Can I be an actor?…I remember my fourteen year old self asking this very question. Fast forward ten years and I’m now lucky enough to be doing just that – ACTING (or at least trying to). So how did I do it? Well first off there is no blue print to this and each actor/performer will find their own way to develop their career but there are definitely some tips that I have learnt along the way that can help you get started. So, to answer that initial question ‘can I be an actor?’ Yes, I can and so can you!
What do you need to do to get a career started? There are many options that you could take from traditional training to alternative training routes, as well as getting representation or being a freelance artist
1. Drama School
All of the accredited drama schools in the UK that offer formal training can be found online on the Federation of Drama schools website. Here actors can have an initial look at different institutions and what they offer. I went to Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance and graduated from the European Theatre Arts course. Entry on to the course involved an initial audition process which I had to pass, as well as gaining the relevant grades at A level grades. In drama school auditions, actors are required to prepare audition speeches, usually classical and contemporary monologues. You may also be asked to prepare a song depending on what type of performance course you are applying for. Attending drama school can be helpful in starting a career, as it allows you to develop your skills over the course of 3 years, alongside industry professionals. This should hopefully give you the techniques to help you grow as a strong performers.
An alternative route to traditional training is to work with theatre companies or organisations who offer training, workshops or short courses that allow actors to meet other creatives and build a strong professional network. There are some great organisations such as the National Youth Theatre, who provide the opportunity to train and perform in professional venues. Regional organisations also offer such opportunties. For example, Tmesis Theatre Company in Liverpool offer intensive physical theatre training and performance opportunties. Local theatre groups are an equally great starting point, as they you will be able to get first-hand experience in training, acting and development.
3. Theatres & Theatre Companies
Many theatres have in-house programmes dedicated to artist development. It’s important to get connected to with these venues and join in, as it’s a fantastic way to network & attend workshops. This can lead to making contact with visiting and in house companies. Living between Yorkshire and Manchester, I have found that the Open Exchange Network & Young Company at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester & the Furnace Social Club at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds are great programmes for connecting with creatives and getting work opportunities. Furthermore, check out theatre companies that you like or that are local to you as many of them offer workshops and development opportunities. This is a great way to meet the people you wish to work with and let them see what you have to offer.
4. Scratch Nights
Scratch nights are a great way to get some experience of performing and get your hands on some new writing that is in development. Not only can they be great fun and lead to future work, but they’ll also allow you to work collaboratively with other theatre makers.
This means keeping great connections with the people you meet, whether they’re actors, producers, writers, casting directors etc. If you attend a workshop or see a show and meet members of the cast/creative teams, make sure you get their contact details. Send them an email letting them know your thoughts on their work and keep in touch. I find having a spreadsheet or word document is an easy way to stay organised and keep contacts on file.
Many actors have an agent, who represents them and finds projects on their behalf. Agents are great as they have strong relationships with casting directors and can help you get your foot well and truly in the door. Each agency will have a preferred method of contact, please adhere to this as well as being very clear as to who you are contacting at the agency and why you wish for them to represent you. It’s great if you are familiar with the work their clients are currently appearing in and have a strong idea of what it is you are looking for. An agents directory can be found on the Spotlight Casting website, along with other useful tips on how best to approach agents.
Casting resources and websites are a great way for actors to find work. This usually involves setting up an online profile that can be viewed by casting directors or production companies. Some of these companies do charge a monthly/annual subscription to be a member.
- Spotlight Casting: The main casting network in the UK. Great platform for casting directors & actors. Actors can join with or without having had formal training or agent representation.
- The Actor’s Guild: Organisation that offer workshops with industry professionals.
It’s important to have a good headshot as this shows what your branding and casting is. From this, casting directors or theatre companies can see whether you will be suitable for the project they are casting. Spotlight has a contacts section with a full directory of photographers who specialise in headshots.
9. Online Presence
I have found using social media to be a useful tool for keeping up to date with industry professionals, as well as finding work. Many casting directors use social media to advertise castings and look for new talent. If you use such platforms, please remember to keep them professional and make sure your personal brand is clear.
Be active in watching as much theatre & film as possible. This helps in knowing what is currently popular/topical in the industry and helps to keep you inspired. Also, have a song or monologue or two that you know to hand in case of last minute auditions.
‘Show Business’…and it really is just that, a business. An actor needs to think of themselves this way and choose the avenue they feel would best give their ‘business’ the strongest start possible.
Just a few useful tips to get started, it’s a funny old business acting but truly a rewarding one.
Misha is currently performing in a production GOOD PEOPLE by David Lindsay – Abaire, directed by Adrian Rawlins at The East Riding Theatre 1st – 24th March 2018.
This post is part of our ‘How to…‘ theatre careers series.