Shari Carlson

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Shari Carlson
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CitizenshipUnited States of American
  • actor
  • director

Shari Carlson is an actor, director, performing arts coach, and co-creator of the Essential Compass.[1] [2] She is known throughout the entertainment industry as the Instrument Coach.

Early life and career

Carlson grew up in Hollywood with a turbulent childhood. After leaving home at the age of 13 and subsequently living with her uncle, she landed roles in television and film.[1] The first time she noticed being present was on a film set at the age of 15 while on horseback:

"I thought there was something special between 'action' and 'cut.' I now know that this special, magical experience is actually between birth and death...'Heightened Reality' we call it, when actually it really is just reality not shadowed by fear, or issues, or whatever we put between us and any moment."[1]

Carlson considered that to be the bright moment that led to her decision to be an actor and learn about relationships. Her credits include Midnight Caller, Nash Bridges]], Light Blast, and Peter Bratt's La Mission.[2]

In the summer of 1986, Carlson was a Junior Elephant Trainer and Stunt Girl at Marine World's Elephant Show. On July 4, 1986, she had a life-changing accident involving a stunt that resulted in the torn ACL of her left knee that needed seven surgeries in the next decade. Without the ability to walk and industry uncertainty from the writer's strike of 1988 plus three children to support, Carlson transitioned to teaching; in half a year she had six full classes with 22 students. She quickly became known as the Instrument Coach.[1]

Shari Carlson Studio, Imaginative Productions, and Best Actors Film Festival

Carlson's performing arts students include Quinne Brown, Michaels St. Michaels (The Greasy Strangler), Peter Bratt, Ed Crasnick, Anya Prin, and Shin-Fei Chen. Today, Shari Carlson Studio provides online acting classes that showcase students' work on Imaginative Productions' YouTube channel. Carlson established the Best Actors Film Festival in 2010 to recognize actors and directors in independent films.[3] [4] In 2013, Carlson published Guided by an Elephant: How I Became an Instrument Coach.[1] Her studio's motto is to "teach individuals within a group setting to be the masters of their instrument," which today is fulfilled by the Essential Compass. Carlson's studio incubates new works by students, including Knocked Up, which screened at Cannes Film Festival.[5]

Essential Compass

Carlson co-created the Essential Compass with actor and aikido master Nick Scoggin, who originated the concept. They translated what Scoggin, a master sensei in aikido, learned as an ancient secret principle. It is described as a simple process for those that work in the public eye with a demand to perform, seek self-actualization, understanding, acceptance and guidance.[1][6]

On the Essential Compass, Carlson says it is for "anyone who wants to be more connected to their source, and really use their lifetime to create themselves to be who they really desire to be."

Personal life

Carlson has three children and 12 grandchildren. Her brother, Jon Neiford, is an artist. Carlson launched the 501c3 nonprofit One-Minute Gardener, where children create nature and technology programming and one-minute videos for other children.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Carlson, Shari (July 2013). Guided by an Elephant: How I Became the Instrument Coach. Imaginative Productions. ISBN 978-1-62847-124-3.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Shari Carlson". IMDb. Retrieved 2022-06-28.
  3. festreviews (2016-03-16). "Interview with Festival Director Shari Carlson (Best Actors Film Festival)". Festival Reviews. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  4. Molloy, Tim (2021-05-22). "Best Actors (in a) Film Festival". MovieMaker Magazine. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  5. Abney, Andrea (2008-09-25). "'Knocked Up': Play depicts 5 varied pregnancies". SFGATE. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  6. "‎The Self Help Comedy Hour with ED CRASNICK: The Self Help Comedy Hour with Ed Crasnick #20 Jimmy Dore, Shari Carlson, Rebekah Vandenberg, Grant Baciocco on Apple Podcasts". Apple Podcasts. Retrieved 2022-07-13.

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