Story Quest Studios and the Discovery Technique with Ron Weisberg
In case you are new to my blog, my name is Daniel Ward, and I am a contestant on the reality TV show called Broadway Bound Live. It is a musical theater competition designed to test 14 young Broadway hopefuls to see who is worthy of winning a $60,000 scholarship to AMDA College of performing arts. But winning the scholarship wasn’t the only reward of this program. Every single contestant that participated in the show benefited from a plentiful cornucopia of opportunities that prepared us for the entertainment industry. Not only did we get the exposure that led some of us to receive contract offers from DME Talent agency, but everyone was also provided with weekly lessons in singing, dancing, and acting for the entire 4-month process of the show!
One of the opportunities that really resonated with me as an actor was being able to take acting classes with Ron Weisberg at Story Quest Studios. Through hands-on experience in a real production studio, students of SQS learn how to think like a writer, director, or producer to actually give the casting agents what they don’t even know they're looking for in auditions. I interviewed Ron Weisberg about Story Quest Studios this week to share more information about the classes and events they offer and why it is a great resource for local actors to get involved in Albuquerque.
Although it used to be called Sol Acting Academy before he started SQS, Weisberg has been running an acting school since 2009, and working in the industry since way before that. He said he started it as a way to vertically integrate us into creators instead of sitting around waiting for the right role to fall into your lap. Story Quest helps actors create a brand for themselves to actually start making their own projects to showcase their range of talent.
“There's this misconception that someone’s going to find you and pick you out of a million billion people,” Weisberg said. “It’s really about humans tapping into their ultimate power of becoming creators.”
While taking Ron's class, I learned about the discovery technique which is the acting philosophy that he designed for himself to teach other actors in the school. But Story Quest Studios doesn’t just teach actors how to act; instead, they give people permission to create. Weisberg told me that the idea of the discovery technique first came into the picture as a method for actors to practice and study a new way to create the character they are playing. It started when he brought in the University of New Mexico Professor Matthew Mcduffie to teach screenwriting classes. In Mcduffie’s basic screenwriting structure, a character needs to go into a scene with a desire and expectation that gets smashed by a discovery. After hearing that so many times in the lectures, Weisberg realized that this is exactly how actors should be preparing for any character they are playing. This method naturally produces the emotions and decisions that casting directors are looking for in talent.
“Discovery is expansion itself so it’s happening in a compound effect,” Weisberg said. “So if you’re aware of it and you use it as a tool, it's happening kind of all the time whenever you’re using it in a direction of your choosing.”
Ron Weisberg now teaches his students all about the discovery technique and how to apply it in his acting classes at SQS, but he is also working on a book that goes into specific detail about the technique and why it is important for actors to create or adopt an acting philosophy that works well for them.
One of the things that are really beneficial for actors taking classes at SQS is the opportunity to complete the program with actual work to show for it. By the end of the advanced acting class, students will already have the skills they need to play a character with the appropriate discoveries to make the story interesting, so Weisberg actually has them write and act in their own short film that they produce in the studio. These films give actors good-quality clips for their demo reels and some of the projects have even won awards at film festivals in the past.
“I’d trust you more when you’re making your own short films because that means you know what it takes and you know the responsibility that an actor has to show up on time and ‘do the work’ even though I don’t like to think about it as work,” Weisberg said. “You’ve got to be responsible and professional and when you end up doing the movies yourself, you realize how the behavior of an actor might affect the entire day.”
As one of the sponsors of the 48-hour film project in Albuquerque, Story Quest Studios also hosts a lot of networking events with free acting workshops for people to come to join a film team to make a movie in 48 hours. SQS is the perfect “hub” for the community to connect with each other and support other actors in the industry.
“We have to have a film community that is inclusive and connected to each other to help one another instead of compete,” Weisberg said. “This concept of competition is absurd. Everybody gets so attached to booking the role and they attach it to their identity of success, but at Story Quest, the philosophy of actors teaches you to redefine success for yourself.”
SQS is a great place to get involved with the acting community and start taking classes. You can visit the website to sign up for the film acting 101 class that starts on May 28th, or if you are interested in taking voiceover classes taught by Liz Reeder Neubauer which also start May 28th. They will also be starting a movie-making summer camp for kids if you have children interested in pursuing the world of acting through discovery.
“When you invest in yourself and take classes with Story Quest Studios, you get a team of people that are there for you,” Weisberg said. “You get a place to create and to see what that's like, to expand yourself into a filmmaker or a writer. You make dreams real just by discovering and deciding to do it.”
Story Quest Studios played a big part in enhancing my experience with Broadway Bound Live. I learned how to express myself on the stage or in front of the camera, and the Discovery Technique that Ron taught us in class is something that I will apply in both my career and everyday life in general. Stay tuned and subscribe to my blog for an exclusive video interview with Ron Weisberg In the upcoming week.
Daniel Ward is an actor, writer, and contestant finalist of Broadway Bound Live Season 2 and can be contacted on Twitter @wordsofward34 or Instagram @wardledorp