A few months ago, I wrote an article called Actors Beware: You May Be in a Cult.
I wrote it about my experiences in an acting class that was founded on the principles of Scientology. Students were commonly abused – and they didn’t even realize it. This sparked a revolution I hadn’t foreseen.
I had actors that I’d never met contacting me, telling me about their traumatic experiences in acting classes that practiced cult-like and abusive behaviors. So many people had been screamed at, made fun of, discriminated against, been forced to do nudity, walk their teachers’ dogs, do their laundry, been stalked, demeaned, and raped, to name just a few. This opened my eyes to the fact that this is a culture that is far too prevalent in acting classes. And, even worse, it is accepted.
Teachers adopt a god-like complex, where hero-worship is common and students develop a form of Stockholm Syndrome. In my opinion, this is why abuse in Hollywood is so accepted and expected. Actors go to class to not only learn how to act, but also how to be treated. When they are abused in class, they don’t think twice when they are abused at work.
One actor who reached out to me after I published the article was Michael Laskin.
He told me that we had never met, but he was a veteran actor for over 40 years and had been a teacher for the last 10. Over the last decade of teaching, he’d had countless students come to him from other classes who needed, essentially, to be “deprogrammed”, as he put it. He witnessed the after-effects of actors who’d suffered through and made it out of classes that had a policy of abuse. It was a problem that he recognized as virulent, and he reached out to me to see if I’d be willing to write a code of ethics for acting teachers with him. Of course, I said yes.
Over the past year, he and I have developed a website called Find Your Acting Class.
Here, we proudly display a Code of Conduct that we developed. There is a section called Ethical Guidelines, which details the reasoning behind the Code of Conduct. Any acting class that not only agrees to abide by the Code of Conduct and Guidelines, but has also been verified to be following these will go on our Ethical Class List. This list is one that we promote to actors who are looking for a safe and ethical environment in which to practice the incredibly intimate artform of acting.
One of the most important tabs on the website is Tell Us About A Class. Here, you can either report a class you’ve been in that has been abusive/cult-like, or a class that you loved and think should be on the list. We have been steadily growing our list of ethical classes and hope that it will get to a point where any class that is not on the list will be guilty by omission of unethical practices. The goal is to identify the offending classes and start a whole new culture of safety.
Actor Resources contains Guidelines for Finding Your Class, specifically written for those who are looking for a class. If you are just joining a class and want to be sure that it is ethically sound, follow these guidelines. They will help you recognize abusive behaviors.
We are incredibly lucky to have been verified as credible by two of the leading psychologists specializing in cults.
One is Daniel Shaw, and the other is Rachel Bernstein. They both vetted our Code of Conduct and both sets of guidelines. Additionally, they confirmed that many of the practices carried out by these classes are, indeed, those utilized by cults. We were also featured on two episodes of Rachel Bernstein’s podcast, IndoctriNation. If you’d like to take a listen, check out the following links:
In addition to all of this, we have received some truly remarkable endorsements.
So far, Bryan Cranston, Alfred Molina, John Sayles, David Strathairn, Brooke Markham, and Gideon Adlon have all signed their names to our efforts. They are all very aware of the dangers of these classes and wanted to lend their support.
If you are an actor and are in a class or looking for one, please utilize our website. We also ask that you share Find Your Acting Class, and, if you can, this article and the previous article. We need as many people to actively participate in this revolution. Be part of the solution of eliminating this cycle of abuse.
My name is Andrea and I live in Los Angeles, California. By day, I am in actor and by night I am working towards a degree in nutritional science.