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Austin Actors
Luis Olmeda

More Lessons Learned
by Luis Olmeda

August 2000

A newcomer has arrived in the entertainment industry. After one great performance in a local Georgetown theater, he heard a little voice saying, "This is your calling, your love, be…an actor!"

"What’s next?" he asked himself. Well, like many beginners, he was clueless…with no picture, resume, agent and no other recent acting experience. With the exception of that one play, he had no idea how to get into the market. Anyway, not long after that, he was asked to perform in another play by the same Production Company and an audience member, intrigued by his performance, hired him for a local public announcement commercial. That little voice returned, reiterating, "What’s the matter with you, didn’t you here me the first time? This is your calling, so get your ass in gear and move man, move!" He then knew that his next step would be to enhance his skills in an acting course.

One day he came to me for advice on the subject. I provided him with a list of many good instructors with email addresses in the local vicinity and the outskirts of Austin. Within those classes, he will be able to network and obtain the necessary skills in no time.

He chooses an instructor and immediately mailed out a check for the full cost of the class. Days later, his manager notified him of a business trip that will unfortunately conflict with the scheduled classes. He had no choice but to drop the class a week before it started. He immediately got on the telephone and left the instructor a message explaining his situation, asking for a full refund. After numerous telephone calls and emails, the instructor finally got back to him, via email. Another telephone call was to follow up the next day to put a closure on the issue…it never happened.

The day came when the class he supposedly was to take arrived. He went to meet with the instructor face-to-face to resolve the issue. For the instructor, this was not a good idea, in fact, a poor move on his part. The instructor scolded him for bringing his issues on a class day, refused to converse about it and assured him that contact would be made the next day to put this to rest.

The next morning, he opened his emails and found a note from the instructor. In so many words it read that normally the deposit is non-refundable, but that he would make an exception. In addition, he is never to contact the instructor in any way or form. Any additional comments or questions should be conveyed to the instructor’s attorney.

Eventually he acquired all of his money back. Now let us take a moment to learn something valuable from his experience. Some suggestions might be helpful to both parties, here they are:

INSTUCTORS:

Whenever emailing or snail mailing future classes, you may want to add a comment concerning the deposit amount and a statement whether it is refundable or not (with a cancellation notice policy).

POTENTIAL STUDENTS:

If the information you have obtained is not clear enough, ask the following questions:

  1. Ask for a brief description of the class.
  2. What is the cost?
  3. What is the deposit amount and is it refundable?
  4. If the deposit is refundable, how many days, weeks, etc…do you require cancellation notice?
  5. How long are the classes and its running time?
  6. What is the class size? In other words, what is the maximum taken in the class? This might be important, especially if there is a time constraint. For example, if the class you are potentially thinking of taking consists of lectures, rather than actual performances, then the amount of people in a class will not matter as much. However, if it is an actual performance class, where you will have CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM on your abilities, then it might be wise to ask specifically if the class ENDS AT A SPECIFIC TIME. This does not mean that you will not learn anything from watching others, you will! I have taken a class that the time did not allow me to perform, but the valuable information of listening and watching other people’s mistakes and visa versa did me good. It is totally up to you to decide what works for you. Do you want to be in a class of 20 people or more? Do you prefer private lessons? Are you ready to stay up late at night until you are done? I know I have, but nobody knows you better than yourself. Find your preference, ask the right questions and start from there.

 

As you can see the above incident was a serious lack of communication and can be prevented by asking the right questions. No matter how highly recommended the instructor is, ask the questions.

Luis A. Olmeda

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