Thousands of hopefuls come to Los Angeles each year in hopes of fulfilling their dreams of becoming an actor. The city has dozens of acting schools that claim to be able to tap into your “inner sanctum.” If you’re planning on being a working actor or performer you will likely need to study and hone your craft at a studio that will help you in reaching your goal. There is one such studio in Los Angeles that has a solid reputation for helping actors find their creative power.
Stuart Robinson is the CEO of Stuart K Robinson Creative. A full-service studio offering actors and performers training in commercial and film acting, audition technique, scene study and coaching (semi, private and career). Stuart’s goal and specialty is to inspire you to get where you need to be. His studio is considered to be a safe harbor where people can come to achieve their dream. He is highly regarded as one of Los Angeles’ top acting instructors. Suart is known for his direct, honest and nurturing approach.
I spoke with Stuart about his reputation for being a well-kept secret and the importance of his students having a safe and non-judgmental space to explore and grow.
Your career background is quite diversified and you’ve worn a number of hats (actor, casting director, agent and producer). How did you get started in acting?
I now say, “I did it wrong” (laughingly). I started as an actor in high school here in Hollywood. I got discovered in my senior year and started immediately auditioning as a professional actor. I didn’t do it right. I didn’t understand the dynamics of the business and I did what I was told. I went to auditions; I showed up and tried to give the best reading. In the first phase of my career I was not particularly successful. I stumbled into Casting at a very low level job and I started getting the opportunity to sit in on auditions and watch what happens. For the first couple of years I was kind of oblivious. I thought I would stay there, do my job and pay the bills. Then I started paying attention to the kinds of things that actors would do in auditions and the kinds of things that the powers-that-be would say in response to the actors, and the discussions they would have after the actor leaves the room; and it started making sense to me. I began directing some commercials and a little television and I started having to participate in auditions from that point of view. I was hired by a very small advertising agency in town so I had a chance to participate from that point of view. Then finally it all just came together and it made sense what the real needs of the powers-that-be are in this industry. Which were completely different from what I had thought that they were. At that point I had an epiphany and I went back to acting just because I said to myself, “I have to try this stuff out.” It changed my life and it all came together.
What happened after you went back into acting?
From that point on when I went to audition as an actor I had a whole different confidence, a different point-of-view and the response was overwhelming. Now I’m not going to say that I booked every job and became a star, but I showed up for every audition that I was on. I was a competitive force in every job that I was applying for and I worked. I made a very nice living as an actor. Now knowing what I knew, just being a working actor was not enough for me. I wanted to direct and write now that I had a sense of the big picture. I wanted to be in control. So I decided to stop acting and I started directing and writing and doing other work. Then people started to come to me and ask, “How did you manage to get so many commercials on the air and book all these roles?” I started working with people, and somewhere in that process I started working with individuals in small roles and I discovered I’m a teacher, which I hadn’t really valued. Prior to that I didn’t really understand that I could really make a difference in people’s lives through some basic truths. It was really profound.
You are well known for your direct and honest approach. What was the reaction when you first disagreed with a Casting Director or Agent in a seminar or panel that the information they were presenting to attendees was not entirely accurate?
Usually the first reaction is shock because they’re not used to anyone questioning them. I’ve been a Casting Director for a while and when you’ve been in the position of being the gatekeeper of information everybody just wants to keep you happy. They don’t want to disagree with what you say. When I first started doing seminars and being a panelist, usually people were shocked, then they acknowledged the truth.
Here’s an example, the first time I went on a panel with an agent from one of the top 5 agencies. Anyone in their right mind would say, “Everyone knows XYZ Agency won’t take you on because you’re not known, you’re not a star.” So in a seminar that would be a great thing to say. Don’t bother applying to XYZ Agency because they don’t have any people like you. The truth is they do have some unknowns on their roster. What I wanted to say is… I don’t want to bust them. The truth is I would say to them, “Do you have anyone on your roster that is not a name?” Then they’d say, “Well yes actually, we do.” All I want to know is how did that person get with you? We now know that it is possible. Tell me what that person did that was so dynamic that made you go against what is generally known in the industry as not your normal way of doing business. That’s all that people want to know. They don’t want to know that it’s impossible. They want to know that it IS possible. They want a model for success. So once I said things that way to people on the panel then they were really forthcoming and they were really generous with information. Then they would say “Yes, in that case, here’s the way you would do it and here’s how it happens.” It never becomes adversarial. It just becomes a way to encourage people to go that one step further.
Why do you think Casting Directors and Agent’s don’t start there with the truth rather than being hesitant, in terms of keeping it real with the actor?
If you as a journalist were as forthcoming as we’re talking now with every would-be journalist beginning to write articles, you’d spend your whole life counseling people. It’s easier to say “You need to have a degree in Journalism.” Then we can rule out all the people who just think they can write. We don’t have to spend all of that time. It’s just easier to give the basic semi-truth. The truth is that you don’t have to have a degree in Journalism. So that rules out about a 1000 people who are going to bend your ear for hours and hours with questions you don’t want to answer. It’s just easier for some people to give you the semi-truth; and I’m not interested in what’s easier. I’m interested in what’s effective. So it’s not that people are unwilling or not truthful or that they’re not benevolent. It’s who has the time to answer the questions of the carpenter from Indiana? Why not let him prove that he’s at a certain level and then I can take him seriously. That is most people’s approach. My approach is that carpenter from Indiana deserves the same shot at building a career as you and I do.
What are your thoughts on actor’s waiting for someone to book them rather than using technology to promote themselves or waiting for an Agent?
In any business… let’s say I want to go into journalism, but I have no samples of anything that I’ve written. I think you’re going to say to me, “Geez come back when you have something.” We’re now in the day and age where the only thing that most struggling actors have to offer is their ability. They don’t have credits, they don’t have name value, they don’t have experience, and they don’t have access to contacts and influential people that they can call on, so the only selling point they can offer is samples of their work.
In this day and age it seems criminal to not have really high quality samples of what you do. Now 15 years ago that was a really expensive proposition. Today with technology being what it is and the ability to distribute samples of what you do is so easy, that it makes no sense for you not to have 10 examples of you doing wonderful work. To me anyone having 10 wonderful examples of wonderful work (whether they did it in a classroom or in a student film or on a private project they created, or if they did it on network television), it is still great work. So all the actors running around saying “I can’t get an agent,” what they really mean is that they can’t talk an agent into signing them. Well, you wouldn’t have to talk an agent into signing you if you had 3 examples of you breaking people’s hearts with the quality of your work. So the new technology is just making it easier for some kid in middle Texas to create samples of how good he is. It used to be he’d have to wait until he could come to LA, wait until he could get an audition, and wait until he could book something so he could get paid from that and show people that he was good. How is he going to get that first film if he has no samples of what he can do? With the technology of cameras and editing facilities in your home computer and YouTube you can do all of that from Texas.
I used to try to help actors create pieces for their reel, which everyone recommended against because they said it would look cheap and homemade. In order to make it look professional we had to spend $3K-$5K to shoot a scene. Now we can do it for $175 and it will look 10 times better than I would have ever done. I hear that there is a movie playing in theatres somewhere in Asia that the Director shot with an iPhone. If the samples that you create aren’t good enough, you keep trying. What does it cost you? Nothing. There is no reason not to be constantly honing your craft and improving the evidence, what I call the “evidence of your greatness.” I don’t need evidence of your everyday stuff. Find the evidence of your greatness. If you’re pursuing a career like this you must believe down deep that there is some sort of evidence of your greatness in you. Well, give me evidence of that. Don’t make me take your word for it. Show it to me.
What do you want the public to know about Stuart K Robinson Creative?
People that come to me, I want to get them working or I want to get them into another business that is meaningful to them. There are some schools that say you’re going to need 6 months or a 2-year program or some other fixed amount of time. My thing is, let’s find the most direct route to get you doing what you came here to do. And let’s tell it like it is and let’s get you in real hands-on, life-like situations and see how you perform; rather than spending hours in the classroom only talking about concepts and theories and philosophy and those kinds of things. You’re going to learn how to be a great actor in front of the camera. In the classroom I’m going to give you the means, the confidence, technique and the philosophy to get in front of that camera. Get in front of the camera enough times and you’ll learn to become a great artist. What I’m going to do is pave the way to get you there rather than tell you what’s wrong with you, and bog you down with feedback that makes you feel bad about yourself.
That’s why we started this series of seminars (Inside the Mind of) to try and get people to tell it like it is. Now, tell it like it is, does that mean I’m going to tell them that they can be a star? No, hardly anybody can be a star. But if you’re going to pursue it, why waste years doing it incorrectly and not cutting to the chase. If you’re just not a good actor you want to hear it today so you can do the things that will allow you to become a good actor. If you’re not marketing yourself correctly you want to hear what you’re doing wrong. If you’re offending people everywhere you go you want to hear about it so you can change that behavior.
Here at Stuart K Robinson Creative it is all about inspiration. Inspiring you to do better work, to be more proud of what you do and to be more proactive about what you do. Also to humbly, yet confidently offer your product to the workplace and see who buys it. It’s all inspiration. I work with companies who say “Come in and fix things.” I say I’m not coming in and fixing things. I will inspire everyone in the company to do the best work they can do to achieve the group objective. I do the same thing for individuals, for doctors for an actor or for a company. My specialty is to inspire you to do what you really set out to do.
To learn more about Stuart K Robinson Creative, sign up for their newsletter or classes please visit www.stuartkrobinson.com. To join on Facebook www.Facebook.com/StuartKRobinson or Twitter www.Twitter.com/StuartKCreative. Stuart K Robinson is located at 8950 Ellis Avenue, Suite B, Los Angeles, CA 90034 (310) 558-4961.