Article published in Dropline.biz on April 18, 2005

“Actor, Coach, Philosopher”

By Sarah D. Goldstein (co-authored by Dino M. Zaffina)

For the past 35 years David Kagen has been teaching the real-world skills of acting that are needed to get work and keep on working in the Motion Picture & Television Industry and Theatre.

David Kagen’s School of Film Acting is located at 6442 Coldwater Canyon Avenue, Suite 208, North Hollywood, California 91606-1137. The schools telephone is (818) 752-9678. Although Kagen’s school is located in the center of the greater Los Angeles area, he has many students that come from as far away as Romania, Ireland, Germany, and Canada.

Besides Kagen, his acting students are taught by trained professionals. All of the instructors are conservatory trained actors/actresses and have been working in the business for a very long time. David Kagen, a Carnegie-Mellon graduate has taught and coached successful actors such as Ted Danson, Alec Baldwin, Robin Wright-Penn, Giancarlo Esposito, Stacy Edwards, and Ally Walker, to name a few.

Kagen a professional actor himself understands what actors/actresses go through. One thing that makes him a good teacher is that he has most likely made every mistake that his students make. Kagen has appeared in over 250 television, film, and stage productions. His recent roles include: recurring roles on Dragnet and Family Law, guest starring roles on Enterprise and Without a Trace, and the feature films, Annihilation of Fish and Rikers.

He was an observer at the Actors Studio in New York City under Lee Strasberg and worked for famed Broadway producer Cheryl Crawford who co-founded two of the most influential acting organizations in America, The Group Theater and The Actors Studio. In addition to teaching classes and private coaching Kagen has led acting workshops in Paris, London, New York, Toronto and Montreal and has taught at such top schools as Yale School of Drama, Cal Arts, and USC.

David Kagen’s School of Film Acting is proud to have instructors like Jordan Lund, Andrew Borba, Brad Greenquist, Kim Robillard, Stephanie Silverman, and Brett Rickaby.

Jordan Lund has acted opposite Richard Dreyfuss, F. Murray Abraham, Mercedes Ruehl, Robert DeNiro, and Ben Kingsley, to name a few. Lund has worked in over 25 feature films such as The American President, Speed, and Species. He has appeared in more than 50 recurring, guest lead, and guest starring roles on shows as NYPD Blue, ER, The Practice, and Law & Order.

Andrew Borba has directed Hamlet: The First Quarto, A Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and has written and directed three original plays titled Gargoyles, Pieces, and Reflections of a Naked Priest. As an actor, Borba appeared in Othello, Arcadia, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Pentecost, and many other plays as a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Brad Greenquist has been acting for over 20 years in film, television, and theatre. Some of his film credits include Ali, Inherit the Wind, Gang Related, and Crime of the Century. Greenquist has guest starred on television shows such as The Practice, Charmed, Star Trek: Voyager, and Nash Bridges, to name a few.

Kim Robillard has been acting for over 30 years in film, television, and theatre. Some of his film credits include Rainman, Ali, Terminator 3, and Cliffhanger. Robillard has guest starred on television shows such as X Files and Will & Grace and has worked on tons of commercials.

Stephanie Silverman has a B.A. from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.  Silverman studied with Geraldine Page at the American Place Theater in New York City and with Arthur Penn in his Master Class for Acting and Directing at New York University. Stephanie has worked on more than a dozen films and on a number of television series as a regular, recurring, and guest star.

Brett Rickaby is an actor and playwright. Some of his film credits include The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Cursed, How to Kill your Neighbor’s Dog, and Diary of a Hitman, to name a few. Rickaby has guest starred and had recurring roles on television shows such as The Practice, Judging Amy,  JAG, and Law & Order, to name a few.  He has performed in Two Gentleman of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well, Richard III at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

At David Kagen’s School of Film Acting students receive personalized attention. “Classes are limited to 12 students,” says Kagen. He goes on to say, “There are some schools out there that have over 100 students. It is important to have a small class to give individualized attention.”


Kagen provides what he calls a “real-world” approach to acting which gives the student the professional skills needed to compete for the job and to continue working as an actor/actress.  “At the heart of all creative endeavors, including great acting, is taking the risk to follow your instincts,” says Kagen. Kagen explains, “You learn how to perform a scene by expressing your instinctive emotional responses to everything that’s going on in the scene. You learn through doing, not intellectualizing.”

The school also provides on-camera classes where two video cameras are used and the performance is taped on a split screen so that the students can see their entire performance. Kagen says, “That’s very important because one of the things critical to all acting, especially film acting, is that you see what’s going on with your partner emotionally and you respond emotionally to what you see.”

All camera classes use a cold-reading format. Students arrive to class ten minutes early to receive their scene. They are allowed to read their scene only once before they do it. Kagen explains, “We want the student to only read it once so that they do not formulate a lot of concepts and ideas about how to do the scene ahead of time.”

After the students receive their critique they enter a viewing room to watch the tape together. Kagen says, “This is very helpful because it’s one thing for a teacher to tell you what they saw, but when you see what we’re talking about for yourself, it gets very clear, very quickly.”

After viewing the tape the students choose two pages from the scene that they memorize. They go through the same process again. After class, the students take their tapes home to study it between classes.

Over the years, Kagen says that he has received some interesting telephone calls and e-mails from individuals from all over the world. He said, “There is a terrible misconception about the business that is promoted today in the way it was in the 30s and 40s in the fan magazines.” Kagen explains, “A person will call the school and will say, ‘I want to come study with you for a few weeks.’ I will ask this person, ‘Have you ever studied acting?’ They will reply, ‘No, I haven’t, but I watch TV; I already know how to do that; I just need some tips.’”

Some people who have a certain amount of training have terribly unrealistic expectations.  They think that they are going to come to L.A., and in 3 to 6 months they are going to start working, become stars, and buy their house in Malibu, and that’s going to be it,” says Kagen.  He further says, “That is not all, once they start working they think that they do not need to study anymore.”

David Kagen’s School of Film Acting tries to instill in its students that even the top actors/actresses continue to study at a workshop and work privately with their acting coaches. Kagen said, “Before Alec Baldwin was a big movie star, his agent at the time, J. Michael Bloom sent Alec to study with me.  Even after Alec reached stardom, he knew that he needed to continue to studying, and did so after he studied with me.”

Kagen explains why actors need a Director and they need an acting coach. He stated, “The camera picks up everything and your involvement has to be such that you are not monitoring yourself.” The actor needs to rely on the director and their acting coach to monitor their performance. Kagen explains, “Most of the time actors cannot determine if their performance was the nothing that was good nothing; or, was that the nothing that was truly nothing?”

Applicants first meet with David Kagen in a one-on-one meeting. He works with the applicant on a scene that is videotaped. Kagen and the applicant watch the tape together. He explains what he saw and what they would work on first if they were to enroll in the school.

Not all applicants are accepted at David Kagen’s School of Acting. Kagen wants committed actors who have a deep love of acting. He wants people who have a real passion for acting and who are going to be supportive of their fellow classmates.

For more information on David Kagen’s School of Film Acting or David Kagen himself visit his official website at www.davidkagen.com.


Articles Written or Co-Authored by Dino M. Zaffina

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