The Trajectory of Commitment

byMakana Ching

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Acting classes and acting programs at the Maggie Flanigan Studio train serious actors based on the Meisner Technique as originally conceived by Sanford Meisner. In this video Makana reviews her time in the summer acting intensive and how working with Charlie online has been beneficial.

Makana Ching Summer Acting Program Interview

makana ching leans over laptop talking to her acting partner during the summer acting program

Makana Ching – Summer Acting Program – Maggie Flanigan Studio 01

Katie: Makana, before you started our first-year class, what did you think it meant to train as an actor?

Oh, man, honestly, I don’t even know, I was someone who wanted to go to college for this, or do it in high school. I’d never done it, I always wanted to. I had no idea what to expect from the training.

Q: Now that you’re almost done with first year, what do you think it means to train as an actor now?

It’s everything, honestly. I think listening is the biggest thing that we take for granted, and I think about the way that I would try to craft for roles before, and I didn’t even know what I was doing, there are so many little nuggets that we learn in the first year of training that is just something you can’t learn outside of the program.

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"After a year and a half of acting classes at different studios, I was just having fun and taking on these roles, but I didn't really know what I was doing."

Makana ChingSummer Acting Program, Online

Q: When you were looking for training, were you specifically looking for a Meisner technique program?

Yes. The interesting thing is actually– I thought I was really into method acting and I did a small trial of that and it didn’t really connect with me, and I knew some people who did Meisner training. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I thought, okay, using your imagination, I think I can do that, and so far so good it’s worked out for me.

Q: In this first year of training, what about the Meisner technique, has really resonated with you as an actor?

I like being able to tap into experiences that I’ve been through, but not having to necessarily go back to that exact traumatic event, and being able to use those experiences and creating a new role or a new character. We haven’t gotten that far yet, but just being able to use my experiences in creating something new with imagination.

Q: What led you up to commit to a program like this, especially in the middle of the pandemic?

Yes, this opportunity was such a blessing for me, probably for a year and a half I had a hodgepodge of classes, different locations, and they were fun, and I always learned something, but at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I knew the foundation of acting.

I didn’t feel grounded in what I was doing, I didn’t know how to replicate things that I liked. I think, something I thought about often was I didn’t know what my strengths were and I didn’t know what my weaknesses were because I was just having fun and taking on these roles, but I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Q: How has the training that you’ve received in the first year and with Charlie this past year been different than all those other things you did?

Charlie is just amazing, when I was looking at different programs, I was specifically looking at the types of teachers, watching videos and stuff, and Charlie is honestly, I think what any great actor or someone who wants to be a great actor, I think he’s the teacher that you need because, in comparison to some other classes, he’s going to hold your hand, but he’s not going to hold your hand. He’s going to be tough and give you the type of–, I don’t know how to say it particularly, but he’s going to help- you become a better actor. He’s not just going to be an easy teacher. He’s going to pressure you, and he’s going to put you in situations that are going to make you grow. At the end of the day, that’s the teacher that I want.

I think about that all the time freaking out, “Oh man, what am I going to do after this training is over. Charlie’s not going to be there.” He’s going to be there to reach out to, but it’s definitely super nice to have someone who’s paying full attention to you. I think the interesting thing about the pandemic is because our classes are smaller, he’s able to really give us that time that we need. It’s honestly been life-changing for me.

Makana Ching – Summer Acting Program 2021 – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Q: Is your experiencing with auditioning what led you to commit to a two-year program instead of just an amalgamation of classes?

100%, because I had been reading so much about what to do during auditions, what to do around casting directors, and at the end of the day I just didn’t feel I had that foundation of acting to be able to perform to my best ability. I didn’t want to continue being put in front of these casting directors who may or may not remember me, and maybe like, “Oh, this person isn’t very good.” I wanted to become better, so that then when I did more auditions they would remember me in a good way.

Q: What has it been like trying to balance this thing you really want to do with having a day job?

Yes, I think that I’ve been so blessed with my career in graphic design, and during the pandemic when I started taking the training I actually was able to move from full-time to part-time which was such a blessing. It’s just so funny because my dreams of what I thought I wanted out of my career changed a lot since I moved to New York. I once went into a creative agency and then was like, “You know what? You’ve always wanted to do acting, just try it. If you’re not good, you’re not good.” Since beginning of this training, I strongly believe that this is my calling, and I’m just so fortunate to have this other career that’s able to allow me to take classes, and still pay my rent at the same time. Hopefully one day, I’ll just transition to acting full-time.

banner for the two year program

Q: Do you have any advice for people that are feeling, “I already have a career, I can’t take time away–?”

The flip side of that is sometimes when we feel we’re already on a trajectory of where we’re going to go in the future, we are afraid to step outside of that. Like you did and allow yourself to do both. Do you have any advice for people that are maybe feeling a little bit in their head about doing both or committing to something like this when they’re not 18 because they’re too old at 25 or whatever stories that we all tell ourselves because we all do it? Do you have any advice for those people about committing to something like this?

Yes it’s so funny because I was actually going to say just commit. I think it’s so easy to get in our heads. I also was someone who was stuck in the past for so long wishing I had started sooner. I think that you really have to believe in yourself no matter where you are in terms of your training and just stay committed. Something that Charlie always talks about is just being resilient.

The work is going to be hard and life is going to be hard. Your career is going to be hard. I would just tell anybody who wants to do this and has a dream to do this or even an inkling of being interested. I would just say commit to it. Put your heart and soul into it. You’re going to be busy. That’s just life. Life is never going to slow down, so just stay committed.

Makana Ching – 2021 Summer Acting Program – Maggie Flanigan Studio New York, NY

Q: What has the experience of doing classes online been like for you?

I’ve actually loved it and I think it’s interesting because so many people will be like, “Oh my God, you’re doing acting training online. You can’t act online.” I totally disagree with that. If you think about it, the camera’s always on you anyway, so you just get used to it.

I think in some ways I’m the type of person that likes a challenge and I think doing this work online did just that. Even when we’re in scenes when I watch some things where you’re doing a scene with your partner, for instance, you have a glass of water or something, and the other person has a glass of water and it’s the giving and the receiving and just watching that happen in real-time is just fascinating.

I’m actually someone who really thought that it was perfect timing to do this during COVID. I wasn’t going to let the fact that it was on Zoom stop me from doing this training, but at the same time, there’s something to look forward to when it comes to working in this space.

My classmates and I get along so well, but I’m definitely looking forward to that environment of seeing students and faculty just around me. I like being really immersed in things that I’m interested in. I’m excited to be back in the studio.

Q: How important has a sense of community been with students and with Charlie doing all these classes remotely?

Yes. My class and I are so close. Some of us do live in other parts of the world. We’ve met up once and we were planning on meeting up again. We’ve done some happy hours online. I’m in the morning class, but we love attending the night class watching them, supporting them, getting ideas. I don’t think the community aspect is missing. I think it’s still there and I can just imagine what the presence would be like in person.

Q: I think some people have an idea that if they are going to commit to something like training as an actor, they want to do it in private coaching. How important is watching other people work?

100%. It’s funny because at first, I was embarrassed, like, “Oh, I’m going to the night class.” Then it was every single night class I was there and it’s just so entertaining. Because we have a small class in the morning, it was just nice to see other people work. It’s inspiring. Everyone thinks so creatively and so different. I really find it beneficial to go to the night class and attend whatever workshops you can.

Makana Ching – Summer Acting Program in NYC – Maggie Flanigan Studio 01

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how your experience in the emotional prep workshop or voice or Reiki and Nutrition has informed the work you’re doing in class?

I really enjoyed all the workshops I went to. I will say that the emotional prep was just mind-blowing for me. It was so easy to receive these tools that then I could apply to my work. For all the other ones, it just opened my mind to what’s out there, and again, back to what is acting and training. I haven’t done movement classes, I haven’t done voice classes. It was just really interesting. These teachers are so passionate about the work that they do, and to me, that is really inspiring just to be in sessions where people are really passionate.

Like you said, I’m just excited to do them in person because I just want to soak up whatever I can, and I need more than these three days, but regardless, it has been a really awesome opportunity to be able to take them online.

Q: Do you feel like those workshops, maybe in particular, the emotional prep workshop helped you show up to acting class in a different way?

Yes. I liked that it really helped me think of all the senses, and how those apply to exercise, activities, thinking about the smells, what you hear, what you feel. It’s just so interesting. I feel like when you’re little you think about the senses more maybe, and then as you age, it’s like, ”Oh, wow.” It was just really inspiring to be more in tune with them because I think it’s so easy to not be present. If you think about acting, you have to be present. I think that workshop, in particular, helped me be more present, more grounded, and really just set me up for success a little better than I had been. [chuckles]

Q: Why did you like working with Charlie so much? What type of acting teacher is he?

There aren’t enough good words to use to describe Charlie. Going back to me being attracted to people who have passion, this guy is passionate. You can see it in his eyes when he talks about your crafting when he talks about your activities or your exercise or whatever you’re doing. You can just see that he’s just so excited to share this information with you. I think the thing I really like about him is that he’s only going to– I don’t know.

In some ways, I feel like he’s only going to make you better if you’re wanting to get better. He can tell that you’re not interested or you’re not putting the effort in. At that point, it’s like you’re the one who’s not doing the work. I don’t know, I feel like I’m visual going around. If you put in the work, he’s going to put in the work. He’s passionate, and he is committed to you. He’s committed to making you a better actor. I think he really does want success for everyone he teaches. If you just want someone who’s going to light a fire under you, then Charlie is your guy. [chuckles] He’s amazing. He’s so amazing.

profile of charlie sandlan sitting in teh studio teaching the acting class during the summer

Summer Acting Program 2021 – Charlie Sandlan – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Q: I think there’s a big idea that New York is dead. How do you feel about that?

It’s so crazy. I swear when I first quit my full-time job to start freelancing, I fell in love with New York all over again. No matter what city I go to, I feel like New York is the best city in the world. It’s really exciting to be on this acting journey in New York where acting is so prevalent. The training is so amazing.

For anyone who says New York is dead, it’s not true. It was quiet. It was definitely quiet throughout the pandemic, but people are anxious to be social again. Especially with the warmer weather, the parks are loaded, the streets are busy. New York never died. I thought I’d never say this but I’m even excited to take the subway again. I’m excited to go out with friends, go to dinners, go into the studio. I don’t even know what that’s like. This whole training for me has been online so it’s just things to look forward to for me.

Q: Great. You’re wrapping up the first year, what are you looking forward to most about second year?

Everything. I just feel so anxious and so excited about the whole journey. I’m even thinking, “Oh, do I need a third year? What about a fourth year?” I just don’t want it to stop. I think definitely the character work is what I’m super excited about. I don’t even really know what we’re going to learn. I’m starting to feel more confident with what I know and the foundation. I totally understand how it has to be– You can’t just be thrown into it. You need to learn.

I think that going back to the training and people who are interested in doing it, if you’re really wanting to do this for your whole life you should have at least two years to be able to commit to the training. Otherwise, you’re just a hack as Charlie says. I really do believe that. You can see it too. You can see hacks all the time.

Q: Is there anything else that I haven’t asked that you’d like to share, any advice, any thoughts?

I think something that Charlie also says is, “Never settle for your second best,” which is so true. I just think that again talking about life being busy and hard, it’s worth it for you and for your growth to push yourself as much as you can and put yourself in situations that are uncomfortable because, after this training, Charlie’s not going to be there to hold your hand.

I think that the one thing that’s so amazing about this training is that it creates a space for people to experiment and explore different parts of them. It’s crazy because for so long I didn’t even speak up for myself. So much of the first-year training is just learning how to stand up for yourself and not being a doormat, as he says. It’s really changed my life. It’s crazy that it took me this long to speak up for myself.

Learn More About the Summer Acting Programs at Maggie Flanigan Studio

Visit the Maggie Flanigan Studio to learn more about the two year acting program https://www.maggieflaniganstudio.com/ as well as the Meisner Summer Intensive. Actors who are serious about professional actors training and preparing for long acting careers, should apply for admission to the studio programs.

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