Zak Barnett Studios Launches VIP Membership Program Featuring Panels with Award-Winning Writers, Creators, Producers and Show-Runners

Zak Barnett Studios Launches VIP Membership Program Featuring Panels with Award-Winning Writers, Creators, Producers and Show-Runners

With the new decade upon us, famed actor and acting coach, Zak Barnett, is using his talents to provide one of the best resources to the emerging acting and film industry hopefuls of L.A. The Zak Barnett Studio is officially open, giving young talent the opportunity to get a VIP learning experience from some of the industry’s top professionals. Check out our Q&A with Zak below on everything the membership has to offer.

Q: What first brought you to Hollywood / SoCal?

A: I came to L.A. in my late twenties. I had spent the decade previous teaching acting, as well as serving as the Artistic Director of a theater company where I wrote and directed plays.  I had the opportunity to Co-direct and star in a feature film “Less” that was making the festival circuit–it seemed like it was time to make the move.


Q: How did you become an acting coach in Los Angeles and tell us about what your studio offers in terms of classes and coaching style?

A: How did I become an acting coach in LA?

I’ve been an actor, writer, director since I was a kid.  I remember the first thing I ever said I wanted to be when I was a kid was a great poet.  Never a fireman, or police officer– always a great poet. Although I’ve worked in many different art forms since I was a kid, including being a teacher, coach and business owner, being a poet has always been the throughline.  To me, that means looking below the surface, and looking for the beauty, connection and meaning in all things.

When I was 17, I went to NYU, Tisch School of the Arts for Dramatic Writing.  In my third semester, I suffered a traumatic incident, where I lost my proprioception-my mind’s ability to know where my body was in space.  No one could explain to me what was happening, or how to fix it–I was deemed psychotic by a psychiatrist who never looked up from his prescription pad, and walked out into the world for the first time, without any roadmap, or path to healing.

Refusing the doctors diagnosis, I dropped out of school and moved to Japan in search of answers.  At this point, the expression “wherever you go, there you are” comes to mind. Realizing I needed to find my own way through this, and running to some foreign land was not the answer, I moved to San Francisco and set up shop.

The only way I really had of putting the world together was acting, writing and directing, so I started a theater company with my late partner/creative genius, Dwayne Calizo, and attempted to put my mind, body and spirit, literally, back together again.  Acting and creating new work, became a path to healing for me. The themes of spirituality and activism were steeped in my work and process, as they served as binding elements to my disassociated mind and body, and my creative and spiritual practices became my means of healing.

We performed one of our new works, at this radical college, New College of California, and the President and Dean of the school were so interested in the work we were doing, they asked us to create a BA, MA and MFA Performing Arts Program for them.  I spent seven years Co-Chairing that program which was the first BA, MA and MFA program in the country that focussed on the themes of experimentation, activism and spirituality.

I then Co-directed and starred in a film called “Less”, which was about a man who gave up all of his worldly possessions, and “chose to be homeless” in search of meaning after losing his family in a rafting accident.  The film brought me to LA.

While auditioning and getting to know the LA Market, I taught at one of the big acting studios in town.  I worked there for nearly a decade with actors of all ages–taught 6 or 7 classes a week, coached literally thousands of actors, and got to know intimately the needs of auditioning and working in LA.  It was a great Hollywood apprenticeship and I literally put in my second round of 10,000 hours.

In creating ZBS, I wanted to put together the focus on artistic process, healing, spirituality and activism from my healing and professor days, with the rigor and specificity of my Hollywood coaching days.  The ZBS curriculum and culture focuses foremost on the art and craft of acting, while integrating deep personal development work drawing on the themes of activism and spirituality. We look at acting more as a martial art–a self study and application that is done in service to one’s spiritual balance as well as to the healing of the audience and society at large.  This results in actors that are extremely connected themselves, know who they are, and how they want to influence the world. This kind of work breeds charisma, and a heightened presence, or as we say in Hollywood, “star quality”.

Q: What makes Southern California a unique place to pursue your acting career ? Are there any places that you recommend for students for motivation or inspiration (parks, museums, special resources.) 

A: That’s such a cool question.  The first answer is that LA is the entertainment capital of the world.  It’s always been a huge part of my dream, and I think it is of many artists, to work with the most skilled, creative and accomplished artists there are.  LA is the olympics. The place is overflowing with creativity and ambition, and that’s exhilerating. You can stay in a smaller market. You can be a big fish in a small pond, whether it’s Atlanta, or Chicago, or the small town you grew up in–OR, you can test your metal, and see how far you can go when you’re challenged far beyond what you think you’re capable of. Working as an actor in LA is a spiritual test.  It forces you to let go, because the odds are just not rational, and you are forced to lead with your heart, your guts, and your faith in a destiny that you can only sense, and sometimes you can’t even do that.

In terms of sources of inspiration, they abound culturally and naturally.  I’m someone that thrives in nature. At least once a week, I’m either wandering around Venice beach, on a hike in Malibu, or writing my book up in Ojai.  I love that I am surrounded by all of these natural wonders. If it wasn’t for them, I’m not sure I could navigate the pressure and rigor of my career.

Q: Tell us about the new Membership Program and why it sets Zak Barnett Studios apart from other acting schools.  What are the steps for joining?

A: Membership.

I should start by saying that we will continue to offer classes, private coaching etc in the a la carte way we always have.  Membership is simply a more economical way for committed actors to develop over a longer period of time.

Membership has been something we’ve wanted to do from the very beginning.  As “A Whole Self Conservatory for the Working Actor”, we bring together many of the services and training an actor needs to be successful, with the practices that help an actor stay sane, grounded and connected to what makes them most unique and magnetic.

We offer two distinctive versions: one designed for actors that live in or around L.A., called the “L.A. Membership”, and one designed for actors that live outside of L.A., called the “Jetsetter Membership”.

Our “L.A. Membership” emphasizes weekly class as the primary component, accented with audition coaching, role prep, intensives, community events and mentorship.  Our “Jetsetter Membership” is designed for actors that live outside of LA, that are either trying to transition into the LA Market, or have no intention of leaving where they are, but want quality, ongoing training.  It’s primary component is Skype coaching, and it’s accented with our weeklong intensives, mentorship, classes and community/industry events when the student is in town.

We believe our membership programs are the answer to several ongoing struggles actors find themselves in:

1.  It’s difficult for working actors to commit to a long term course of study, because of the unpredictability of bookings.  We have created the memberships to have maximum flexibility for an actor’s busy life.

2.  Aspiring and professional actors living outside of L.A. don’t have access to the quality of training they actually need to be competitive in the L.A. market.  With our emphasis on individually tailored coaching and classes through SKype, as well as weeklong intensives thoughout the year, we bring LA training to the rest of the world.

3.  L.A. can be a lonely place–add the extreme ups and downs of being an actor to the mix, and for many actors, it can just be too heavy of a burden to shoulder alone.  In an industry that is so rife with ups and downs, knowing that you have a creative community where you can hang your hat, and will at the same time, challenge you to reach your greatest creative potential, is invaluable.

Q: What Sets ZBS Apart?

A: The ZBS curriculum focuses foremost on the art, craft and profession of acting, while integrating deep personal developmental work drawing on the themes of activism and spirituality.  We look at acting more as a martial art–a self study and application that is done in service to one’s personal well being, as well as to the healing of the audience and society at large.  This results in actors that are extremely connected themselves, know who they are, and how they want to influence the world. This kind of work breeds charisma, and a heightened presence, or as we say in Hollywood, “star quality”.

There are eleven teachers currently at the studio that come from very diverse backgrounds.  Many acting studios are structured with one master teacher and then a series of “mini-me’s”.  I was very clear in starting the studio that if this is my life’s purpose, which I believe it is, I want to be surrounded by the absolute best teachers I could find.   All of us have at least twenty years of experience studying the craft of acting—many of us, including myself, have over twenty years teaching it. That said, the thing that unites us is the organizing principle of the studio, “The more connected you are to yourself, the more connected you are to any character”.  There is a defined curriculum, with each class meeting an industry need, as well as a more artistic and personal development need.

I had a teacher once say, “If you know three things, you will see three things in a script.  If you know a million, you will see a million, because essentially you are seeing yourself.” Our goal is to expand the student’s awareness in their life, so the characters they create are as complex, rich and layered as they are.

I think many acting studios may keep some of these elements as their goal, but none I’ve encountered give you the path to getting there.  For instance, an actor may hear, “Just be yourself”. Problem is, telling someone to “be themselves” is like telling someone to “Just let go” when they’re stressed out.  There is a “how” to learning to “just be yourself” and our curriculum, structures that out.

Q: How does someone enroll?

A: Most people come to us through industry referral.  I’d say 80% come from agents and managers, which creates a natural vetting process.  That said, it’s not a necessity. When someone calls, we’ll have a conversation about their experience, we’ll look at resumes, reels and recent self-tapes, etc. and find the right fit. If they are less experienced, they may need to start with private coaching before entering a class–it just depends.  Ultimately, membership does get granted through industry referral, audition (via self tape or reel), or invitation.

Q. How did you select the panelists for the upcoming launch event and what can members look forward to for 2020?

A: We wanted to focus on tv writers, producers and showrunners from a variety of genres, with diverse backgrounds that work on diverse networks.  We really wanted to look at a wide swath of the voices that comprise television today, in order to discuss its collective cultural and artistic impact, and discuss them in the context of the studios three themes: spirituality, entertainment and activism.  We pulled from our colleagues and friends to bring together this incredible group.

Q: What advice do you have for actors going into pilot season which begins early 2020?

A: Be ready.  Frankly, be in class and/or working on your craft every day.  Do your own self-tapes. Have an accountability buddy, and send each other self tapes.  Some pilot seasons people will have fifty auditions, sometimes one, sometimes none. The idea is that as soon as you get called into the game, you’re warmed up and ready to go.  

The biggest issue for actors is navigating stress and fear.  Someone could have all the talent in the world, but if fear has the better of them, that talent will go unseen.  Typically, the more talent someone has, the more fear and stress they also experience. By walking towards that fear and learning to take it in hand on a daily basis, you learned how to harness its energy and it  becomes the force behind your talent. On the other hand, if you’re out of practice, your fear becomes the force that obstructs your talent.

So my advice is stay ready.  It is not yours to know what opportunities will come your way, and whether those opportunities are meant for you in the end–that is the workings of some larger plan.  Your responsibility is to be ready.

Q. How can students who don’t live in SoCal be involved with you or the studio? Are there online courses or ways to connect in other cities? 

A: Our “Jetsetter Membership” is designed for actors from out of town.  It combines private coaching via Skype, which can be used for auditions, or ongoing weekly classes personalized to your needs, with weeklong intensives, such as our upcoming “pilot season intensive”, and a class pass while you’re in town, with ongoing mentorship/student assessments, etc.  It’s a fantastic way for actors living in other markets to get the highest quality training LA has to offer from wherever they are in the world. All of those services (skype coaching, intensives, class packages, etc) are also offered on an a la carte basis for actors as well.

Q: You started as an actor. If you could tell your younger self 3 tips you’ve learned from now coaching all these years, what would those tips be?

  1. You must be willing to know yourself, and heal the parts of yourself that are broken–these parts of you are not a distraction, or an obstacle.  They are the key to your talent.

  2. Find a community. You cannot do this alone. As Kermit the frog says, “Life is better shared”.

  3. Think of your art and your career like surfing–you are in SoCal after all! You are learning to join your will with the momentum of something much larger and stronger than you.  Whether that something is the entertainment industry, your destiny, or the mysterious craft of becoming another person, you must be willing to move with what is given on any given day, and in any given moment.  Be humble and know that if you’re doing it right, you won’t know where it’s taking you, but you will simultaneously, experience indescribable freedom.


Q: Where can we catch some of your students on the big screen? Or you on the screen next?

A: Frankly, my students are everywhere.  Last year alone we had 78 students working as series regulars. Some of our coaching clients have won both Oscars and Emmys. I can’t mention some of the most well known actors, but I will say some recent breakouts include longtime students Danielle Macdonald (Unbelievable, Birdbox, Dumplin) and Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale), as well as former students Storm Reid (Wrinkle in Time, Euphoria, When They See Us), Austin Abrams (Euphoria, Less Than Zero, Brad’s Status), and Rosa Salazar (Undone, Alita: Battle Angel, Maze Runner)—all of which are making huge strides in their careers right now.  I also work with production companies and networks—sometimes coaching the lead in the show, other times working with the directors to get the most out of their actors (which I do privately with directors as well). Most recently, I was brought on by the production company to prepare the lead in Kenny Ortega’s new show, “Julie and the Phantoms”, set to premiere on Netflix.

L.A. Restaurants Open On Christmas 2019

L.A. Restaurants Open On Christmas 2019

Sometimes, on any given holiday, a home-cooked meal just won’t do. Maybe you have seriously complex taste, or maybe you’re trying to impress a special someone. Either way, we’ve got a brief list of some highly coveted restaurants in L.A. that will be open on Christmas Day. Whatever your tastes, consider yourself covered! Read on for more on each location, their menu, and get an eyeful of what they’re offering!

Avec Nous

Beef Wellington & Croquembouche; Photo Courtesy of Aliza Sokolow

About: 5-course tasting menu with optional wine pairing

When: Christmas Day, December 25, 5pm – 11pm

Location: Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, 9291 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Price: $95/person, $40 additional for wine pairing, $45 for 3-course children’s menu

Full menu: here

Menu Highlights: Mushroom Consomme Soup (white truffle, morel, chanterelle, garlic flower, micro basil), Cured Scallops (red beet, turmeric, arugula, tomato, blood orange), Grape Leaf Wrapped Turbot (saffron beurre blanc, forbidden rice, harissa carrot)

Reservations recommended:


Genghis Cohen

About: The SUPER BOWL of Chinese food is here! This LA legend is serving up all the classic favorites on its biggest night of the year. The NYC-style Chinese fare standby on bustling Fairfax Avenue (on the same stretch as another LA icon, Canter’s Deli) is 35 years strong. Founded by a music industry vet in the 80s complete with an attached music venue, it changed hands to restaurateurs Marc Rose and Med Abrous in 2016. Since then, the duo have pulled inspiration from the nostalgia of their youth frequenting similar Chinese-American establishments in their native New York City to breathe new life into the property.

When: Christmas Day, December 25, 12pm – 10pm

Location: 740 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Pre-order for pickup available

Reservations recommended:



Photo Courtesy of Dylan + Jeni

About: Special 4-course tasting menu with optional wine pairing

When: Christmas Eve, December 24, 6pm – 10pm 

Location: 108 W. Channel Road, Santa Monica, CA 90402

Menu highlights: Grilled Prawns (blood orange, red onion), Pulled Duck Confit (arugula, figs, truffles, pecorino, balsamela), Prime Rib (pommes puree, port wine demi), Baked Alaska (almond cake, lemon ice cream)

Price: $95/person, Regular wine pairing = additional $40/person, Reserve wine pairing = additional $75/pp

Reservations required: Call 424-644-3034

auburn Restaurant Launches New Brunch Menu

auburn Restaurant Launches New Brunch Menu

If you’re in Los Angeles, brunch means everything. What place doesn’t have brunch?! Well, if you’ve been keeping tabs, you can take auburn off of that list. In its newly launched menu, guests can expect a wide range of options, that only Chef Eric Best could put together. Much like how Chef Bost provides an alternative approach to finer dining by creating the framework of a set menu (4/6/9 courses) and allowing the freedom for each guest to choose their own dishes, he is giving the daytime offerings a truly auburn interpretation, too.

Guests now have the option of ordering from a new a la carte brunch menu and the opportunity to experience the beautiful indoor/outdoor restaurant, created in collaboration with Jon and Maša Kleinhample of Klein Agencyduring the day.
Varying in size from delicately plated servings, such as crudite featuring a bounty of vegetables, leaves and flowers with avocado butter and bernaise; to dishes from the hearth including abalone mushrooms with kabocha squash, red endive and preserved persimmon nectar; to larger, ingredient-forward dishes including brassicas with broccoli, brioche, duck egg, and aged beef fat vinaigrette, Bost took an uninhibited approach to the typical brunch format.
Chef Bost’s savory offerings are seamlessly complemented by Executive Sous Chef Armen Ayvazyan’s take on the standard brunch pancake — complete with smoked late season figs, earl grey and toasted hay cream, and unlikely desserts from Pastry Chef Dyan Ng — including pan roasted brioche with caramel. A daytime-focused cocktail menu rounds out the brunch experience as seen through beverages including a coffee fizz with coffee infused Campari, Cocchi di Torino, soda water and yellow Chartreuse white foam, and the charred tomato variation on the Bloody Mary — complete with vodka, smoked tomato, ancho chili, horseradish, worcestershire, celery salt and hot sauce. 

Brunch is served from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Friday through Sunday. Looks like it’s time to start planning for this weekend, doesn’t it?

About Auburn

“Chef Eric Bost’s (République, Guy Savoy, Alain Ducasse) debut restaurant auburn juxtaposes the higher echelon of traditional fine dining with an emphasis on guest exploration and conviviality while paying homage to Los Angeles’ uninhibited culinary identity in a space designed with honest materials by local makers.”

About Chef Eric Bost

“Chef Eric Bost grew up in North Carolina, running around his grandparents’ restaurants at an early age. Upon graduation from business school, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. After an externship at Le Cirque in NYC, Bost traveled across Europe, where he met his future wife, Elodie, and made Paris his home. During their time in France, Bost worked his way through some of the world’s best restaurants, including Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée and Les Ambassadeurs at the Hôtel de Crillon. His experience led him to be chosen by Guy Savoy for his opening team in Las Vegas in 2006. Two years later, the restaurant received 2 Michelin Stars with Bost as Chef de Cuisine. Within months, he was appointed Executive Chef and maintained their prestigious rating, garnering numerous accolades along the way. With the opening of Guy Savoy Singapore in 2010, Bost established a restaurant consistently voted amongst the best in the country. Most recently, Bost was the Executive Chef at Los Angeles’ beloved République. Now, after nearly a decade at the helm of revered restaurants, Bost ventures on his own with auburn.”

Photos Courtesy of Justin Chung

Thrillist Wraps Successful 100 Course Meal

Thrillist Wraps Successful 100 Course Meal

After days of high-stress preparation and rehearsals, it’s officially a wrap on the highly immersive and theatrical culinary spectacle, 100 Course Meal. Created by Thrillist and Michael Cirino, of A Razor/A Shiny Knife, the event took over DTLA’s Hudson Loft this past weekend, from December 6th-8th. If you didn’t catch our Instagram story coverage, check out the photos, courtesy of Nicholas Gingold, and the extraordinary details from the event below.

Over the course of the three-day sold-out event, 800 plus guests came through the doors to experience the showdown. A total of 8,500 plates were served with dishes from such notable chefs as Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery of Konbi, Burt Bakman of SLAB, Keith Corbin of Alta, Briana Valdez of Homestate and Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza

800 tacos, 800 donuts, 800 sandwiches and 800 pieces of sushi were served and an on-site drone made more than 250 cocktails while a high-tech food laser personalized another more than 250 cocktails.

40 chefs were on-site for demos while guests rolled a total of 300 flour tortillas and enjoyed spirits and coffee tastings from such names as Lamill Coffee and Nosotros Tequila

The buzz-worthy event drew in such chef and celebrity talent as Roy Choi, Dan the Automator, The Bachelorette Season 9 contestant Robert Graham and Bachelor in Paradise contestant Taylor Nolan.

Chef Chris Oh Collaborates With Cassell’s and K Pop Foods

Chef Chris Oh Collaborates With Cassell’s and K Pop Foods

It’s the holiday season, and while most of us may be thinking about the extravagant homemade meals we can look forward to pretty soon, Los Angeles abides by different rules. Sure, you can think about that experimental casserole you want to surprise your family with, but do that while you chow down on prestigious grub from some of L.A.’s finest chef’s! With just days to go before everyone has officially checked out for the holidays, there are only 4 days left of Cassell’s Hamburgers’ 70th Anniversary celebration featuring pop ups and collaborations — and only one day to experience the otherworldly talent of Chef Chris Oh.

This Sunday, December 8th, at 3 p.m., Chef Oh will work in collaboration with Chef Christian PageK Pop Foods, and Cassell’s to feature their delicious monstrosity of a creation, the K Town Burger Extravaganza. A house-made beef patty topped with galbi jjim (braised beef short ribs), flame-torched mozzarella, sweet & salty pickles, and red onions — all resting upon a savory layer of K Pop Foods’ very own Kimchi Mayo — and sandwiched between a black and white sesame-riddled bun. In the food world, this is the ultimate K Town rep, but it won’t be around forever!

What’s even more exciting about Cassell’s 70th Anniversary Celebration is that the restaurant will donate $1 for every anniversary menu item sold, and $3 for every bottle of wine sold to No Kid Hungry. Eat good, do good, and feel good, all at once. It’s the perfect holiday event to get you out while also giving back, and supporting a good cause. Though this Cassell’s Hamburgers, Chef Chris Oh, and K Pop Foods collaboration will only be around for one day, the anniversary celebration doesn’t end until December 10th. You’ve got plenty of time (or a lack of it) to stop by for a delicious meal that simultaneously supports children who need delicious meals of their own. CO-WRITTEN BY  ANTHONY C. STAFFORD

Anniversary Event Schedule Dec. 6th – 10th

Friday, December 6th: Jude Parra / Majordomo

Saturday, December 7th: George Motz / Motz Burgers + Ilan Hall / Gorbal’s Throwback

Sunday, December 8th: Sammy Monsour / Preux & Proper + Chris Oh / Umma and Chingu + Dante Fried Chicken available during the day

Monday, December 9th: Luke Reyes / 9th St. Ramen (forthcoming) and Gitane + Chris Feldmeier / Love & Salt

Tuesday, December 10th: Bricia Lopez / Guelaguetza + David Kuo / Little Fatty, pub-2907176749232271, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0