20 will go before cameras to become pilot episodes. It is those 20 or so pilot episodes that create a casting feeding frenzy between the months of January and April.

While there are major television production hubs in other North American cities, such as Atlanta, New York, Toronto and Vancouver, the center of the pilot season universe is still L.A. Even if a show’s production is based in one of those other cities, some or all of the casting will take place in the City of Angels.

What About Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Other Streaming Networks?

There is no question that Netflix and other streamers have significantly changed the game in Hollywood. The most obvious change has been the way streaming networks order their programming. Instead of taking pitches and ordering a script or pilot episode, Netflix takes pitches and greenlights an entire series. For a while, Amazon took a different approach, ordering a handful of pilots and letting subscribers vote on the ones that would move to production. However, Amazon officially dumped that model in early 2018 and is now orders full series just like Netflix.

Some have wondered if these full-season orders would shortcircuit the traditional pilot season, but, for now, major broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CW still use this model to cast their shows. Until that changes, pilot season will continue to be a massively important event on every actor’s yearly calendar.

To help get actors ready, here are some tips for surviving the 2019 pilot season.

How to Surive L.A.’s Pilot Season

1. Have representation

Actors must have an agent. Period. During pilot season, casting agents see literally thousands of auditions and self-tapes from represented talent. They do not have time to see unrepresented actors, so actors shouldn’t waste their time attempting to defy the odds. They should spend their time getting an agent.

2. Know when to go

Actors who are already in L.A. and have representation are ready to dive in and hit the audition circuit. However, actors based in Toronto, London, Sydney or even Peoria need to lay down solid groundwork before hopping on a jet. They need representation, work papers and, most of all, a way “in.” That means that they’re coming off a hot project that will open doors for them or they (or their representation) have pre-existing relationships with L.A. casting agents. If not, they should consider doing self-tapes for a season or three. A self-tape can get an actor called into the room, giving them that coveted way “in” and make the cost of travel worth it.

3. Understand the calendar and the casting pyramid

Networks are almost always looking for name actors to headline their new series, and these parts are typically the first ones cast. Next to be cast are the supporting roles, which will largely be filled by working actors with long resumes. However, there is some wiggle room here, and that’s where the opportunity lies for lesser-known actors. As February turns into March turns into April, the casting room door opens wider and wider. This is the time of year when most of the big fish have been landed and casting directors are desperate to find the right people for the last remaining roles. This is when actors are more likely to land the break they’re looking for. Get in the room, and anything can happen.

4. Prepare well, and leave it on the floor

Actors should read their sides, learn their lines, and then do what they were meant to do: Act. Auditions can be stressful and scary, but they give actors an audience to practice their craft in front of, and they should fully embrace that opportunity. They should know what they want to do with the character, but they should be loose and adaptable enough to play off their scene partner (if they have one) and take direction from the room. Whatever happens, they should leave knowing that they gave it their best shot and they now have more experience under their belt.

5. Don’t compare

Actors will have many friends that book pilots or other TV work before they do. They will also walk into audition waiting rooms and see other actors who are younger, older, fitter, better looking or seemingly more qualified than they are. It does no good for actors to compare themselves to others. As trite as it may sound, each person has unique talents, and the only thing an actor can do is learn their craft, prepare for each potential part and do their very best on the day of the audition. The rest is out of their hands.

6. Don’t forget about other opportunities

Yes, pilot season is the biggest event of the year, but it is also the second half of the traditional broadcast television season. Even if an actor doesn’t land a pilot, he or she can book work on existing TV series. In addition, thanks to Netflix, Amazon and cable, the mold for the traditional broadcast season was broken years ago. All platforms, including the major broadcast networks, are casting series all year long. Actors who land small roles on a fourth- or fifth-year series can use that experience to land bigger gigs, including pilots, in the future.

7. Don’t despair

The television industry is tough for 99 percent of actors. It’s tough to break into, and it’s tough to sustain a career in. Some degree of failure is inevitable. However, just because an actor botches an audition or fails to land a part, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good at what they do. It also doesn’t mean they should throw in the towel. So many successful actors have had a moment, or many moments, when they thought they should give up, move home and get a “real job.” Many have toiled for years as waiters or cashiers before they became “overnight successes.” As the recent viral story about former “The Cosby Show” regular Geoffrey Owens proved, many actors have had to get second jobs even after consistently working in the industry for years. Actors shouldn’t quit because they feel discouraged; they should only quit if they no longer love acting.

7. Join an Acting Class

This might sound self serving, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good advice! EMAS is only one of several excellent acting studios in the LA area. Taking classes offers you a chance to play an active role in progressing as an actor, an empowering experience in an industry where luck, timing and factors that are largely out of one’s control can seem to play an outsized role, particularly in the beginning.

In addition to the inherent value of growing as an actor, studying with a group of like-minded, similarly driven actors creates an excellent peer group for actors who may not yet have established themselves socially or professionally in LA.

8. Remember to enjoy life

Just like every other career, acting isn’t everything. Family, friends, pets, nature, exercise and hobbies are critically important and shouldn’t be neglected while an actor pursues his or her dream of booking a pilot. Not only can a life outside of the entertainment business bring an actor joy and keep them grounded, but it can expand their breadth of life experiences and help make them a better actor. Being happy and well-rounded is the best thing an actor can do for their mental health and their career.

 

Spring 2019 Beginners Acting Classes – Enrolling Now

acting student studying script

The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) is now enrolling students in our popular Basic Technique beginning acting classes, The Character and The Script.

Beginning the week of April 1st, both classes are held weekly and last for 12 weeks:

The Character: Tuesdays or Wednesdays at 2PM

The Script: Thursdays at 7PM

Please read more or visit our registration page to reserve your slot today.

Now Enrolling: Spring 2019 Fitzmaurice Voice Workshop

We’re happy to announce that enrollment for our 2019 Fitzmaurice Voice Workshop is now open.

Overview:

An actor is limited only by the range of his or her instrument. This instrument includes the voice, body, breath and emotional accessibility. This class allows students to add conservatory level voice training to their curriculum. The Fitzmaurice Technique is designed to let your body and voice work with freedom and full expression to access your creativity and emotional range.
The Fitzmaurice Technique is one of the world’s most widely used vocal techniques. From Julliard to The Moscow Art Theatre, actors have benefited from it’s healthy approach to speaking, breathing, and releasing emotions.

We look forward to working with you!

Enrollment:

Please feel free to contact us or reserve your spot today through the form below.