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This world needs you. No exaggeration there. This world needs your talent your voice and your stories - more than ever
- Sanford Meisner

Welcome

Welcome to the Meisner Technique Studio.

You have a dream of becoming an actor, yet you’ve been told how difficult this dream is.

Ready? It IS that difficult. In fact, most people in Hollywood call acting the most competitive profession on the planet for a reason. It is extremely competitive. So if you truly want your acting dreams to become a reality, you need to be able to compete at the highest level. And for that to happen, you need world-class training.

The Meisner Technique Studio offers world-class training.

Our sole purpose is to give you a rock-solid foundation so you’ll have the best opportunity to realize your wildest dreams.

Our Promise and Guarantee

We accept people who have never acted in their lives alongside those with extensive training. We provide a nurturing, supportive place for you to learn and grow. When you finish your studies with us, you will have the following in place:

  • A foundation of craft so solid you’ll be able to work at the highest level, opposite anyone, in any medium – film, theater, television
  • You will be able to call yourself an actor, and it will truly mean something because you’ll know how to work and how to fix it when it’s not working. And the best part is you won’t need us.

Faculty

Jim Jarrett

Jim Jarrett (Founder/Director) is one of the most respected and qualified teachers of The Meisner Technique in the world.

He spent four years with the legendary acting teacher – two in Mr. Meisner’s professional private class then two more working exclusively with Sandy, both as an actor and teacher-in-training. After that time, Jim was lucky enough to have two more years working as a teacher with Sandy as his mentor and emerged as Sanford Meisner’s last teaching protégé.

A quarter century later, Sandy’s alumni and teaching colleagues consider Jim to be one the most respected teachers of the Meisner Technique in the world.

Over the years, Jim established schools in Los Angeles, the Island of Hawaii, and Sun Valley, Idaho. He also travels the world annually as a guest teacher at universities, performing art schools, and theater companies throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

In 2005, Jim came home to San Francisco and opened The Meisner Technique Studio. In so doing, he made good on a promise he’d made to Sandy many years before – to establish an acting school dedicated solely to The Meisner Technique.

In a feature article celebrating Jim’s return to the Bay Area with Theatre Bay Area Magazine, Jim was asked about his vision and motivation for creating the best acting training in San Francisco.

“Ever since Sandy passed, there has been a proliferation of people teaching the Meisner Technique. Most are students of former students who may have studied with Sandy for a brief period of time. In fact, the Neighborhood Playhouse – the very place that pushed Sandy out in 1987 – started a program where anyone can enroll in a six week course and then receive a “teaching certificate” declaring you’re now qualified to teach the Meisner Technique.

Crazy. But true.

But there truly are only a handful of people who were personally trained by Sanford Meisner to teach “his way.” 

Being a part of this select group is an honor I do not take lightly. And for Sandy, having his teachings carried on accurately, as purely and authentically as possible, was extremely important to him.”

“Every time the rent’s due there’s a thousand actors who run around and call themselves acting teachers, and I can’t tell you how many claimed to have studied with me and just because you did study with me doesn’t mean you’re qualified to teach! If someone tells you they teach The Meisner Technique ask them if they have my blessing then watch their reaction. Trust your gut, you’ll know.”

The Late, Great Sanford Meisner

A message from Jim:

“I opened The Meisner Technique Studio in San Francisco to pass along Sandy’s teaching brilliance, as well as the standards, integrity, and respect for the craft of acting he instilled into every single one of his students by presenting Sandy’s teachings exactly how he wanted them presented.

My goal is to have our students emerge as the finest, best trained actors in the Meisner Technique – not just in the Bay Area, but in the world.”

Melissa Thompson Esaia

Melissa Thompson Esaia is a filmmaker, teacher, actor and activist. She has worked in film, TV, commercials and theatre for over 20 years.  She holds a degree in Counseling Psychology and worked for fifteen years in public service and non-profits, where she provided counseling services for all populations, including veterans, domestic violence victims and individuals with disabilities. She has served as Assistant Director at The Meisner Technique Studio since 2007 and has also guest lectured at theaters, high schools and universities.

Melissa is the founder of Kina’Ole Pictures, a production company focused on creating films that spotlight social and environmental issues. She is a voice for animal welfare and works in Japan with Ric O’Barry, star of the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, where she represents Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project and documents the annual dolphin hunts that take place there. Melissa’s video footage of the annual hunts has been seen worldwide, including CNN Headline News.

She is currently in post-production on a feature-length documentary film that features musician/filmmaker/activist Michael Franti, musician/activist Matt Sorum (The Cult, Guns N’ Roses) and Ric O’Barry (The Cove). Her film is fiscally sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society and a part of their SFFILM Makers Artist Development Program.


RECENTLY MELISSA SAT DOWN WITH DIGITAL JOURNAL TO DISCUSS HER CAREER AS A FILMMAKER AND TEACHER…

DJ: You’ve been acting for years. How did you transition into teaching actors?

MTE: I love teaching actors. I am honored and humbled to be a witness to the courage, humanity, vulnerability, strength and growth that shows up in every single class. My first love has always been acting. I wrote, directed and starred in my first play in the fourth grade. It has always been a part of me. But until I met Jim, I had always waded in the shallow end, so to speak. I never dove head first into the deep end of my dream. I graduated from college with a degree in psychology and began a career in social services. My favorite part of counseling was always working with groups, and I always tried to incorporate some type of artistic expression into my counseling work. Later in my social services career, I stopped working with clients and began training counselors, social workers and other social services professionals in areas such as team building, civil rights and enhancing soft skills like motivational interviewing. I found that I loved teaching, giving others a new skill or augmenting the training they already have in a field they feel passionate about. So when I completed my two years of professional Meisner Technique training with Jim and he invited me to train to teach at his school, it seemed like a perfect fit. I love teaching. I love acting. And I love dreamers, artists, risk-takers. I love being a part of something that truly is important and something I feel deeply passionate about. I love helping our students to find their voices and the courage to bring forth what’s inside them. Our students go out into the world and do all sorts of wonderful things with their dreams, and I feel incredibly honored to have played some part in all of it.

DJ: Tell us about your teaching philosophy.

MTE: I teach the Meisner Technique as purely as it was taught to me, which is exactly how Sanford Meisner intended it to be taught. I’m proud of this fact. Through Jim, I truly am a part of Sandy’s legacy, and this is something I do not take lightly. If I were to describe my teaching style in a few words, I’d say I’m passionate, detailed, tough, fair, compassionate and honest. I teach each person individually because each person needs to be taught individually. A note or adjustment I give to one student may not be appropriate for another student based on who they are and where their instrument is in its development. I believe one of the greatest gifts I bring is that it wasn’t really that long ago that I sat in their very same chair. So I have an understanding and empathy for what they’re going through — the growing pains of the training, the frustration of experiencing a major breakthrough and then falling flat on your face and everything in between and the sacrifices required to truly make a commitment to this training and to your dream. I get it. I love meeting a brand new class and looking out at them and thinking to myself, “You all have no idea the ride you’re about to take.” I know the magic that happens in that classroom, and I know the hard work and dedication that’s required to earn that magic.

DJ: We talk to a lot of artists who struggled early in their careers. Talk to us about your decision to make acting and teaching your career versus your hobby.

MTE: When I first started teaching, I was also still working in a very safe, secure, well-paying day job with great benefits, retirement, IRA, paid time off, etc., and I was working my way up the professional ladder and leading a very comfortable lifestyle. I was also observing Jim’s classes and acting just about every evening after work and on the weekends. And although I actually enjoyed my ‘day’ career, it didn’t feed my soul. It just fed my lifestyle. And for many, that’s enough. Or at least they convince themselves that it’s enough. But for me, it isn’t. Jim and I discussed the idea of me working with him at the school full-time for several months before I actually left my job. I saved as much money as possible, and with Jim’s help I created a plan for my exit. When I ‘broke the news’ to my parents, both were supportive but expressed their concerns for my financial security, retirement, healthcare, etc. All of the things I expected to hear. But they both know by now that I have a different view of work and life than they do, and we went through our growing pains with that years ago, so they really have been incredibly supportive, and I am so grateful to them for that. I had mixed responses from others — everything from, “Are you sure it’s the right time to be changing careers? You know, in this economy?” to “I wish I had the courage to take that kind of leap.” So it’s everything. But here’s the beauty of where I’m standing — I don’t care what anyone thinks. It’s my dream and my career and my life and I only have this one. I had been wading in the shallow end of my dream for a very long time, and I knew it was time to jump. Have I had moments when I’ve felt fearful? Absolutely. I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been moments when I have feared all of the uncertainties of this career choice. But I think this sums it up perfectly — when we finally made the decision to truly more forward with this, Jim asked, “So, are you scared?” And my answer, without hesitation, was, “The only thing that scares me is not doing it.”

Now I want to stress that I didn’t just jump blindly. I am not saying that our students or anyone should quit their day job tomorrow. No, no, no. I worked extremely hard to earn this opportunity, and once I made the decision, I planned and sacrificed and ‘set the table.’ I had to exercise patience, persistence and faith. Looking back on it all, I now know that everything I’ve ever done has led me to teaching actors. Everything. When I was in the middle of the road, not knowing what was ahead, there were many times when I felt discouraged, scared, frustrated and even hopeless. There were times when I thought my life would be so much easier if I was just ‘normal,’ if I could be satisfied with having my safe job and safe life. There was a chapter when I absolutely thought I could settle for that existence, but you wouldn’t be reading this article if I had turned left at that intersection in my life. This transition had been several years in the making. I’ve sacrificed greatly. I’ve been judged, and I’ve been called insane and irresponsible. But I’m also standing right where I want to be, living the life I was meant to live.

I can’t talk about this major life change without giving proper respect to Jim Jarrett, my friend and my teacher. Jim and I were absolutely supposed to find each other. He has been my greatest inspiration and support. Jim has been the single most instrumental influence in my dream and in my life. He taught me that I have a powerful voice and that what I have to say is important. He has held my hand through the darkest days of my dream and my life. He taught me about greatness and courage and has had an unwavering belief in my talent as a teacher and as an artist. I have so much respect for this great teacher, this great man, this great friend, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunities he has offered me and for trusting me with the gift he has given me — sharing his school and his students with me.

DJ: How did you go from activist to producer and actress?M

MTE: Actually I went from actress to producer to activist. I have been an actress all my life and in the last several years, I have been producing my own films as well. Several years ago, I watched the film Food, Inc. and was blown away by the effect this film had on me. And not long after that, I watched The Cove, and that film changed my career direction and my life forever.

From that moment on, I realized that with what precious time I have on this earth, I am only going to work on projects that can do to people what The Cove did to me, films that can wake people up and inspire change. When I saw The Cove, I knew that it wasn’t enough for me simply to be heartbroken at what I’d just witnessed through this film. Soon after, I attended a Dolphin Project benefit where I met Ric O’Barry and I asked him, “What can I do?” His answer was simply, “I don’t know. What CAN you do?”

His question began a search for me that has led me to Taiji, Japan to work as a Cove Monitor with Ric and his team of passionate, amazing activists, as well as doing everything I can to raise awareness about the captivity industry. From protesting at marine parks to speaking at the Orca Welfare and Safety Act (AB2140) hearing in Sacramento, I’m committed to taking an active responsibility for changing the state of our world through my direct activism and also through my work as a filmmaker.

DJ: What can you tell us about A Beginner’s Guide to Saving the World?

MTE: I’m very excited about this film. It’s my heart and soul and passion project. It is all about the power of one person to make a difference in this world and it speaks to anyone who has ever believed deeply in something, cared passionately about something and wanted to do something but didn’t know how. There is so much going on in this world today, and many people think it’s too late for us to turn it around, but I disagree. So I am making this film to help people to understand that we all must contribute in any way we can and that it isn’t too late and that one person CAN make a difference. I have been so blessed to connect with some really amazing and compassionate people who are now a part of my film, people with really loud voices like Michael Franti and Matt Sorum, and people you’ve never heard of like Katrine Kirsebom and Corinne Hindes. These girls are so inspiring! At age 11 they created a non-profit to collect unclaimed lost and found items from ski resorts and donate them to the homeless. They are such a beautiful example of how easy it is to do something to make the world a better place. The film is about the roller coaster of being someone who cares deeply about the world and who is trying to make a difference, the victories, the heartaches, the hope, the hopelessness…all of it…and how we keep going. I am grateful to be fiscally sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society and a part of their Artist Development Program.

How We Do It

Sanford Meisner created a technique that has produced a more prodigious “Who’s Who” of alumni than all other top teachers combined

We present Sandy’s teachings exactly how he wanted them presented. This is not an acting class, workshop, intensive, or improv class. This is world-class training for those who are ready to dive into the deep end of their dream, for those who want to take their dream to an entirely new level, and for those who do not want to waste time and money.

How We’re Different

The Meisner Technique Studio is much more than a place to take acting classes.

We have built an artistic family and community dedicated to helping our actors, writers, directors, and filmmakers grow in every way possible – from our film festivals, VIP Guest Lecture Series, Hawaii Retreats, Industry Showcases, and so much more. Learn more about our special events here.

If you’d like more than an acting class and finding an artistic home is important to you, please schedule your interview.

 

Hawaii Intensive Retreats

“Every hour of every day planes are landing at LAX from all over the world full of people beginning their dream of becoming an actor in Hollywood. And while those planes are landing, just as many are taking off, packed full of people who’ve been crushed by that very same dream… and that’s because most actors, most artists are not very good at ‘the business of their dream.’ In fact, there is nothing more common than really talented, out-of-work actors. I’m dedicated to helping anyone who cares, change that.” – Jim Jarrett

The Actors Intensive Retreat in Hawaii is an incredible opportunity for current students or alumni of The Meisner Technique Studio to spend ten days in Hawaii advancing “The Business of Your Dream.” However, the most valuable component of the experience deals with what Jim believes is THE most important ingredient to being a successful actor/artist – the mental and emotional aspect of being a dreamer.

Once these seeds are planted, the “Intensive Retreat” shifts to the nuts and bolts of the audition process – from cold readings to callbacks: how to book the job.

Students on the Meisner Technique Studio Actors Intensive Retreat in Hawaii

Jim has spent twenty years evolving the curriculum, so the key phrase is “intensive retreat” because every day is filled with empowering personal and professional teachings from sunrise to sunset. The first five days are spent addressing the emotional, mental aspect of being an actor with a dream. That’s because to truly go after this as a career, you must be the healthiest version of yourself you’ve ever been. This means you must have a foundation that is rock solid in order to go after what has been called the most competitive profession on the planet.

Additionally, this opportunity is so extraordinary because the Island of Hawaii is our classroom for ten days. This is where Jim Jarrett lived for four years. Through his Ohana (extended family), he has amazing access to many remarkable properties, beaches, sacred swimming holes and waterfalls, and most importantly, beautiful friends and family who all share their aloha with our groups. All of this makes for a truly unforgettable experience.

Industry Showcases

One of our faculty’s great highlights is the opportunity to showcase our graduates’ talent to the Bay Area’s top industry professionals. Over the years, guests have included the leading casting directors, agents, writers, directors, and producers in San Francisco Bay Area. Jim produces and directs the entire showcase, with one-on-one attention given to every performer.

Specialty Classes

In addition to the formal training, we are proud to offer a myriad of specialty classes to expand our students’ marketability and talents. These classes have included: Film Acting, Audition and Cold Reading, Scene Analysis, Character Analysis, and Stand-Up Comedy.

Sanford Meisner Film Festival

Students on the Red Carpet at the Sanford Meisner Film Festival

The Sanford Meisner Film Festival is one of our top events of the year. This festival is open to all members of the Meisner Technique Studio family, past and present. So, this is an incredible opportunity to showcase the outstanding work of both up and coming and established filmmakers.

The Sanford Meisner Film Festival runs for two days. During that time, we host a red carpet VIP reception, a Keynote Address, and screenings of the year’s films. Notably, Keynote Speakers have included Academy Award-Winning producers, directors, and writers. In addition, we have hosted actors from Emmy and SAG-winning shows.

24 Hour Film Festival

This is one of our most popular events for a myriad of reasons – mostly because it’s a ton of fun! It is also one of our most important events because it empowers our students to stop talking about making a movie and actually go make it!

The premise: At 6:00pm on Friday evening each team is given a list of required elements that their film must include – specific lines, props, characters, etc. Then they have just 24 hours to write, shoot, and edit a film AND every film must include all required elements. At 6:00pm the next day, the films are due, and we throw a full viewing party, complete with an award ceremony for all of the, often sleepless, participants.

VIP Lecture Series

We are thrilled to provide the VIP Lecture Series for our students to learn from top industry professionals. Here are just a few from recent years:


Photograph of Garret Dillahunt at his VIP Lecture Series
GARRET DILLAHUNT

Star of Deadwood, The Mindy Project, No Country For Old Men, & Fear the Walking Dead. By the way, he was amazing!


Photograph of Jim Parrack and Jim Jarrett on the set of MEISNER
JIM PARRACK

Star of True Blood, Fury, Suicide Squad


Photograph of Tracy Pellegrino, Mark Pellegrino, Melissa Thompson Esaia, and Jim Jarrett
MARK & TRACY PELLEGRINO

MARK: Star of LOST, The Big Lebowski, Supernatural

TRACY: Director of The Last Train, Strangers in a Strange Land, Something Else


Photograph of Barrie Osborne and Jim Jarrett with Barrie's Oscar
BARRIE OSBORNE & JON LABRIE

Barrie: Academy Award Winning Producer of The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, The Great Gatsby

Jon: Chief Technical Officer for Weta Digital


Photograph of Jim Jarrett, Quinn Redeker, and Melissa Thompson Esaia
QUINN REDEKER

The co-writer of The Deer Hunter – the film that forever changed Jim Jarrett’s life. It was a wonderful evening when Quinn flew in as the guest of honor for Jim’s 25-year anniversary party.


Photograph of Jim Jarrett, Erik Palladino, and Melissa Thompson Esaia
ERIK PALLADINO

Star of ER, NCIS: Los Angles, Suits


Photograph of Jim Jarrett and Jason Scott Lee
JASON SCOTT LEE

Star of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Jungle Book (1994), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, Mulan (2020)


Photo of Melissa Thompson Esaia, Nancy Hayes, and Jim Jarrett
NANCY HAYES

One of the most respected casting directors in the Bay Area for decades, Nancy Hayes of Nancy Hayes Casting


Photograph of Jim Jarrett, Kathy Murphy, Melissa Thompson Esaia, and James Ford Murphy
JAMES FORD MURPHY

Former Head of Animation at Pixar Studios. Writer/Director/Composer of Pixar’s LAVA

Studio Productions

We love when our students take initiative to create opportunities, so we do everything we can to support and encourage their work by providing rehearsal and performance space free of charge. This is an amazing opportunity for our graduates to advance and grow into their teachings in front of a live audience.