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A star may be born but it takes a special kind of talent to help that star properly harness its brilliance so that it can shine brightly for the long term. If you want your child
to succeed in the TV and film industry, you'll want to introduce them to Gary Spatz. For more than 20 years, Gary has been coaching the superstars of tomorrow.
Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Dylan and Cole Sprouse... the list goes on. It's almost hard to think of a young star working today who hasn't been
influenced by this man.
Originally from NY, Gary has been acting and teaching for over 25 years,*but his true calling came when he was hired as acting coach for the young stars on the set of
the movie, "Honey, 1 Shrunk The Kids". After that, he steadily became one of Hollywood's top choices for coaching young performers, and his extensive resume includes
such high-profile productions as "Roseanne", "The Jeff Foxworthy Show", "Sister, Sister", The Disney Channel's "Mickey Mouse Club (MMC)", "Everybody Loves
Raymond", and The Disney Channel series "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody".
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Gary, and I am happy to report that, in a world where scam artists constantly try to lure unsuspecting parents into paying
thousands of dollars for empty promises, Gary is the real deal. His dedication to his students goes far beyond his commitment as a coach or a teacher of acting, and he
is equally committed to making sure their parents have all the info they need to help make wise choices.
In 2005, Gary created The Play- ground, in Century City, CA, fulfilling his dream of creating a conservatory for young actors specifically set up for them to truly learn the
art of acting for film and television. Gary seeks to inspire in the children who work with him the ability "to harness their imagination and play with focus". If you want to
have a shot as an actor in this business, being able to play with focus is key. His 2-year curriculum is designed to, among other things, help aspiring actors become
comfortable auditioning with a casting director, the traditional gatekeepers in Hollywood. Gary him- self served as a gatekeeper of sorts, and to say he has an eye for
talent would be an understatement. In addition to his duties as acting coach for The Disney Channel's "Mickey Mouse Club", Gary was also the creative consultant,
weighing in on whether such newcomers as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera had what it took to be cast on the show. Ultimately, they passed
Gary's test and went on to have very successful careers.
Seeing the need for kids to learn the important skills he teaches be- fore they are hired on a show, Gary set up studios that reflect working on a real set, complete with
cam- eras, monitors, and a light outside each studio letting people know whether or not they are filming in- side. Regardless of his busy schedule on set, Gary makes a
point of being very hands on when it comes to The Playground. In addition to teaching classes and serving as director of the conservatory program, he also sits In on
other classes (taught by handpicked professional performers), watching scenes, offering ad- vice, subbing when needed, etc.
In everything, Gary strives to keep things in perspective for his students. Although dedicated to teaching all the skills one would need to be a working actor, he does not
place his focus on making any of his students "stars". "We're talking about kids here," he shares. "It should be fun while they do it." Learning how to relax and play with
focus is key to potential success, so Gary does not wish to put undo pressure on his students. For example, although he does schedule performance nights where
agents are invited to watch the children, Gary does not see it as a showcase. "We're a school," he says. "If some of the kids get a call, then that's great. (However, I do
these nights because) I want them to have the experience of taking their work out of the classroom and in front of professionals in the industry."
I could write volumes on Gary and The Playground, but the important thing to keep in mind is that Gary's first priority is that the kids know everyone at The Playground
has their best interests at heart and really cares about nurturing what- ever talents they may have. Every student wins at The Playground. No matter what happens with
a child's acting career, Gary is confident most of his students will walk away from the program with communication skills they can use throughout the rest of their lives. "I
look for kids who really want to do this," he shares, "and I gotta tell you, I'm going to match that desire. I want this to be a first class experience for the kids and the
parents so they know their money is well spent."
If you think your child has an interest in becoming an actor, it would be a good idea to have a chat with Gary and see how The Playground might be the best environment
for them. For more information, please visit www.garyspatz.com.
Meet Hollywood's Top Coach for Young Superstars by Mac Duffy