Acting Class Los Angeles: Andrew Wood Acting Studio

What do you go to acting class to learn?  Camera angles?  Eye lines?  Cold reading?  Audition technique?  How to get an agent?

These are all good things to know about, but to my mind, acting class should be about acting, first and foremost, as this casting director notes. And what is acting about?  Well, there are many definitions of it, but the most straightforward one I know is the following:  acting is entering into a character’s circumstances, coming to care about the people, places, and things that they care about, pursuing what they pursue, and being impacted by what impacts them.  Those four things: circumstances, care, pursuit, and impact.  That’s the heart of acting, whether you’re acting in a film, a sitcom, doing voiceover, or shooting a video game.

Acting Classes

First, circumstances:  what are the facts of the character’s situation?  What has happened to them in the past?  What choices have they made?  Where are they?  When are they there?  What do they hope will happen next?  What do they most fear will happen next?  In the first sessions of my ten-week Los Angeles acting class known as the Essentials workshop, I teach a framework for collecting and organizing the circumstances known as the Five Questions. This framework will guide you through a thorough and penetrating examination of the character’s circumstances, which is the essential foundation for your creative work on the role.

Next. care.  The character’s world is full of people, places, and things that are significant to them.  Lovers, friends, siblings, children, bosses, mentors, rivals.  A wedding ring,  a beloved car,a favorite T-shirt, a trove of love letters.  The house where they grew up, the church where they were married, their workplace.  All of these people, places and things have significance for the character, but at the outset of the process, they are devoid of significance for the actor.  So the actor must personalize; them, using the process Uta Hagen calls transference, which is the finding of equivalencies between the elements of significance in the character’s world and elements in the actor’s.  Through this process, the actor comes to care about the elements of the actor’s world.

T​hird, pursuit.  Characters have intentions, goals, and needs.  These needs spur them on to pursue the​ fulfillment of those needs, by taking risks, confronting, insisting, and contriving, among other gambits.  It’s your job as actor to connect with the character’s need in yourself and undertake the pursuit of its fulfillment, relentlessly.  “Play to win!”  is the mantra that students in acting class hear from me time and again.

Fourth, impact.  In the course of your pursuit of fulfillment, you will bump up against the world and get feedback from it, specifically from your scene partner.  It’s your very important job to listen for this feedback (in a sense, listening is the whole ballgame), and to allow yourself to be impacted by the feedback you receive, to be open and vulnerable to it.  An actor who is not impacted by what comes from the partner, who is immune to what comes from the partner, will not be a very interesting actor.

These four elements comprise the essence of acting, no matter the technique, no matter the context, no matter the medium.  And it’s these four things that you should go to acting class to learn and practice.