Feedback on Best On-Camera Classes

The Actors Voice
by Bonnie Gillespie
week of May 07, 2007

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000710.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

Your Turn

So, this week I’d like to share a little feedback on last week’s “Best On-Camera Classes” column. As I mentioned, I used information from class websites as well as first-hand recommendations from readers who sent emails to me when I asked for help in compiling the list. By no means was the column meant to be representative of an exhaustive search on my part of which classes are the best and whether they actually deliver what they purport to teach.

As I’ve said before (both at the Hollywood Happy Hour mailing list and on the Showfax message boards), unless I have personally audited a class, I will not be endorsing it. I may say something like, “actors with this coach’s credit on their resumés tend to deliver good work,” but that’s as close to a “stamp of approval” as you’re gonna get from me — until I’ve had my butt in a chair, watching what that coach does with his or her students and seeing the end results in auditions that follow.

So, in last week’s column, I hope it was abundantly clear that I was relying on what was reported to me by my readers. And, wonderful amazing readers that you are, some of you felt the hairs stand up on the back of your necks when I included Tim Hughes of Actors Certified Training in last week’s piece. And you followed up with emails to me. THANK YOU. While I had read some disturbing information about this program posted at the Showfax message boards, as I’ve mentioned, that sort of “report” is often unreliable as sources of official information go, and until someone has emailed me first-hand experience, I’m not going to base a piece on it. But, now…

First email:

My friend and I went to Actors Certified Training together and felt this guy Tim Hughes has a bit of a GOD complex. He says that he is telling you what all the casting directors want to see, but he never tells us how it is that he knows what every CD in town wants. The program is about booking the job, but I’m not sure who he is really that he knows what every actor should do and why he doesn’t have a bio on his site. He said that he is publishing a book this year that is going to be THE PLAYBOOK for the industry. Soon EVERY actor will have to be certified by his school to even attend any audition in town.

Second email:

I saw Tim Hughes with Actors Certified Training on your article and I can’t say that I recommend them from my experience. I took a week of free classes, which was a fantastic offer (and I totally learned some things). It’s not the material; it’s the vibe I wasn’t happy about. Tim is scary. He yells and acts like a big man and the entire time, when he talks, he walks around the class in continuous circles like a hawk. I do not exaggerate! On the first day, he had yelled at a young woman, moving her to tears. She left. He felt no need to apologize. Months later, I got a voice mail from an assistant who was asking why I hadn’t yet signed up, in a stuck-up manner.

Third email:

Tim truly believes that actors are the reason the industry is running out of money (because we all waste the crew’s time on set because we are just people with pulses and no training). I wouldn’t even mind all of his hard-nosed stuff if I could believe the info he was giving me. I tried Googling, and the only Tim Hughes I could find was an on-set medic for films. They have a great facility, I will say that, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the information they are giving out, which they claim is the only way to do things. It’s easy to believe everything that comes out of Tim’s mouth because he is a very good salesman. But he gives out wrong information as fact and won’t let you question anything.

What finally made my decision not to take the class was that Tim insisted that in an on-camera film or TV audition you MUST say “scene” when you are done, or you will be considered an amateur. I know students say “scene” in a class, but in a real audition, wouldn’t a CD laugh at you? It just seemed like this and many other things were so off-base that I was afraid I would be incorporating things into my auditions that would end up embarrassing me.

Oh good lord, no. You don’t need to say “scene” at the end of your read. We know where the sides end (we selected them and got them to you, for cryin’ out loud). I’d like to underscore the fact that Actors Certified Training does not insist that its instructors “teach acting,” but instead that they teach actors how to behave on set. Okay, so just like you’d never say “cut” on set, you should never say “scene” at the end of a read in an audition. We’ll let you know when we’ve seen what we need to see of your work (sometimes cutting you off before you’ve gotten to the end of the scene) and we’ll even honor that little “moment” you’re taking after the last line, if it’s really working for you. I’ve seen actors say “scene” at the end of audition reads and it always looks really “non-pro.” That said, I can’t imagine NOT choosing to cast the right actor simply because of this technical error.

Regardless of any correct or incorrect information being given out at this or any other studio (remember, not everything works for everybody and we can’t assume that there is any ONE right way to make it in this business), I’m more concerned about this instructor’s “actor-hating” personality (as reported by several folks who emailed me on this topic). Look, no one deserves to be treated with disrespect at the onset. It’s one thing to give someone an ego-smack when they’ve come in certain they know more than the person they’ve sought out for instruction or if a student has a chip on his shoulder that prevents him from overcoming barriers of career or craft. Just the same, instructors who enjoy breaking students’ spirits in order to make themselves look more like “leaders,” then prove they can “build you back up” (by parading a group of shills AKA successful former students around, all of whom have gulped the Kool-Aid) are a special kind of crazy.

Your spidey sense is there for a reason. If you take advantage of a free audit (which is always a good idea) and find you’re repulsed by someone’s demeanor, do NOT stick around. I don’t care how many testimonials of the instructor’s brilliance you’ve read. Sure, some folks do better with military-style personal trainers than those who build core strength with stress-reducing exercises. I guess what I’m asking is that you know yourself before you sign up to let someone else tell you he knows who you are, that who you are is WRONG, that he knows better in all areas, and that he’ll break this WRONG you and rebuild a RIGHT you… for a fee.

Your spirit is worth more than that.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Follow Bonnie on Twitter, circle up at Google+, subscribe at YouTube, download THE WORK podcast at iTunes, or hit “like” at the Facebook. For cool weekly emails from Bon and a free MP3, opt on in. Looking for Self-Management for Actors coaching? START HERE! Yay!

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