Being an actor is tough. We all know how competitive it is, and that if we are not at the top of our game, our chance of booking work is slim. We know that having solid acting chops is the cornerstone of being a successful working actor, and therefore we all know the importance of training, but we have also all felt that feeling of “is this really worth it?”.
Whether you’re eyeing off a 3 year acting degree, or considering doing a weekend masterclass for the first time in years, here is some ideas on how to afford acting training.
But firstly is it worth it?
Is it worth continuing to train?
We all know actors who think that their training is done and dusted. This is usually most common with actors who have trained at formal drama schools for 3 or 4 years. They have trained, hard, and the idea of another masterclass makes them a little uneasy. I also know actors who think training is largely unnecessary and their natural ability is all that matters.
But the truth is that ongoing training should always be part of being an actor, and the most successful actors I know, are always curious and excited to keep learning. That doesn’t mean you have to sign up for an acting class this instant, but the notion that your training can be completed, just isn’t the reality with acting.
Training not only helps refine your skills, it also helps you maintain and develop confidence, an essential ingredient of any working actor.
So yes! You need to keep training, but the form that training takes will be different for every actor.
What type of training do actors need?
Good question! And I will do my best to work through a few scenarios…
#1 No experience
If you have no experience I would recommend a low stakes, beginners class. Don’t be too worried about finding the perfect course. Just dive in! You want to make sure it’s a safe and supportive environment, but it doesn’t have to be a Larry Moss intensive when you are first starting out. As you do more lessons you will start to see where you need to go next. The important thing is to do something.
#2 Limited experience (but serious about a career)
Having limited experience isn’t an issue. The important question is to work out what you want from acting. If you have your sights set on a career in acting, then you really need to get some solid training under your belt.
If you are eager to become a professional actor the best bet is still formal training at one of the major drama schools. These are typically 3 year full time programs that not only give you solid foundations, they also give you a chance to showcase to the industry when you graduate. You could definitely class hop and build your skills working with different teachers and schools each year, but this fragmented approach doesn’t typically lead to the best results.
#3 Limited experience and having fun
If you are just enjoying exploring your acting I would recommend picking a few 6-8 week courses over the year that are inspiring, and enjoyable. Work with teachers who you resonate with and keep enjoying your acting.
#4 2-5 years Experience
If you’ve been at the acting game for a little while it can feel a little exhausting signing up for another masterclass or 4 week intensive. I think you can still keep working with practitioners you like, but I think what is most important at this stage is just staying fit. Something like a weekly scene club will do the trick! (Our online scene club could be worth a look)
#5 Drama School Graduate
Some graduates come out of drama school and get straight into the auditioning circuit. If this is you, then you are already working on your acting every week. Good job! Enjoy it and keep your training practical.
That said, if you are only occasionally auditioning, you need to make sure you are staying fit. Whilst your class mates are getting better with each audition, you are falling behind. Get together with friends or do something that keeps you working on your skills. A weekly scene study class, or some other on going acting training.
Idea: just because you’ve trained with some incredible teachers doesn’t mean you’ve explored the full gamut of acting techniques. It was only after drama school I really worked with teachers that resonated with me. So keep learning!
#6 Professional actor.
Professional actor. Well this is a bit of a loose term, but let’s just say you are well trained, and have some serious experience behind you. The main thing here is to stay inspired. I think when you’ve been in the game for a while you can get a bit cynical, and bitter. If you are feeling this way it’s time to work with a powerhouse teacher like Larry Moss, or Howard Fine. Someone larger than life that can give you some inspiration. Your ability to remain positive will be invaluable.
A word of warning
I have hammered home the importance of training in this article, but there is a particular breed of actor who can be addicted to training. They are constantly in class and don’t ever get out of the safety of the classroom. At some stage you need to get out there!
Budget and Plan
Once you’ve worked out your goals, it’s time to make a serious plan for how you can afford your training. I wanted to first of all go through a few specifics for some of the above examples and then I’ll move to some great general saving strategies.
Here are a few specific tools depending on what you choose:
How to Afford Drama school
Drama School is like any other university degree, except unlike a Business Management degree, where you might turn up for 10 hours a week, you will be expected to be at drama school between 40-70 hours a week! This makes it really tricky to earn money on the side. My advice is make sure you go into your training with some savings. You will most likely still have to work to survive, but that buffer can be invaluable. As you’ve committed to this program and it’s going to be so important for your acting, this isn’t a time to save money. It’s a time to survive! Do what you can to maintain your equilibrium, and always remember that the training is the priority.
How to Afford your next masterclass
Whether you are looking at a weekend masterclass or an 8 week character workshop, it’s usually going to be a good chunk of money upfront and these classes are rarely supported by any government programs. That means you have to get serious about saving. We will look at that in a moment.
How to Afford a Weekly Scene Club
Finding an affordable weekly scene club can be tricky, but the great thing is that once it’s locked in you know that there aren’t going to be any nasty surprises.
Prioritising your training
So we get it, acting training is essential. We have investigated what type of training is worth spending money on for where you’re at in your career. But at the end of the day it all costs money. And that investment is unlikely to pay off for a while.
Any small business owner understands sacrifice. And you need to get used to it as well. If you want to pursue one of the hardest careers on the planet, you are going to have to make some sacrifices.
If you are serious about prioritising your acting, here are some tips to budget so that you can always afford to keep training…
#1 Cut back on your food bills.
Yes, I mean going out for dinner. If you make it you’ll be going out to 3 hat restaurants for afternoon tea. Meal plan, eat healthy and keep dinners out to a minimum. After rent, food bills are your next biggest expense.
#2 Chop those credit cards.
Living off-credit is a recipe for disaster and it adds one more stress to your life. If you have debt hanging over you, I would get to that before spending more money on acting training. Live within your means and don’t get caught in relying on credit cards.
#3 Build a buffer.
Whatever your goals, acting is expensive. You might get a short film, or independent play that requires you work for free for a number of months. The only way to make sure you don’t go into the red is to have a buffer. Having this breathing room will also really help your mental health, and allow you to feel open to taking risks with your acting.
#4 Save before you spend.
Saving is hard. Saving money doesn’t come naturally for most. The best way to save is to prioritise it. When your pay cheque comes in, set aside a little something every week or month. Throw that straight into another account and only touch that money when it’s time to invest in your acting.
#5 Focus on the essentials.
As an actor it’s important to eat well, stay fit and do a number of things that might cost a few dollars. This means that whereever you can you need to cut back. Keep things simple and wait until you’ve landed a Netflix series before splurging.
I still go to a hair dresser that offers me a cheese board! It’s an expensive cut, but looking my best for auditions is a worthwhile investment. What isn’t a worthwhile investment is excessive eating out, buying copious amounts of clothes, and going nuts at IKEA.
Important: A lot of actors, in a bid to save money, will avoid things like going to the theatre. If you are an actor being inspired is definitely an investment. Going to the theatre, art galleries, inspiration talks – these aren’t luxuries. They are invaluable.
I get emails everyday from actors who tell me they can’t afford to train. And I totally get it. Working a menial job, living in an expensive city, and being an actor, is so difficult. But if you are not investing in yourself and your skills you simply will not move forward as an artist. If you want an affordable option, that allows you to keep working on your skills for a fraction of the cost, check out our online scene club. This is an incredible community to stay fit, refine your skills, and build confidence.