Secret Agent Man Clears up Acting School Confusion

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Based on recent conversations with actors who are just starting out, there seems to be some confusion out there about acting schools, workshop companies, and teachers. There were a few issues in particular that kept coming up, so I’d like to address those right now.

Acting Schools Are a Business
Make no mistake about it, every acting school in the world, even the famous ones, has to generate income so it can stay in business. And where does that money come from? Students. Logic would dictate they need to have a lot of students if they want to make a lot of money.

This is something you should keep in mind when you sign up for classes at a school run by a famous teacher who wrote a book and spends a lot of time traveling the country giving expensive seminars. You see, before you can actually study with that teacher, you’ll have to make your way through a gauntlet of other instructors who will accept any student who writes a check. And then at some point, if all goes well, you might be asked to join or audition for a master class with the big cheese.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting these schools are a long con. Some of the teachers who work there are quite good. I just want you to understand that you don’t always get to study with the person whose name is on the door.

(By the way, that initial audition you have to perform before you’re accepted into the school is an illusion. It’s there to make you feel like you actually accomplished something. If acting schools turned away actors with no potential, there wouldn’t be any acting schools.)

Workshop Companies Are Not Acting Schools
These places exist as a conduit between struggling actors and the entertainment industry. You pay to meet a casting director or someone like me with the hopes of scoring an audition or representation. The odds of that happening are slim, but the process does pay off every now and then. That’s why these companies are able to stay in business. Every success, no matter how small, creates the impression of possibility. (If Bob got signed, then I can, too!)

I have no issue with workshops, but you need to understand these companies are not acting schools. They may offer “classes,” but that doesn’t place them on the same level as a Stan Kirsch or Annie Grindlay or any of the other respected teachers in this business.

Casting Directors Are Not Teachers
When you lay out money to take a workshop with a casting director’s assistant or associate, you cannot list their name under the Training section of your résumé. Why? Because they’re not teachers and you’re not studying with them. What you’re doing is paying to meet them so you can create a relationship that might lead to an audition.

If you really want to learn audition technique, there are many established teachers in both L.A. and New York that can provide you with that kind of training. And trust me. Their names will look much better on your résumé than the name of an assistant who answers phones for a living.

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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