Lights, camera, action
Bringing a bit of Hollywood to the Tri-Valley
It may not be Los Angeles, but the San Ramon Valley apparently has a hidden underbelly of talented actors.
LMA Productions is offering screen acting classes to the Tri-Valley area. The first wave sold out quicker than anyone expected, so they just added three more sessions beginning April 1.
The classes meet once a week for 10 weeks. Students perform monologues, improvisations and do scene work.
"There's a lot of talent that's untapped, and at the same time we're also trying to bring a little bit of Hollywood up to this area," said Rick Beeman, the instructor.
Beeman himself is a bit of Hollywood that's migrated to the East Bay. He's a veteran film and television director and has been teaching acting classes for years.
"Rick is like a little Hollywood director on steroids," said Danville resident Dr. Carmen Taran, one of the students in the class.
The students are a mix of seasoned professionals, intermediate level actors and people who just want to try it out. There are classes for children, teens and adults.
Taran is a managing partner of Rexi Media, a company that helps people improve their presentation skills. She said she took the class because acting and presentation go hand in hand.
They both involve learning about body language, vocal variety, selecting the right words, and being comfortable with impromptu speaking, she said.
She likes making things up on the fly - the improvisation exercises are her favorite part of the class. She said it can be challenging, because you have to let your guard down and attempt to let a piece of you show.
"I think there's some vulnerability you have to show through in front of others," she explained. "You just have to get used to it. And of course that comes with practice."
Beeman teaches his students variations of "Method" acting, a difficult approach to teach and to learn. Actors are encouraged to explore their own emotions from their past and use them to bring realistic depth to their characters.
"It's quite effective," Beeman said. "The students just are eating it up."
Not only are the students reaching into their deepest emotions and displaying them in front of classmates, their performances are being videotaped, too.
Students watch the videotapes the following week for constructive criticism. They can see where their flaws are and where they can improve, Beeman said.
"It is scary," he conceded. "That's part of being an actor - facing and overcoming your fears."
He said a lot of students even find the classes therapeutic.
"You have to bring up past experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant. By bringing it out in front of an audience - there's something very freeing about that," Beeman said. "I had one student tell me last night, 'This is really cheap therapy.'"
The class' acting has already greatly improved since the beginning of the session, he said. But Taran pointed out that it's not just about learning. It's fun.
"In addition to cheap therapy it's cheap entertainment, too," she said. "I would recommend it to everyone who wants to stand out rather than fit in."
At the end of the 10-week session the actors will have their work showcased in an open house for friends and family. They'll also be given a DVD of their performances.
"We have so much talent in this area," said LMA Managing Partner Thaddeus Coberg. "There's no reason this area can't become more like Los Angeles or New York."
Learn to act
What: Screen acting classes from LMA Productions
Who: Kids, teens and adult classes available
Where: 1067 Serpentine Lane in Pleasanton
When: Beginning April 1, once a week for 10 weeks
Cost: $500 for a 10-week session
Register: Call 417-1420 or visit www.LMAdigital.com