Acting Q&A #3: Acting Training, Shady Agents and Moving to the US

Acting Q&A

Every Sunday we are publishing our Acting Q&A where you can get your questions answered if you haven’t found an answer in Acting in London‘s database. We cover all topics such as acting career and training, showbiz industry, talent agents and managers, drama schools and acting schools, networking and marketing, and so forth.

Today, we’ve got answers to the following questions from aspiring actors:

  • “Which acting training option should I pick?”
  • “How to move to the US to work as an actor and what to do if that’s not an option?”
  • “I booked a feature film. Should I get an agent and take acting classes?”
  • “Should an agent charge my child 20% for wardrobe, shoots, auditions, etc.?”
  • “What’s Equity’s minimum pay for actors and when can I join Equity?”

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Acting Q&A #3

“Which acting training option should I pick?”

Question: “Hi Acting in London. I’m looking for a second opinion on a particular drama school and if you could give any advice for my situation. 

For context, I have already completed my first degree and paying for another is sadly out of my budget. This led me to look into part time drama schools and one which caught my eye (from one of your posts no less) was [name omitted]. I attended the four day course and was subsequently offered a place on the 2 year course. I was thrilled at the news but I’ve heard many differing opinions on the school regarding its reputation and I was wondering if you could clarify any information.

I have until February to decide but I haven’t looked into any other training avenues except the [name omitted]. Is there anywhere else you could recommend I look into? Or should I save up and try audition for one of the bigger schools? Apologies if this is too broad a question to answer but I hope some of this makes sense!” – Anonymous, UK

Answer: Going through a full drama school course is the best training an actor can receive in the UK. The best answer to your question lies with your goals and what you’re looking to get out of this acting training. To give you a better idea, let’s first establish what constitutes one as “drama school.”

For the purpose of answering this question, the place you’ve mentioned in your email is not a drama school in its conventional sense (vocational drama schools have university-approved 3 year courses in the UK).

The fact that you mentioned “part time” tells me that you’re already aware of this. However, just to keep everything more clear for our readers, this needs to be stressed. On Acting in London we call these part-time drama schools “acting schools”. These are private for-profit businesses with several teachers running their acting classes.

As you already know, if you choose to apply to this school, you will not receive any type of formal education, nor will you get acting training as rigorous as from an accredited drama school such as RADA, LAMDA or others. However, that is not to say that it’s a bad place to study, particularly if getting a degree is not your goal.

On top of that, any acting training is always better than no training, and if going to a drama school is not an option or not something you want to do, getting into a private acting school is a great decision to make to continue better yourself as an actor.

There’s no question that one of the bigger schools will make you a better actor and give you more leverage in the industry, because agents and casting directors love drama school grads. But once again, it depends what your priorities are, and whether you can dedicate enough time to something like a 3-year drama school.

As for the school itself, unfortunately, I cannot advise you anything on it since nobody I know has any experience with them. If you decide to go through a 2-year course, then make sure to do plenty of research on the school and ask other students about their experience, which is something you’ve already been doing.

Finally, consider other acting schools as well and then weigh all pros and cons: reputation, feedback, reviews, costs, time of classes, what type of training they provide, who the teachers are, what does the Internet say about them and so forth. Make a list, and see which one fits your situation best.

Bottom line is that training is always a good idea, you just need to find the right fit specifically for your situation.

Here are a few articles you’ll find useful:

“How to move to the US to work as an actor and what to do if I can’t make the move yet?”

Question: “Hello Acting in London crew! First of all, I want to thank you so much for all the hard work you’re putting in running this website. I honestly can’t find any article or even a single tip that wouldn’t be helpful. You’re doing a great job, thank you! The reason I’m writing you is that I’m wondering if you’d have some advice for me. I’m gonna make this as short as I can, in order not to take too much of your time.

I’m a male in my early 20s from Eastern Europe. I moved to London last year for the purpose of trying myself in acting. I’ve done some short films and a community theatre plays within couple of months I’ve been there. Right now I’m collecting some material I could pass around; recording monologues and short scenes in English. But my greatest goal is to move to United States.

And here comes the main problem, as I don’t have any family there. Also, my funds are quite limited and I have no one who could help me with financing the education. If only I could work there, while studying, I’d be fine, but getting the right visa is next to impossible. I’ve applied for a green card and by far, this is my best shot. So the question is: would you be able to recommend me some kind of other way I could try? Maybe there’s some kind of foundation you know about, which would be interested in seeing the stuff I’ve done so far and – if I’m meeting their expectations – help me a little bit? Or anything else I might’ve not thought of? Basically, any kind of advice is pure gold to me at this point. So thank you once more, wish you all the best and I hope that what I just wrote makes some sense and it’s not just me being a pain in the ass.” – Anonymous, Eastern Europe

Answer: First of all, congratulations on taking these serious steps towards your acting career! It sounds like you know what you’re doing and you’re on the right path.

As to your question, it’s not clear to me whether you’re inquiring for advice about how to move to the US and work as an actor, or what you can do in case the move is impossible. Either way, I’ll briefly answer both of these.

As you already know, getting a green card is one of the very few options that would allow you to move to and work in the United States. This can be done either through DV Lottery (which is what I assume you’re trying to do) or a few other, more difficult ways. The only other viable option is to get an O-1 visa, which may be even more difficult. Read up on these sites I’ve provided to get more info.

Generally, moving to the US without getting lucky with visa is very difficult. But that should not discourage you from becoming an actor, and here’s why.

Even though you cannot move to the US to work as an actor at this moment, there are plenty of things you can do while you’re in London. This will not only launch your career off the ground, but also give you a higher chance of acquiring O-1 visa, which is usually given to performers who excel at their job and are somewhat known in their countries.

My advice would be to continue doing what you’re already doing: student and indie films, community theatre and taking up any other acting opportunities you can. You need to become a better actor and expand your body of work. The more small things you do, the quicker you’ll be able to move towards bigger ones.

Making a name for yourself is more about the accumulation of credits, so just keep at it. American will stay where it is, and as long as you focus on what will push your career forward right now, it will bring you closer to your ultimate goal eventually.

On top of that, take as many acting classes as you can (if going to a drama school is not an option). London is one of the best places in the world for an actor to train and work, so I wouldn’t rush to leave it. Keep working, networking and making connections. Get your name out there. This is all a marathon, not a sprint, so all you have to do is stay consistent and be patient.

My last piece of advice to you is to work on your accent, which I assume you have. Doing Receive Pronunciation is extremely important for an actor who wants to work in London.

A few articles you’ll find useful:

 

“I booked a feature film. Should I get an agent and take acting classes?”

Question: “I just read your article on how to get an agent. I have never acted before, however, I recently got a feature role in a film coming out next year. Is it worth me trying to get an agent & doing some classes to help me find out what other opportunities there may be for me?” – Anonymous, UK

Answer: Congratulations on your booking! You have two questions in here, so I’ll answer them both. First, doing acting classes is not only a good idea – it’s essential to continue to progress and become a better actor. Many working actors continue to train even as they begin booking leads in huge productions.

In terms of getting an agent, it’s always worth a try to get signed by one. An agent will help you to use your momentum that you acquire through this booking of a feature film, and they may get you more roles, particularly after the film comes out.

If I was you, after you’ve wrapped up the film, I would try to do a first round of mailings to agents BEFORE the movie comes out (in case it’s not good), and mention that you’ve just finished a feature film and when it comes out. Stress that point. If you don’t get any response, do another round of mailings right after the film comes out.

Some helpful advice can be found here:

 

“Should an agent charge my child 20% for wardrobe, shoots, auditions, etc.?”

Question: “Hi. I have trawled the net and can’t find a proper answer, I really hope you can help. My child is an actor and has done several commercials and theatre productions. His agent charges 20% on everything from shoot fees to wardrobe calls and audition fees, which can really dent pay. I heard somewhere that the most an agent can charge a child is 15% but I have no actual proof of this. Do you know if this is true or not? Many thanks.” – Anonymous, UK

Answer: This is VERY WRONG, and I would advise you to run away from this “agent” as soon as you can, unless he or she has been getting your child into a lot of auditions that you could not have found yourself (which is unlikely). Let me break this down for you based on what you’ve said.

20% fees. This is uncommon, but some agents do charge more than the standard 10-15% in the UK. Unfortunately, this is unregulated in the UK (in the US, it’s illegal), therefore, agents can do that. It doesn’t always mean that an agent is shady, but I would say that is one of the first potential red flags.

Charging for wardrobe fees, auditions, shoot fees, etc. This is your cue to leave this “agent” ASAP and inform others to never work with this name again. A legitimate agent should not charge you for anything other than the acting jobs you (or in this case, your child) gets paid for. You should also never directly pay your agent  – he or she only gets a cut from the paycheck for your or your child’s acting work. Period.

Here’s another similar mailbox question we’ve answered a while ago: “Agents Asking for Money.”

 

“What’s the minimum pay for actors per Equity’s terms and when can I join Equity?”

Question: “Hi. Please could you tell me what the Equity Minimum Rate is for acting in a film Short with a professional company. Also, how many paid jobs do you need to have and in what time frame, in order to qualify for Equity membership. Many thanks.” – Anonymous, UK

Answer: I’ll answer your second question first. Usually, you’re good with just 2-4 credits either in mid-level theater jobs or short/feature indie films to qualify for Equity’s Full Membership. So as soon as you’ve done a couple of plays, or filmed a couple of short/feature films, try and apply. If you don’t succeed (which is unlikely), try again after two more.

You can read more about Equity and becoming a member in our article: What’s Equity and Is It Worth It?

As for your first question, pay for actors varies based on what rates Equity sets. I would advise you to refer directly to their page on rates and pay right here.


Acting in London LettersWant to have your question answered? Send it here. Please keep it short, specific and concise, add a clear subject line, include your name (fake or real), your age and location. Before sending a question, please browse the site and our Mailbox Series to check if it has been answered already. Please note that most personal details will be omitted aside from the submitted name and location.