Anthony Meindl is one of Hollywood’s hottest acting teachers. His students appear on major television shows and in blockbuster movies. Meindl is the author of the bestselling acting book “At Left Brain Turn Right” and his second book “Alphabet Soup for Grown-ups” will be released next month. The esteemed coach leads sold-out actor’s workshops across the country and will be in New York City for a one-day acting intensive on Saturday, October 13th. We caught up with Meindl in Los Angeles.
How would describe your overall approach to teaching?
I think my approach is all about getting people out of their heads and into their bodies. That’s where good acting and creativity come from. It’s not from analyzing — it’s from feeling. And people have a hard time feeling — so it’s all about understanding the science of feeling and what the moment does to us and how it makes us feel and then being brave enough to express that. In spite of our judgments and fears and self-criticisms. The real challenges in acting — and in life — aren’t what we think they are. They’re in how we hold those problems in our head.
How do NYC actors differ from their LA counterparts?
Hmmmmm…I work with actors all over the world (we also have schools in London and Vancouver now too) and I find that actors and their challenges are the same everywhere. They aren’t “actor” problems. They’re human life challenges. How do we allow ourselves to be okay with failing? How do we work through anxiety and self-judgment? How do we keep going in the face of rejection? How do we learn to not personalize our defeats? I think NY actors — just like all actors — are trying to be more freed up and more spontaneous and in the moment and expressed. I do think sometimes that because of the amount of stage work that a lot of NY actors do, one of the common differences is maybe getting NY actors to understand that they don’t have to work so hard — especially in TV and film. But that’s a generalization because not all NY actors do that.
Have you ever started working with a student and instantly knew they were bound for greatness? If so, can you give us an example or two?
For sure. It happens all the time. The first time I started working with (Golden Globe nominee) Shailene Woodley. I’d been working with her for a number of years and then I coached her on — and told her — she was going to book the lead in George Clooney’s THE DESCENDANTS, and she did. Chace Crawford was another example. The late Cory Monteith. So sad. He was very talented and you can obviously see that. I think it’s about actors having this innate quality called “presence” and an ability to be fearless in expressing that.
What qualities do you think it takes to be a great acting teacher?
Compassion. Empathy. Love for people. And process. Passion. And I think teachers — of any kind — must be willing to let go of the past and keep refining their teachings based on the present. For me, my teaching feels very alive. It’s a fully enlivened process because it’s all based on the moment. What’s in front of me right here and right now. That’s very, very alive. And scary and dangerous. I think teachers can get so invested in “traditional” methodologies that may have worked 70 years ago — but science has proven that all things are evolving. Naturally. So as things evolve — our understanding of things and their efficacy must change too. Sadly, for a lot of teachers that doesn’t happen. The demands of the business and acting have changed from even 20 years ago. Teachings must give way to new philosophies and new forward-thinking awareness. If they don’t, it’s like teaching a history lesson. I’m interested in exploring right now how to get each human being to be just a little more human. There’s nothing dead about that. It’s very, very alive and scientifically expanding us all forward into new learning and new discovery.
Will you be seeing any shows while in NYC? If so, what will be you be seeing and why?
Gosh, I’d love to. We’ll see if I have enough time. I actually am going to a Saturday night screening of a film I wrote and directed called BIRDS OF A FEATHER that’s playing at the Golden Door Film Festival in New Jersey on the 12th. Come see it! We want to win the Audience Award! LOL. It’s very fun and all about the business and actors trying to put on a musical version of Chekhov’s THE SEAGULL so I obviously come from the theatre and love it — I started in NYC — but am not sure I’m going to have enough time this go around to see something else. I have a full teaching schedule while I’m there.
How does the NY acting scene differ from the LA vibe?
I think the major difference is, again, the theatre scene. It’s such a vibrant part of NYC. Even though there’s some great theatre in LA, it’s just not the same. No matter what you see or what great show is being produced. It’s just not the same. I think part of that is the energy here is so different. It’s a car culture and I think that extends to entertainment as well. It doesn’t always feel like a “communal” event here. It’s all about film.
What advice do you have NY actors making the leap to LA?
Do it. I think every NY actor should come to LA for a bit and try it and I think every LA actor should experience NY. It’s so important to experience things. Period. I do think there’s so much more TV/Film work happening in NY now so that’s exciting for New York actors. But really, I think the TV/Film world is still centered here and the energy around it here is so different than in NY. I think it’s all learning and training so if you’re wanting to try it, do it! Plus you can have a lawn. And drive a car! And it’s like summer all year long. Duh.