Who Is Paul Schackman?

“I don’t care how you think X, Y or Z would do it, I don’t care how you think it’s supposed to be done, or what’s the right way to do it.  You take responsibility for that line. That was a concept that suddenly made it tangibly an art form.  ‘Oh! It’s about me.’  And I have never wavered from that.  It’s about taking it personally.” – Kevin Kline

Born in Tacoma, WA and raised in Southern California, Paul is a graduate of The University of California, San Diego where he began studying acting.  A veteran of Los Angeles stages, he has starred in and directed numerous productions, including the critically acclaimed Pauly and Paddy Show, an evening of original solo pieces that he co wrote, directed and starred in.  In 2006 he was nominated for an LA Weekly Theatre Award for his role as the Doctor in Will Smiths’ production of Medal Of Honor Rag.   This acclaimed production had Paul starring opposite Heavy D, with Delroy Lindo taking the helm as director.  From his first role on the original Beverly Hills 90210, Paul has gone on to appear in numerous feature films and television programs over the years playing an eclectic range of characters.  For more information and a full list of credits go to www.paulschackman.com or check out Paul at IMDB here.

Paul Schackman on Acting

“I have studied many methods of acting over the years and I’m continually surprised by how dogmatic and restrictive they often are.  As artists, we should be totally free.   As an actor I am committed to one thing – telling the truth.  This often seems like a daunting task when our heads are filled with ideas about what we are supposed to be doing.  If we have spent hours rehearsing, then it makes sense that the audition or performance should be exactly how we have worked it out.  Thus, we fall into a trap.  This trap blinds us to our feelings, our imagination, and our instinct.   On stage, it is easy to spot the well rehearsed but uninspired.  I used to think it was bad acting, but I have come to believe it is just misguided training.

As an actor, we are required to play a role onstage for weeks or perform the same scene on set for often dozens of takes.  Knowing the lines, the blocking and emotional arcs throughout each scene or take are not enough.  Unfortunately, that is where most actors stop working.  Most actors will do the job well enough but ultimately are forgettable.  Those that do a scene over and over again, always finding something new are the ones we can’t take our eyes off.  They are artists.   We watch them and know they are being truthful.  That should always be our goal; otherwise, really, what’s the point?”

… And So It Begins

“You never know what you’re going to do until you do it.” – Meryl Streep

Thanks for stopping by.  It has been a long time coming, but the timing seems perfect for my blog and workshop.  I started studying the craft of acting 20 years ago.  From the beginning I was horrified by how many “teachers” of acting were doing nothing of the sort.  Some would argue that acting is an ego driven art.  I think it is often the ego of the instructor that undermines many acting classes.

It is no secret that early MFA Acting programs, which were limited to a handful of esteemed institutions, took their talented young actors and spent at least the first year of instruction tearing them down before building them into “proper” actors.  I have friends today who still comment on spending the first several years after receiving their MFAs “unlearning” what was now getting in the way of their talent.  I firmly believe structure in the study of acting is utter rubbish if it prevents creativity from flourishing.

Today, I see acting teachers exploiting the insecurity of young actors and taking their hard earned dollars under the guise of sharing some secret process that all the stars use.  It makes me sad and it makes me angry.  It is Bullshit.

As in any art form, there is no right way.  Anyone who tells you that will take more than your money.  There is however a wrong way.  Any way that doesn’t get you to where you need to be is the wrong way.  Overwhelmingly, most great actors have trained, and they have trained hard.  Most can’t put a finger on how they get from point A to point B.  They may be able to talk about how they prepare, but once the curtain goes up or the director yells action they are no longer thinking about how to do it.  The great ones let go and become awash in imagination, emotion and instinct.

This is what I teach.  How to let go.  How to trust your training and your talent.  How to truthfully take responsibility for every line, and every moment between them.


“I hate the audition process.  Having experienced it as an actor, I found it demeaning.  As a writer and director, I find it damn near useless.”

– David Mamet

“In the audition room, the actor is a supplicant…  He is allowed, encouraged, and, if gifted, driven to cast himself in various enjoyable, demanding roles and situations. These situations may not be noble, but the work, and the joy of exploring them, is.”

– David Mamet

Very rarely do I encounter an actor who loves to audition.  It is the most frustrating and nerve wracking part of the job of acting.  For the actor, nothing will cause more sleepless nights,  amplify the voice of self doubt, and encourage self sabotage like auditioning.  In his book, “Bambi vs Godzilla:  On The Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business,”  David Mamet includes a wonderful essay, “Good In The Room:  Auditions And The Fallacy Of Testing,”  which breaks down the psychological process of auditioning from both the acting and casting sides of the room.

As actors we love and need and want to act.  When we audition, generally we are not driven by that love, need, or want.  We are instead driven by a desire for a job.  We are not acting, but interviewing for a job.  The casting directors, producers and the director are not there as audience members to see a performance, rather they are judges on a jury.  They are not there to see if you can act, they are determining if they can see you “act the part.”

The Audition is the job.  One more time for good measure… The audition is the job.  Long ago I discovered that the key to auditioning successfully is to approach auditions differently.  I use the audition to act.  I see it as an opportunity to do what I love.  How ever many people are in the room, they are my audience.  I will often get frustrated when I don’t get hired after I know I have given an amazing audition.  In fact, I would call my agent and say, “How could they not hire me?”  He would respond with, “Your problem is you think you actually have some control over that.”  That is the truth and it is valuable information.  I do not concern myself with getting the job (usually – we’re all human).  That is out of our control.  Proper preparation and having fun are the keys to the castle.  I usually leave an audition thinking, “Well, they get that one for free.  If they want another it’s going to cost them.”  It’s more important that I like it more than they do because eventually they will decide I am the right choice, and then they’ll pay for it, and then they’ll film it.

One last thought for the actor.  Remember, if your agent got an audition for you, that means two people think you are right for the part; your agent and the casting director.  It’s real easy to sit in the actors waiting area and look at the other people reading for the same role and start doubting yourself.  Stay focused.  You are not in casting so don’t start casting someone else in your role.  Play the part.  You are an actor.  Whether you get the role or not you are perfect for the role.  I can’t think of a role that I couldn’t imagine myself playing.  Some roles take more work and are more challenging, but that is the fun of it.  That is what we do.  At the audition, that is all you should do.

What About You?

“You have to find out what’s special about you as a person, and you always have to be developing your point of view.” – John Turturro

I was at an audition recently and I ran into an actor that I’ve seen many times over the years reading for the same part as me.  I could tell by his posture and body language that he was not confident in the audition he was about to have.  He eventually said to me,”I haven’t got a shot.  Did you see who else is reading for this?”  Well, I understand this train of thought very well.  Many acting jobs have been won and lost in the actors waiting area.  I once had an actor try to ease his own anxiety by very loudly saying to me, “How come you are so damn calm?!!”  I was calm because I knew what my job was and how to do it.  He didn’t affect me in any way other than making me chuckle.

It’s easy to get caught up in waiting room antics.  It’s even easier to get lost down a road of negative thoughts.  Ultimately, it’s not about the job.  It’s not about who else is reading for the role.  It’s not about who might or might not be in the audition room to give or not give  you a job.  The actor who thought he didn’t have a shot went on to say that knowing he wasn’t going to get the part relieved the pressure.  If he hadn’t been trying to convince himself of that he would have been right.

The only thing that matters is how you feel about the role.  If you can put all the bullshit aside and breathe life into your work then you have succeeded.  Focus on the character – your feelings and your point of view.  That is your job.