Find the Best Acting Coach For You
When I was in LA, I was very fortunate to have been able to study acting with the late Roy London for a few years before he passed. For those of you who have not heard of Roy London, he was one of the greats as far acting coaches are concerned. At the time I was at his studio, his advanced class consisted of Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Patricia Arquette, Brad Pitt, Gary Shandling, Gena Davis and many others. His actors were not only working actors, they were stars and they were stars who won awards.
There was no doubt that Roy was the right acting coach for me. He was incredibly insightful and could dissect a scene, and what an actor did with it, good or bad, like a skilled surgeon. His direction and critique were always spot on and he was able to articulate these ideas so that, while often incredibly complex, they were also crystal clear. Roy could also tell an actor that their scene was a complete abomination without making them feel bad or small. I truly do not know how he did it. I suppose a big part of this talent was that all of his acting students believed, with every cell of our beings, that he was truly on our side.
Roy also had this amazing ability to see his actors in a way that most people, coaches or not, simply can’t. I’ve often said that he was the first man to truly see me, to see my soul. He may have been the first person, period.
Because of his great example, there is not an actor I coach that I don’t try to bring a fraction of this insight to. Actually, I try to bring 100% of the time but I’m sure I sometimes miss the mark. Even though I know that I do not always succeed, the fact that so many of my students have been at the studio for as long as they have tells me that there are more hits than misses and this makes me very happy.
That being said, I also know that I am not the right coach for everyone and not every actor is right for the studio. It’s important that the student and coach are clear about what is being coached and how will it be presented.
Things To Consider When Choosing an Acting Coach
Acting Studio v Coach
There are hundreds of acting schools and studios throughout the country. Often, they are affiliated with a specific technique. This is a great place to start but ultimately, a great acting coach is someone who can do more than just give information about a technique or a theory. There are truly an infinite amount of ways for any acting technique to be taught and not all coaches will teach it the same way or with the same care and insight. There are actually some acting coaches who have not technique at all which is baffling to me. Ultimately, no matter what school is on your resume, you still need to deliver as an actor. If you are more attached to a technique than the actual coach and what they can do for you, this might be for you.
Safety, Confidentiality, Trust
I include these ideas because they are important to me and I like for my students to know this. Not only do I have strict rules about guns and knives being used in scenes (nothing real is allowed) but there are also rules about touching another actor without their permission and consent whether it is a fight scene or a love scene. In addition, because so much of what we discuss in class is personal, I ask all of my students to keep anything that is too personal to themselves and should another actor share information that is of a personal nature, to not discuss it outside of class. Additionally, I audition everyone who starts at the studio. This audition/interview is to eliminate potential students whom I do not believe are a good fit for the studio. Because of these rules and because my actors know that I am on their side and want nothing but their brilliance and success, I feel that they trust me. When trust is in place, actors feel free to be more courageous in their choices. Courage leads to boldness and boldness leads to success. As Goethe once said…Boldness has genius, magic and power in it.
Acting Coaches with Egos Bigger Than Their Skill Set
I have known coaches like this and have heard about them. They should be easy to recognize. In short, they see the relationship between coach and student as a relationship that serves the coach and their needs rather than the student; the main need being to be adored and validated. A good acting coach sees the relationship as what the coach can do to serve and enhance the actor’s career and life, not the other way around. If you think you feeding your coaches ego will benefit you, good luck.
Acting Coaches Who Power Trip
This is similar to the coach with the overblown ego. I had the misfortune of auditing a class with a coach shortly after Roy London died. It was horrifying how attached the coach was to keeping her actors small and subservient. I made the observation that during the few hours I was there, none of the exercises or tools she was using was capable of turning any of them into a leading man or woman. They were there for one purpose, for her to play doctor to their group therapy session. Therapy is not acting. It actually took two hours for any scene work to be done. I didn’t see it because she asked me to leave the class because I wouldn’t do something she wanted me to do even though I was just observing. Again, some people respond to this type of behavior, if this is what you need, you will have no problem finding it.
Have They Actually Worked as an Actor?
While not the most important consideration, I think it is helpful to know that your acting coach has actually done what you are endeavoring to do. It’s easy to look up their acting accomplishments on IMDB. If they have only done community theater, that doesn’t make them a bad coach, it just means that they probably don’t have as much to share in terms of experience on an actual tv or film set as someone who has actually worked in film and tv.
A coach is there to serve you, not the other way around. If the environment is safe and you find yourself looking forward to class week after week, this is a very good sign. Your growth as an actor is also a great indicator that you have found the right coach. A good coach will know when and how to challenge you in a way that does not only allow for growth, but encourages it. You will find yourself doing what is needed to get an agent and start auditioning and eventually booking acting jobs. Lastly, if you're not booking or you don't see your booking ratio go up, you're probably not with the right coach.