Dear Drama School Graduates
Did you graduate from a UK drama school in the last couple of years? Then you probably want to read this.
So you recently finished drama school and maybe things aren’t going exactly as you hoped. Not all the time at least. It’s okay. You’re not alone and you can relax knowing that things don’t always go perfectly for anyone. Yes, established actors included.
Of course, there is a tiny percentage of graduates who get their dream job (or at least close to it) as soon as they graduate from drama school. It’s easy to look at them and think, ‘Why couldn’t that be me?’ Well, what if it was? All jobs come to an end anyway. Instead of wondering ‘what if’ start thinking ‘what next.’
First of all, be warned that the absence of a fixed schedule like you had in drama school is bound to make you feel disorientated, so do try to make your own schedule. Even if you have to do it every night for the next day, it will pay off. Make sure that you always include something acting related. It could be simply looking through casting websites for auditions or singing for ten minutes: whatever you can fit in! And be realistic when you make your schedule. If you set unrealistic targets, you won’t meet them and you will end up feeling upset about it too.
A few of the most common problems that new graduates face are: worrying about not having an agent yet or not getting much from their agent; not knowing how to be more proactive and on top of it worrying about not being proactive enough; and, of course, getting consumed by their day job because the loan is not going to pay itself.
Another big issue is the inevitable comparison to fellow graduates, especially those who appear to be progressing faster, forgetting that everyone has their own journey.
Stop. Breathe. Relax. Having graduated from drama school, you’re equipped with tons of breathing exercises to help with that – use them. Now think; what can you do to keep yourself active, proactive and not let negative thoughts consume you?
Build skills, read and watch plays; read books too, fiction and non-fiction. Hang out with true friends, both actors and non-actors, and distance yourself from people who are negative. Even if they’re being negative towards a third party, you don’t need this in your life. Support your fellow graduates. They will remember it and also you’ll feel good for doing so.
Watch fringe theatre and get to know the companies. Follow their work and keep your eyes and ears open for the next time they’re casting. Even if you have an agent, stay on top of what plays and films are being cast and, if you genuinely think you are good for a part, submit yourself for it. The casting directors who don’t want to receive emails don’t have their email address online fot everyone to see.
Set yourself a limit on how many non-acting work hours you do per week. It is tempting to pick up extra shifts and earn more money, but unless you set enough time on the side for yourself as an actor you will eventually forget you are one.
Finally, create your own work and invite people to it. It is unlikely a casting director who was only one of five audience members will cast you as the lead in a feature film as a result, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. If you do something interesting someone is bound to come and it’s good experience one way or another.
And remember when you need a break – take it! Whether it is a small holiday or simply some alone time with a good book it is essential in order to keep your mind healthy.
Last but not least, allow yourself to often ask the question, "Do I want to be an actor?" I understand you might have spent years preparing for drama school and then years training and you feel like you can’t possibly go back. However, you do have every right to have changed your mind and you shouldn’t think for a second that all these years would go to waste if you decide to do something else. There is no point in pushing through in a career half-heartedly, especially one that is so hard to break into.
Take a moment and seriously ask yourself if this is what you want to do.If yes great, if not then embrace this decision, there are thousands of jobs where your skills are most valuable both in the creative industries and in others.
When you’re not going through the most fruitful period in your career asking yourself this question and answering with a genuine ‘yes’ will give you a special strength to hit your next milestone. Stay positive and stay focused – you’ve got this!