Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Acting Coaches and Classes

I ain't no damn actor, that's for sure. I don't even like actors, for the most part. Although I admit to finding them consistently entertaining, their all-consuming self-absorption eventually becomes maddening and wearisome even with the most well-adjusted of them.

On a creative level, however, I am constantly in awe of them - amazed by what they do and how they do it. And deeply appreciative of what they bring to a film. So, when I cross paths with a truly talented actor, I treat them like the creative treasures that they are (just as I would a brilliant writer, d.p., editor, etc.). And when I meet actors with all the right raw materials, I am eager to hook them up with acting coaches and/or classes that will help refine their gifts and bring out the best of their raw talent.

I know there are many people who don't believe in acting classes and some who feel, in fact, that they interfere with their own organic process. If those people are brilliant, I agree with them. If not, they are morons. I personally believe, since great acting roles are few and far between for most actors, almost any opportunity for an actor to explore their art/craft is a good one. However, I do agree that there are some acting schools that can do far more damage than good to both an actor's art and their personal mental/emotional health.

But even among acting school proponents, there are many divergent schools of thought around acting - each with their own solar system of acting schools. Of course I have my own specific ideas about acting and they articulated and taught beautifully by two of my favorite acting coaches/classes -given by Shawn Nelson and Deb Lemen.



One of the things I love most about these two is not just what they do for actors, but also what they can do for filmmakers. Both of them work with filmmakers and help them understand what constitutes great acting and how to best bring it out of their actors. They also help filmmakers understand the actor's various processes and dilemmas so that they can COMMUNICATE effectively. Yes, communication is key in working with all of the members of your creative team. But communicating with actors takes a special kind of understanding, insight and skill because what and how you communicate with them can dramatically impact their performance. And although you can mostly hide it when any other crew member isn't bringing their "A" game, it's very tough to hide with actors.

Yes, I took their classes. And yes, I confirmed for myself why I am not an actor and why I would never want to be an actor. It also further put me in awe of what actors are capable of doing and and helped to build a bridge of understanding as to why they are such freaks on a personal level. I am constantly astonished by the seemingly endless emotional well from which actors are able to draw their performances. And in the hands of strong coaches/classes such as Shawn and Deb, they can bring deeply nuanced new levels of complexity, impact and intelligence to even the most minor of roles.


  1. Hi Jacques,
    Funny and informative blog about Acting Coaches and Classes. I work for the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking. Shawn graciously does acting workshops for us. I'm new to the school, so haven't gone through any of his workshops yet.

    I'm doing some marketing for his upcoming workshop at ZGI October 25-26th in Sedona. Can I link to your blog about him?


  2. I like the way you made them stand out. It's certainly a plus to know how to work with filmmakers and communicate well. People with acting skills always have an edge but to couple that with authentic power of communication, that's one of the factors that make it an art. Kudos to fellow acting coaches!

    by: matthew