Pearlman Acting Academy

5 Red Flags When Selecting an Acting Class

Choosing to engage in a relationship with an acting class/coach is like dating. You’re entering into a potentially long-term relationship that must be mutually beneficial, healthy, and free of mental and emotional abuse. The No. 1 factor when considering joining is the results of the work: launched careers, booked roles, awards, nominations, etc.

The following are basic assessments I encourage all actors to employ when selecting an acting class. 

Red Flag #1: Classes are jam-packed.
In addition to the teacher not knowing your name, you will be lost in a sea of students, forced to work with a scene partner, and may only get up to work once every four weeks...if you’re lucky! I describe my classes as “private coaching in a class setting.” Because our classes are small, our actors get up and work every single week on a new major film, TV, or theater piece until they have an undeniable acting breakthrough and transformation, or else they don’t sit down.

Red Flag #2: You’re forced to work with a scene partner.
When actors are required to partner up, it means the teachers can pack the class like sardines. What sucks about this imposed dynamic is the inevitability that your partner doesn’t take it seriously, flakes on rehearsal, or a host of other horror stories so many actors have to tell. Why should you be shit out of luck just because your partner wasn’t prepared?

Red Flag #3: Teachers who hate actors.
Unfortunately, I see many actors who arrive at my studio very damaged. They have been completely flattened by an abusive teacher/studio. At times I feel like I’m scooping them off the ground with a spatula and rehabilitating them.

How to spot abuse: teachers who bully or condescend to the students; teachers who allow students to directly critique others actors (all comments from students should be directed to the teacher only, as actors should never critique their fellow actors, both on-set and off).

This is a no-win situation for you as an actor. The biggest problem with these types of teachers is that there are ulterior motives at stake, which poison the well. Thus, all craft development gets cast aside and the entire class experience revolves around pleasing the teacher. This is a major red flag. Being a part of any acting class where the primary goal is to please the teacher is like signing up for stunted development. Some teachers truly love teaching and can’t help but inspire their students with their own energy and passion. Not every acting coach feels that way and this is an appraisal you need to make before you sign on board. 

Teachers and coaches should be pushing their students forward with respect and helping them succeed along their career path. 

Red Flag #4: No results in sight.
All the truly great directors, producers, writers, and casting directors I’ve worked with believe this: We’re all in the same boat! Never walk into a class situation with your tail tucked between your legs. Don’t be afraid to ask for results. It’s your right and responsibility.

The teacher must be able to handle being put on the spot with grace. Raise your hand and inquire what sort of booking his/her students have acquired of late, or in the last year. Any reputable teacher should be able to handle this question with aplomb and with hard numbers. Acting class is about creating tangible results. Defensive or vague answers should give you a glimpse into this person’s soul. No reputable teacher should feel good about taking hard-earned money from actors unless he/she knew they were getting the best artillery they need to fight forward in their careers. 

Red Flag #5: Your work doesn’t transcend the acting class.
Are you advancing your craft every week?Your teacher should be able to guide you to a breakthrough on a new piece of material every class, before you walk out the door. 

Are you working on stale/dead material that was handed to you? You should be working on something current and fun every class—something you actually need to work on outside of the classroom: an upcoming or currently casting audition, booked role, past audition, etc. 

If the work you do in class is only meant for the bubble of the acting class, and isn’t directly related to your career outside of class, then give yourself permission to politely walk away.

Our students experience an undeniable acting breakthrough and transformation every class.With eight clients landing series lead roles this year as a direct result of our work together, we believe classes and results must go hand in hand. 

This article was originally posted on Backstage

Why Meisner Is Like Windows 98

Before any Meisner disciples get up in arms with their pitchforks, I’d like to remind you that there was a lot of good that Windows 98 brought to the world at large and the entire personal computer community. The title of this article is not an insult or a jab at the Meisner technique, but a very pointed metaphor. While Windows 98 offered pillars of logistics and task-completion, by today’s standards, the program is sparse and painfully slow. 

I find Meisner to be analogous to this computer program that debuted nearly two decades ago in that it can be cripplingly narrow for the creative actor. 

Issue #1: Listening as an Overly Self-Aware Act

The centipede was happy, quite,
Until a toad in fun
said, “Pray, which leg goes after which?”
This worked his mind to such a pitch,
He lay distracted in a ditch,
Considering how to run. 

—“The Way of Zen” by Alan Watts

The technique makes a fetish out of the repetition exercise, continuing it for months on end before delving into any scene work. This can have the effect of making actors overly conscious of the basic act of talking and listening. 

We all know how to talk and listen, and we’re great at it when we’re talking about something that matters to us. Too often I see Meisner actors make their serious “listening face” as they attempt to show that they are in fact fully listening to their partners. It looks unnatural and often it seems like the actor has been so caught up with the act of listening, he doesn’t respond naturally.  

Issue #2: Overly Visible Technique

Really great actors deliver seemingly effortless performances. Their work does not reek of acting training, nor do they look like their heads are focused on some complex technique. 

I find often that Meisner-trained actors sound robotic as they strive to emulate the repetition exercise in their performances. Aside from the fact that no one likes an actor that sounds like a well-programmed cyborg, your technique should be absolutely invisible to the audience. More often than not, I feel that Meisner actors can lack that invisibility of technique—either in their robotic speech patterns or their conscious act of listening. Whenever I suspect an actor has been Meisner trained, I’m almost always right. 

Issue #3: Sometimes You Want to Dig Around Inside 

Meisner actors are taught the importance of using external stimuli for their reactions and to not engage in “self-indulgent” predetermined emotions. This doctrine can sometimes inhibit actors from looking inwards—at all. The reality is that sometimes we do have overlap with the character in question. As Philip Seymour Hoffman explained to Moviemaker.com in 2014, “I think I relate, or partly relate, to a lot of the parts I play.” A lot of actors feel the same way. Early in my process of working with an actor, I have them draw two boxes, Box A and Box B. Box A contains the elements of the character they can readily identify with; Box B contains the attitudes and behaviors connected to the character that they may have no reference for, such as abuse or addictions or racist attitudes. I find that Meisner trained actors can demonstrate a hyper-reluctance to look inwards whatsoever when it comes to developing a character, and this robs them of adding the richness of their own experiences.  

Final Word 

Meisner was my background. I wouldn’t have the knowledge I have today if it weren’t for my Meisner roots. That being said, I don’t think the technique has any place in the final product. 

Yes, there are amazing Meisner trained actors who believe in the technique, from James Franco to Grace Kelly. However, I believe that most of those actors would be watchable and moving regardless of the technique they studied, due to their own inherent singularity. 

Many great actors attribute their success to a technique. I believe the technique doesn’t make the actor. A good technique or process should open the door for an actor to ultimately be the creator of their own technique. Any technique that doesn’t allow for that possibility is fundamentally flawed because it presumes to override your natural instincts and ability to innovate. 

I help actors bridge the gap between their classic training and technique, and what it’s like to create original work—stamped with their personality—that doesn’t reek of “technique.”

This article was originally posted on Backstage

What Makes an Acting Class Right for You?

Choosing to engage in a relationship with an acting class/coach is like dating. You’re entering into a potentially long-term relationship that must be mutually beneficial, healthy, and free of mental and emotional abuse. The No. 1 factor when considering joining is the results of the work: launched careers, booked roles, awards, nominations, etc.

Class sizes must be small—I describe my classes as “private coaching in a class setting.” Because our classes are small, our actors get up and work every single week on a new piece until they have an undeniable acting breakthrough, or else they don’t sit down.

Do not join a class where you are forced to work with a scene partner. When actors are required to partner up, it means the teachers can pack the class like sardines. What sucks about this imposed dynamic is the inevitability that your partner doesn’t take it seriously. Why should you be shit out of luck just because your partner wasn’t prepared?

With seven clients landing series regular roles this year as a direct result of our work together, we believe classes and results must go hand in hand. 

This article was originally posted on Backstage

 

Interview: ACTING COACH JOSEPH PEARLMAN SETS OUT TO EMPOWER CLIENTS

What are your classes like?

I call it “private coaching in a class setting,” so until they feel they have a clear way they can bring, they don’t work on a traditional acting class piece. They’re going to work on a piece as if it’s a booked role or an audition. So we’re going to go in any direction they need to go in, and we’ll coach on it until they have an undeniable breakthrough—until they feel they have such a clear way that they can bring with them on set or to the audition the next day.

How is being on set different from being in your classes?

Oftentimes, I’ll work with an actor in their trailer. When I’ve worked with Zooey Deschanel, we’ll work at her house. We’ll coach there in preparation for her to be on set. What I’m doing is helping my clients prepare for that first moment. The difference between good and great is the actor that enters that scene on the call of action, emotionally lit up and emotionally full instead of empty.

What makes your coaching technique different?

I work with career clients and help them to reject this herd mentality—they feel they have to go in the same door as everybody else. I help my clients launch their careers in a very atypical way: by standing up for themselves—essentially by owning what makes them amazing. 

What are some of the biggest challenges of being a coach?

It is such a huge responsibility, because you have a lot of people out there doing what I’m doing, but you have actors who it’s really tough to launch their career. You have these artists who, in large, don’t make a lot of money, and this is an investment. I feel the weight of it, and it’s important to me that they have that breakthrough in the session. At the end of a class I am tired, but I can actually sleep at night knowing they paid and I delivered.

It seems like there are a lot of proud moments in your career. Can you think of any in particular?

There’s a right way for actors to pitch themselves, so when I empower a client to take his or her career into their own hands and actually get an audition without having an agent or manager—that, to me, is awesome. I get emails every week from clients and the gist of them are, “Oh my God. I can’t believe it. I actually made the call. I was scared shitless, but I made it.” And for me, I can help actors have breakthroughs. I can help them to reach their award potential or their booked-role potential, but when I see an actor realizing that he or she has the power to actually launch their career themselves, that is just inspiring. You have to be able to do it on your own.

This article was originally posted on Backstage