Four Things Drama School Never Told You
So one thing I love is finding new resources and places to read about what I do…acting. And recently I found London Actors’ Hub. The reason I like them is I love what they’re doing, I love their blog, and I love what they have coming up. So I was delighted when they asked to come over to B.A.B.E. and write for all my readers out there about some key learnings you just won’t find out at drama school. Read on for these pearls of wisdom.
Four Things Drama School Never Told You
– By London Actors’ Hub
1. The importance of making and maintaining connections
In the wake of public plays and showcases, you are left at sea. The combined excitement of the post-show magic and the comedown from not knowing when you’ll experience it again means that you’re awash with mixed emotions.
The hundreds of invitation letters and emails that you sent out have left you staring at your inbox.
In the wake of our showcase I took the list of attendees and went into overdrive. I emailed, tweeted, rang. After pursuing every available avenue, I secured several meetings. One of which was with a very high profile agency. It didn’t work out, but it allowed me to feel that the ball was back in my court and not the other way round. It allowed me to feel that these meetings, and all meetings, were to be approached feeling completely equal.
It also allowed me to maintain these connections and keep in touch. “Out of sight, out of mind” is far too easy for someone who meets hundreds of actors a week. Casting directors and directors remember those who give them cause to, for both the right and wrong reasons. Once a connection has been made, it’s important for you to keep on their radar.
2. Empowerment is key
Self-importance is not. We were told repeatedly throughout training that we were unique, gifted artists and actors. And whilst that was lovely, it did not prepare you for the understanding that the other 697 people graduating from the 22 CSD accredited schools that year were also unique, gifted artists and actors. Your ability does not entitle you to work. Work does not entitle you to future work.
Diligence, commitment and being personable are far more important.
Training/working/working and training does not make you better than anyone. Approach every opportunity with a passion to learn from other performers. Respect their background, their way of working. We can never know the full breadth of anyone’s experience or capabilities, and if we are lucky, these experiences and capabilities can be shared with us. Sharing in this way allows for an open, honest opportunity for connection and creating good work.
In saying that – it is crucial to understand, evaluate and accept your competition in this industry. Knowing your casting, and utilising your niche will prove to be a continuing challenge. It’s best to approach your casting knowing that this industry will want to put you in a box. You look like this, you sounds like that etc. It is helpful to think of these facts as parameters and guidelines rather than restrictions and/or limitations. Once you’re familiar in this territory you’ll probably start to see the same faces again and again. Make connections with those in your field. Including your direct competition. Please don’t misunderstand me – this is not a ‘sleeping with the enemy’ piece. It is a practical point that it’s easier and more positive to understand that these people are probably fellow graduates, probably work a similar day job, have the same fears, hopes and anxieties that you have, in the same room. Actors supporting other actors form a community that understand, appreciate and can help each other.
Which leads directly onto…
3. The importance of supporting other people’s work
This is an obvious and constantly overlooked point. This keeps you busy, keeps you connected and active. It is also ALWAYS appreciated. It keeps you part of an artist’s community. In training you have graduated with thirty other (hopefully) working professionals in the industry. They’ll be performing, directing, writing new work. It is so important to support new work and people you know who are working.
It allows you to be relevant, informed and occupied. It also means that you’re meeting and sharing their connections afterwards in a relaxed informal environment. You can talk to the director about their choices, the producer about securing funding, the other actors about the rehearsal process.
It’s proactive, positive and karmic. If you want to be working, it is crucial to be seeing and supporting as much work as possible. We’re all broke. We’re all busy. If you can afford the time and money to see it – go.
4. Be someone others want to work with
We all have bad habits, we are all human. Through working and training, we come to know and understand them more and more. This is also worryingly part of growing up, I think.
We come to a point where we can recognise and realise these habitual patterns and parts of ourselves. This analysis and exploration can be uncomfortable, upsetting and downright un-fun. But it is uniquely useful in understanding how to better yourself in making yourself a more positive person to work with. This is not about talent or ability, skills set or range. This is about being someone others want to work with, respect and have fun with.
A close friend of mine is fantastically talented, she is also universally likeable. She has been rehired and rehired.
She makes it EASY to work with her. She is hard working, disciplined, polite, kind and courteous. She’s also fun, embracing and inclusive. I’m not sure whether she’s just super human. But she’s someone I would readily support and recommend. She’s the type of actor that encourages me to be better and be someone others want to work with. The aim is not to falsely be someone else but be in apposition that you are constantly growing as a person to become someone that others enjoy working with.
There’s a very old joke about actors that goes something like this: “how many actors does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer: “Just one. But there are ninety-nine others to sit around saying ‘I could’ve done that’”. Look at who you know that is working and without envy or ambition, analytically try to understand how and why they’re working. Go back in their careers, CVs, IMDBs and see patterns. Understanding rehiring, and recommending helps reaffirm how helpful these steps can be.
In no way is this post meant to antagonise or berate. It is meant to encourage and import the belief that all these things are do-able, achievable and straightforward. These steps are tools that enable us to be proactive, self-motivated, and self-aware artists that are passionate, productive, that other practitioners are drawn to.
So there you have it B.A.B.E.’s. Check out their full site for lots of tips, tricks and information that is really relevant and current. The London Actors’ Hub have lots going on including classes, e-books and their awesome blog.
Photo credit: br1dotcom / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)