Is Your Scene Partner Hurting Your Chances of Success?

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It wasn’t until I had the great fortune of studying with the legendary Jeff Corey that I was introduced to the concept of a one-on-one coaching session in a small class setting, in which every single student experienced an undeniable acting breakthrough and transformation every single class.

Jeff taught a small class (under 10 students) every Tuesday in a small studio above his garage, at his home in Malibu. His students over the year included James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Leonard Nimoy, Rob Reiner, Barbra Streisand, Cher, Robin Williams, Steven Spielberg, Sean Penn, Dick Van Dyke, John F. Kennedy, Kirk Douglas, Peter Fonda, and too many more to mention.

Rather than being forced to partner up with a scene partner, actors were given the option to present work—either on their own or with a reader—and coach one-on-one with Jeff every class.

In fact, it was Jeff Corey that showed me it was possible for every actor to actually have an undeniable acting breakthrough every class. This is now a guiding principle in my work with actors.

READ: Why You Must Be Honest With Your Scene Partner

When actors are forced to work with a scene partner, it has a tendency to dilute the quality and impact of an individual’s work.

The reason most studios employ the scene partner scheme is so that they can pack classes full to the brim, doubling their revenue. It’s a tired business model that doesn’t support or respect the potential for an actor’s personal growth.

Many acting studios create a dynamic where students don’t work every week—you’ll either get up and present work once a month or every few weeks at best (further driving studio revenue). And when students do work, they’re required (forced) to work with a scene partner. This sets up a potentially losing dynamic for the actor because you’re gambling on the chance that your scene partner will uphold his/her end of the bargain, that they’ll give a shit about actually doing the work.

I’m sure many of you have experienced what it feels like when your scene partner doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain, or they flake, don’t show up, and you’re shit out of luck. The teacher inevitably spends her time working with the weaker link and you lose your working session. It’s a waste of your hard-earned money and precious time.

When you get to work one-on-one with your coach every single class until you have an unmistakable breakthrough, your growth is exponential. This ensures that you get hard results in the real world: booked roles and launched careers.

Ultimately, your acting class should be a reflection of the Oscar & Emmy caliber career you want.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Joseph Pearlman
Joseph Pearlman is a celebrity and on-set acting coach for Hollywood’s top actors, musicians, and comedians. He works with clients such as Zooey Deschanel, Skylar Grey, Michael Welch, and Julian Sands, and he also coaches presenters for all the major award ceremonies. Pearlman Acting Academy was voted the best acting studio in Los Angeles by the Backstage Readers’ Choice Awards.