Born in Maine, Judith grew up in New England, and at the age of about seven, started drafting brother, cousins, and neighborhood children into a constant round of living room and back-yard theatrical productions. She dropped out of Wellesley College in the '60s, and moved to New York City's East Village, where she was involved in the peace and women's movements. She was an organizer of "guerrilla theater" events such as the 1968 picketing of the Miss America Contest. When she moved to Berkeley, California in 1970, she was soon drawn to the classes of acting teacher Jean Shelton.
"Attending Jean's classes was like stepping through Alice's Looking Glass," says Judith. "It was a parallel universe, new and unique - absolutely absorbing. It became a spiritual laboratory - a way of understanding myself and the world around me. It was instantly my university, my hobby, my therapist, my church, my family - and although I sensed that soon it would be the way I made my living, the emotional and spiritual nourishment I got from acting has always remained its strongest pull."
The '70s were an exciting time to be in theater in the San Francisco Bay Area. A hotbed of experimental theater activity gave opportunities to talented new writers and actors. Judith flourished in this cutting edge, independent arena, performing leading and supporting roles (and winning numerous local awards for her performances) along with such contemporaries as Whoopie Goldberg, Sam Shepard, Kathy Baker, Joe Spano and Danny Glover.
While in San Francisco Judith became a working actor in television and film, working with directors John Korty, Paul Wendkos, Ralph Nelson, and Vincent Sherman, opposite such actors as Stephanie Zimbalist, Dennis Weaver, and Dyan Cannon. As the '70s came to a close, Judith, along with other "big fish" in the San Francisco talent pool, was drawn to Los Angeles, where she continued her acting career with roles on Hill Street Blues, Newhart, Little House on the Prairie, and other episodics, MOWs, independent films, and theater. She continued studying, with Stella Adler, Jack Garfein, Jose Quintero, and Harold Clurman.
Judith, an idealist with a passion to explore emotional reality, imagination, and the world around her through acting, found in Los Angeles a new creative path - teaching. The date of the first class she taught, March 4th, 1985, seemed prophetic, as she "marched forth" into her true and lasting vocation. Her first class, Acting for Non-Actors, was designed as a confidence-building recreational and creative outlet for people with no intention of becoming actors. Soon she expanded to classes for professional actors. Working as mentor and teacher to actors confirmed an observation she had often made as a working actor herself - that directors in film and television frequently know very little about actors or how to work with them. The challenge of improving communication between actors and directors fired her imagination and became a mission. Her unique ability to pull performances from non-actors gave her the key. In October 1988 she created a brand new course: Acting for Directors.
From the very first, the response was strong. Directors wanted and needed to know more about actors, how to communicate ideas to them, how to push their buttons, how to collaborate while maintaining an open and positive authority. Judith says, "I think many directors are simultaneously fascinated, intimidated, and repulsed by actors and acting. Actors are the tantalizing and dangerous 'other.' In my workshop, directors get a lot of information that they can't get elsewhere, but they also get a safe place to walk in the actor's shoes and to connect with their own creativity in new ways."
Many of Judith students are established, successful directors who wish to deepen their skills and renew their creative resources. Others are crossing over to feature filmmaking from non-fiction, commercial or music video directing; then there is a wide range of industry insiders crossing over to directing from producing, writing, camera or editing. There are also people established in their careers with no desire to move into directing, but with their own reasons for exploring the actor's terrain: for example, writers who raise their writing to another level by connecting with the actor's tools of script analysis and improvisation; or producers who need to clarify for themselves the roles of actor and director, so they can more effectively meet the creative demands of a project.
Today the thousands of directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, editors, casting directors, script supervisors, and studio executives who have taken the Acting for Directors workshop include: Directors of such feature films as 21 GRAMS, WALL-E, HUNGER, BELLFLOWER, AKEELAH AND THE BEE, BARBERSHOP, TRON LEGACY, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, COUNTRY STRONG, CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS, REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES, DAHMER, THE BELIEVER, HOWL, MILK OF SORROW, SHRECK, KUNG FU PANDA, MEGAMIND – and countless independent films; Directors of current and classic television shows including THE GOOD WIFE, MAD MEN, TRUE BLOOD, GOSSIP GIRL, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, RIZZOLI & ISLES, HAWAII FIVE-O, WHITE COLLAR, LOST, 24, FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, NIKITA, FRINGE, WEEDS, CSI, CSI: NY, CSI: MIAMI, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, UGLY BETTY, CHUCK, EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, CRIMINAL MINDS, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, LIE TO ME, COLD CASE, CASTLE, NIP/TUCK, SMALLVILLE, THE PRACTICE, MONK, SCRUBS, MY NAME IS EARL, THE SOPRANOS, ER, LAW AND ORDER, SIX FEET UNDER, ALIAS, WEST WING, NYPD BLUE, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, FRIENDS, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, THE O.C., MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, FELICITY, STAR TREK: VOYAGER, STAR TREK:ENTERPRISE, DREW CAREY SHOW, JUDGING AMY, GILMORE GIRLS, DAWSON'S CREEK, THE X-FILES, CHICAGO HOPE, PICKET FENCES, NORTHERN EXPOSURE, L.A. LAW, HILL STREET BLUES, I'LL FLY AWAY, THE ROCKFORD FILES, etc.; Winners and nominees for Academy Awards, Emmys, SAG Awards, Spirit Awards, and Grammys; Directors of award-winning commercials and music videos; Alumni of USC, UCLA, AFI, NYU,Columbia, North Carolina School of Arts, etc.; Directors of films presented in competition at Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, Tribeca, Berlin, South by Southwest, Rotterdam, AFI, Palm Springs,Slamdance, L.A. Film Festival, and many, many others.
Judith consults one-on-one with directors in pre-production for a wide variety of projects representing all genres and all budgets, from big studio films to low-budget independent features and shorts, as well as television episodics – and when necessary she makes herself available for “emergency” calls from the set. The services she offers directors one-on-one are unique – both provocative and nurturing.
Judith's first book, "Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film and Television," was published in September 1996 by Michael Wiese Productions, and has been a consistent best-seller on Amazon.com and for the MWP catalog. Her second book, “The Film Director’s Intuition: Script Analysis and Rehearsal Techniques,” which was published in September 2003, is also a best seller. Judith is currently working on a third book, “Directing Actors in the 21st Century.”
Judith has been running her own studio, the Judith Weston Studio for Actors and Directors, since 1990. In 2001 the Studio moved to its current, and most spacious and beautiful, incarnation, at 3402 Motor Avenue in West L.A. In 2001 she began teaching the Actor-Director Laboratory, a directing class and an acting class combined. The Lab marked a dramatic shift in recognition for Judith’s work; it has become a sought-after class that must be limited in enrollment.
For actors, in addition to offering the unique opportunity of the Lab, Judith has modified her scene study classes to include what she calls the Masters Class, a liberating scene study workshop where she reconnects actors with their confidence and creativity - their joy in acting.
Her deep understanding of acting and directing as a laboratory of life has led to her reputation as “a detective of human nature” whose insights go to the heart of a scene, and to the soul of each individual artist.
Judith has posted instructional videos on YouTube.com, and runs a Facebook page, Judith Weston Studio for Actors & Directors. She organizes occasional events at the Studio –Q & A sessions with directors who have taken classes with Judith or endorsed her books, including many well-known television and independent film directors. Screening nights of shorts featuring directors and actors from the studio are also semi-regular events. And the studio is available to writer-directors who have taken classes there, to present script-readings, using actors who have taken class with Judith.
Judith conducts special workshop sessions in New York City once a year, and has traveled with her workshops to Amsterdam, Dublin, Berlin, Copenhagen, Cologne, Helsinki, Milan, Utrecht, Penzance, Belgrade, Geneva, Zurich, and Strasbourg, in Europe; to Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand; to Sydney, Australia; to Cape Town, South Africa; to San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago; and to Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax, and St. Johns, in Canada.
She has been on the faculty of the American Film Institute and the Los Angeles Film School, and has been a guest lecturer at UCLA, USC, Cal State Universities at Long Beach and Northridge, the Independent Feature Project/West, Cinewomen, and Women in Film. She has been a monthly columnist ("The Right Direction") for MovieMaker magazine, and has been interviewed for U.S. and international publications.
Her volunteer community service activities have included consulting for the Make a Film Foundation www.makeafilmfoundation.org, and as director and producer of acting workshops and productions for developmentally challenged adults, for physically challenged adults, and for stroke and head injury survivors. She has also volunteered in the Brotman Hospital Life Transition Program, Recording for the Blind, and the Screen Actors Guild "Book Pals" program of reading in the schools.
Judith is married to John Hoskins, who works with her on the business side of things. They have a cozy Venice Beach home where they garden together and dream up exotic wall colors. In 2004 Judith battled a rare but treatable form of cancer, and because of great good luck, and because of John, and because of the work she loves and the students she treasures, she is flourishing.
Judith cherishes her own and others' creativity and imaginative spark. This gives her passion for her work and joy in her life. Who could ask for more?