GUEST TEACHER | This course expands an actor’s knowledge of genre and teaches how to build Character through design elements for auditions and performance. 

Over 4 weeks, students will study the nuances of genre through visual details, learn how to create super specific character through design elements, innovative ways to utilize costume to support character, and create audition pieces with specific design elements for any genre. This will release the actor’s imagination! As well, it will be a playground of stimulation for all actor’s considering creating their own projects.

Class size: Limited to 8 students
Prerequisites: Open to all
Location: Online

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Conversations with Sarah

What was a difficult challenge for you as an actor?

Before becoming a costume designer, I trained as an actor which has helped me truly serve the needs of the story and the performers embodying their roles. I pride myself on working closely with actors to develop character, so the challenge always comes with making sure we have the right tools in our fittings and back ups on set incase something comes up for us that makes the character.


What is the main thing you wish you knew then but that you only understand now?

Character design only works as far as an actor is willing to embody it. So, if the design isn’t where they are we have to shift it.


What frustrates you as an artist in the current climate of filmmaking or of the business at large? How has this affected you directly?

I think the biggest frustration with character development and design is the last minute casting. It doesn’t allow actors and designers to plan, have deeper conversations on character, and the time to ruminate. Last minute casting leaves both the actor and designer in a reactionary position which doesn’t necessarily help with developing character in a deep, meaningful, and nuanced way. The most iconic characters on screen usually come out of deep conversations and collaborations on character, how they fit into the world around them as a whole, and how they see themselves relating to it.


What moment or experience as an artist do you feel most proud of?

One of my favorite design moments was working with a well-known actor to develop the costumes for a pilot. The character and production design were the essential for telling the story to show the passage of time since the whole pilot was a monologue. The piece was about the rise and fall of a bar owner. The three acts where: excitement for the future, things are going great, to everything is ruined.

The actor made a suggestion about wearing a suit for his second look as his attempt to look more official. It hadn’t occurred to me as an option until he mentioned it. During the fitting, the director, actor, and myself came to realize that a great fitting blazer over a bar shirt and jeans achieved the feeling he was looking to achieve: that his character was a) feeling himself, b) outwardly expressing his “good fortune,” and c) his reaching for more in life, which made his fall all the more obvious and heartbreaking.


Why did you choose this class to teach? 

On a fundamental level, I choose to teach this class because I want to help actors get work and help them be able to better advocate and communicate their character through design elements. On a personal level, I love the subject for character and how we express ourselves with our body, so I want to help others understand how to utilize this unspoken language to bring more to the screen and aid their performance and choices.

Watch Interview

“Filmmaking is visual art based in literature.”

Watch this webinar to hear more of Sarah’s teachings on costume design! Skip to the 04:30 time-mark. That’s when Sarah begins!


About Sarah

Sarah Cogan

Sarah Cogan is a professional costume designer for film and tv. Her credits include designing films such as “18 1/2.” “Boys & Toys,” and Glamour Magazine’s “Evolution of Fashion” series on Hulu. Her assistant design credits include “Blindspot, Season 5,” “Helpsters” (nominated for Daytime Emmy Best Costumes), and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Sarah has a Masters in Fine Arts in costume and lighting design from UC San Diego and 15 years of training and professional experience combined. Before becoming a designer, Sarah trained to be a performer. She brings that knowledge to every collaboration to help fully realize characters with actors. Sarah is also the host of Designing the Void–a podcast dedicated to film design, its influence on story, and the worlds we see on screen. | IMDb


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Who is this class good for?

The ideal students for this class are actors who want to exam character through design elements to better represent themselves during auditions and while collaborating with costume designs on character. This class will release an actor’s imagination about the entire world their character lives in.



You will need to plan for homework time to research your assignment and prepare your materials. All studio classes are designed to stretch and support your complete prep process as an actor for self-tapes and in-person auditions. The more you put into the class, the more you get out of it!



Artists teaching artists is the inspiration for bringing Guest Teachers to the studio. This class is intended to expand your process as an actor and to reinforce your skills, confidence, and natural talent.

What you get

Students will learn how to dress for any genre audition, ways to use their costumes as emotional expression, and how to talk and think about costume to facilitate character.

Class content

Students will learn the different genre tropes and standards and how to think of them for any audition.

Studio guarantee

Full disclosure—please note that we do not guarantee that actors in these workshops will be hired for any project that we might direct or cast. We do guarantee my supportive honesty and my open sharing of knowledge. We teach and coach because we enjoy supporting actors as they develop their process of working within the audition room. We seek to build their knowledge about the business of auditioning.