a MESSAGE to my sixteen year old self
"For what is to come, for what might have been
Life has no ending when you're sweet sixteen
And your friends are with you to talk away the night
Or until Mrs. Wong switches off the chippy light"
Blood Brothers, Willy Russell
We have a growing number of young people who are about to leave school contacting Thinking Actors in search of next step advice on the road to becoming a paid, professional actor. I thought I would share that advice. It comes from a good place...
At the age of fifteen, I was allocated a fifteen minute time slot with my school's visiting Careers Adviser. I enjoyed science. I was good at it. However, more than anything, I wanted to act. Hoping for a sense of needed direction, I was handed an application form to apply for the role of 'Shelf Stacker' at the Kwik Save Supermarket that was due to open on the high street. I've never looked back since.
So, I take giving advice very, very seriously.
Dear Young Actor,
Thank you for contacting Thinking Actors.
The opportunities open to you depend on where you live.
Firstly, I would advise that you consider taking A Levels. A Level Drama and Theatre Studies is a demanding A level that offers you an access option to study theatre and acting further at University.
If you are looking at a more practical and less academic experience, however, I would suggest you consider a BTEC in Performing Arts. The quality of BTEC courses - and the students taking them - can, unfortunately, vary significantly. Please visit your local FE college. They will be happy for you to meet their students and explore the work they do.
Think about getting involved with local theatre groups. Find out if a ‘Little Theatre’ operates in your area e.g. Stockport’s Garrick Theatre.
Research about Independent Film Makers in your area. Independent film is a great opportunity to get involved in a project that could provide you with showreel material. Always be aware of exploitation - it is actually illegal to work for less than the minimum wage. Only consider ‘no pay’ student projects with a structured script (dialogue) and a ‘trade off’ e.g. we will provide you with a copy of the film for use in your showreel. Be selective. Never be afraid to say 'No'.
Contact a local agent and consider ‘Extra Work’ /Supporting Artist Work. This pays well and is a great opportunity to get on to a film or television set, familiarise yourself with on-set procedures and learn through observation.
Look out for special programs run by outreach/education departments within theatres e.g. Oldham Coliseum and The Royal Exchange Theatre. The Lowry also offer access to young people through its Youth Acting Company. In Liverpool, The Everyman Theatre also runs a Youth theatre group.Visit their websites - and then visit them.
The important thing is that you keep acting. Read plays. Find three monologues that work for you and learn them - one classical, two contemporary.
Go and see live theatre. Take Acting Classes. Regularly.
Don ’t let anyone put you off your chosen career. There has never been a better time to enter the acting profession.
I hope this advice is of some use in helping you to decide on your next step after you leave school - and I wish you the best of luck.
Thinking Actors at MediaCityUK