Q & A with LA Acting Teacher John Rosenfeld

How about a short Q & A with LA Acting teacher John Rosenfeld? Of course!

1. Where were you born? Tell us a little about your upbringing and how that led you to acting?

I was born and raised on the westside of Los Angeles.  My mother was a psychotherapist, and my father was an entertainment attorney–they were both very hard working. My parents also went through a very rough divorce, so I grew up watching my parents go through a lot emotionally. 

It really made me an observer because I had to figure out how to monitor where they were emotionally, to know if it was the right time to engage with them. I think that is part of the reason why I love acting and love teaching acting–it is about being a student of human behavior and recognizing even the most subtle aspects of the human condition. I also found television and film such an amazing escape from some of life’s hardships.  

2. How were you first introduced to acting? ​

When I was three my father brought home a Betamax player, which had been gifted to him at work.  In 1974, these were wildly expensive.  We only had two movies: “The Wizard of Oz” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” I must have watched each film at least 100 times–I was so incredibly intoxicated by the performances. While my brother was working with chemistry sets (time well spent because he is now an environmental forensic scientist with a PHD), I was watching those movies and replicating the performances.

There was magic in watching these people live in extraordinary circumstances.  Then I just started participating in school plays and acting classes, and I felt at home in that environment.  I truly didn’t think it was going to be my life’s work, but I loved it.

3. Tell us a little about your own acting class background--did you take acting classes yourself?

My lord… yes! So many classes– in high school, in college, and then of course going on to get my MFA in acting at UNC Chapel Hill. I moved to New York after graduate school and took a variety of classes there as well. Same story when I moved to Los Angeles. I was very hungry to learn, to be surrounded by it.

4. What did you learn about different acting methods/studios and from other LA acting teachers?

There are many wonderfully talented teachers out there.  I realized that all the methods and philosophies (Stanislavski, Mesiner, Hagen/Adler, Strausberg) were of value. What they were all doing was helping us trick our minds and bodies to get out of the way, so we could truly be in the scene. I also found, however, that many actors at these various places were applying what they were learning, but their work wasn’t getting better, and this confused me.

Eventually I realized that no single methodology will serve an actor under all circumstances, and I needed to get clear on my weaknesses and areas of confusion.  It was not easy.  It is never easy. 

What I recognized was that when it comes to television and film, there was not enough discussion of understanding genre and text analysis.  Many of my acting problems came from not knowing how to explore the material.  The actor has to know what movie or show or play they are in. It takes self-awareness and emotional intelligence to know what you don’t know, and I am grateful that I had that. 

LA acting teacher

5. What characteristics do you find essential in a top level LA acting teacher?

An LA acting teacher, or an acting teacher in any location, has to be intuitive and emotionally intelligent. They have to be willing to learn and be in pursuit of getting better. Most of all, they have to stay current.   Acting-process wise, you need a teacher who has a lot of different tools to use.  From a practical perspective, an LA acting teacher should be on agent lists and ideally producing results for their actors.

6. What makes being an acting teacher in the Los Angeles market so unique?

If you are going to be a successful acting teacher in Los Angeles, that means you have something to offer that attracts people. To become a known teacher, it means you are producing results for your actors.  That means your clients are booking the leads of features and television shows that go on to do well.  You are taking someone who has not ever booked a substantial acting job and getting them to a place where now they are in the top 1% of an incredibly competitive industry. 

7. When did you first consider becoming an acting teacher?

Funny story here.  When I was in graduate school at the age of 23, I taught an undergraduate acting course. I was basically just teaching what I was being taught, and it really helped my acting.  By teaching it I was forcing myself to make sense of what I was learning.  The head of the teaching program, Ray Dooley (a lovely man by the way) pulled me aside after observing my class and told me that he thought that I had a real gift for teaching. At the time, I took it as the biggest insult. I thought he was telling me I should teach and not act. I was young and naive and that reaction really exposed my bias against being an “educator.” 

Now I experience it so differently.  When I left grad school, I was always coaching and helping other actors, which I definitely enjoyed-–my work got better by helping other people work. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles and got asked to teach at Lesly Kahn and Company in 2002 that it became part of my regular life as a source of income and creativity.

8. Is there a difference between students in Los Angeles versus those you have coached and taught in other cities?

That’s a hard question.  Actors in Atlanta aren’t given as many opportunities to audition for television shows in certain genres, so I find they do not have the data actors in LA do.  The same can be said about actors in Canada, Australia, Chicago etc.  If you are an auditioning actor in Los Angeles, it is important to be ready for ANY opportunity because all genres are happening here, like:

  • Multi-Cam Sit-Com
  • Half-Hour Comedy (or drama)
  • One Hour Drama and more

You even have to get specific on network – is it a one hour drama with Apple TV or NBC? While there are brilliant and amazing actors everywhere, actors in other cities aren’t always aware of what they don’t know.   You have to know what movie or show you are supposed to be in, so when they move to LA it can be very jarring.

9. What would you tell those new to Los Angeles about how to be your best self for Los Angeles-based auditions?

Get in class.  Get in a good class.  Get a great LA acting teacher. Be surrounded by really smart and talented people who can be a part of your process. 

10. What would you offer as advice to those seeking a Los Angeles acting teacher?

Advice to those seeking a Los Angeles acting teacher?  You have to find an acting teacher that you are not trying to please.  If you are too worried about what the teacher thinks, you are really not going to grow.  I will move someone out of my class to another of my teachers if I feel they are too consumed with making me happy.   Everybody projects something onto an acting teacher.  Be aware of what you are projecting.  They may be your mother, father, best friend, sister.  Try to figure out what you are projecting onto them. Also, do your research on Los Angeles acting teachers.  What are people saying about them?  Are they on agent lists?   These are pretty important factors to consider.  

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