When you move to Los Angeles, it’s kind of like moving to the jungle. There are scary creatures (plastic surgeried people), bulky bushmen (Muscle Beach much?), dangerous pathways (LA drivers are in a league of their own) and it’s hard to keep an overview of where to go and what to do.
Google is usually your friend but in this case I don’t recommend it. Try researching anything acting related in LA: acting classes, agents, headshot photographers… you’ll find thousands and thousands. Many of them are scams, just out for your money or just plainly not good. And it’s hard to find this out with the help of the Google lords, for trustworthy reviews are sparse.
But fear not, after my first month in LA I have garnered some very useful information that I hope will help you out. First order of business: getting acting skills! So I present to you here the first chapter of the New Actor’s Guide to the LA Jungle: Acting Classes…
Four Year Programs
There are tons and tons of acting classes in Los Angeles. To begin with every community college and university offers a theater program. They can get you a Bachelor or Master of Fine Arts Degree and that is always one of the better things to have on your resume, because it shows you have some serious dedication, talent and training. But for a BFA or MFA I would recommend you search outside of Los Angeles as well.
Juilliard in New York is considered one of the best theater schools in the States, tas well as the American Academy or Dramatic Arts, NYU’s Tisch School of Arts and Rutgers in New Jersey. Obviously these schools are very selective and there are rigorous audition procedures.
Workshops, Programs and Ongoing Classes
If you discovered acting at a later age or just aren’t willing or able to do a 4 to 5 year full-time art program, LA has plenty of high quality workshops and courses to offer. The first question you should ask yourself is what technique you prefer. There is a difference between a Meisner and a Stanislavsky oriented school. Read up about the different techniques and find out what you can relate to. I personally don’t really go for just one technique, I just use whatever works, and there are schools that have that approach as well.
Once you find out what techniques you’re into, determine what skills you need or want to learn. LA offers anything from on-camera cold reading to improvisation to audition technique to commercial classes. If you are really completely new it might be good to start with an improvisation class, because it gets you loose and helps you get through any walls you might have. Some of the best improvisation classes in Los Angeles are:
– Improv Olympics (IO West) > http://west.ioimprov.com/
– Upright Citizens Brigade > http://www.ucbtheatre.com/
– Groundlings > http://www.groundlings.com/
– Second City > http://www.secondcity.com/
>Scene Study Classes
To get the basics of acting, I would recommend starting with scene study, in which the building of the characters and how to make a scene interesting and real are what matters. Some classes are on-camera, some off-camera. If you already have some experience acting in front of the camera or if you took camera technique classes, I wouldn’t stress the difference too much. Most award winning actors come from a theater background. There are differences between acting in theater or on camera of course, but the analysis of a scene is what’s important here.
There are a lot of really good scene study classes in Los Angeles, for more complete lists I would refer you to the backstage.com forums. Here I will only list the ones that I have attended or at least audited. Some have their own technique and some are based off of the great acting teachers’ techniques.
-Beverly Hills Playhouse > http://www.bhplayhouse.com/
-Playhouse West > http://playhousewest.net/
-The Acting Corps > http://www.theactingcorps.com/
-Anthony Meindl > http://anthonymeindl.com/
Commercial classes are classes where you learn how to audition for and act in commercials. These are useful to take as a beginning actor in LA because they’re usually just one or two months long and they are a must if you want to submit to commercial agents, that is: agents that get your auditions for commercial and print ads. Theatrical agents are the ones that get you auditions for film and television (and theater) but they are much harder to get, so it’s good to start out with a commercial agent. Especially since commercials are very lucrative. And who knows, your commercial agent might refer you to a theatrical agent…
Some of the best commercial classes in Los Angeles are:
– Killian McHugh > http://killiansworkshop.com/
– Hey, I Saw Your Commercial! > http://www.heyisawyourcommercial.com/
– Stuart K. Robinson > http://www.stuartkrobinson.com/
Then there are thousands of varieties on these classes, on camera, off camera, extreme close-up, you name it. There are also separate workshops that focus on audition techniques or comedy or cold-reading. These are important skills, but you can usually ask your acting teacher at your scene study class to devote a lesson to it as well. Also, once you are in one of the above-mentioned classes you will quickly get to know good ones through your actor friends.
I recommend to always audit classes before paying and signing up though. Most acting schools allow auditing for free, some charge a small amount of money and some don’t allow it at all. But usually the schools that don’t allow it have interviews instead. The Beverly Playhouse, where I’m currently taking classes, is an example of a school dat does interviews instead of audits. Whatever the method, it’s just important to know if you have a ‘click’ with a school, if the teachers and students speak to you, and most importantly: the way of teaching.
So, I hope this helps any actors contemplating a move to Los Angeles with their research in acting classes. Next chapter: Finances!
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