A Job Like Any Other
Acting is a Profession and just like a normal job you have to go to school for it and study, except that you will much rather end up in a post-apocalyptic explosion or some overly dramatic break-ups in a repetitive manner, much rather than sitting in an office from 9 to 5. But that’s why we chose this career, right? It’s never the same. Acting is always a work in progress, since the actor’s body and mind, which is our instrument, is constantly evolving, day by day, so you have to keep working on it and therefore on your craft.
Which Acting Studio Fits You Best?
OK, so after you found a place to live, got a car to get you from A to B and a job to make sure you have an income, you definitely start asking yourself about the proper Acting Training. Which Acting School should I go to? What method is the best? Where did all the A-List actors from today and back in the day train? Should I take full-time or only part-time acting classes? Those are all questions that get asked on a daily basis by hundreds and thousands of people, who either are already in L.A. or are thinking about pursuing an acting career over here and don’t know how to get started. You most likely belong to one or the other group.
Personally, I have taken a lot of acting classes and also enrolled in a couple schools over the years. Classes and courses are awesome, you get to play so much and can fall on your face as often as you like without risking anything. You will grow as an actor and a person, establish life-long friendships and find yourself in all kind of situations and emotions that open up completely new areas of your mind, body and heart you didn’t even know existed.
Here are my Top 5 Acting Studios in Los Angeles and why:
- The Acting Corps www.theactingcorps.com in North Hollywood. Great for foreign and international acting students that are coming over here with a Student Visa (M-1). The nice office staff will help you with all the paperwork. This school is also great for beginner actors and the school’s technique is mainly Meisner and Chekhov based. They offer a full-time professional program that lasts for 9 months and costs around $17,000 which is still quite affordable compared to other Monday-Friday acting schools. The Instructors (f.ex. Eugene Buica, Sydney Walsh and Corey Sorenson) are amazingly talented, caring and very dedicated. Visit their website or contact me for more details about the school or my personal experience with the Advanced Program.
- Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop www.anthonymeindl.com in West Hollywood is mind-blowing. This Acting Studio is different from all others. Tony the founder is against techniques, against animal work, against rehearsing for 8 hours and putting on wigs and costumes, in order to make sure the scene will be played “correctly” and that you have all the moments and beats down and drilled into your mind! NO, just NO. This studio is about you, the moment and the circumstances of the script. Nothing else. It’s raw, honest and authentic. Also I highly recommend reading Anthony’s acting books that he wrote, they are all amazing but my personal favorite is his first one: At Left Brain Turn Right (you can click on the link to purchase it on Amazon). His latest book Book The F#cking Job is brilliant too and also his second one is very interesting: Alphabet Soup for Grown-Ups You’ll discover his way of teaching by reading at least one of the books first.
- Ivana Chubbuck Studio www.ivanachubbuck.com in West Hollywood. Her Technique is extremely powerful and based on the theories of the acting masters Stanislavski, Meisner and Hagen. Her book The Power of the Actor is so intense and literally breathtaking that some actors call it their bible (Eva Mendes). I read it and could hardly stay seated, that’s how moved I was by her stories and examples of how to make a script come to life. She is all about using what works for you and usually those are the deepest and darkest places within us.
- New Collective LA www.newcollectivela.com in Hollywood is based on the Book TRUTH by Susan Batson which talks about Personas, Needs and Flaws of every human. The main teacher of the LA Studio Greg Braun (Susan Batson herself is in NYC) is such a wonderful human being and a fantastic teacher. He deeply cares for each student’s needs and really gets you to tell the truth through you and your character. This was my first acting class I ever took in L.A. and I felt very safe plus it is great for all levels, since teachers will adjust to wherever you are in your career.
- Stella Adler L.A. www.stellaadler.la in the Center of Hollywood. Stella Adler’s studio is famous for having trained some of the most notable actors in history and her technique is based on Stanislavski. The studio offers various classes from “Summer Intensives” up to the “two-year program” for a total of $35,000 (approximately $17,500 a year). Her book The Art of Acting will teach you all about her mission. International students from Europe, Australia, the UK or elsewhere are also welcome with the appropriate student visa.
There is a countless amount of acting classes in LA that I guarantee you it will overwhelm you if you try to consider all of them. The 5 schools listed above are my personal favorites that I’ve either taken classes with or at least audited at. But here’s 5 more studios (including their website link) that have been recommended to me by good friends and I am convinced they’re all great.
- Playhouse West www.playhousewest.com
- American Academy of Dramatic Arts www.aada.edu
- Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute www.westhollywood.methodactingstrasberg.com
- Bernard Hiller Acting Studio www.bernardhiller.com
- TVI Actors Studio www.tvistudios.com
How To Stay Out Of Debt
I’m not trying to be a hater, but I do NOT recommend big colleges such as the University of Southern California (USC) or even New York Film Academy in LA (NYFA) to study acting or film. There’s several reasons why I think this way, one is that I was born and raised in Switzerland, where all of the best and even world-class Universities are basically FREE of charge. Now, statistics say that since 1980 tuition costs at U.S. universities and colleges have risen 757 percent (!). The average student debt for a graduate of the year 2014 is currently $33,000. And the TOTAL amount of U.S. student debt is as high as 1.2 trillion dollars. What? I can’t even imagine this type of number. I know that one year at USC costs around $65,000 and if you’re interested in Film or Acting that will only be a small part of your daily, weekly and monthly classes. The rest will consist of science, math, biology and other similar subjects. I highly doubt that this is what you’re going for if you’re interested in becoming a professional Actor? Another reason why I don’t recommend it (again, not being a hater, just honest), is that you might not be surrounded by the most motivated and inspiring class mates, which is incredibly important to grow as an actor – your surroundings have such a big impact! A high amount of the students that are enrolled in one of those overpriced institutions, are possibly there because their parents paid for it and because they didn’t know what else to do with their life. I apologize if I offend someone, but I need to clarify that “most expensive acting school” doesn’t mean “best acting school”, then price does not define the quality of the education.
Trust Your Instinct – Always!
After bombarding you with this massive amount of information, my suggestion is to simply follow your gut feeling and instinct. Because in the end (you might hear me say that a lot), our instinct is all we really got, because we will never know for sure what’s “right” or “wrong”. In all the upcoming years of your acting journey you’ll be standing in front of innumerous decisions and you will never with a 100% certainty know if something is going to be the right choice or not. So learn how to listen to your inner voice, follow that impulse and don’t let your true desire get crushed by other people’s opinions.
Besides following your instinct, I recommend that you audit as many classes as you can (at least the ones that spark your interest) so you can get a feel for the school, the technique, the teachers and students and in general the whole atmosphere of the place and then make your choice.
Foreigners: Student Visa
If you’re foreign and still back home because you first need to get an idea of this whole “Acting in L.A.” thing, or maybe you’re already working on getting more credits to prepare for your visa paperwork – either way, I propose to first come here as a tourist and audit or even sign up for a few classes (if you haven’t yet). As a citizen of most European countries you can stay in the US without a visa for 90 days (you only need to buy an ESTA on the official website for $14 in order to enter the States). I did that a few times, when I just came here as a tourist (I was still a teenager), explored and went to an English language school (F-1 visa). Later I came back and took some acting classes and traveled for a couple months and then finally applied for an M-1 student visa that lasted for almost a year. I enrolled in the professional program at The Acting Corps (school #1 above) and that’s when I truly discovered my love for this city and career. Now in 2016 I’ve already been here for 3 years, living and working on my 01 Artist Visa. It’s possible!
So what I’m saying is, take it step by step. I had some people ask me how they can get a work permit for the US, but they have hardly ever been here, maybe on a quick family road trip in a camper across California. Well, as nice as this sounds, that surely has given you no perspective on how to initially start your acting career over here, or has it? Remember to breathe and take it one day at a time. Trust me, if you’re already overwhelming yourself with visa paperwork, before having even been a student in the US, it will probably drive you a little crazy. If you need more specific guidance, contact me and we can set up a Skype session or a personal meeting.
Hopefully this post gave you an understanding and a sense of how many acting studios there are over here and which ones you might be interested in. My next blog post will be about Auditions – how to apply to them and where to find them in the first place, what you need in order to “self-submit” yourself and what you have to watch out for when submitting. Stay tuned!