Access for All- is it just a dream

Churchill

So it’s that time of year where hundreds of people, young and old, are auditioning for drama courses. Auditioning can be a very nerve racking and soul destroying experience. In the working world of acting I can walk into an audition room with composure; I can read well, hold myself and give off an air of professionalism. However, throw me into a room where people scrutinise and decide if you are worth 3 years of their time, I tend to crack a little. Last year I managed to secure myself a place on the Foundation course at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and the training is invaluable. Time is flying past so quickly due to the very active, full on nature of the course, proving to be a very worthwhile experience..

The only problem?…MONEY.

First off, the majority of foundation courses aren’t under student finance, so you have to muster up around £8500-£9000 for the course; and that’s excluding the living expenses whilst on the course itself. If you were doing a foundation course in something else at university you would get funded…but this is the arts. By most, arts courses are seen as frivolous and a waste of time. I personally don’t see my future career in the arts as frivolous, but the government seems to disagree. In my opinion, all Education should be free…but of course that’s being idealistic. The current government want to slowly take art from our schools. They don’t seem to realise how important design, art and the performing arts are to our society and socio-economic growth.

As a mature student I am ineligible for most grants and funding. Therefore, by the time I’ve finished my foundation course I’ll have racked up a massive loan, and if I even get onto a BA I’ll be working solid all summer to pay it off before I have to start the process of finding money out of thin air all over again!! How is anyone from an underprivileged background, be it a single parent or low income/working class family, meant to afford to get through or even apply to drama school when audition time arrives, knowing they will be overcome with debt! I am lucky in that I trained as a nurse first, meaning I have some source of income for the duration of my course; even if my income is low, I get by.

Recent data shows that within drama schools today, there are a lot of students from state schools and low income backgrounds. If I think of the students at my school, this is fairly accurate; not all of the pupils are well off. I think the main problem starts at school level arts education. The arts are not valued; they are under appreciated and pushed to the side as a less important part of the curriculum. I come from a state school and my passion for theatre does not derive from their input. I couldn’t sing, so I was rarely chosen to perform in school productions. My passion comes entirely from the need to tells stories and the inspiration I got from theatre; the escapism and humanity I felt from the shows I saw growing up as a young adult in London; they have made me who I am today and shaped my love of the arts. I have worked in schools and seen the huge disparity in the opportunities, and hopefully one day Actor awareness can start reaching out to these schools and help in some way to keep the arts a vital element of school life and child development.

The majority of drama schools in England are in London, and the rising costs of living in London pushes newly graduated actors from lower income backgrounds to find work to pay the rent, meaning they can miss auditions and opportunities due to work commitments. The price of headshots and showreels is forever rising, and casting website subscriptions can be a struggle to maintain. A working actor has a lot of work to do and a lot to pay for before they can even secure a job, network in the right circles or even get an agent; that’s why people from lower income backgrounds have a lesser chance of making it in the acting world, as these factors are all easier if you are from a more affluent background. Now this is reality, and I’m not saying if you have more money that’s ‘unfair’ on the rest of us. Talent hopefully prevails in this industry, but there needs to be a conscious effort from people in the industry to source a diverse range of actors; from casting directors, agents, producers etc. The people at the top need to make changes, and the government needs to notice that the arts are an intrinsic part of society.

Tanya Perry a teacher in London was a Graphic designer for years before turning to secondary education. Here is what she says about the government and it’s attack on the arts.

‘Well I think that it’s already on its way to being demolished. I don’t think they can ever truly get rid of it, hopefully. I think by demolishing it will lead to a shortage in the jobs that makes London the creative hub it is. Without arts there is very little culture. Without design and art our towns would be hollow, no cinemas, no theatre, no exhibitions, no galleries, little museums; our homes and our countries would be economically depressed. In design there are people thinking up new products, new ways to use technology, new ways to implement technology in products. There’s essentially nothing without art and design that has substance or character and we can’t compete with countries on a global scale, with whom treat the arts as integral to forward thinking and a intelligent society’

There needs to be more funding available to people of all ages in the arts industry, to help pay the raising costs of accommodation and the extra costs of drama school, such as books and materials.

I believe that drama school audition fees need to be regulated. The accredited schools should have a system where people from lower income families should be able to receive a discount or a free audition place. Each Drama school should be allocated free audition slots for lower income students. I’m not saying abolish fees, but why not make them reasonable. Most aspiring actors will audition for around 6 schools, and at £50 an audition, it isn’t cheap.

Some schools even make applicants who are applying for the BA and the MA pay for 2 separate auditions, even thought it only takes one audition; they decide which course you are appropriate for and recall you based on that.

One good thing that the majority of schools do is have their auditions held in different places across the country, meaning if you don’t live in London you don’t have to rule out applying there because you can’t travel all that way. However, it is expensive getting yourself all over the country to the auditions, and some schools, such as RADA, require you to travel for every stage…that could be up to 4 journeys!

If the government keeps making cuts and slashing away at the curriculum and funding, how long will it be till what we see in our theatres, in our films and on TV is not a good representation at all of the society we live in.

Headshots and Photography

This week I am bringing you a photographer that I met whilst in the Apple store pursuing MacBooks, the mecca of all writers dreams, caressing computers and feeling euphoric at the thought of retina displays. After talking he let slip he was a photographer and Ta Da here is his fabulous offer for our readers. Take full advantage! He can offer a arrange of different styles from standard headshots to styled shoots.

http://www.mekxphotography.com

 

OFFER

1 hour photo session

1or 2 backgrounds
Studio or Location
5 images retouched (further images are charged at £14.99 per image)
20+ unedited images
Make up artist available for an extra (£20)
Images will be made available to you via a dropbox link for download (Please note that all images have to be retouched before they are available to download)
All of the above for £95 Available till 15 Jan 2016 (Normally £199)
To book a session please email hello@mekxphotography.com with ref – AA2016
ALSO CHECK OUT  https://headshots.pedro-antunes.com for discounted offers till end of the month

Actor Awareness Message

actor

 

What was your inspiration behind the film?

Well it all came from Tom posting on Facebook looking for a writer, what for I had no idea at the time but I said I was up for a challenge. Then he explained that he was (at the time I think) looking for a play to illustrate the point of the then unnamed Actor Awareness campaign. I suggested a film as it is easy to share and that was that! As for the content it all comes from personal experience. Though I’ve never lived with a Simon I have certainly met them; people who have just been able to go to Drama School because their parents just paid, and they have no idea a lot of the time that there are people like us out there. That’s not a criticism of such people, why would they be aware? But in that last scene, John I think is very much mouth piece to my own frustrations as an actor; so that piece was very personal to me, and I agonised over it, treading the line between making the point pissing people off. It just had to be clear from the word go that this was not a demonising film, and I think by-and-large we achieved that.

What was the biggest struggle?

Oh so many. We were funded very generously by our supporters on Indiegogo, but still the budget was tight. We had expenses all over the place and people coming from all over the country, so trying to make a no-expense-spared film with so-many-expenses-spared was up there. But biggest of all we had some pretty catastrophic technical issues in Post and lost a huge amount of footage. Thankfully James (Hayman) of Flawless Films in a genius in the edit suite and was a genius on set so he managed to create the film anyway, but it set the release date back about a month or so.

What message do you think this film sends to the industry?

I think the message has to be that art, in all its forms but in this case acting, should not and cannot be dictated by money and finance. We find ourselves in a situation now where casting directors are writing articles titled, ‘Where have all the working class actors gone,’ and national treasures like Julie Walters are coming out very publicly and saying she would not have made it if she started out in today’s climate. Can you imagine an acting world without Julie Walters? And how many Julie Walters are there out there right now thinking, “I’d love to be an actor but I can’t afford it,” And because of finances, the next generation is robbed of great and wonderful talent of that Julie-Walters-in-the-making. I think that has to be the message of the film; change or we all end up poorer for it. To quote the film, “It’s in their own best f***ing interest.”

Tell us more about Type40Films and future projects.

Type40Films has grown out of ‘The Industry’, and so it has at it’s heart that will to make films for good, rather than making them for the sake of making films, not that there’s anything wrong with that! I want it to have an intrinsic conscience to it, and I can’t give much away at the moment, but our next big project well and truly follows that. It is in conjunction with a charity supporting a very very worthy cause and that will be what the film is about. It’s going to be quite an arty film I think, different tone to ‘The Industry’. It will be longer so we’re looking to push a few more boundaries!  Keep tuned in to our Twitter and Facebook feeds because there will be some news coming very soon about how you actors might be able to get involved.

Having said all that there is some talk of shooting a tiny little horror film, just for fun! So again, watch this space!

Finally, if you could change one thing in the industry right now, what would it be?

I think it would be extend the student loan system to Drama Schools. So those fees don’t go away, the same as Uni, but it becomes available to wider variety of people. I can’t see why it would be an issue really; they still get their money, student finance of various areas still do business, in fact more. So what’s the issue?

And stop charging people to audition. I mean, seriously? Very strange thing to do.

Here is link to the film, please go and watch

http://t.co/M9cWvDiVf4

TOM’s the Word

scratch night

So it has been another fantastic busy month for Actor Awareness.

We had the meeting on the 7th which had a fantastic turn out. The meeting was full of potential ideas and projects which will add to this incredible, ever-growing campaign. [If you would like a copy of the minutes to the meeting, please just ask]

The release of our campaign film “The Industry” was released this month. This is the first film of new company, Type40Films.

John and Simon are both actors sharing a flat in London; but they come from very different backgrounds. John comes from a single parent family in Manchester, where as Simon comes from an affluent family in greater London.
John struggles to find the time to chase the dream that brought him to the Capital, and he finds himself ever more frustrated by the ease of which Simon seems to get by. Tensions rise and the divide between these two friends becomes more pronounced until eventually, John can take no more. A huge thank you to all the cast and crew involved and especially the writer, actor and director of the film, Marcus Armstrong, all of which we couldn’t do without him.  https://vimeo.com/145694444

On the 4th of December there’s a writing workshop that Actor Awareness has set up in The Actors Temple . It is being run by BAFTA winner and writer of “Starred Up” Jonathan Asser. The writers bring something they want to discuss and get feedback on, So please email ASAP on tanheartssteph@gmail.com if you want to be part of it. The workshop is £10! We want to cultivate stories through these meetings, maybe it will lead to some of the writing being shown at a scratch night.

The First Actor Awareness scratch night is this month on the 14th, 6 shows 1 night! The first Actor Awareness scratch entails a range of different shows under the theme of working class. What is working class? Interpretation of the theme is down to you and an interesting subject to explore, under the current social and economical climate.

Please come support some incredible new writing and acting talent

BOOK TICKETS HERE
http://www.canalcafetheatre.com/EventPage.php?EventId=44307

John Challis

John Challis is known for Boycie from ‘Only Fools and Horses’ here he imparts some wisdom.

2015-10-31_14.13.54

John Challis never went to  drama school, he was born to a civil servant father and grew up in South East London, he even started out as an estate agent before his acting life took over. John supports Actor Awareness and definitely believes the campaign is more than a hashtag! He says if our voices can be heard the industry will hopefully take notice, maybe casting directors, producers, agents and writers will see that there is an inequality that needs addressing and changes will come around in helping working class people, actors, writers and artists, enabling and facilitating dormant talent.

John adds as an actor you will always be looking at other actors in roles you wish you were doing, thinking ‘I could do that,’ but this attitude leads to frustration. John insists you must keep that fire alive that makes you want to be an actor, try immerse yourself in theatre by seeing plays or working for theatre companies and remember to network; networking in this day and age is made easier through email, twitter and online profiles (Spotlight, CCP, Shooting People).

Opportunities come around when you least expect it, through a small part you did or through a recommendation, a lot of acting can be luck or who you know. John’s role on ‘Only Fools and Horses’ came after performing in John Sullivan’s play Citizen Smith,

it wasn’t till a year later that I got the call after John said he wanted to keep my number, as he wanted to use me again,’

Opportunity does knock and often it can be unexpected. John agrees that the industry is hard and even tougher for those from working class backgrounds, there is often thousands of applicants for even bit part roles and people who have managed to afford headshots, showreels and expensive training are at an advantage. Here I want to stress it isn’t about being rich or poor but the aim is to get diversity and recognition of seeking out talent that can’t afford such tools, which would help the industry feel inclusive and not exclusive.

John’s lasting words are that the industry is tough and rejection is round every corner, so one must develop a thick skin, the reality is that acting is a hard slog.