Alex Feldman’s “Community of Actors”

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Creative, multi-talented, inspiring, innovative are a few words that can only begin to describe Alex Feldman, an actor, director, writer, mentor and teacher. His remarkable acting prowess, bold character choices, and versatility as an actor has seen him play an array of colourful and interesting characters throughout his impressive 15 plus year career. Among his most notable acting credits, they include roles in Chernobyl Diaries, The CollectorRepo Chick, Animal Hitmen, and the upcoming psychological thriller, Awakening, as well as SENT in which he wrote and directed and the hit web-series, Floored And Lifted. He has also made numerous appearances in hit television series, such as Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI: Miami, In Plain Sight, Cold Case, Notes From The Underbelly, and LIFETIME’s Bling Ring.

It can be said that it is Alex Feldman’s ingenuity and creativity as an actor that has been a major catalyst in shaping his career as a successful actor. Having studied at the prestigious New York Conservatory, and been taught and mentored by the crème-de-la-crème of acting greats, Anthony Abeson who has been instrumental in launching the careers of many Hollywood A-listers, has equipped Alex Feldman with not only the necessary tools and knowledge to succeed as an actor, but to also pass on that wisdom, insight and expertise to his acting students. It was his time with Abeson that has made a distinct impression on this talented performer and acting teacher.

It was this profound influence that was fundamental in the creation of For Actors By Actors (F.A.B.A.), a “community of actors” dedicated to helping other actors, a concept born out of his close relationship with Anthony, who he affectionately refers to as the “Yoda of Acting”. It can be said that this concept, the very foundation of F.A.B.A. has gradually helped many of his students get a foot through the door and ultimately has given them the confidence to pursue their own creative endeavors, through his ongoing support, guidance, knowledge, advice and professional experience in the entertainment industry.

Alex Feldman’s approach to teaching acting is remarkably different to most, creating a fun and supportive “playground” where actors can learn and feel free to make mistakes, and in doing so ultimately grow as a performer. It’s clearly apparent that Alex Feldman has embarked on a labor of love, and encourages all other artists to pursue their creative endeavors. He has already provided past and current students with numerous opportunities to appear in many of his projects, as well as encouraging them to create their own  projects. His philosophy is simple – to help others to succeed in the highly competitive entertainment industry. His work at F.A.B.A. is a true testament of this. While Alex believes that his most satisfying acting role is yet to come, it’s obvious that his work at F.A.B.A. can indeed be regarded as one of the most satisfying and fulfilling roles in his impressive career, thus far.

 

Natalie: Alex, you and your family migrated from the Ukraine to New York in 1990 when you were only eleven years of age. How difficult was it for you to leave your country of birth, and start a new life in America at such a young age?

Alex: I turned eleven, just about a month after we moved here. Well, you know being a little kid, I didn’t really have much to say in the matter. It was my family’s decision. But I was excited to come to America, because it was sort of this, you know, as a child growing up in the Soviet Union, America was this sort of dream place. It seemed like so much fun. But when I got here, I didn’t speak one word of English. And at eleven years old, the children at schools, they find reasons to kind of bully you, or make fun of you. I needed to learn a way to communicate with American English speaking kids. And so, I very quickly realized that there are many ways of communicating, not just verbal. And probably that’s where I first started to realize that performing and communicating physically and through behaviour, was important to me. I don’t know that for a fact, but it probably led to my interest in acting. It was a tough time, but I didn’t really know better and my parents sort of threw me in there. We landed in America, I’m gonna say on a Friday and I started school on a Monday, so right away. So, you know, it was throw him in the water and see if he can swim kind of situation.

Natalie: So, it forced you to be more creative?

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. I think right around that time in those formative years, you’re trying to figure out who you are as a person. You’re not quite a little boy anymore, but you’re not quite a man. It was an interesting experience to go through, because I had to learn a new culture, while at the same time learning who I am as a person. So, it was…I don’t know. I am who I am today (laughs). Being from the Ukraine, is a big part of who I am. It’s a big part of my identity, but I definitely think of myself as an American because the country where I’m from, the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore. The way things are in the Ukraine right now, is obviously very difficult, the situation they’re going through. And I sympathize, I relate. They are my roots, but I definitely think of myself as more of an American.

Natalie: It is obvious that your new life in the “land of opportunity” was indeed the first stepping stone towards a fruitful career in acting. In fact, you studied and graduated from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. Alex, is it fair to say, that you have achieved your American dream?

Alex: (Laughs) I don’t know. I’ve got big dreams, so hopefully I’ve just started out now. But I’m very grateful for whatever opportunities I’ve had. But certainly being over at the Conservatory in New York, it really made me realize how serious this industry is. It’s not something that you can just wing. It was a great foundation. Let’s just say all of that combined was happening in my life right now, is the beginning of my dream.

Natalie: How long did you study at the Conservatory?

Alex: I was there for two years. I then went off to study with a variety of teachers. In fact, I’m still taking classes now. I think acting is not like riding a bicycle. If you’re not constantly doing it, you will get rusty. There’s always more that you can learn. The cool thing about being in acting class, is watching other people make progress or make mistakes, is very valuable for an actor. You don’t really get those opportunities on the set as much, because on set usually people are fairly accomplished, and they know exactly what they’re doing. So, getting back to some basics once in a while, classes are a very important thing.

Natalie: Alex, you studied for several years with acclaimed acting teacher and acting coach, Anthony Abeson in New York City. Many of his students, including Jennifer Aniston (TV’s Friends, Horrible Bosses, Just Go With It, We’re The Millers), Ian Somerhalder (CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Lost), Reno Wilson (CBS’s Mike & Molly), Sherri Saum (ABC’s The Fosters) and yourself in particular, to name but a few, went on to pursue successful film and television careers in Los Angeles.

Having trained with Anthony, what would you say it is about his particular style of teaching that has helped launch the careers of many actors?

Alex: Anthony Abeson, he’s the “Yoda of Acting”. I don’t know how else to put it. He’s awesome. He’s been the most formative of the teachers I’ve had in my career. I’ve had a lot of good ones. So, I’m incredibly grateful to him for all of his influence, for all the knowledge he’s passed along. In fact, whenever I go back to New York, I try to sit in on his class and come in and visit with him as often as I can. He has this amazing ability to create a “community of actors”. He encourages actors in such a nurturing way, which is really inspiring. And his excitement and love for acting is so contagious that when you leave his class you just want to go create. You want to create, you want to build projects, you want to read books, you want to write…There’s a quote that he has in his book, which is “No recipes, whatever works.” He doesn’t subscribe to any particular method, nor does he deny any particular method. And it’s that sort of open-minded approach that he has to acting that is really contagious and really draws people to him. It’s my time with him in class that has been very special, and I still do coach with him if I can. He’s been very supportive of the stuff I’m doing. He really sort of planted this idea of a “community of actors”, and actors supporting other actors. So, I’ve been trying to carry that with me ever since I met him.

Natalie: Alex, how has your training with Anthony and your schooling at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, helped shaped you as an actor, and as such your unique style of acting and the techniques that you employ?

Alex: Well, the acting education that I’ve gotten early in my life with Anthony and at the Conservatory, I was given a chance and opportunity to have a creative playground. A place where I could really explore, you know, anything acting related. At the Conservatory, I studied Meisner quite a bit. And then with Anthony, he talks quite a bit about Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Constantin Stanislavski. So, it was really a fun place to make some mistakes, and understand that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you’re taking risks creatively. And I made some amazing friends there. Some of my closet friends, I’m friends with now, I met at either the Conservatory or through my classes with Anthony Abeson. In fact, I met my wife there at an acting class. I want to say it was a great foundation for me. But it’s way more than that, because I continue to have relationships. Professional relationships and personal relationships that I cultivated from my beginnings.

It really has shaped me as an actor, as a performer. And as I developed over the years, I think it kind of never went away. It’s still there. It’s the foundation, it’s the basics. So, every project for me is different. I don’t necessary treat every script and every project the same way. And the flexibility of doing so, I think comes from studying a variety of ideologies. Certain things still sneak in there. I don’t always know that I’m using a certain tool that was taught to me by a certain teacher. It just sort of happens. There are some conditions, where I think okay this character is way outside of my comfortable zone, and so I want to use substitutions or some emotional recall or sense memory, or something like that. Whereas others seem so familiar that I use something from my imagination, just being more or less myself, or letting the writers speak through me. So, I look at a project or character and think here’s the best tools. I just try to invent them or reinvent them from scratch and see where it takes me. But certainly techniques that I’ve learnt over the years, are in there. They’re ingrained. They sneak in. And whether I know it or not, I’ll certainly use the tools given to me by various teachers I’ve had over the years.

Alex with the "Yoda of Acting", Anthony Abeson at the Producer's Club Theaters in New York City on May 29th, 2014

Alex with the “Yoda of Acting”, Anthony Abeson at the Producer’s Club Theaters in New York City on May 29th, 2014

Natalie: New York’s film and television industry is much smaller compared to the industry in Hollywood. Alex, how does the industry in NYC differ to that in Los Angeles?

Alex: It’s changed over the last few years. When I was living in New York in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, all the Law & Orders was there, Oz was there, The Sopranos was there, Sex and the City. But not much more television than that. There is certainly film productions, and a huge variety of theater. I mean, New York is a theater town. But now it’s kind of changing. I think there are more and more shows that are there, more and more films that are being cast out of New York. You know, film-making and television is really becoming a global phenomenon now. All over the country and for other countries as well. So, there are more and more opportunities now in New York than there have been for film and TV. New York is the mecca for theater. So, if you are interested in pursuing a theater career, New York is definitely the place to be. LA has some good theater, but New York is a whole different boat.

In my experience, a lot projects that shoot in New York, still cast here [in LA]. They will come here to do a casting, because there’s a great pool of actors to choose from. So, while there are some really great projects in New York, usually they’ll do at least one casting session here. So, when you’re here there are much more actors here, so your competition is greater, but you’re also given more opportunity. So, probably LA for film and television, is still the best place to be for an actor. For theater, it’s still New York. But there is more and more crossover now. In this past year, I’ve done a few Skype auditions for directors. So, I think it’s changing. You can really be anywhere in the world, and if people are interested in meeting with you, or if they want to talk to you, or see you perform, they’ll find you. Much like all the other industries, the entertainment industry is really becoming digital. And with it becoming more digital, it’s becoming more global, more universal. I’m curious to see what will happen over the next decade or so. But where you are doesn’t seem to be as important as it used to be. It will be very interesting to see where this takes us. Some of my students are teenagers. They’re ability to work on their phone is astonishing to me. What their capable of doing. In my generation, we didn’t think it was possible ten years ago. So, you know, we’ll see what happens.     

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Natalie: Also, would you say that it is somewhat easier for an aspiring actor to break into the entertainment business in NYC compared to Los Angeles, where the market is significantly bigger and more competitive?

Alex: Again, I think if you’re trying to get into film and television, LA’s still the place to be. It really depends on the actor. Who the actor is, what their support system is like. If they have a moral support in New York, then they should be in New York. When we accept actors here at F.A.B.A, I try to take a very individualized approach and really listen to the needs of the actor before I put out a statement on how to do things. Both New York and LA have a tremendous amount of opportunities. LA is more film and television based, and New York has a ton of film, some television and really mostly theater. So, it really depends on what your goals are. If at all possible, I would say spend a little time in both.

Natalie: Alex, your versatility as an actor has lent itself to you playing many roles. In fact, it could be said that your versatility has led to you being cast in the Law & Order franchise on three separate occasions, playing three different characters – convicted murderer, drug addict, serial rapist. What would you say it is about your unique acting style which attracted the attention of the producers of this acclaimed, long-running television series to cast you multiple times?

Alex: Just to be clear I did not play a serial rapist. I was accused of being a serial rapist (laughs). I was accused. I was innocent. I was actually a lawyer. But for the Law & Order opportunities that I’ve had on both Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit, all those roles were directed by the same, wonderful director named Constantine Makris. And I met him when I did the first one, and he and I hit it off and he gave me some wonderful opportunities. In New York when I was living there at the time, it was one of the really few popular shows that gave opportunities to good actors. They weren’t sort of really hiring a name. They were looking for good New York actors. I was just lucky enough for the right part to come along, and then I hit it off with Constantine. I asked Constantine one time, how I can pay him back, cause he really gave me a nice break. He said, “Just help someone else out”. I never forgot that. That was pretty cool.

Alex as Mitch Regan on Law & Order "Teenage Wasteland" (2001)

Alex as Mitch Regan on Law & Order “Teenage Wasteland” (2001)

Alex as Kevin Donovan in Law & Order: Criminal Intent "The Faithful" (2001)
Alex as Kevin Donovan in Law & Order: Criminal Intent “The Faithful” (2001)

Alex as Danny Ryan in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit "Greed" (2002)

Alex as Danny Ryan in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit “Greed” (2002)

Natalie: Alex, your acting resume is quite impressive. In addition to various guest star appearances on hit television shows, such as Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: SVU, CSI: Miami, Without a Trace, Notes from the Underbelly and In Plain Sight, you also have over twenty-five film credits to your name. Are you quite selective with the roles you choose?

Alex: It depends. I mean with any actor, sometimes you take a role for a pay check. Sometimes you take a role because you’re absolutely riveted by the character. Sometimes it’s the relationship you want to cultivate. Maybe I want to work with certain director, producer, or writer. There are main things that go into how one chooses a project. But you hope that when it’s all said and done you can go back and say, “Hey, you know, there were really a few good moments there”. You know, ones that you’re really proud of.

But sometimes working on a project versus watching a project, are two very different things for me. There are genres, for example, that I love to perform in. I’ve been lucky to be in some interesting horror films. That’s been a genre that’s been kind to me, and it’s so much fun. They’re tremendous fun. I love making them. I wouldn’t necessarily go and watch a lot of horror films, because I’m terrified and I don’t enjoy being scared (laughs). But making them is fun, so sometimes you take a project because you look at a script and go, “Oh my God, I’m going to travel to Louisiana and have a tremendous amount of fun being killed by bear traps”. It’s awesome.

But you know, much like the way that I approach my acting techniques, I’m not very uniformed in the way that I select projects. There are so many different variables that go into that. Sometimes it’s just right. Sometimes it’s for fun. Sometimes it’s because it’s the right person and I have a little bit of time. Let’s do it! I have a kid now, and so I’m a little bit more selective with travel. I would prefer to be at home with him. But other than that, I mean it’s just, you know, when an opportunity presents itself, you have to say well, okay, what is attractive about it to me? Can this help me? Can this help other people? Can this be something that will prove to be fruitful down the line? And you just make your decision that way.

Alex with actress Jennifer Grey and director, Michael Lembeck in Lifetime Television's "The Bling Ring" (2011)

Alex with actress Jennifer Grey and director, Michael Lembeck in Lifetime Television’s “The Bling Ring” (2011)

Natalie: Alex, some of your most notable films roles, in particular, were in Chernobyl Diaries (2012), The Collector (2009), Repo Chick (2009) and Animal Hitmen (2007). What has been you most satisfying film role so far, and why?

Alex: I believe that the most satisfying role is to come. I’m hoping that my future will bring me my most satisfying role. So far, I don’t know, I’ve been quite happy with the roles that I’ve had. I got to play a Jamaican rock star in a comedy directed by the great Alex Cox (2009’s Repo Chick) a few years ago. I got to have the long dreadlocks and learn the Jamaican accent. That was fun. I’m still a little shocked. I never thought that was going to come my way, but that was cool.

I just shot this a couple of months ago, a science fiction pilot called Eternity Hill which I wrote and directed, and I was in it as well. That’s maybe the most interesting role I’ve had, because it’s very complex. I get to play a variety of versions of the same character, as they might be remembered by their family and friends. So, there’s these very distinctive differences that each one has, and yet it’s a representation of the same character. So, that’s been challenging and rewarding. So, maybe that. I’m hoping…Get me a job Natalie. Get me a role that I can say is the most satisfying.

Alex with co-star Madeline Zima in 2009's The Collector

Alex with co-star Madeline Zima in 2009’s The Collector

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex with director Alex Cox in the 2009 comedy, Repo Chick

Alex with director Alex Cox in the 2009 comedy, Repo Chick

 

Natalie: Alex, can you describe your style of acting? Are you a method actor? Do you employ the techniques of some of the greats, such as Strasberg, Adler, Meisner, Stanislavski, for example?

Alex: Yeah, I do all of those. I mean, they are all amazing teachers, you know, philosophers of acting, so you can’t really ignore them. You can’t ignore any of the people you mentioned – Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, Constantin Stanislavski, Stella Adler. Eric Morris is another one we have here in Los Angeles. Really great people. You can’t ignore them. So, I think I do use techniques from all of them, and as I said earlier sometimes when I’m acting I do have a clear decision, like this quote from a book or this technique from a book that I read or this technique from class which is very useful in this moment. Other times, I’m just going with my instincts, and I think probably my instincts have gotten a big layer of technique (laughs). So, even know I’m hoping that they’re organic, they have probably been developed through stuff I’ve learned.

There have been people who have written reviews of my work, and have called me a method actor. I don’t think of myself as that, but I know that I’ve sort of naturally or accidentally slipped into moments of, while I’m working on a character, my life becomes mixed up with and in my personal life. I start doing things that my character might be doing or recalling things from my past. Or you know, personal experiences that are affiliated with what’s happening in the script or in the life of a character. So, I think when people refer to it as method acting, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler work sort of bleeds into it. I don’t know that I make a conscious choice to do that. If it feels natural, if it feels organic, I’ll let it happen. So, when I get a script I’ll read it, and I’ll just sort of start seeing it in my head, and I’ll try to do some kind of physical work to figure out how this person might be a little different from me. Peel away some things in me that don’t help necessarily, and keep what does help and go from there.

There have been patterns of different techniques, methods that I’ve found to be helpful to me. But I don’t rely on them. Whatever this particular character feels like doing, I try to let it happen. It’s different every time. With comedy, drama, film, television, theater, it’s more of what is the writer trying to say, what’s my responsibility to the writer, what’s the world that we live in. And then trying to be as truthful and honest as I can be, to deliver whatever the writer has requested.

10p1_previewNatalie: Alex, for those who are struggling to obtain representation, what advice can you offer to an aspiring actor in order to increase their chances of being signed by an agent or manager?

Alex: Well, first of all there are a plenty of opportunities to get work without representation. There are these websites setup in both New York and LA to help you get work, even if you’re not in the union, if you don’t have representation. You can see links to that on our website. You can also Google some of them. There’s plenty of work out there. And again, I really implore all up and coming actors to create their own projects. If you are creating your own project, that gives you something to show to a potential rep. So, you’re not saying, “Hey, I’m an actor who’s totally new and I need representation”. You’re saying, “look at what I’ve created”. If you don’t have a reel yet, which is a very important, put together a short film, a little web series, you know, some YouTube video. Something to show and say, this is what I’m capable of. And that really sets you apart from others.

Doing showcases is a good idea. There are showcases in New York, Los Angeles…There are showcases all across America, that will kind of help you be introduced to different representatives. And doing your research. Don’t just say that I need an agent. Find out which agent is the right agent for you. Ask for advice, ask for references. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. But the more important answer to your question Natalie, is when you’re looking for an agent, remember what your goals are that you’ve set for yourself in the long term. Just because you’re looking for an agent, just because you find an agent, doesn’t mean that you’re going to necessarily be successful or anything. What do you want to get out of your relationship with the agent and where do you see your career going – make sure that you’re very aware of that. I think that will set you on the right path. But I mean, if anyone’s coming to LA and they want to get a little advice about agents, come here. Just drop by For Actors By Actors (F.A.B.A.), and we’ll help you out.

Natalie: Alex, how difficult was it for you when you first started out in acting to find representation?

Alex: When I was at the Conservatory in New York in our second year, we did a showcase at the end of the year. It was a graduating showcase. I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time. Looking back, I guess that I was quite lucky. But I got signed with a really wonderful manager, named Tex Beha right out of school. And then, one of the first auditions she got for me, I ended up booking was a play that ended up turning into a film and I was a lead in that. And that sort of gave me an opportunity to sign with a really good agent and that agent had an office in New York and LA. I kind of starting work right away out of school. And again, at the time I felt that’s just how it is. Looking back I realize that there was quite a bit of luck there, and obviously I was given opportunities that some actors don’t get right away. And so, for me my way of getting representation wasn’t necessarily what it’s like for most people.

But I was given an opportunity by my school in New York and got signed pretty much right way. But since then, I mean, I’ve been doing this for over fifteen years now. Since then, I’ve had a variety of agents and managers. I’ve had some really wonderful relationships with them, and I’ve had some relationships that really didn’t work out well. Well, that’s what sort of happens as you go along the way. You work with people that really understand you and can help you out. If that’s not the case, you find somebody else. But for me, it was through school that I got my first representation.

I was with Don Buckwald & Associates. I was with them for almost eight years, and then we parted ways and I signed with a different agency and a different manager. And now I’m with a totally different agency. Right now I’m with AEFH in Los Angeles, and I’m in very good hands.

Natalie: Many actors expect their agents/managers to find them work. What can an actor do to be more proactive in shaping their own career and essentially create greater opportunities for themselves?

Alex: Well, first and foremost, there are so many different avenues now, and more and more popping up every day which you can push your own projects. That didn’t exist so much when I first started acting. But now through all these online opportunities, the whole digital world is so open now that if you are an actor that is not in some way creating their own work, you’re probably a little bit behind. You got to get on the bandwagon. It’s so easy now to pick up a camera, get some friends, some actor friends, some writer friends. Put together a script and create stories, because you can actually put them up. There is an audience. And by doing so, it gives you much more control. No actor should ever allow someone to say, “No, you can’t work”. You can act. You can create your own projects. So, get out there and build a little team and create content. That’s what we do. We’re storytellers. There’s no excuse not to create your own work.

However, with representation, with agents, yes it’s very difficult to find the right agent and the right manager, and once you do find them, it can be a little daunting and confusing, as to how to help them create opportunities for you. I think one of the strategies that an actor can use, is to get really clear and really specific on what their goals are, what they’re trying to accomplish. You just don’t go up to an agent and say, “Hey, I want to be an actor”. Be more specific than that. Where do you see your career going? What casting directors do you need to cultivate relationships with? Specific tasks that your agent or manager can do to help you with. And certainly, listen to the agent or manager, and allow them to do their job. But be involved. Just because you have representation, doesn’t mean you just get to sit back and wait for the phone to ring, let them take care of everything. Be involved in your own career. Take control over your career, and create opportunities for yourself. And help your agent do their job. But don’t distract them from their job. Help them do your job.

Natalie: Alex, you have been teaching acting students since 2003. What made you want to pass on your knowledge and wisdom to young aspiring performers?283015_10150339360383939_1947709_n

Alex: This teaching job was offered to me when I was only 25 years old, and in hindsight, really, what are you going to learn from a 25 year old? But I thought, okay. At the time, I was between acting jobs, and I thought that this was something that I need to take financially. It scared the hell out of me! I thought it would be an interesting challenge. So, I accepted it and I quite liked it right away. I really enjoyed being around new actors. People who were super excited about it and really had these raw imaginations and don’t know exactly how to channel that. And I just continued to do it, and eventually I think I kind of learnt how to teach by doing it. And I’m so grateful for the opportunity given to me.

But since then, I’ve really worked to provide some sort of service to the students, and listening to the students. Listening to the individual needs of each acting student, has taught me a lot. There’s a certain part of my brain that is curious about how different people think and how different people work. We’ve been able to provide great opportunities to students since then. I’ve worked at a variety of different places, and each one has been a learning experience. And much like how Anthony Abeson has taught me, I don’t necessarily subscribe to any particular method. I think many of the great teachers that came before me, who are a much more serious teacher than I am, and are more accomplished, I take from all of them, and sort of pass on whatever has worked for me and what seems interesting to me. Hopefully, that is useful to the students that I work with.

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Natalie: Alex, what do believe makes for a successful actor?

Alex: That is a loaded question! Probably if you asked a group of actors what they believe makes them successful, you’d probably find that a wide spectrum of answers. I think that if you are happy acting and you’re provided with an opportunity to act, if you are lucky enough to be able to do, whether you’re doing it for a living or for free, that’s pretty successful. If you set out a goal for yourself to be an actor and you get to act, that’s pretty great. If you can put food on the table by doing that, that’s even better. But to me, there are many countries and many cities and many communities where you can sort of have a dream of being something and get to do it. So, I think if you love acting and get to act, that’s pretty successful.

Natalie: Alex, you have written and directed numerous shorts films, where you have provided many of your past and current students with the opportunity to co-star in some of these projects. Obviously, this is an extremely valuable and rewarding opportunity for these aspiring actors, in terms of building their resumes, gaining on-camera experience, and even possibly providing them with much needed exposure.

How important is it to an actor’s career to establish and maintain relationships with their acting teacher or coach?

Alex: I think that it’s quite important. I mean, earlier you were talking about Anthony Abeson. My relationship with Anthony has had a very valuable one. It goes way past just being a student-teacher relationship. He will always be my teacher, but he’s really been very supportive and provided opportunity for me. And I think it’s not only with your teachers, but most relationships in this industry, if you maintain them, support them and cultivate them, good for you. This is a very tightly-knit community. When you’re first getting into this industry, it feels like there’s this huge industry and you’re kind of on the outside of it. And after spending a few years in it, you realize that it’s a tightly-knit small group. And reputation matters and helping people matters, and providing opportunities matters. People will remember that. So, staying in touch with anybody that’s helped you along the way or anybody your can help, is wonderful. And if you can create a community of your own, and help the members of that community succeed, it’s going to come back to you and help you out.

I have directed shorts where I have given opportunity to some of my students, but they’ve come in and done a great job, so they’re helping me. So, besides me helping them, they really are stepping up. I wouldn’t cast somebody in a project that I was directing, if I didn’t think they were good or right for it, so I’m hoping that it helps me but it’s also helping me. If you’re a good student and you work hard and you care about what you’re doing, yeah, I’ll try to provide opportunity for you, because in the long run it will help me. It helps everybody.

 Natalie: Alex, you recently formed the company, For Actors By Actors (F.A.B.A), which is a community of actors dedicated to providing support and help to other actors in order to be able to compete, and ultimately succeed in the Los Angeles film and television industry. In my opinion, I truly believe that the whole concept of your “community” of actors providing a support system to other actors in a very cut-throat business, is such an innovative idea.  What inspired you to create this supportive community?

Alex: I’ve taught acting at a few different places. For years now, I’ve been making a short list in my mind of things that I wish was there for me when I was starting out, and I would make those things available to people who are starting out now. That’s where the idea of For Actor By Actors came from. I wanted a community of people who know what it’s like, who have been through it, who can provide first-hand knowledge to people who are just getting into it now. This idea of really demystifying the collaborative process, allowing the actor to understand what other pieces go into making film and what their responsibility is to other collaborators. And that’s where it sort of came from, For Actors By Actors, meaning actors helping actors.

When you come here, you’re not going to run into someone who doesn’t understand what an actor goes through, judge it or be insensitive to it. While at the same time, we’re very honest about the current conditions, the current climate of the entertainment industry. That’s really where the idea came through. It was a cumulative process of thinking of all the different opportunities that I wish I had, and getting as close as I can to providing those opportunities in a supportive environment. And I’m very lucky to have a great staff here. You guys can visit our site: www.foractorsbyactors.com, and then click on the faculty page, and you’ll see that we have a really beautiful staff. I’m very grateful to have all these actors who resonate with my way of thinking and come here and really create this educational, fun environment.       

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Natalie: There are so many acting schools in Los Angeles, which can often make it difficult for a performer to be able to select a good school. What sets F.A.B.A apart from others?

Alex: There are some amazing schools here in Los Angeles. I think actors should probably explore many different opportunities as possible. Don’t just settle on the first one. We are a little different from most, because For Actors By Actors was formed as a community of actors helping other actors. All the employees we have here, the instructors are working professional actors. And when you have somebody teaching who’s actually out there, auditioning on a regular basis, spending time on film and television sets, they’re more aware of the fast pace changes that occur in this industry. They know what the most current opportunities are, what are the most current casting styles, set experience, what the different communities are doing out there.

We’re teaching much more from experience, rather than from theory. We do bring in techniques and exercises from very old, very traditional teachers. However, we’re also teaching what’s happening out in the industry right now. We’re teaching a lot about the business of acting. I find that there are many wonderful schools around America and probably worldwide, that equip their students with great craft techniques, so students really know how to be a good actor. But they don’t spend enough time on telling them how to apply that to booking actual work, to actually getting a career started, so that you can provide for your family as an actor. Our focus is really on that, and once you are a student here, there are all sorts of opportunities for you to have this amazing, what we call “creative mash-up” which you will find on our website, which is free. And it’s just bringing writers, directors, casting directors, musicians even, together with our students, and seeing what can creatively come from that.

In addition to acting classes, we do all these different events that are designed to demystify the collaborative process of filmmaking, so it doesn’t feel whatever a casting director does, whatever a producer does, that’s foreign to me as an actor. The goal is the same, whether you’re a casting director or producer. We’re all just trying to tell a story, put that project together. It’s important for actors to know what those other people do. And so we differ from most other schools by really combining all of that, really giving the actor an education not only what the actor’s responsibility is to themselves, but what is your responsibility to the writer. What is your responsibility to the director, even the editor. This way, I think you get a more rounded individual and an artist. These are the kind of opportunities we try to create. We have a film festival as well, which we’re involved with called Hollyshorts. Earlier, I was talking about the importance of actors creating their own projects, and I provide an avenue for actors to actually show their projects. We are affiliated with the Hollyshorts Film Festival. For the second year in a row, we teamed up with the Hollyshorts Film Festival which is held at the Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood, to screen films made by our students. There was a red carpet event, publicity, and a lot of industry folk came. We encourage people to create their own projects, and then we try to help them build up those projects up on their feet and then have an avenue in which they can screen that project as well.

Natalie: Prior to forming F.A.B.A, you were the Creative Director of the Acting Studios of Beverly Hills, where you were responsible for creating all the programs and curriculum, which ultimately lead to many success stories in film and television, and commercials.  

How have you drawn on your previous experience as a Creative Director in running F.A.B.A.? 

Alex: Absolutely. When I was the creative director of the Acting Studios of Beverly Hills, it was a really big school and I had an opportunity to really see a very diverse population of actors with so many different goals and ideas. It’s really where I got my education as to how to treat each actor individually. All the curricula I wrote there, is bleeding now into what I’m doing with For Actors By Actors. We’re trying to be innovative here. We’re trying to invent brand new ways of thinking.  Yes, my previous jobs and previous opportunities are a big predecessor of what I’m doing now.

A lot of the students that I had at the Acting Studios of Beverly Hills, are now with us here at For Actors By Actors. You mentioned earlier how important it is to keep your previous relationship with your teacher. I think that this is a great indicator that people do feel that once they find a common language, and once they find somebody there to genuinely help them, they tend create a relationship and maintain that relationship. The things that I learnt at the Acting Studios of Beverly Hills, have proven to be very helpful in the creation of what I’m doing now at For Actors By Actors.  

The F.A.B.A. faculty

The F.A.B.A. faculty

Natalie: Alex, in the short time that F.A.B.A has been operating, what opportunities has the company been able to provide students with, thus far?

Alex: On May 24th, we had the second annual Hollyshorts Film Festival screening which is films made by members of For Actors By Actors. I talked a little bit about it earlier. But we’ve definitely provided an urgency and opportunity for our members and our students to create projects, and we’ve created an avenue for them to showcase their projects. We also do agent showcases, and we’ve gotten a ton of our students signed with really good representatives. As a result of that, they’ve gone on to book work in films, television, commercials, theater.

I think what I’m most proud of is our students are now producing their own projects, whereas before it would have been too daunting. They now have the courage to go out there and make more projects, and put it out to the world. I think that those are the kinds of things that can really attract the right representation and create opportunity. You have to go out and make your own opportunities. We have students working in digital television and film and television and commercials and theater. Most of that is due to their own ability to perform and of their own talent. But hopefully, we’ve had a small hand in that as well. We’ve also had quite a hand in introducing our students to the industry professionals, whether it be through creative mash-up or talent agent showcases, or just when we invite industry professionals to sit in on our classes. That’s been very rewarding for me to watch people cultivate these relationships.

Alex with Asha Laroux at the F.A.B.A. Hollyshorts Screening 2014 at Mann Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, CA.

Alex with Asha Laroux at the F.A.B.A. Hollyshorts Screening 2014 at Mann Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, CA.

Natalie: Having trained with you, I can truly say that your style of teaching allows a student to grow immensely as an actor and master the craft. Alex, you are a consummate professional. You offer your students support, advice and respect, thus providing a highly supportive environment.  

Alex, throughout your career and training as an actor, what support, advice or guidance did you receive? And how did this ultimately assist you in your development as a professional?

Alex: This is a competitive industry with a lot of rejection. A lot of politics. And if you don’t really love it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stay in it. So, the second part of that is if you love it, really go for it. There’s no reward greater than taking a creative risk and then seeing something positive come from that. I’ve received a ton of advice. Most has been very good, some I probably shouldn’t have listened to (laughs). But treating other actors with respect, creating the right air with respect. That means being prepared. That means always being respectful to what the writer has intended. One of the most important pieces of advice is also the most simple, and that is be on time. Always be on time. Never be late to anything. In this industry, that’s a really important piece of information. That’s the least you can do. So many people put so much energy into having a project come together. Just be on time and be prepared. How simple is that?!

Natalie: Alex, you told us about Eternity Hill. Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects? I understand that you recently completed work on the film Awakened, which is currently in post-production. Can you tell us more about this?

Alex: Yeah. Awakened is a psychological thriller about people who are dealing with a very real condition called sleep paralysis. A significant population around the world suffer from this, which is a condition where sometimes you might wake up abruptly in the middle of the night and your mind is awake but your body is paralyzed. And it can last anywhere from seconds to minutes to an hour. For centuries, there have been documented descriptions of people suffering from tremendous moments of terror while they undergo this paralysis, for obvious reasons. You can’t move your body. This is a film, a psychological thriller that deals with the medical study of test subjects that have an extreme version of sleep paralysis and then go into this medical study. And then things go nuts. So, look out for that one. That should be out sometime next year.

Natalie: Can you tell us a bit about your character and role in the film?

Alex: I play a man who’s struggling from sleep paralysis, and one of the reasons he’s struggling from this is because of his sexual history. Because of his promiscuity. (Laughs) Let’s just say his love for women. One of his ex-girlfriends had kidnapped him, and kept him captive for a while and the outcome of that is that he’s been mentally damaged. He’s dealing with sleep paralysis and he’s trying to work it all out. So, again, a darker, fun character.

Natalie: You do play some interesting, colourful characters Alex

Alex: I don’t know what it is about me, but some really fun stuff has come my way. Some dark and twisted stuff. I like that kind of stuff. I’m glad that’s happening.

I will be starting a new production, a film in September or October, called Jacob and I. That’s a very interesting drama made by a British filmmaker. So, I look forward to that.

 

If anybody is curious about what we do at For Actors By Actors, please do visit our website at www.foractorsbyactors.com. You can also give us a call at 323-942-9228. We’re just here to help you guys out. We’re easy to find and don’t be a stranger. Come around.

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Visit the For Actors By Actors (F.A.B.A.) website for further information

Alex’s Film/TV/Directing/Writing Credits

Alex’s Website

 

Comments

  1. I went to the High school of the performing arts in new york. ..I studied under Anthony abeson…you are right he is amazing. ..He has been one of the biggest influences in my life…All be it for a short time…He made his mark with me…thanks.

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