We receive questions from a lot of budding actors looking to go to a drama school, or who have already graduated from one. Most of these inquiries are related to one and the same issue: a misconception of what the real world of acting (also known as the entertainment industry) is all about.
What I conclude from this is that although drama schools can make you a better actor without a doubt, they still appear to fail to teach young thespians on the harsh realities of what it’s like to work in the show business. Here are just a few things that you will not learn in today’s drama schools. Buckle up for honesty.
This Is What You Will NOT Learn in Drama Schools
Degree doesn’t mean you have a job
It doesn’t mean you even have an audition! In your final year, a lucky bunch of graduating actors will get a chance to put up a showcase for industry people. Out of that small group of actors, maybe a few will be signed on a spot, and a few more will get called in for an agent meeting. And the rest of the actors will be “back on the streets,” looking for a job.
It sounds unpleasant, but that’s how it is. If you worked hard and dedicated every breath in your body to improve your craft during those 3-4 years at a drama school, it’s likely you are a 10 times better actor than you were before joining the school. Unfortunately, nobody knows about you yet. It’s not the degree that will demonstrate your talent to showbiz people; it’s your body of work.
You are not an exception
You might have been told otherwise before, but even if you were the best student in your drama school class, in the business world of acting, nobody will know that (or care). You will have to prove yourself first. With “BFA in Theatre” typed on your acting CV/resume, you’ll walk into an audition room like everybody else. You’ll sit in the waiting room, and practice, and focus, and talk to yourself, and read, and audition, and fail, and succeed – just like everybody else.
You are not the star anymore. There are thousands upon thousands of other actors swimming in this pool of desperation, looking to grab any kind of work available for an opportunity to act. Now you’re one of them: a struggling performer who should be prepared to continue to work his or her butt off on a daily basis.
Performing for the camera is a separate art form
Stage acting and screen acting are two very different things (as we have previously outlined in one of our acting newsletters). Drama schools don’t focus enough attention on this aspect of the job, nor do they talk about it a sufficient amount so that actors would be able to understand how much difference there is.
It’s not only about getting your speech volume and mannerisms to a “natural level” (and big can be good even on film!) There’s more to this – something that cannot be taught on some blog like this one, and takes years of practice to master – which is why Laurence Olivier was never as good on screen (he was still magnificent!) as he was on the stage.
Acting is a business
Whether you want to admit this or not, the acting industry has been commercialized long time ago. If you’re looking to end up on the West End, Broadway or Hollywood’s red carpets, you need to remember that “the art” begins and ends on the stage or set. The rest of the time you’ll be networking, meeting people, getting auditions, and otherwise trying to market yourself in the industry.
Not every amazing actor is a talented entrepreneur, which is why we see so much talent leaving the industry unrecognized. Drama school is where they focus solely on the art, but once your training is done and it’s time to treat this as a business that it is – actors don’t know how. Drama institutions must start including this as part of their programs, and some professionals certainly agree.
You do have your own type
If you’ve ever been told that you’re so talented that you can play any part, know that you’ve been lied to. There never has been, and never will be an actor that can play any part. We all have different looks, personalities and ranges on the basis of which our future work is determined. Some actors can play a large variety of roles, others will be able to play less. In the end, it all comes down to your character type.
The key to your success in the acting industry once you get out of the drama school will be understanding what your type as an actor is. This will require some honest evaluation of oneself’s looks, abilities and personality. If you can get this down to a letter, it’s likely that your audition-to-booking ratio will increase significantly.
Auditioning matters more than you think
Being a stunning actor on the film set or theater stage is all good and dandy, but what’s the point if nobody will let you get up there? Your acting job begins in the audition room; this is where you’ll stun them. Unfortunately, auditioning takes a lot more than just being a good actor. It also has a lot to do with the psychology factor.
Auditioning is a separate art form, too. For most of us, it’s even more difficult than the acting job itself, which we love dearly. But if you can learn how to act in front of a camera and master the auditioning process as soon as you come out of the drama school (or while you’re still there!) – you’ll be on a straightforward path to a great success in this industry.