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A career in drama

There are lots of students wanting a career in the entertainment industry, which is great.  This industry is tough, but there are lots of options to consider when taking the plunge.

I am fortunate to have experience in working both sides of the fence professionally:  Performing for stage and T.V as an actress (many years ago...) To creating work for theatre and T.V as a producer. 

 

When I am asked by students about starting a career in acting, I explain they need to have the inner strength to be stripped bare to their soul and reconstructed to suit the teacher, director or audition panel. Most don't last the process or endurance of their studies. If they did they may fall at the hurdles that come with the life longdistance triathlon of job searches.  The actor becomes a chameleon-like puppet, useful only to display its jobs purpose... Sorry, going off subject...  Disappointment is part of the game too but your skills, passion and belief can develop into anything (not necessarily acting).

 

Don't misunderstand, I am by no means a success story... my experience in acting was hard and short-lived.  My capabilities of self worth got damaged and I clung to the one thing I knew I was confident in .... Dance. 

 

Drama however, gave me so much more than just a few jobs.  Studying drama, doing exams, entering performance competitions and being part of Everyman Youth Theatre gave me a tool kit.  This, I dip into throughout various events within my personal and professional life.  It has given me the shield to stride out of my comfort zone and give it a go.

 

Drama is great for everyone, its inclusive, it's liberating... It's achieving... so get out there and give is a go regardless is its amateur or professional.

This information below is what I give out to students wanting to know more about taking drama further.  Hope it helps :)

Information provided by CDS

Career Opportunities in the Performance Industry

Actors

Look up 'actor' in many careers publications, and the message can be dispiriting. Yes, it's hard work, the hours are long and unsociable, regular employment is unlikely and, for many, income may be limited and may need to be supplemented by temporary periods of alternative employment. But acting is a profession in which the personal rewards are immense. After all, how many careers are there where you can make a living doing something that you really want to do? And for a significant number of actors, the financial rewards can be very healthy indeed. Of course not everyone is going to achieve a career as illustrious as Pierce Brosnan, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, Ewan McGregor, Elaine Paige, Jonathan Pryce, Vanessa Redgrave - to name but a few. But for many others, sufficient income can be generated by work in theatre, film, television and radio to provide a decent living for the individual and their family.

"Becoming an actor starts at drama school and continues through your whole career. A three-year training has given me a strong foundation to start from. It has given me the skills to create a technique and allowed me to experiment in a safe environment, to concentrate on weaknesses and develop strengths. My focus and ability as an actor have been moulded by my time at drama school. It's been an invaluable investment for my future."

Lolita Chakrabarti

"To have the opportunity to spend three years being taught by some of Britain's leading experts in the art of acting, I believe, is the best thing that could happen to a young actor beginning a very difficult career. The training I received at drama school has enabled me to work in theatre and film all over the world, from Shakespeare in Brazil to filming in Rome. Drama school courses offer the student classes in every kind of performance art and give them the building blocks to work in any part of the industry. In short it’s invaluable and I'd urge anyone serious about acting to do it."

Adrian Lester

"I went to drama school straight from school and the training I received during the three-year course was invaluable. Drama training is very hard work and is certainly not an easy option, but then neither is the acting profession. I graduated in 1995 and have been very fortunate to have worked in film and TV with a range of experienced actors, many of whom are also drama school graduates. Every job has different demands but provides the opportunity to consolidate the various aspects of the training that bit more. It was always my ambition to be an actor and I love the challenge you get with each new role. If you have talent and are determined enough to want to apply to train for an acting career, my advice is... apply for drama school and go for it!"

Ioan Gruffudd

"It was good to have an intensive and well-structured practical course which gave me hands-on experience from the start and an excellent grounding to pursue my career in technical theatre."

Gemma Brooks

Stage managers and technicians

Many people are not aware of the wide variety of jobs that exist in theatre and its related media industries, not least the crucial role played by stage managers and technicians.

Stage Management

Stage managers are the essential link between all the different branches of a theatre company. Their role is to manage rehearsals, the actors, directors, designers, props and costume fittings, as well as managing the performances on stage and liaising with the box office and front-of-house staff. Great communication and diplomacy skills are essential, as are organisation, stamina and the ability to see your way through a crisis.

Lighting and Sound

A career in stage electrics offers a large variety of job opportunities in a wide range of media: follow-spotting the big star in a West End musical; firing the pyrotechnics in a rock concert; operating the computerised lighting board for a piece of modern dance; rigging the lighting for a conference, pop concert or ice- show; designing the lighting for A Midsummer Night's Dream or a new TV sitcom; co-ordinating the equipment and technical crew for a multi-national trade launch; or running the sound desk for The Rocky Horror Show or Death of a Salesman. The work is a challenging combination of technical knowledge and artistic creativity, offering great job satisfaction and the chance to make a very real contribution to theatre and television.

Drama School training in stage electrics, lighting design and sound teaches skills ranging from rigging a lantern to familiarising yourself with the latest in moving light technology. You will also learn about the process of lighting design and how to produce a cue synopsis and lighting plan for a show. Many schools now use computer-based sound equipment: the emphasis in both lighting and sound is increasingly on digital formats.

Scenic Construction

Scenic construction graduates work happily with timber and metal; they make sets for stage, video and television productions and can find themselves running their own scenic construction workshops. Any training in this area involves working with stage machinery, from basic hemp and counterweight flying to construction techniques for a variety of media. Master carpenters are often the most valued people in the theatre - they know what is safe and what is not, they know what won't work in terms of staging and they can translate the designer's model box into the real thing.

Scenic Artist

If you like the idea of reproducing the Mona Lisa's hands twenty feet high in every detail, making giant inflatables for a rock concert, or making a backcloth so full of glitter and sequins that it steals the show, then this could be the career for you. All these and much more form part of the life of a scenic artist or design assistant. Your employment will mainly be freelance, although some theatres, TV companies and scenic workshops employ full-time scenic artists. A course in scenic design will teach you techniques such as marbling, ragging, wood-graining and texturing, as well as teaching you to organise your materials, your budget and your time.

Prop Maker

Prop making requires skills and background knowledge in research, sculpting, casting, moulding and period reproduction, which when combined with your creativity and initiative means you will be able to tackle the reproduction of anything from a Grecian statue to the Crown Jewels. Prop-making courses provide a comprehensive training in the use of a multitude of materials and techniques, such as fibreglassing, casting, modelling, upholstery and furniture making. Drama School courses equip the student for a career not only in theatre but also in film, television and video.

Wardrobe

Wardrobe skills are taught on most Drama School technical courses, with some running specialist wardrobe courses. The wardrobe being a central department for all productions, whether they are in theatre, film or television, skilled wardrobe personnel are always in demand.

Directors, playwrights and designers

Some of the Drama Schools in this Guide offer specialist courses in other areas of employment within the arts and entertainment industries. These include courses for directors, playwrights and designers. All three are predominantly freelance professions, with employment across theatre, film and television.

 

The performance industry areas of work opportunities

 

Theatre

The national companies - the Royal National Theatre (in London) and the Royal Shakespeare Company (in Stratford and nationally). Both companies produce a range of plays, from the classics to ground-breaking new writing, and also tour nationally. They offer employment to semi-permanent companies of actors on fixed-term contracts, supplemented by additional actors as required. They employ permanent stage management and technical staff.

West End theatre - presenting predominantly commercial productions of musicals and plays. There are also a significant number of transfers into the West End from regional and London-based producing companies. Actors and technicians are employed for the duration of a production, which may last from a few months to several years.

Regional repertory theatres - situated in the UK's major towns and cities. Some may have a resident company, supplemented by additional actors as productions demand. They produce a range of plays and often combine popular material with new writing targeted at their local communities. Some have attached Theatre-in- Education or Community Outreach programmes.

Touring/Receiving theatres - provincial theatres, usually council run, which hire in touring plays, musicals, dance, opera and one-night shows. Very occasionally they may produce an in-house production. These theatres usually have permanent technical, administration, box office, front-of-house and marketing/publicity staff.

Producing companies - these vary from commercial companies supplying the West End or civic theatre circuit to subsidised companies such as the Royal Court, Almeida Theatre or Hull Truck, operating out of their own venues but also transferring to the West End or to regional venues.

Touring companies - these vary from large-scale companies touring to civic theatres or regional 'presenting houses' to small-scale companies touring to community-based or 'fringe' venues.

Alternative, community and young people's theatre companies - some companies specialise in alternative approaches to theatre, children's theatre, theatre-in- education or community theatre. These will often take plays into schools or community centres, or aim to be relevant to specific sectors of the community such as people from ethnic minorities or people with disabilities.

Television

With numerous terrestrial channels, satellite and cable stations and digital television, work in television drama, documentaries and commercials is on the increase. British television is renowned the world over, in particular for the quality of its drama, the success of which depends more than anything on the quality of our writers and actors.

Film

With the National Lottery funding for films, the British film industry is, after some lean years, looking healthier. British film has been put on the international map by the financial success of films such as The Full Monty, Trainspotting, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Billy Elliot and Bridget Jones’s Diary. There is a growing market for medium- and low-budget productions funded by organisations such as Channel 4, the BBC, the BFI and British Screen. In addition, there is increasing demand from the Hollywood film industry for British actors. In recent years these have included Kate Beckinsale, Kenneth Branagh, Robert Carlyle, Judi Dench, Minnie Driver, Ralph Fiennes, Richard E. Grant, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Irons, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Ewan McGregor, Julia Ormond, Alison Steadman, Julie Walters and Kate Winslet, to name just a few of the dozens of British actors who have also found success in film.

Radio

The BBC has busy drama departments in England, Scotland and Wales, which employ a number of actors in any one year. In addition, the growth of commercial radio stations has led to an increase in work for actors in voice-overs for commercials.

 

Other opportunities

Singing

Although most drama students study singing, if you have the voice of an angel or even better - you may be considering a career in opera. There is much to learn and therefore it is advisable to look for a college that specialises in training students for work in classical music and/or opera.

Dancing

During drama training students study dance and movement. However, if you want a dance career it is advisable to apply to a college which specialises in dance. It is a career, which demands discipline and daily practice. Regardless of whether dancers are working or not, they have to ensure that they keep their muscles supple.

Although the performer receives the applause at the end of the night, and the stage management and technical crew ensure the show runs smoothly, there are other important jobs within an organisation that are essential for the success of productions and organisations. These include administration, front-of-house management, box office, marketing and publicity. There are university and college courses available in Arts Administration.

The skills gained in Drama Schools are easily transferable to other areas of life. For example, a number of actors have moved into public speaking and politics, and have found a lucrative living providing training courses for businesses, teaching, theatre administration, work in corporate video or work in the world of voice-overs etc. 

Good luck in your career x