For more opportunities to work with guest teachers curated by Heidi, check out the Acting Collective.


Class size: Limited to 8 students
Prerequisites: Open to all
Location: Online
*$175 deposit is required to guarantee your slot. Non-refundable, but transferable to a friend.

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April 11, 18, 25, May 2
6:00-9:00pm EST
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(ONLINE) PRIORITY LIST | Sarah Cogan: World-Building for Actors

You're being added to a Priority List for Sarah's World-Building for Actors. You'll receive priority notice about last minute openings or future dates.

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Class content

Actors and actor-creators will learn how to “think like a filmmaker” and build character through design elements for auditions and performance.

Learn how the visual world influences your acting choices. You’ll study the nuances of genre through visual details, learn innovative ways to utilize costume to support character, and create audition pieces with specific design elements for any genre. 



Students will learn the different genre tropes and standards, as well as how to think of them for any audition or performance. Over four weeks, we’ll cover these themes:




  • Intro to why design matters
  • Pro tips on how to approach design specifically for the character
  • Intro to why wardrobe matters
  • How does wardrobe change and define your character?




  • How to enhance a character choice in a scene with props
  • How do you utilize what you have to work the character’s physicality?
  • How can you use props and accessories to enhance the storytelling during a self tape?




  • Why environment matters
  • Consider the following questions: Who owns the space? Who controls the space? How do you navigate the space? How do the characters relate to the space?
  • How can you design a space for your scene?
  • What is “revelation of form” and how do we respond to our environments?




  • How to communicate and advocate your character ideas with the design team
  • Questions to ask the creative team
  • What to ask during fittings
  • Who to talk to when something isn’t working with the wardrobe or props

Who is this class good for?

The ideal students for this class are actors who want to invigorate and elevate their ACTING choices through understanding that all acting on camera is a visual medium.

This class will release an actor’s imagination about the entire world their character lives in.

It’s thrilling when actors learn that they can exam their character through all the design elements – that every detail counts. For instance, being able to communicate and collaborate with costume designs on character will make the difference of what shows up on screen.

Any actors considering creating their own work will enjoy this playground of creative strategy!

This is going to be a super creative class that will generate your visual ideas for your projects, plus every single audition that you do!

It’s going to majorly expand your filmmaking vocabulary and understanding of the big picture through breaking down the elements of the visual language of filmmaking.

We’re super excited to generate actors who really think like filmmakers.



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

  • Crack the idea of “thinking like a filmmaker” (Heidi’s favorite goal for actors)
  • Learn how the design elements tell a story in connection with your character
  • Practice attention to design and witness how design seeps into auditions
  • Find character behavior and nuance in the specificity of costume, props and environment
  • Learn ways to use your props and costumes as emotional expression
  • Learn how to talk and think about design elements with collaborators to facilitate character
  • Learn how to dress for any Genre audition
  • Build confidence
  • Learn how to advocate for yourself on set
  • Get tips for what to do during fittings
  • Know your project’s audience/network and how that will influence your choices

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



I love bringing filmmakers and actors together. The collaboration begins in the audition process and continues throughout. Sarah has such a passion for design and teaching that it was a no-brainer to invite her to teach my actor friends how to THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER. Every choice matters.

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!


Studio guarantee

Full disclosure — please note that we do not guarantee that actors in these classes or workshops will be hired for any project that we might direct, produce, or cast. We teach and coach because we enjoy supporting and nurturing actors as you develop your personal process for auditioning, working and creating your own work.