Is Your Scene Study Class Holding You Back?

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Actors who are serious about launching a film, TV, or theater career are inevitably in search of a top-tier scene study class—one that will produce results. Unfortunately, far too many so-called “scene study” classes offer nothing more than an opportunity to do in-depth scene work in the bubble of that acting class, instead of preparing you for the realities of performing that scene in the real world.

Lazy actors expect a scene study class to go like this: You show up, the teacher drops a stale, 10-page theater scene into your lap, and assigns you a scene partner. This may have been the M.O. back in the ’70s, but it is does not relate to the demands of what it takes to launch a successful acting career today.

Your teacher should point you in the right direction and even show you where to find a treasure trove of thrilling scene choices to suit your personality. However, they should never choose it for you, as it strips you of your power to choose material that’s inspiring to you.

The first day an actor becomes a member of our studio, we show them where to find all currently casting major film and TV auditions, and encourage them to work on something they’ve always imagined themselves playing.

Always keep your work in context.
It’s vital that you work on a scene within a specific framework so you’re never acting within the isolation of an acting class while trying to please a teacher or your classmates.

When choosing a scene to work on in class, ask yourself how you would like to work on it and then tell your teacher, “Here’s the context in which I’m going to do this scene.” Here are some options: an audition piece for film or TV, a booked role, a scene for a piece of theater, or a showcase or competition scene.

Don’t expect a great acting class performance to translate to a booked role or an award-winning performance unless you’re empowered by the teacher to practice how you play.

Back when I first started teaching in Los Angeles, Amy Adams always worked on class material with a clear and specific intention for every working session. It was inspiring to see such focus, dedication, and work ethic.

Simply putting up scenes with a partner in a class without being challenged to define the context is a colossal waste of effort and energy; it’s like most of the math you learned in high school—you’ll never use it.

READ: “Are Acting Workshops or Scene-Study Classes Right for You?”

Audition technique work should never be “one size fits all.”
When working on scene study for auditions, it’s very common for acting classes to use a generalized approach to audition technique training.

This is extremely irresponsible, as there are over 15 different styles and methods of auditioning: pre-read on tape for casting, chemistry read, callback, taped audition, Skype audition, callback for producers, and many more!

What you work on in class should be directly related in style and approach to how you’re going to work on it in the real world, outside of an acting class. Period.

Never be forced to work with a scene partner.
When you’re forced to work with a scene partner and your partner doesn’t care enough about actually putting in the work, or they flake and don’t show up, you end up wasting your hard earned money and time.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, your words and thoughts create your reality. So force yourself to think bigger—as big as you want your career to be.

Your desire to join a high-caliber scene study acting class should be an informed decision—one in which you must be crystal clear about the results you expect.

Your acting class should be a reflection of the level and quality of the career you desire. Our clients practice how they play—every class. This ensures that their work gets hard results outside of the classroom in the form of booked roles and launched careers.

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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.
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