MasterClass with Dustin Hoffman: Journal 2

MasterClass with Dustin Hoffman: Journal 2


I’m approaching my last “week” of classes with my Dustin Hoffman MasterClass, and I can already feel the benefits of taking it. Not only am I learning about my craft, but it’s also igniting other artistic passions inside me. In my last journal, I told you why I wanted to sharpen my craft. This time, I’m going to tell you how I’m taking what I’m learning and using it.


Taking this class has helped me be in a more creative state of mind. I’m always talking about writing, and while I am focused on acting– I can’t suppress the side of me that needs to tell stories. My friend Nicole Agostino encouraged me to submit a script I had written in the fall to the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. So on June 15th, I submitted a short screenplay just in time for early entry for their 2016 competition.

The short is called Parasite X, and I’ve passed it among friends for a couple of months. It follows a pain-in-the-ass teenager assigned to babysit her baby brother and is interrupted by an unknown creature with gory results. I’m supposed to get written feedback by July 1st. I’m looking forward to constructive criticism from someone who doesn’t know me. I really love this short, and if anything comes of the competition you better believe I’m going to direct this short film!


One thing people keep asking me is how I can take an acting class online by myself. Dustin Hoffman says himself that we should always be practicing our craft in front of an audience. Whether it be on a gig or in an acting class– you can’t practice without some human feedback. I needed to find an audience. I came across an acting studio I’d bought a LivingSocial deal from a few years ago, and I reached out. I told them about my MasterClass, and I was invited to audit one with their beginner classes.

After doing some cold readings, performing exercises and listening to feedback– I already saw the benefits to performing in front of others. It helps work through your nerves. In the first exercise everyone could tell I was nervous. Why was I nervous? It was rehearsal! So I took the time to relax and really work with “my instrument.”

At one point in the night, after the 3rd (and pretty good) run of a cold reading, the coach asked me, “What do you think was different?”

I told him that–instead of memorizing the lines– I tried to understand them and let the words flow through me

He gave a confident nod.

I couldn’t have learned that if I didn’t work through it with other people. I haven’t heard back from the class, but I’m sure I’ll find a group of people to work with soon.

1This past Saturday I put my lessons into practice on set of the music video for Banned Books shot at Woodshop Films directed by Hanna Hamilton. It was a lot of fun! Steve Saturn turned me into a cow goddess and I used the opportunity to just have fun and use what I’ve learned.

Every director is different, and Hanna has a really specific and beautiful imagination. I will also add it is a very odd imagination, but that’s why we love her. This video’s theme consisted of a cow deity presenting three symbols (milk, meat, skin and shit) and each symbol is associated with another scene in the video. Trippy stuff. Don’t believe me? Check this out.

Meanwhile…. At @woodshopfilms #cow #sexy #fountain #milk

A post shared by Jo Anna Van Thuyne (@jopincushion) on

I was determined to get Hanna the cow goddess she desired! I asked questions and encouraged her to express exactly what she was looking for. She was great. Her approach is very style driven and the acting is stiff and slow. She gave me direction, but also gave me room to improv. It was a challenge, but I relaxed and followed my instincts. I was glad I did too, because every time Hanna’s green mohawk bounced up and down from behind the monitor.. I knew I was helping bring her vision to life. As an actor–isn’t that my job?

See? I’m learning!

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