Are you a drama school graduate? Wondering what you should do next? Looking for some survival tips on how to survive this ‘dog eat dog’ industry? Need some inspiration from someone already working in this field? Well, I have the actor and the answers for you.
Before turning my sights to blogging, I originally trained as an actress at the Birmingham School of Acting. During my time there, I met my best friend and actor, Ian Weichardt. Since leaving drama school, Ian has took on a variety of roles and has gone on to appear in notable TV programmes such as, Coronation Street, Holby City and Candy Cabs, to name a few. I caught up with the actor to gain an insight into what life is like as a working actor.
Why did you decide to choose a career in acting?
It all started as a young boy at primary school where I played Ben Gunn in Treasure Island. I realized what a wonderful feeling it was to entertain people. From that moment forward I began to take an interest and enjoyment from becoming a different character. This obsession of people and how telling a story to make people laugh, cry, provoke thought, comment or reflect on society and its people has stayed with me throughout my life and has led to me into a career in acting.
How long have you been acting?
I have been acting professional since 2009 which is when I graduated from drama school (The Birmingham School of Acting). I have been fortunate in my career so far to work in the 3 main mediums of the industry: TV, film and theatre. If I were to choose A highlight so far, it would have to be working on the horror film Passengers working with the wonderful director John Hales, who has recently been nominated by Bafta for the Breakthrough Brit 2014 award. On the other hand, there can be low and frustrating moments for an actor. For me there have been certain jobs that I auditioned for and got very close to playing only then not to be offered the role. However when one door closes, quite often another door will open. Therefore it is important for the actor to have a strong inner confidence and belief in themselves, as the industry is tough at times.
How much do you think you can realistically earn as a working actor?
It can vary dramatically. You can earn more money doing a commercial on a one day shoot than doing a one month run of a play in a Fringe theatre. Depending on the medium you are working in, will also depend on how much money is available to pay the actors. A lot of actors spend a lot of time out of work, especially in the early stages of their career. You may get a job with a big pay cheque and then spend the next 3 months out of work not earning. It is a very unpredictable industry.
How hard is it to enter this industry?
It is a very competitive industry and there are far more actors than there are jobs available. As an actor entering the industry you have an urge to take any job that becomes available. However there are many unpaid and low paid jobs available for actors which are just as competitive. At the early stages of an actor’s career many struggle with that decision of wanting the experience of a low paid job but financially unable to take it.
What qualifications would you need ?
No official qualifications are necessary to become an actor but I strongly advise any aspiring young actor to train at an accredited drama school. These are highly competitive to secure a place on, and make take many attempts to receive a place. However drama school is a place where you can learn your craft, discover yourself as an actor and most importantly it is a place where you can explore, experiment and make mistakes.
Recommended reading for getting started in this industry?
There is an annual publication of a book called ‘Contacts’ which lists all the contacts you may need within the industry including for example, drama schools, casting directors, agents, and also gives advice to actors. Another book called ‘An Actor’s Guide to getting Work’ by Simon Dunmore is fantastic in explaining everything you need to know about the industry and how to approach it from getting into drama school to producing great headshots.
What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in acting ?
- Make sure you realise how hard the industry is and how competitive it is. And make sure you have a strong enough passion and desire to do it. If you want it for the right reasons, and are prepared to work hard for many years, then you have the right attitude to succeed.
- Stay focused, be patient and work hard. There will be highs and lows in you’re a career but you need to have an inner strength to ride out the lows to achieve the highs.
- Keep working at your craft. Do not get distracted by the business side of being any actor. The business side is important but what will eventually be the success of your career is your talent. Read all types of scripts and practice, practice and practice.
- Have faith and belief that things happen for a reason. You may not get a particular job you wanted, but then the next better job may just be round the corner. Luck plays a part in this industry and sometimes being in the right place at the right time pays off. So work hard and believe that good things will eventually happen. But be patient!