GUEST MASTER CLASS WITH JERE BURNS

P.A.I. is excited to welcome Jere Burns to teach an exclusive 6-week Master Acting Class beginning May 22nd.

Guest Acting Teacher Jere BurnsPAI Training’s Artistic Director and lead acting teacher, Paul Kampf, interviews Jere Burns in advance of Jere’s first guest master class with PAI Training.

Interview by Paul Kampf.

I had the chance to ask Jere a short list of questions about his experience, his passion for the craft and what he imparts to all students that have the fortune to work with him.

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(Paul Kampf)When did you first realize that acting was your passion?
(Jere Burns)Probably playing Nicely Nicely in 10th grade.
(PK)Where did you go to school to study acting?
(JB)Tisch School of the Arts at NYU
(PK)How did you get your professional start?
(JB)New York Shakespeare Festival
(PK)When did you make the transition from stage to film/tv?
(JB)After working in NYC for 5 years I was cast in a movie shooting in LA. I’ve been here ever since, although I go back to do theater.
(PK)What were the most glaring difficulties you experienced in this transition?
(JB)There are definitely 2 different skill sets. And they don’t translate. Ultimately it’s about telling the truth.
(PK)What do you wish you knew then that you knew now about the process?
(JB)I think fear and insecurity were my biggest hurdles.
(PK)As a twenty-five year veteran of television & film, what do you see lacking in actors breaking into the business today?
(JB)TRAINING
(PK)What do you wish you knew when you started that you take advantage of today?
(JB)I wish I knew the simplicity film requires. I wish I trusted how little was enough.
(PK)In your teaching, you cover Relaxation, Technique & Fearlessness. Can you expand on how these three points are essential to your success as an actor and teacher?
(JB)Training gives us an instrument (voice, breath, body) that functions automatically and efficiently within imposed circumstances. Relaxation allows us to be available to the moment as it unfolds, as opposed to what we might have planned or expected. And Fearlessness allows me to make the unexpected choice, not the choice we’ve all seen 20 times.
(PK)Why is it important for you to give back as a teacher?
(JB)I get as much from my students as they get from me. We problem solve together and I get to articulate the fundamentals, the stuff I learned at school, the foundation of the craft.
(PK)When an actor has the chance to work with you, what do you make sure they take away
(JB)What I want my students to take away is the importance of TRUTH. How do we tell the truth (and why is that is so hard). To make the point that the truth is riveting, the audience can’t turn away. And isn’t that what we want: for them to be unable to turn away….
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To Register or for more detailed information on Jere’s Master Intensive, click

Self-confidence is an equal ingredient to talent when you’re pursuing an acting career. Yet, too often actors find themselves repeating affirmations for self-confidence that have no bearing on the actual level of work they do.

I define self-confidence as the willingness to encounter difficult situations with the same approach that you’d bring into a familiar, comfortable circumstance. Often the need to be comfortable in an audition or class is the hidden obstacle to real growth.

In the acting classes I teach, all actors work mostly with material that is outside their comfort zones, with a shortened timeframe to prepare the material. By following this process I place actors in a situation where their tools either sharpen to best overcome the anxiety, or the actor avoids the situation through absences or excuses.

When an actor exhibits a pattern of avoidance, he demonstrates his most debilitating obstacle: fear of failure. That follows him into every audition, acting opportunity or industry meeting. However, fear provides the most fertile time for the actor to grow because it hits the core of his personal limitations. If he embraces the uncomfortable and applies his tools to the material, the results always provide more self-knowledge than ten friends telling him how much talent he possesses.

Out of the courage to step into any uncomfortable situation, by applying his tools and letting go of ego or outcome, his self-confidence grows roots at the deepest levels. He then rediscovers the joy in the challenge an obstacle presents, rather than a disproportionate need for the end result to be perfect whenever he gets in front of people.

In fact, the actor’s own bar for excellence goes up because he is now striving for something more in himself and in his work every time. This leads to a self-confidence that is earned through the process of overcoming personal obstacles and fears. He walks into a class, a room, or onto a set or a stage and we know in the first ten seconds that we’re in the hands of a professional. He believes in himself whenever he works because he trusts his craft, instincts and talent will show his best self.

If you know a few of those people, watch their work and their careers. You’ll notice they tend to attract people around them who have just as much belief in them as well.

As we enter 2012, PAI Training and Breadline Productions continue to grow. I thought this might be a good time to rewind and share Paul’s story about moving from theater in Chicago to film and theater in LA, and how his unique approach to teaching acting sets him apart from the myriad of other acting teachers in LA. What follows is part 2 of a two-part interview that I, the Director of Social Media (DSM), did with Paul Kampf.

DSM: Speaking of acting student success, you have quite a choir of praise for your work from current and past students.

Paul: I am very grateful for the comments and word of mouth that continues to grow. The most important thing is the impact on those you work with. I’ve seen actors careers launch, rekindle or grow in ways that they didn’t expect. That is the most satisfying part of teaching.

DSM: You work with actors ranging from well-known to just starting out. Is your approach different?

Paul: The approach, essentially, is very much the same. I focus on each actor’s instrument. It’s so crucial to know the notes the actor can plan and if the actor knows how to play those notes. Award winning actors have a different instrument, developed and honed over years of work. I put my focus on the notes and triggers that are in their blind spot, as I do with talented, soon to be known actors.

DSM: It sounds more like a music lesson than an acting class. How is your work different than all the other teachers out there?

Paul: I do think of acting like a music lesson or a sporting activity. Each requires the participant to know HOW their instrument works, WHAT needs to be done to gain control of those assets, and WHERE to work to expand the notes or build the muscles necessary for success.

DSM: Where did your approach come from? Do you come out of a specific ‘School’ of acting or method?

Paul: Hmm… I would say that my approach comes from two different sources: My own experiences as an actor and my desire to find a personalized approach to inspire the actor to teach himself. I started out deeply in Meisner Training while an undergraduate. During that time I also studied Stanislavski’s system (well, as much as you can through American translation). By the time I was in Graduate School I was immersed in all theories and approaches from Artaud to Michael Chekhov.

At that time I really started finding the power in the imagination, the image, and connection to the body. I came to the conclusion that an actor’s whole life should be focused on cultivating a tremendous imagination. He then has to be able to imagine and feel. Imagine and feel. If the bridge is there, anything is possible. So, I started a personal journey to develop techniques, exercises, and processes that allow the actor to achieve the above.

DSM: So, you have your own system?

Paul: Ughhh… I shutter at that thought since ‘The System’ has so many connotations. I will say that I have developed an approach that builds the actor’s instrument no matter the approach he or she follows. If the instrument is in tune, Meisner, Adler, Hagen, Boleslavsky, or anyone’s approach will serve the actor well. But if you believe in digging into the actor’s personal, painful, conscious life experiences, you won’t find my approach effective. I teach ‘what could be’ for the character, not ‘what was’ for the actor.

DSM: How does an actor reading this interview, or going through your website get a chance to consider working with you?

Paul: I will tell you up front that I’m a little different in that way as well. If an actor is interested in potentially working with me, they should send an email. We then set up a meeting over a cup of coffee and I talk. I listen. I ask questions. I answer questions.

An actor spending $1.00 on training has to believe he will get a minimum of $1.01 back. By sitting down and talking we each get a clear sense of the other. It’s a personal relationship and if it doesn’t feel right, then why would you go forward?

If it feels mutually right, then I will suggest the actor take a one on one intensive with me for 4-weeks to prep him with the basis of my approach. From there, they step into an Ongoing Master Class.

At times, actors have stepped right into a class, but I don’t want anyone not to have the base tools that I teach. I do cover/review them in class from time to time, but it’s not the focus of the Master Classes.

DSM: What is the actor’s commitment to your classes? Do they have a short-term contract?

Paul: I know a lot of places do that, or they have your credit card on file for automatic charge. I don’t do this. An actor’s commitment to class is month to month. If the work, their growth and the atmosphere aren’t giving more than they are paying, they shouldn’t come back next month. Incidentally, I’ve never had one-month actors.

To find out more about Paul Kampf’s Master acting classes, check out the website for PAI Training, or email him at asst@breadlineproductions.comPART 1 of interview with Paul Kampf, LA Acting teacher

As we enter 2012, PAI Training and Breadline Productions continue to grow. I thought this might be a good time to rewind and share Paul’s story about moving from theater in Chicago to film and theater in LA, and how his unique approach to teaching acting sets him apart from the myriad of other acting teachers in LA. What follows is a two-part interview that I, the Director of Social Media (DSM), did with Paul Kampf.

DSM: What brought you out to LA?

Paul: I came out to LA from Chicago after I directed a feature film (Brothers Three). I had a theater company, Breadline Theatre Group that focused on world premiere theater. After fifteen years it was the time to transition.

DSM: How did you get into teaching in LA? There are a hundred plus teachers/programs. Why teach when you’re writing/directing?

Paul: For the first time in years I wasn’t in my theater working with actors on a daily basis. I was going from where I was staying to the editing room and back each night. I really longed for the connection to actors, so I was asked to come in as a guest teacher at a well-known training program. I co-taught with someone for a few short term Master Classes.

DSM: What did you think of the classes?

Paul: Well…to be honest, I didn’t think the focus of the teaching was on the student, nor did I feel the program had the interest of the student at heart. I was working with ‘Master Level’ students who had been training in the program for years. I didn’t see a lot of human truth in the majority of the work. I was disappointed for the students.

DSM: What do you mean by ‘Human Truth?’

Paul: Human truth is the actor’s job. It gives an audience the opportunity to go on the emotional ride with the actor because the actor is going on that ride as well. Most of the work I saw was controlled and “presented.” Choices were made, intellectually, but I didn’t see the work IN the actor. We were working on camera so there was nowhere to hide.

DSM: So you left teaching there?

Paul: Initially there was a desire by the student base for me to stay and teach a Master Class. I thought it was a good situation, but when I saw the fees the actors were being charged to take the class, I couldn’t go forward with the classes and canceled. Regardless of the fact that I would be paid a small portion of the fee, which was strange, I couldn’t feel good about actor’s paying so much for a class. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not undervaluing my work or the value of the techniques I teach, but half an actor’s rent for a 4-week class isn’t going to benefit the actor.

DSM: So, you left and started your own school?

Paul: I did leave, yes, but was busy with other projects that I was writing/directing. But soon after I got a lot of calls and emails from some of those students in the Master Class asking me if I would do private auditing coaching, or any short-term teaching. So, I worked with a handful of people one-on-one and then I established one Master Class per week. Then word of mouth seemed to spread and it became two, then three, etc.

DSM: So you have many ongoing classes now?

Paul: No, I have kept the class sizes smaller so everyone works…really works each week. I have two Master Classes now and do specialized Intensives (Audition, Technique, 4-week Intensives, etc).

I have private students and private audition coaching as well, so I want to keep my schedule comfortable so students get my attention and focus. I have been in too many classes myself where the teacher isn’t really there mentally. They are physically there but more consumed with eating or checking email and you’re left wondering why you’re really there.

DSM: You seem to be active on many sides of filmmaking, that is, many projects and roles in different productions. How does that work with your teaching?

Paul: I honestly think it all works together. Anyone who has been out in LA for any length of time knows that there is no sitting and waiting. If you believe in your craft you DO. I come from a deep belief in ensemble and the power of people working together.
I bring that approach into my teaching as well. If you don’t apply what you teach, how can you offer real support/inspiration to those working with you?

I put this into action with a small feature film, ‘From Grace.’ I wrote it for one of my acting classes and six months later we were filming it. It was a truly blessed experience for all. I made two shorts as well with great actors from my classes.

DSM: Was this a unique situation or will you do more down the line.

Paul: Yes and Yes. It was a unique situation, considering that the talent and dedication made up for the lack of time & money. In 2012, I plan on expanding by adding PAI’s Lab. The Lab will be a three month program where selected actors from the Master Class(es) will move into the Lab and work on high quality, short films. I will invite outside writers/directors to lead these projects. This way class fees will cover training and practical application.

Right now, I am currently in pre-production on a feature that I am producing. A very talented acting student of mine wrote the film and I got involved to develop the script and put the project together. Now, we’re prepping for casting. She will be playing one of the leads.

DSM: That seems ambitious. Will producing work like this take away from your training?

Paul: Yes, it is ambitious. But there needs to be a place for actors to apply their craft when they get in touch with their real talent. It will be part of the training. I plan on keeping my Master Classes manageable. The danger with any program (and many in LA have fallen prey to this) is that there is a desire to add as many students as will pay. Pretty soon the quality of the program and student success drops drastically. Without student success, I wouldn’t have built a program that I’m proud of and that provides accolades for the actors.

To find out more about Paul Kampf’s Master acting classes, check out the website for PAI Training, or email him at asst@breadlineproductions.comPart 2 of the interview with Paul Kampf

And Finding Out Whom You Really are Along the Way

As the economy continues to impact every industry, it’s clear that the film and television industry is going through tremendous changes that directly impact what it now means to be an actor.

The old adage that hard work, talent and luck are the keys to an actor’s success needs to be amended with the addition of ‘creating your own opportunities.’ As the number of roles available continues to decline, those in the hiring process (producers, casting directors, and directors) are all under pressure to take fewer chances on unknown talent. Moreover, even if they’d like to do so, distribution requires a recognizable face over the best actor for the role.

There was a time when an actor with a few credits could get in on co-star television casting sessions without a tremendous amount of push. Now co-star roles are being filled with guest star-credited actors, and guest stars are being filled with what were formerly series regulars or leads. Independent film follows the same pattern of people working below their past credits or financial quotes.

So, how does an actor try to get opportunities in such a climate?

Create your own opportunities — opportunities that you believe in! Now this seems obvious, and it’s a concept that everyone talks about. However, I’m suggesting that you should be creating opportunities to express your talent, but without the sole focus on someone seeing your work and plucking you into the ever-shrinking system.

Just think about the number of small film projects that you’ve been involved with that weren’t focused on the actual end result of the project as a whole. Weren’t you praying for just one good minute of tape for your acting reel? It’s not much different than getting into a play where everyone on stage is there solely to get an agent’s attention.

Big breaks, like the lottery, can and do happen, yet the actor who finds the passion for the specific work will undoubtedly grow as an artist and find the depth of why they’ve chosen this profession in the first place. By working from a place of passion for a project, you’ll undoubtedly find like-minded individuals who share your creative lens. You’ll then find ways to do more projects – some larger, some smaller, but every project will inspire you to grow your talent.

You’ll be bringing a higher level of commitment to your craft through the discoveries you make about yourself along the way. You might be plucked out of your world and placed into a big opportunity, but regardless, you’ll learn more about yourself as an actor, artist, and human being by reaching for what you want and not waiting for someone to reach for you.

There are just as many actors who feel that they don’t need an acting coach, as those who are slavishly dedicated to one. This is a subject that is not often discussed, but I think it’s essential to present my perspective on that relationship.

Even as a coach I would say that a coach isn’t the right fit for every actor. There is no replicated formula when you’re working intimately with any talent. Each actor brings his own set of personal and professional skills/issues. Yet, if I’m able to find the right language and connection to the person, the relationship can be glorious.

While sleuthing the script and exploring character choices with the actor, I’m also evaluating the actor’s ability within those potential choices. I must understand the actor’s current skills and limitations so I can aid in shaping an end result that presents the actor in the best possible light during the audition or shoot.

A simple parallel that I can draw is the Olympic figure skater that, along with her coach, chooses a routine that will be judged through a combination of risk and execution. The actor, like the skater, might have a grand idea of what choice would be perfect at a certain moment. However, the likelihood of failure, based on the skill of the performer must be taken into consideration when guiding the artist. Conversely, the coach might have a risky choice for the performer, but failure is almost certain because the coach isn’t in tune with the performer’s current skill set.

One of the worst things for an actor is to be pushed to play too far out of his current abilities. Yes, there is a chance that it will ‘hit’ in the room. However, if it fails in the room, the actor is the one left with that feeling of insecurity and self-doubt. From there forward that painful experience reverses the actor’s progress and creates more barriers to work through. The actor must feel that each audition draws from all his abilities and leaves the best impression on the room.

As a coach, I not only responsible to help shape each audition, I must push the actor’s talents in the right ways so that growth and confidence are part of each session. If the process is effective, the actor will notice my tone changing as we work together. Where I was once giving strong suggestions in multiple moments of a scene, I’m now exploring possibilities in the scene with the actor.

This is one of the most satisfying aspects of my work. When I’m helping an actor discover a potential instead of suggesting playable choices, I know that I’ve shifted closer to the director mind set. I also know, from multiple experiences, that the actor will soon see an elevated hit rate in his auditions. There is really no magical formula for this evolution. It is always made up of equal parts: confidence, personal risk, trust, and the willingness to treat each audition as just one more rehearsal.

If the actor and coach are a good fit, the coach should be able to read a scene and know where that actor’s strengths will come out and where that specific actor needs to be pushed. The actor should know the same and come into each session already working in the same directions.

When I’m in sync with the actor, I’m as important a team member as the actor’s agent or manager. If the fit is really right, I know that I will continue working with that actor throughout all of their agent/manager evolutions in the coming years.

Two-Week Audition Intensive with Paul Kampf

(Audition Workshop registration information)

There are a lot of workshops that cover WHAT a Casting Director/Director is looking for in the room, but this intensive teaches you HOW to achieve those objectives.

The audition is the hardest part of the acting process. You must:

* Create the illusion of a living scene in the confines of a chair

* Reveal something unique about your take on the character

* Show the base of a final product with only a short amount of time to prepare

As a director, I look for the signals in an actor’s audition/approach that indicate his or her potential on set. In my work as a coach I teach a process that leads to dramatic results in the audition and in your callback/booking rate.

It is not just what you technically do in the reading, but also HOW to apply techniques on a daily basis that make those technical requirements instinctual to you.

The Five Audition Obstacles:

* Heightened emotion
* Numerous Characters with a single reader
* Explicit action in the scene description
* Multiple scenes meshed into one audition
* Characters entering and exiting

In this two week intensive, you will gain the essential tools to apply to any audition situation. The work will ignite your creativity and inspire you to risk your way to a dynamic audition.

This intensive is limited to 15 participants. All participants will be given multiple scenes to prepare. All work will be videotaped for each participant’s personal use.

DATES: Tuesday, July 19th & 26th
TIME: 7-10:30pm
LOCATION: McCadden Theater, Hollywood (1157 North McCadden)
PRICE: $100 (participant) – $50 (audit)
(Audition Workshop registration information)

Once you are registered, a PAYPAL invoice will be sent to you via email to hold your spot.

Award Winning Stage and Screen Actress Diane Venora on Paul’s teaching:

“His technique seems to be how the actor thinks, what he is feeling, sensitivity to his spirit, and loving. He has amazing discernment, wisdom and vision for his students. As a film and theatre director, he has the earned authority to suggest the best ways to act for camera which helps GET the actor the job. His actors book the job. That speaks for itself.

He is generous beyond what I have experienced in other teachers. He inspired me to go into an audition, as I had never experienced in my 32 years of working. He helped to eradicate my doubts and insecurities about auditioning again in one session.”

For more information about Paul and his unique approach, please visit: www.PAITraining.com