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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
We’re happy to announce that enrollment for our 2019 Fitzmaurice Voice Workshop is now open.
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!
Please feel free to contact us or reserve your spot today through the form below.
The great thing about holiday traditions is that — while there are common threads — everyone has their own unique take that makes them personally meaningful. Holiday movie choices are no different. While some enjoy the widely-acclaimed classics, others are perfectly happy with a movie which, on the surface, may appear to have very little to do with the season (Famously, The Die Hard Phenomenon :).
Below, our faculty members each list one or two of the movies that have a special meaning for them around Christmas and the Holiday Season.
It’s so hard to pick just one favorite holiday movie…they each serve a different emotional purpose. Nostalgia? The Year Without A Santa Clause which came out in 1974 when I was 6 is indelibly sealed in my memory. I love the Claymation and the Heat Miser and Snow Miser songs… and it even has a bit of a #MeToo bent with Mrs. Clause doing more than baking cooking cookies and dinner for Santa – she’s got real chutzpah. And the song “I’ll have a Blue Christmas Without You” will pinch a tear from even Scrooge’s eye.
But I think my favorite Holiday Movie this year (as it seems to change depending on what I’m going through each year and what I “need”) is the original Miracle on 34th Street. Edmund Gwenn is my all time favorite Santa Clause – if you can’t believe in him as Santa you really are a Grinch. My son (my youngest) is now 9 years old – and he’s come to us with the question “Is Santa real?” and I feel my heart breaking as I know this is probably the last year that a bit of the Santa Clause magic will live in our home. The family will definitely be watching this film this weekend – trying to dispel his doubts for just a few more weeks.
Sandy Egan – The Bishop’s Wife
My favorite Christmas movie is The Bishop’s Wife from 1947 starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. With supporting work from Elsa Lanchester and Monty Wolley. Cary Grant is an angle that comes down to earth to help David Niven learn that his wife and family is more important than the cathedral he wants to build.
Cary Grant is at his most charming who presents himself as a personal assistant to the bishop played by David Niven. He works to bring the couple together at Christmas and to remind them of their love for each other. The angel, Dudley, performs a few miracles along the way including trimming a Christmas tree and providing and older gentleman a bottle of brandy that never runs out.
My favorite scene is a choir practice where only a few boys show up. Within minutes of Dudley taking over rehearsal, boys come from far and wide and sing a beautiful hymn.
It is one of my traditions at Christmas to watch this lovely little film.
Ken Weiler – It’s A Wonderful Life
Surprisingly, even as a non-practicing Jewish kid I had a quite a few favorite Christmas movies. I loved all the old stop motion animated movies. Frosty The Snowman, The Little Drummer Boy, Santa Claus’ Is Coming To Town and the list goes on. But somewhere in my late 20’s I saw It’s A Wonderful Life. My first girlfriend Sarah and her amazing mother Sally did Christmas right and they weren’t gonna let me get away without discovering the magic of It’s A Wonderful Life.
The lessons of that film are powerful and that’s what makes this my favorite movie.
“Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” says the angel Clarence to George Bailey. This alone makes my heart leap to my throat. Often we feel alone, we feel no one remembers us, we feel no one cares if we’re here or not. But we have all had a giant affect on one another and what makes this lesson so challenging is that we never know how significantly we affect each other.
But my favorite theme of all is encapsulated in this quote, “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends.” This one gets me every time. And it needs no explanation. I live in a capitalist society, I live in a big city, wealth and influence and power are being flaunted in our faces, on our phones, on our TV’s, when we drive down the street and we pass a Mercedes or a Rolls Royce and guess what? Money is important because we have to eat, pay our bills, keep a roof over our head. But people are infinitely more important than “stuff”. And that message of no man is a failure who has friends is the most important take away of all.
This movie reflects values that are the best of us. And we can sure use some uplifting positive values in our art and in our lives.
Diana Jellinek – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
My Dad called me “Audrey” a lot as a child. And he called my brother “Rusty.” We called him “Clark.” Those aren’t our names. He would even make dinner reservations under the surname “Griswold.” Fans of the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation may see where this is going.
My two sisters, older by then and on with their adult lives, had also been party to the month-long summer trips in the back of the wood-paneled station wagon on the way to Disneyland. But the joke belonged to my Dad, my brother and me. It harkened back to a time in our little family, pre-divorce, when “Clark” would pack us up and take us on epic long-distance driving adventures to see “The World Famous Sponge Docks” or other alleged “wonders.” We would fight and snack, unbuckled and bored, in the back of our “family truckster,” echoes of a movie we would later come to love and one that so oddly mirrored our experience that we soon referred to it as if it were our own story.
So I suppose it’s no surprise that National Lampoon’sChristmas Vacation is my favorite holiday movie. I don’t know if it’s the over-the-top enthusiasm of the wacky but lovable Dad-hero, Clark; the sexy but tolerant good-hearted Mom, Ellen; the gaggle of nutty relatives; or the awkward, gangly kids that tried mightily to forgive their parents’ embarrassing foibles along the way; but this movie, just like the original Vacation, so resembled our nutty home holidays and all the characters that it feels both personal and nostalgic – as if I’m watching a home movie from my own life.
One of the main ideas in both movies is that forced fun in no way leads to the experience of our starry-eyed, magazine-cover dreams. And no matter how much more “joy” we try to pack in with gargantuan lighting displays, spiked eggnog, gigantic trees, epic sledding hills, gourmet feasts, unwelcome guests, frenzied gift-giving, jaded kids, and all the other holiday hoopla, in the end, it’s the wild, nutty, frustrating, hair-pulling, dangerous and hysterical ride with our loved ones – and the TRUTH about how we feel about it all — that binds us together. Lots of memories, lot of laughs. It wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it.
Caitlin Rigney – A Christmas Story
My favorite Christmas movie without a doubt goes to A Christmas Story. Bob Clark upended the sentimental old order by making a film that almost every family can recognize and relate to over the holidays. I love how honest it is in its depiction of a family Christmas and how it has no apologies in telling the story. It was a Christmas tradition going to my aunts house on Christmas Day and sitting with my cousins in the den watching this movie marathon unfold on my grandfathers evergreen leather recliner. It connected all of us in a way I still can’t put my finger on – but I know it has to do with the Rigney sense of humor.
I mean how can one not connect or relate to childhood bullies, wanting that one very particular present from Santa, and the always hilarious turkey dinner failure. Everyone’s experienced it in their lives, whether they are willing to admit it to you or not. What I relish in in this classic tale is the scene where they are at the mall waiting in the excruciatingly long line to see Santa. As a kid I remember going to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap in order to make my parents satisfied, though I was secretly terrified of the big man in red and was told growing up never to talk to strangers. That moment in the film I relate to most. Every year I sat on Santa’s lap and every year I never knew what to say. How do I tell him what I want? And how do I talk to the coolest, most mysterious person in the world? Just like the moment in the film where Ralphie doesn’t know how to tell Santa what he truly wants more than anything in the world for Christmas. His dream present: an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range air rifle. It shows the more accurate side of what it’s like to meet Santa in a mall. Its crowded, Santa just wants to go on break and they speed things along as quickly as possible so they don’t have to deal with you for too long.
And who could ever forget the soap in the mouth treatment by their mother? I certainly can’t. I’m the baby in my family and got in trouble more times than I can count on one hand for things that weren’t my fault. I somehow always took the blame for my brothers actions and thus had to sit on the kitchen counter as my mom shoved soap in my mouth. And while we’re on the topic of mothers – another classic moment in the film is when Ralphie opens his present from his aunt and has to dreadfully walk down the stairs and model the silly bunny onesie for his mother, merely for her own pleasure. Because who hasn’t received an awful outfit that they were forced to wear?
All in all though, the best moments in the film are the ones of spontaneity. And those are the kinds of films I love most. Where the meaning of ‘play’ is thriving and people are telling a story with no apologies. It’s what makes for a great film and A Christmas Story does just that.
My wife introduced me to It’s a Wonderful Life when we started dating 25 years ago. We have watched it every year since, and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it. I find the performances and what I feel as a heartfelt connection to the theme to be so moving. The supporting characters make the picture jump of the screen—these were the days of studio pros, and every single performance is rich and full of artistry. Henry Travers as Clarence gives a master class in character acting without ever tipping into caricature, Lionel Barrymore bursts to the front of every moment he occupies the screen, and Gloria Graham paints a perfect picture of the bad girl while still letting us in on Violet’s pain and struggle. Of course, Donna Reed is sublime, and Jimmy Stewart… is Jimmy Stewart!
Christmas finally starts when I watch this movie with my family each year, and it can’t get here soon enough!
For a new tradition (and on a bit of a personal note), we watched the Kurt Russel movie The Christmas Chronicles this year. I voiced one of Santa’s elves (the lovable (and hungry) Bjorn), and we couldn’t resist. Check it out on Netflix if there’s a youngster in your life! Bjorn says “Thanks for your support!”
The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) is now enrolling for our most popular Winter courses: Our 2019 Spring Meisner Program and 2019 Beginning Acting Courses.
Our flagship Meisner Class Spring program runs for 8 months, beginning in January of 2019. This rigorous course is designed to give the serious acting student a solid foundation in the practice of the Meisner Technique, providing a concrete skillset rooted in accessing one’s truth to more fully relate to a character, a scene and one’s self.
12 Weekly Courses beginning January 8th.
Our demanding but fun Acting Foundations class is designed to touch on the fundamental skills required in the acting profession. The class draws from Uta Hagen, Stella Adler, Linklater, and many other techniques to lay a foundation for engaging, exciting performances on the screen or the stage.
11 Weekly Classes beginning January 10th
The Character aims to give students the experience and the tools to create characters that speak to audiences. Finding a character’s voice, physicality and psychology are emphasized through exercises, improvisations, monologue and scene work.
VoyageLA recently published another great interview with Elizabeth Mestnik, Founder and Director of our Acting Studio.
It’s a great, in-depth read that spans everything from Elizabeth’s background & influences as an actor to her founding of EMAS and the values and beliefs that shape the way the studio is run.
Check it out the full read on VoyageLA’s site here.
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.
All of Elizabeth Mesnik’s Acting Studio staff would like to wish you Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! We hope for warm and joyful time for You and Your Closest Ones!
4 Actors, 4 Music Stands, 4 Chairs and an audience. No props, no costumes, no lights.
Just the actors with their scripts – and the audience.
On October 29th EMAS presented the first play of the 2016-2017 Play Reading Series with Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies. EMAS took this opportunity to allow the acting studio’s faculty members Diana Jelinek, Jordana Oberman, Ken Weiler and Michael Yurchak to star in this Pulitzer Prize winning drama – a rare opportunity for our students to see their teachers practicing the craft. “It was wonderful to see our instructors in action! Seeing them putting on such a great performance without any props, blocking, or anything that can help create a “scene” made me appreciate their skills even more (and really solidified my trust in them as instructors) because they were only able to use their instrument and the power of relationship to tell the story.” said EMAS alum Tessa Brennan. She added, “I love that I can continue to stay connected to the community through events like these staged readings. I’m always so grateful that I found the EMAS Meisner program when I did, not only for the foundation it has laid in terms of my craft as an actor, but for the support and connections I have garnered through the studio.”
So what exactly is a Play Reading? It almost sounds academic…but trust me it’s not! A good play reading can be full of magic. Like a great radio play or audio book, it takes you on the journey – unencumbered by complicated production values. It’s the story, the actors and the audience. That is it. With minimal rehearsals the actors work with script in hand and can really commit to their craft as storytellers and revealers of the human experience. . Believe it or not, when actors do their job well…the audience actually stops seeing the actors flip pages, they stop see the bare set, and become transported to the world of the play. As EMAS student Stephanie Hoston shared “This reading taught me just what a good actor can add to a script. The script is nothing but words on paper until the actors make choices to bring it to life. If I had simply read this play, I may have dismissed some of the more controversial characters, however because of the actors I was able to see the human sides of each character. I left the reading feeling enlightened about circumstances in my own life as a child of divorce, and inspired as an actor. As an audience member, this is all I can ask for.”
I decided to develop this program because being exposed to great writers, having knowledge of genres and styles is an important part of being a fully trained actor. It’s inspiring to see the great breadth of material that has been produced by our master playwrights. If an actor is not familiar with the work of our great playwrights, they are taking advantage of the creative inspiration they offer; the juicy roles, the imaginative circumstances. They won’t know entirely what is demanded of the actor. Remember – plays are the actors medium, movies the director’s. Many of the today’s directors ground their vision in their knowledge of theatre, Kenneth Lonergan and David Hare to name a few. Actors might mmiss important references by directors (like the idea of a scene being “Pinter-esque” or a reference to Mamet’s rhythm) and they certainly are not grounding themselves in the rich history of acting that allows them to understand the roots of the craft itself.
So we decided to offer monthly play readings to whet the appetite and help our students develop a deeper understanding and love for the best plays our western cannon offers.
We will be focusing on reading plays of the 20th and 21st centuries, giving our students an opportunity to use the training they are receiving here to approach some of the most coveted acting roles of our times. It’s a great work out for the students who are cast in these readings, as there is really minimal rehearsal. They have to do the work themselves and call upon everything they have learned here. But it is also an amazing time for the entire studio to come together as an artistic community and hear some of the greatest plays of our times.
Upcoming Plays in our Play Reading Series are:
December 4th, 2016 – Spike Heels by Theresa Rebeck
January 29th 2017 – All My Son’s by Arthur Miller
March 26th 2017 – Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
Admission is free – but requires an RSVP, and donations are gratefully appreciated to help us continue this program. All readings end with a post-performance discussion that always inspires and leaves us wanting more!
Hope you come and join us for one of these events in the next few months.
The founder of EMAS, Elizabeth Mestnik is an acclaimed actress, director, and acting coach . Having spent her formative years in New York City studying under William Esper, her commitment is to bringing the best of the Meisner technique and New York Acting to hollywood and the craft of acting more generally.