Choosing where and what to study might be the single most important decision you make in your acting life. Choose correctly, and it could lead to personal and financial fulfillment beyond your wildest dreams. Choose poorly, and it could lead you to believe you’ve wasted a huge chunk of your life. The sad thing is you might blame yourself for your shortcomings when the culprit was actually - where and what you studied.
Not everyone thrives in the same environment and every acting method does not work for every actor. So how does an actor choose from the plethora of acting schools, coaches, methods, locations, formats, and levels of intensity? The answer is resonance. Find some acting education that resonates with you.
How does an actor find resonance? Having studied a wide variety of acting methods with a an equal number of instructors, I know that some of it led to instant transformation, and some of it led to instant confusion and frustration, setting my abilities waaaaay back.
When I created Hack Hollywood, my goal was to create a simple system that any actor could follow to achieve their acting career dreams. After studying my and many other actors’ careers, I came up with a five step process that breaks an acting career into simple, easily digestible action steps. Choosing where to study is part of step two, “Knowing the Craft.” Of course step two is preceded by step one, “Knowing Yourself,” which is all about figuring out who you are, what kind of actor you would like to be, and exactly what you would like to accomplish in your acting career. Once an actor figures that out, selecting a place of study becomes fairly straight forward.
If it turns out you want to get into sitcoms, go get some training for that. If Shakespeare is your bag, lots of options exist for that too. Once you have chosen a niche, you can then go sit in on some classes, talk to former students and their instructors to find out if how they teach makes sense to you and your style of learning.
If you have attention issues like me, you might want to find shorter classes or even consider private or semi-private coaching. Put together a list of what you are looking for in a school and start shopping around. Whichever school comes closest to fulfilling all your needs, bingo!
Whatever your interest or learning style, find a match in the acting world. Don’t let anyone’s fancy marketing and pictures of Oscar winners convince you that a school is right for you. Meryl is Meryl and Al is Al, and you aren't them so don’t think you have to study what or how they studied.
You can get very good at one thing and actually start working a lot faster if you think a little bit before you get started. In fact, if you get really good at that one thing, it might be enough to sustain you for your entire career. You can always add to your repertoire. Now, before you get all indignant on me and complain that you don’t want to just do comedy or drama or whatever, let’s stop to consider for a moment, shall we? Most actors you see on TV do the same thing over and over. Yes, those poor typecast creatures, what will they do? What will they do? Let’s have a moment of sympathy for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She has been stuck in comedy for years. How miserable for her. She’s only been the star of how many series? I thank my lucky stars I wasn’t cursed with her career.
OK, so enough sarcasm. You see my point. Get a career and then you can complain about it. Don’t start complaining while you’re whipping up a "not too hot" ginger-bread macchiato for "Can I have your name please?"
Take the time to figure out exactly what you want to do and then educate yourself accordingly.
David Patrick Green is a professional actor and the founder of Hackhollywood.com, a membership-based website dedicated to empowering and educating actors around the globe on how to become a professional actor. His simple, five-step approach inspires actors to be ruthlessly creative in their approach to the art and business of acting and life in general. Mr. Green has an MBA from the University of Southern California and was an international management consultant before realizing Platinum frequent-flyer status had few rewards other than boredom, bedbugs, and beer. His earlier reincarnations include working as an advertising account executive in Warsaw, Poland and he is still kicking himself for leaving the French Alps where, among other things, he taught skiing to European royalty and often simultaneously) tasted fine French wines. He has lived and worked as an actor in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto and coaches/consults to actors and businesses who want to get on the short path to success while maintaining a sense of humor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.