As a fresh wave of graduates joins the flood of Actors already out there competing for roles, I can’t help but think back to last year when I graduated and joined the “real world”. One thing acting school does not (and probably cannot) prepare you for is just how tough it is day in, day out.
Most of us leave with our degrees in hand having trained in our art. We feel hopeful, excited and optimistic that we will be successful and make a career out of it. Most of us have been told how tough it is, warned of just how much competition there really is out there, heard the realities of the ongoing expenses that the business demands. Most of us “think” we are prepared for it. Being told something and experiencing it are incredibly different and no words can really prepare you for the emotions that go hand-in-hand with these harsh truths. None of us would even bother if we thought for one moment we couldn’t overcome all the trials and tribulations. All actors must have absolute belief that we are talented, we are what “they” are looking for and maybe, just maybe, we will get the part!
And I’m not saying that we won’t. But there are thousands and thousands of super talented actors sadly out of work growing frustrated and tired. So, I have put together a list of tips for any recent Grads who might feel a little lost now they are “out” and ultimately, on their own.
- Don’t wait for work to come to you. If you are lucky enough to have an agent – awesome. If you don’t, this is not as “terrible” as you are led to believe. You have hundreds of small theatres, pub theatres and studios willing to let young creatives take over the space and put on a night of theatre for little money or even a share of the ticket price. This can be done fairly cheaply and it’s a good opportunity to invite along industry folk who you want to work with. A perfect example of how successful this can be are Made From Scratch. A theatre company set up in 2009 by two graduates from Rose Bruford who has regularly showcased new writers, directors and actors around the capital. They started out small putting on Scratch Nights – a short play or a collection of short plays and monologues but two years later they are off to Edinburgh Festival with their first full length play.
- Don’t under estimate Social Media. Get out there; join forums, even the most unlikely of websites such as LinkedIn can connect you to hundreds of writers, directors and other actors all looking to collaborate. Working with people on fresh new material is incredibly exciting. Make sure that across the board you are saying the same thing about yourself, all your credits are up to date and your images/showreel are the same. You are a brand; it is part of your job to brand yourself across all forms of social media professionally and consistently. Twitter, Facebook, Ideastap as well as CastingCallPro and Spotlight all connect you to people just like you and tell you industry information!
- Know your Industry. Find out when that musical/TV series you are dying to star in is casting and independently of any agent you might have, write the Director or CD an email or a letter (yes letter!! Think how many emails they get…letters are quite novel!) and express what character you are interested in, enclose your CV and Headshot (and CONTACT info). It will probably produce little reward but…what if that one person reads it and wants to see you. You have nothing to lose so do it! Also as a side note: keep your emails/letters short and to the point. They do not have the time to read your life story. In addition, tailor each letter, express praise for something you know they recently worked on etc.
- Pay Attention and Know what’s going on. You don’t have endless funds but you can get some cracking deals on theatre tickets if you do your research! Go and SEE theatre, watch that independent film, read interviews, reviews, take an interest in those who are casting or about to start working on their next project. We have the internet, The Stage, countless journals and blogs. There is no excuse not to know what is going on.
- Never Stop Learning. Keep your training up; movement, voice, being present. I’m not saying we “forget” but under the pressure of an audition, if these things are no longer like second nature you may just “forget” to perform to your best. There are countless reputable companies offering cheap workshops for actors to get involved in and keep refining their skills. (Social Media sites regularly advertise these)
- Talk to each other. So you’ve heard about a casting of a play…do you know anyone you have worked with or went to school with that could play one of those roles?! Talk to them and send them the details… next time, they might just return the favour. Remember, we are all competing but that’s no reason not to let each other know about things and help each other out. Also as a side note: just because your friend is doing well, doesn’t mean you aren’t. You are on different paths and acting in a turbulent business. Be happy for your friends when they are doing well, they will find it much easier to be happy for you when your turn comes.
- Always Attend Castings. We have all been there when we have received instructions to attend an audition and we look at the breakdown and go…erm…this isn’t my casting. To be honest, that isn’t your job to decide. Do your best with the material you’ve been given, go there with confidence and give it your all. You never know, you may just surprise yourself…and the casting directors.
- Look after yourself. You are going to get stressed. You will have times of immense frustration. Make sure you sleep well, drink lots of water, moisturise your skin, maintain your hair/nails/figure. It sounds so silly but you have no idea when you will be hired, you need to make sure you are always ready to perform, ready to audition and ready to be seen. Keeping control of yourself (your brand) will make you feel more in control of your career. You don’t want the fact that you look shattered to be the reason you don’t get hired. Also, stress and frustration can easily spiral into depression if you lose sight of your goal and feel sorry for yourself for too long.
- Be Realistic and Stop to take Stock. Don’t get upset and frustrated because it hasn’t happened yet. Every achievement, no matter how small is still an achievement. It means you’ve got yourself out there, been proactive and hopefully helped your career. So many times we are thinking about that next show, or the audition we have coming up after closing night or “that’s a wrap” has been shouted we forget to give ourselves a small pat on the back. Of course focus on what is next; but also stop and take notice of what you’ve achieved. If you’ve had a whole day of sending out CVs/Headshots and researching what’s casting, you should still see that as a small achievement. So many actors sit back and wonder why people aren’t knocking on their door for work; at least you’ve been doing something.
- Remember; If you quit today then I guarantee you would have made it tomorrow. Keep with it for as long as your dream is alive. If you realise this career if not for you, that is one thing; but if you’re sat, reading this, unable to imagine a life without performing…remember that phrase. It will pick you up when times get tough.
All that is left to say is…Break a leg! Let me know your thoughts on this blog – you can find me on Twitter @k8hollowood and if you have any questions or queries, I’d love to hear from you.
It’s been a year since I graduated and I can’t help wonder…what the hell have I achieved in the last 12 months? I was so excited to get out of uni and throw myself into “real life”. I wasted no time at all and moved to London as soon as I could, managed to land a fairly well paid job in Mayfair that would be flexible when it came down to auditions and managed to keep my interests in live music and unsigned artists alive!
Ugh how optimistic.
In the 12 months since being in London, I’ve bounced around homes, lived with family, the flatmate from Perv Street and boyfriend plus various friends along the way. My supposedly flexible job turned into a nightmare that consisted of being bored, being bullied daily and guilt tripped anytime I took advantage of the “flexible” arrangement we’d agreed. My interest in music was as alive as ever but my ability to attend gigs and festivals faltered with ever growing exhaustion and lack of funds. And ACTING… what happened to that?? Apart from my daily performance as Happy Office Manager (which trust me, even I can admit I wouldn’t have won any awards for!) and the inevitable “how successful are you” conversations with strangers; I have hardly done anything! It is not for lack of trying at all, but holy shit (!) it is fricking tough! Tougher than anyone ever said and just trying to be an actor is a full-time job.
So. A year down the line. What have I achieved? Hmmm…I have this overwhelming feeling that I am a failure. The sensible side of my brain tells me that, of course, that is stupid. I have performed my own play in London this year, been involved in putting on an unsigned music competition, made some incredible new friends, discovered a lot about myself (and started up this blog)! However, the emotional side just focuses on where I still find myself; am I really any further forward than I was on my graduation? I certainly feel just as lost and unsure as I did a year ago although I’m probably wiser in some areas.
I guess I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and plugging away. Hopefully this time next year I’ll have something more to write home about…!