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Secret Agent Man

Finding the Right Teacher

Finding the Right Teacher
Actors often find themselves trapped in a Catch-22 when they're trying to find representation. If you want an agent to sign you, you need to have experience, but how do you get experience if you don't have an agent? It's that kind of philosophical quicks and that can drive you mad. The good news is there's a way around it. 

If I'm looking at an actor's résumé that has no professional credits, my eye always drops down to the training section to see if there are any familiar names that might motivate me to meet the actor. That's why it's important to study with teachers who are known to the industry. It shows you're serious about being the best actor you can be. It also shows you know how to make an impression. 

I know what you're thinking. Shouldn't you study with the best teacher, not just someone with so-called name value? My answer is no. Taking a scene study class with Joe Blow in Glendale isn't going to do anything for your career. Sure, he might be good at what he does, but I would argue there are plenty of established teachers who are just as good, if not better. Studying with them gives you the best of both worlds—knowledge and respect.

I'm amazed by how many actors I meet who've been here in L.A. for a few years and have never taken the time to study with one single teacher I know. It always makes me wonder how committed they are to their careers. 

Now here's what I want you to keep in mind. You should never, ever train with someone just because the name will look good on your résumé. That's not enough. You need to actually get something useful out of the class.

So let's say you're taking a cold reading workshop with Brian Reise. He's known to the industry because he's a gifted teacher who gets results. But for some strange reason, the two of you don't click. Instead of enjoying his class, you feel frustrated when you're there. Should you stay? No, of course not. You need to move on and find someone who's a better match.

The trick is to find the sweet spot, a teacher who's known to the industry and who teaches you valuable techniques that will make you a better actor.

There's another reason you should study with someone like Howard Fine or Lesly Kahn. Agents aren't shy about picking up the phone, so if I see one of their names on your résumé and I'm on the fence about signing you, I might just call to get his or her opinion. A stamp of approval from an instructor I trust might just make all the difference in my decision-making process.

Now let's examine the flip side of this coin. Are there any names that will look bad on your résumé? Oh yeah. For starters, you should avoid classes taught by actors who were sort of famous 10 years ago but haven't worked much since then. And if you want to learn about improv, it doesn't make sense to train with an obscure group that does shows every other Sunday, especially when companies like The Groundlings and UCB are around.

While we're on this subject, there are a lot of seminars out there that are a waste of your hard-earned money and will look terrible on your résumé. So please don't attend "Pilot Season Intensives" run by casting directors who don't work on pilots or "How to Get an Agent" workshops taught by people who don't have an agent. 

When your goal is to be a working actor, every decision you make should serve that purpose. Studying with the right teacher is a definite step in that direction.

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