WHO WE ARE
When an actor comes to audit the classes I try to get a chance to speak with them. When I do I always have one question: “What’s your story?” Some people launch right in, others look for clarification, “My story as an actor, as a person ..?” and I tell them that the question is intentionally vague – that I want to see and hear what you think the answer to that question is. I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s stories. So rather than the typical “bio”, I figure I’ll just straight up tell you my story and what in the world I think is going on here …
I’ve been an acting coach and teacher for nearly twenty years now.
I started out as an actor and enjoyed success in a host of films and television shows. I won’t bother to list them here; in todays wired world you can find out my history pretty quickly with a few clicks.
I started coaching on a whim. I was working under my teacher Roy London, a man who changed my life in so many ways, and I had started to get some cool jobs as an actor. When that happens to a fellow acting class member other classmates wonder what you’re doing, and my friend Clayton asked me if I would help him with an audition. I did, and that started the most curious string of good luck I could have ever imagined; a string that seems to be pulling at me still today.
Clayton got all the auditions I helped him with, other students asked and they did just as well. About then Roy called me to say that he had heard about what I was up to, that it seemed I had a skill, and would I like to work with I’m and learn more about it? Roy was one of the most exciting people I knew, I liked acting but I loved Roy, and was happy to take him up on his suggestion.
Roy sent me clients that he was too busy to handle and he shared details about his coaching work; theories, funny ideas, coaching hints, etc. It was an exciting time for me; I was working a lot as an actor as was my wife Alice. Coaching was more fun than a living, it was the acting that was allowing us to get a bigger place and start thinking about a family.
At the same time Roy’s classes and reputation was exploding – he had become the hottest thing in Hollywood. He and his partner Tim were enjoying great success and the classes he taught were filling up. I got a call from one of my regular coaching clients Mimi asking me to start a class; there was some frustration about how crowded Roy’s class had become. I didn’t want to, I thought it was stepping on my mentor’s toes and I wanted a family. Roy’s life was his students, all his time was dedicated to them and they took every second. I knew if I wanted to do what he was doing it would take that level of dedication and I didn’t think had it.
Mimi pulled a fast one on my and went to Roy to encourage him to talk to me. He did, calling me and saying, “I hear you don’t want to start a class but I think you should.” I told him that I was, “Afraid of the level of commitment” and he said something that changed my life, “When you know what it takes to do something right and that scares you, then that alone is the signal to start.” Roy was full of wisdom that had a way of twisting you up so that you didn’t have much choice but to agree, and I did. With my wife and partner Alice Carter by my side and Mimi sitting like a mother hen in the first seat, I started a class. Danny Goldman the casting director, (who is the heart of generosity) offered to lend me a tiny room in his casting office and with eight students I began. I was two doors down from where Roy was teaching, I used to go sit with him and shake with fear. Roy was loving but impatient, and would toss me out. So I would go sit in front of where my classes were and pray for guidance.
Imagine coming to check out a new class with a brand new teacher and the first look you get at him is he’s sitting in a ball on the front steps with his hands under his chin praying too not just screw-up. Why people didn’t turn right around and leave is a mystery to me.
But they didn’t. They came and kept coming. Roy and Mimi were right and that crazy luck continued. Alice and I worked our butts off for our students. They were inspired, I was inspired, and they went out to be inspired casting directors, directors, producers, and a bunch of students got work in Hollywood. What started then still continues today and it is what I like to call a Virtuous Circle.
Virtuous Circles are very important to understand and they work something like this …
Imagine a circle of people, say twenty of them. And each of these people are facing the person in front of them but angled in such a way as to make a circle. You can see it can’t you? Each person standing, just a few feet in front of them is the back of another person who is facing the back of another person, and so on until you have them all around in a circle. That’s the image.
There are really two kinds of circles in Hollywood:, the Virtuous Circle and the The Vicious Circle.
Sadly there are far more Vicious Circles than Virtuous ones. What is the difference? In a Vicious Circle you are afraid of the person behind you and angry at the person in front of you. Simple but true. Ever had an office just go to hell, or a circle of friends break apart, a theater company collapse? Or, as I’ve seen far too much, a television show or film where the Vicious Circle prevents anyone from taking responsibility and fixing what is wrong. These circles are very dangerous and have caused many fine actors to leave this town with their tail between their legs, bitter and burned.
The Virtuous Circle is rare and wonderful and I can honestly say I have been blessed to stand in one for most of my career. In a Virtuous Circle it’s the same shape; all those folks standing facing the back of the person in front of them. But here’s the critical difference - in a Virtuous Circle you trust the person behind you and want the person in front of you to get what you desire before you do. It sounds crazy, but to get to that spot where you’re standing alone at the podium accepting that gold statue, you may be by yourself at the time; but you got there with the help of your circle.
Success in Hollywood is like standing on the head of a pin, and curiously enough it is much easier to do that when you have a crowd of people with you.
I guess that’s my story in a nutshell.
Hollywood is like the vast Pacific Ocean. It has calm tropical beauty, terrible Ice storms, and everything in between. It can take you to amazing destinations or leave you starving and thirsty; stranded with no way out. But just like that vast Pacific Ocean there is a current that runs through Hollywood. One made up of the finest people you can imagine, people who would give you the shirt off their back, people who will help you succeed. The key to success in this town, once you know what you’re doing, is to find that current, find one of the people in it and hang on for dear life. It is that current and the fine folks in it that will keep you from having your dreams dashed on the rocks.
I’m certain that the Virtuous Circle that exists around and in The Studio along with those amazing people who I’ve been blessed to hang on to in that current are what make The Studio more than just a place to grow. It is that for sure, but it is as well that most rare of places; one that inspires you to become who you actually are. It worked for me, I’ve seen it work for thousands, and I hope it will work for you.
The rest of my story you’ll see on this site. I’ve directed films, both feature films and short, as well as countless plays. I co-founded the theater company The Actor’s Gang about a million years ago and their still going strong. Some of my students and clients have gone on to become great big movies stars. (A weirdly large number in fact) Many are successful actors. A great many have become directors, writers, producers and some even all of the above. I’ve traveled all over with seminars and after taking a break to watch my children grow up I’m about to hit the road again. There may be no greater thrill than watching that “bulb” go off over an artist’s head when they get just how powerful and effective the new ideas about acting for film really are.
Remember, these are ideas that I have learned from actors – I have some original thoughts – but mostly it’s watching you that teaches me what to teach to others; it is a truly Virtuous Circle made up of thousands of talented and daring artists with countless stories to be told.
Really that’s all we do in ever increasingly sophisticated ways – we tell our stories; sometimes in costumes and makes up with gigantic movie crews to help, sometimes just straight up on a stage with nothing but the truth between us.
I’ve told you my story; I would love to hear yours someday.