With end of year exams on the horizon, a lot of people are being asked to think about what they’re going to do with their lives and for aspiring actors, this can be a really difficult time. What do you do from here? The school counsellor hasn’t been particularly helpful about which drama school to audition for, random coaches on YouTube are telling you to sell all of your stuff and move to California and everyone seems to be pushing and pulling you in different directions. Well, fear no more, Stagemilk is here to cut through the static and give you some practical ideas if you’re in high school and want to pursue a career as an actor.
Stay in school
First point, stay in school, having a good education is actually really important for an actor’s career. You actually need to be able to do surprising amounts of research. Think about playing Ivanov in Checkov’s play of the same name. You’ll need to be across Russian life in the 1800s that is going to take some good research skills. Let alone something set in World War Two or Vietnam. Having a good knowledge of history, research skills and an interest in art, music and English studies is going to be really useful.
Also, take Drama as an elective! This seems super obvious but really get in and around the theatre at your school. If your school doesn’t have a drama program, have a google around and see if you cant find a local drama or theatre group to join. At this stage, it’s just great to get as much experience as you possibly can, working with good people with experience in the arts that can help you as you move forward.
If it wasn’t for the drama program at my school I would have probably dropped out at 15. Fortunately, I had an incredible drama teacher who really inspired me to pursue a career in the arts. By the end of my last year of high school, I had pretty much moved into the theatre, I took all my meals there and learnt so much in the process.
Do some acting!
Get involved in your high school play! Audition, rehearse and perform as much as you possibly can! As I mentioned above if your school doesn’t have a theatre or performance program there are millions of youth theatre groups scattered around the globe that do great work for young performers. In Sydney, The Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) are an awesome organisation that run regular classes and put on shows in central Sydney. There is probably an equivalent organisation in your town, have a look around, ask some friends and see if you cant get a group together to all go!
If you can’t find anything in your area, consider signing up for the StageMilk scene club! To get you started on some on-camera acting.
Read and watch
This cannot be underestimated, read all the plays you possibly can and watch all of the acting you can. Get to live theatre, get there as often as you can. Especially as a young actor the world is literally your oyster and there is so much wonderful theatre and performance out there just waiting for you to discover. The great Larry Moss, who has trained DiCaprio, Hillary Swank and Helen Hunt amongst many others says actors should be reading three plays a week! This is a great time to get into good habits.
Also watch the classics and great current performances as much as you can. Not just to chill out with your friends but to examine what those actors do, and how they go about doing it.
Start looking at Drama Schools
Now look, we here at StageMilk have written about drama schools until were blue in the face. Seriously we are all over it. Here is a selection, here is a list of acting schools, here is how to prepare for your audition, here is how to audition for acting school. Importantly, consider what you are committing yourself too. Acting school is 40+ hours per week of intense training, it is truly unlike any other experience and is quite honestly, beyond challenging. Simply put it is not for the faint-hearted. However, it does give you an extraordinary experience and process to build your acting career on. Also know before you audition that it is very unlikely that you will get in the first time you audition. It may take you a few years of auditioning to get in. So consider going to study something related, or something else you find interesting, while you do short courses, work on short films and improve your craft for the next intake at that school.
Get some life experience
One of the best things I ever did in my life to date was to take a year off after school and go working and travelling for a year. I learnt more about myself in that twelve months than I did the previous twelve years at school! I gained an independence and sense of self that has become the foundation of who I am as a person. The thing is that acting is all about being yourself under imagined circumstances, if you do not know yourself and who you really are it is going to be challenging to have an immersive acting experience.
So get out there, see the world, have a variety of experiences and really start to ask yourself the big question: do I want to be an actor? Or do I just want to be famous?
Fame, fortune and the work
If you want to be an actor because you want to be famous and go to cool parties then you should really consider being an investment banker. If you want to be an actor because you want every family in America to know your name, you are better of taking up a lucrative career as a serial killer or cult leader. Acting is not about fame. Fame can sometimes be a by-product of acting, but acting talent is rarely a by-product of fame, see Paris Hilton’s truly horrific acting work in House of Wax. If you love telling stories, you have a voice that needs to be heard, you want to represent a certain part of society not seen on our stages or screens or you just love the craft of it then you are in the right place.
If you have no idea what you want and you are just trying to figure it out, then welcome to adulthood my friend, there are a bunch of us here and we have your back.
Know that it’s all going to be okay!
It really is, I promise. End of school exams can seem like the end of the world but they are just a speedbump on your journey, by the time you get where you are going you won’t even remember them. This is one of many opportunities in your life, so stay cool, be kind to yourself and find some time to pursue what you love.