Decisions, decisions, decisions. Actors have to make so many decisions! Should you sign with that agent? Should you work on this project? Should you hire that photographer? It never ends.
One of the biggest decisions you have to make is choosing where to study your craft. When you think about it, nothing could be more important. Working with the right teacher will keep you well-oiled and ready for any opportunity that comes your way. So here are a few questions you should ask before handing over your hard-earned cash.
- Is the school known to the industry?
Logic would dictate that you choose the best teacher, not the one who is the most famous. Well, the entertainment industry is a logic-free zone. Choosing John Smith in Arcadia or Jane Smith in Yonkers would be a mistake. They could be gifted teachers, but I would argue you could find someone just as good who is also known to people like me. Having the right names on your résumé sends a clear message that you’re serious about your career.
- Can you audit a class?
This is important, because sitting in on a class will give you a sense of how far along the students are in their studies. Watching them work should make you feel challenged and excited to join them. You should not feel superior. Being the best in class doesn’t help you grow as an actor. You want to be the least talented person there.
- Is the teacher right for you?
Some actors prefer someone with a gentle touch, while others like a firm hand. Make sure you pick a teacher who is the right fit for you.
- Where is the school located?
This may not sound like a big deal, but it matters. When you’ve been working all day, sitting in traffic for an hour is the last thing you want to do. You should look forward to your acting class, not dread it!
- How much does it cost?
Never, ever go broke for the opportunity to study at an expensive school. It’s not worth it. Financial need creates anxiety, and you probably have enough of that in your life. Find a class that’s both challenging and affordable.
That’s it for the questions, but hang on—we’re not done yet. There’s one more decision you have to make, and that’s how long you should stay at the school you just selected. Actors never think about that. Studying too long with the same teacher is just as big a mistake as choosing the wrong one.
I’m going to cap the amount of time you spend there at one year. Trust me—12 months is plenty of time to get what you need, and if you stay any longer, the class will turn into a safe place. Real learning begins outside your comfort zone, not in it. (Note: There are a few respected schools that offer two-year programs with multiple teachers. They’re the rare exception.)
For what it’s worth, decisions don’t get any easier when you’re rich and famous. What outfit should you wear to the Oscars? How many tax breaks do you need? Which offer should you accept?
Seriously. It never stops.
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 20 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.
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