Born in Maine, Judith grew up in New England, and by an early age was drafting brother, cousins, and neighborhood children into living room and backyard theatrical productions. She dropped out of college in the '60s, and moved to New York City's East Village, working in a bank by day, and during her off-hours, organizing guerrilla theater events such as the 1968 picketing of the Miss America Contest. When she moved to Berkeley, California in 1970, she started studying acting for real, with Jean Shelton.
"Attending acting class was like stepping through Alice's Looking Glass," says Judith. "It was a parallel universe, new and unique—my absorption in the world of theater was absolute. It became a spiritual laboratory, a way of understanding myself and the world around me. Acting was instantly my university, my therapist, my church, my family, my joy. 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 San Francisco: Judith became a working actor in theater, television and film alongside many talented and fiery actors and directors. As the '70s came to a close, she was drawn to Los Angeles, where she continued her acting career with roles on Hill Street Blues, Newhart, Little House on the Prairie, 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—coaching actors and film directors.
She began with a class she invented, Acting for Non-Actors, designed as a confidence-building recreational and creative outlet. 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 invented a brand new course: Acting for Directors.
From the very first, the response was strong. Directors craved to know more about actors, how to deepen their communication with actors, how to inspire actors, how to push their buttons, how to collaborate while maintaining an open and positive authority. Judith says, "I think many directors are simultaneously fascinated and intimidated by actors. Actors are the tantalizing and dangerous 'other.' In my workshop, directors get a lot of information that they can't get elsewhere. They also get a safe place to walk in the actor's shoes, to access emotion, and to connect with their own creativity in new ways."
Judith’s courses began attracting established filmmakers. Successful directors who wish to deepen their skills and renew their creative resources; screenwriters who are preparing to direct their own projects; editors who are moving into directing; commercial, music video, non-fiction, and VFX directors crossing over to narrative filmmaking—all find their way to Judith’s directing workshops.
In 1994 publisher Michael Wiese had started asking around for someone who could write a book about directing actors. He was advised to meet with Judith. He called and a meeting was scheduled. The night before the meeting Judith learned her mother had been taken into Intensive Care with a stroke. Compelled by a certainty that her mother, who had always dreamed of being a writer, would not want her to cancel the meeting, Judith kept her appointment with Michael and left for the hospital directly from the meeting.
Michael Wiese proved to be an important person in Judith’s life, not only professionally, but emotionally and spiritually. He gave her encouragement and support to write her first book, Directing Actors, which was published in 1996. Then Michael asked Judith to write a second book, and The Film Director's Intuition was published in 2003. Directors all over the world—as well as actors, screenwriters, and other film professionals—have come to rely on these books.
By now she has been teaching for 30 years, and running her own studio since 1990. In 2001 the Judith Weston Studio moved to its current location at 3402 Motor Avenue in West L.A. It is a special space, spacious and light, with a feeling of intimacy and engagement. At the same time that she signed the lease, her husband John Hoskins left his position in the marketing department of Disney Studio to run the studio with her; together they make the magic work.
For directors, the Acting for Directors workshop has been attended by thousands. Follow-up courses for directors have included the Directors Rehearsal Intensive and the Script Analysis & Rehearsal Techniques and the Actor-Director Lab.
Judith meets one-on-one with Directors and Writer-Director for Private Consultation, in person or via skype, to get under the skin of the script and prepare for casting, rehearsal and shooting. Judith has consulted on hundreds of projects representing all platforms, all budgets, and all genres.
For professional actors, Judith teaches the Scene Study/Masters Class. These are six-week workshops. Judith chooses a master screenwriter or playwright, or a selection of television pilot scripts, to focus on. When a professional actor learns to “master the masters,” they can do anything. A limited number of directors can attend, to direct scenes.
Judith also offers one-on-one coaching for actors.
Judith was teaching in New York City on the weekend of September 8-10, 2001, and witnessed the September 11 Twin Towers attacks while in transit that morning to Newark airport. She made a personal commitment to return in solidarity to New York (where she lived for 5 years during her 20s) to teach as often as possible, usually once a year. The New York City workshops are each year a high point for her.
Judith was first invited to teach in Europe in 1992, for Télévision Suisse Romande in Geneva Switzerland; she returned a number of times, and has had an international presence ever since. In 1997 she began teaching regularly at the Binger FilmLab in Amsterdam. Besides Amsterdam, Geneva and Zurich, she has taught European workshops in Berlin, Dublin, Stockholm, Lund, Copenhagen, Cologne, Helsinki, Milan, Utrecht, Penzance, Belgrade, and Strasbourg. She has also taught in Auckland and Wellington (New Zealand), in Sydney (Australia), and in Cape Town (South Africa). In Canada she has taught in Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax, and St. Johns. In the United States, besides Los Angeles and New York, she has brought her courses to San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and the Rockport Maine Film and Television Workshops. The international workshops that Judith has taught, and the international students that come to Los Angeles to study at her Studio, have an immeasurable influence on her understanding and commitment as a teacher.
She has been on the faculty of USC, the American Film Institute and the Los Angeles Film School, and has been a guest lecturer at UCLA, Film Independent Project Involve, Tisch School of the Arts Asia, Cal State Universities at Long Beach and Northridge, 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, 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 and sometimes read Shakespeare out loud in the backyard. 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 taught me how to communicate with actors in a completely new way, and what I learned from her has had a huge influence over both my work and my life. She is an incredible communicator, a gifted teacher, and a remarkable human being. I can't recommend her classes highly enough for directors and actors who want to bring more emotional truth to their craft."JULIUS RAMSAY, director, THE WALKING DEAD
"All the scary transformative moments I've had in your class really paid off. And I can never begin to thank you for all that you've done for me. I'm simply not the same person I was when I started my journey with you."ANDREA TOYIAS, Voice Director, Blizzard Entertainment, WORLD OF WARCRAFT / DIABLO / STARCRAFT
“I really wanted to thank you because I know that I could have not done it without the knowledge I got from you. You will always be one of the greatest teachers I've ever had and I'm truly proud to be one of your students. Thank you for teaching me to love my actors.”TANEL TOOM, writer-director, THE CONFESSION (nominated for Academy Award, Live Action Short Film, 2011)
“I took a seminar with an acting teacher named Judith Weston. I learned a key insight to character. She believed that all well-drawn characters have a spine, and the idea is that the character has an inner motor, a dominant, unconscious goal that they’re striving for, an itch that they can’t scratch. I took to this like a duck to water.”ANDREW STANTON [from his Feb 2012 TED Talk] writer-director, WALL-E, FINDING NEMO, A BUG’S LIFE; writer, TOY STORY, TOY STORY 2, TOY STORY 3
"Directing my first movie would have been impossible without Judith's book, 'Directing Actors.' Her insights taught me how to audition actors, how to cast intelligently, how to rehearse. When production began, I cribbed a set of Weston reminders on to a 3-by-5 index card, and kept it in my shirt pocket every single day of shooting. She saved me."BILLY RAY, writer-director, SHATTERED GLASS, BREACH; writer, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, THE HUNGER GAMES, STATE OF PLAY, FLIGHTPLAN
"Judith, you're the one that gave me the tools for success with actors!"KAREN GAVIOLA, director, SONS OF ANARCHY, CRIMINAL MINDS, CSI, NCIS, BLUE BLOODS, CSI:MIAMI, CASTLE, PRIVATE PRACTICE, LOST, GHOST WHISPERER, PRISON BREAK, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, NYPD BLUE
“Judith Weston taught me how to listen – what she called ‘listening with your whole body.’ She taught me about the power and the magic of the subconscious world. She showed me doors and windows and portals into creative possibilities I scarcely knew existed. Her wisdom changed the way I write, the way I direct actors – and, with no exaggeration, the way I look at life.”MARK FERGUS, co-writer: CHILDREN OF MEN, IRON MAN; director: FIRST SNOW
"Judith Weston is a great teacher. She's inspired me to be interested in people more than concepts, behavior more than attitudes, process more than results. In her classes I've learned to ask more questions, to trust what is happening, and to always be willing to dig deeper. She is the kind of teacher who makes me excited about taking chances."NORMAN BUCKLEY, director, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, RIZZOLI & ISLES, THE FOSTERS, THE CLIENT LIST, SWITCHED AT BIRTH, GOSSIP GIRL, CHUCK, MELROSE PLACE, 90210, THE O.C.
“You've taught me the essential tools so I could carry on with the visions that haunt me day and night and to embrace the process which I will continue to learn. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”DEJA PREM, writer/producer/director/actor, at Green Coco Production
“Your workshop was wonderful in letting me know that many of the things I am already doing are the correct way of dealing with actors and taught me other things that add to that knowledge. And your patience and unbridled energy and passion for what you teach is more than admirable, it is inspiring. So thank you once again for this wonderful experience, one I will never forget and that will continue to help me on this path on which I am forever learning about new and wonderful things.”MICHAEL TRIM, director, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, WEEDS, PARKS AND RECREATION
"Judith Weston is not a drama teacher, she is an art teacher. She understands that at the heart of great drama is a powerful mystery. What she shows you in her workshops and her book are simple and effective tools that help you get deeper and deeper into that rich, complex and surprising place."DAVID JACOBSON, writer-director, DOWN IN THE VALLEY, DAHMER
“In your classes I learned to love actors and acting. The experience opened for me the secret door to the magic I witnessed when actor and material find each other in just the right way. What I once thought were 'happy accidents' and performance miracles are now the kernels of creativity I relentlessly pursue with an actor finding a performance. You helped me find that part I could play in the process and how to capture it.”FRED TOYE, director, THE GOOD WIFE, PERSON OF INTEREST, RIZZOLI & ISLES, FRINGE, CHUCK, CSI:NY, LOST, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, GHOST WHISPERER, CHUCK
“Judith Weston gave me the greatest gift you can give to a first-time director - she gave me confidence in my ability to work with actors. I will be forever grateful for her extremely hands on and applicable advice for directing actors and I know I will use it for the rest of my career. She has a contagious love of the process and an unbelievable understanding of human emotion. I would not be where I am today if it had not been for her.”SHANA FESTE, writer-director, ENDLESS LOVE, COUNTRY STRONG, THE GREATEST
"Judith's method is wonderful because it is practical. She has given me numerous tools to solve problems on the set and to earn the trust of actors. Her classes and her book are invaluable resources to any director."LAWRENCE TRILLING, director, MASTERS OF SEX, PARENTHOOD, PUSHING DAISIES, DAMAGES, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, NIP/TUCK, MONK, SCRUBS, INVASION, ALIAS, FELICITY
"Every time I step on a set, I think of what Judith taught me. Every time I begin a project, I review a notebook I kept during the years I studied with her. Every time I'm in rehearsal, I'm using her techniques. Every time I'm in a bind within a scene, I go back to the foundation she gave me. I didn't go to film school. I sat in Judith Weston's workshops, took everything she said to heart, then went out and started telling my stories. I'm so grateful for that path - and for her."AVA DuVERNAY, director, SELMA (2015 Golden Globe nominee for Best Film, and Best Director), SCANDAL, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (winner of the Best Director Award at Sundance Film Festival and the I
"Judith's ideas and principles are incredibly useful when it comes to giving clear, actionable direction to actors. To anyone aspiring to direct, I would recommend making her classroom one of your first stops."LEV L. SPIRO, director, MODERN FAMILY, UGLY BETTY, WEEDS, EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, ARLI$$, THE O.C., EVERWOOD, GILMORE GIRLS
"Everything you taught me was more than useful. I am deeply grateful."ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU, director, BIRDMAN, BIUTIFUL, BABEL, 21 GRAMS, AMORES PERROS