The Insider’s Guide to Selecting an Acting Class
By Joseph Pearlman
Choosing to engage in a relationship with an acting class/coach is like dating—you’re entering into a potentially long-term relationship that must be mutually beneficial, healthy, and free of mental and emotional abuse. The #1 factor when considering joining, is the results of the work: launched careers, booked roles, awards, nominations, etc.
When dating, everyone has their individualistic preferences and basic criteria for selecting a mate. A few things we can all pretty much agree with: someone who’s not a douchebag, people who exhibit tenacity and drive, etc.
The following are basic assessments I encourage all actors to employ when selecting an acting class.
Class sizes must be small.
I describe my classes as “private coaching in a class setting.” Because our classes are small, our actors get up and work every single week on a new major film, TV, or theater piece until they have an undeniable acting breakthrough and transformation, or else they don’t sit down.
Observe how the “weak links” are treated.
Let’s be honest. Every class has weaker students. It’s just the way it is. Observe how the teacher treats them. Are they coddled and puffed up with undeserving praise or are they demeaned? Are they given appropriate challenges and constructive critiques or are they borderline bullied with thinly veiled put-downs? A teacher is only as good as their weakest student, and how that student is treated is how you might also be treated on an off-day.
Do not join a class where you are forced to work with a scene partner.
When actors are required to partner up, it means the teachers can pack the class like sardines. What sucks about this imposed dynamic is the inevitability that your partner doesn’t take it seriously, flakes on rehearsal, or a host of other b.s. horror stories so many actors have to tell. Why should you be shit-out-of-luck just because your partner wasn’t prepared?
Find out why the teacher started teaching.
This is something you should be able to find out via word of mouth or something you can ask in person. I’m certain you’re all savvy enough to spot the difference between a teacher who hates actors as a result of their failed career, are stuck in a career rut, or just doing it to pay the bills. Some teachers truly love teaching. However, not every acting coach feels that way and this is an appraisal you need to make before you sign on board: how passionate and energetic is this person about the craft of teaching?
Is it about the teacher or the students?
Say you’ve concluded the teacher is indeed passionate about teaching. Is it for the right reasons? Some teachers just teach because they like having a captive audience of people to share little yarns from their life with—stories about their childhood, their dating life, how great their kids are and a host of other things that have nothing to do with why you’re sitting there, having invested your precious time and money. These people are passionate about essentially showing up to grandstand, and talk about themselves. Other acting teachers are truly passionate about being right, or being a bully or being the most successful person in the room, etc.
A truly passionate acting teacher always makes every ounce of their work about the students—about pushing them forward with respect and helping them succeed along their craft and career path.
When you audit, put the teacher on the spot.
I don’t mean this in a snarky, Eddie Haskell type of way. This teacher must be able to handle being put on the spot with grace. Raise your hand and inquire what sort of booking his/her students have acquired of late, or in the last year. ANY reputable teacher should be able to handle this question with aplomb and with hard numbers. Acting class is about creating tangible results. Defensive or vague answers should give you a glimpse into this person’s soul. No reputable teacher would feel good about taking hard-earned money from actors unless he/she knew they were getting the best artillery they need to fight forward in their careers.
With seven clients landing series regular roles this year as a direct result of our work together, we believe classes and results must go hand in hand..
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Joseph Pearlman is an acting coach for Hollywood celebrities, musicians, and comedians—he helps his clients launch their careers, boost their audition rates, and reach Oscar potential on set. Joseph works with artists like Zooey Deschanel, Skylar Grey, Sherri Shepherd, Michael Welch, Julian Sands, and he also coaches presenters for all the major award ceremonies, including the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, and Independent Spirit Awards. Joseph helped five career clients land Series Leads in major cable and network shows this year alone.
With the highest percentage of booked roles in the industry, Joseph helps actors go into the audition room and win the role. You'll leave every session having experienced an undeniable ACTING BREAKTHROUGH and transformation!