Generally speaking, if you want to become an actor you must learn the trade. After high school, you apply to your favourite, and the best, performance schools in Australia, or overseas, you train hard for 3 years and graduate with a degree in the performing arts. This, you can be proud to have, and use to your advantage to get an agent or your first job fresh from University.
Naturally, spending multiple years learning the craft and training yourself in all areas of performance is the best way to excel in your desired field. But what happens if you haven’t been to WAAPA, or NIDA or any of the other credited acting schools in town? What if you couldn’t go because of family or other career choices, because you couldn’t afford it, because you didn’t know you wanted to do it back then?
It can be disheartening, especially if a casting agent asks you point blank where you studied. It’s as if getting that job was hanging on this answer alone and not having that piece of paper means that at this point you may as well give up!
“Errm…….. Nowhere? No I mean, the school of life!, ha ha. No really – I didn’t go to university, sorry, perhaps I should just go now, ok thanks for your time, no need to call, bye!”
Apart from this response being completely self-deprecating, it’s just not true. You’d be more likely to loose the job for your lack of confidence than your lack of formal education.
A lot of people are in this situation and its important for you to know that A- you are not alone, and B- you can still do it, either with a degree, or without.
Many universities take mature age students, some even give preference to these people, as the life experience you have gained in comparison to a 17 year old fresh from school, may benefit your approach to performing.
But if you have decided that university is not right for you, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be in the race and work professionally, as an actor in the industry. Yes, actor’s agencies and casting agents like to see where your degree is from, but they also like to know where YOU are from. You may lack a big name institution on your CV and you may need to work a bit harder to get your foot in the door, but it can be done.
Agencies are going to need to see something. That will be a show reel, a well-written CV with interesting credits and a professional headshot. You can’t skimp on these things, as the competition is too great.
To build up your CV and/or show reel you’ll need to have some credits. This is where we get back to education. It is true that education is key to most areas of success. If you know what you are doing, you are likely to pull it off better than the guy who had no idea. Natural talent goes a long way but training is so important. That’s why you should take part in any short courses you can find, regular classes or workshops that can show your diversity and knowledge in what you have learnt. This help the agencies to know you have had some training, and it helps you to broaden your scope of performance styles and genres. Win – win!
Time to get on to writing your experience. If you have already had an interest in acting for some time you will have performed in some capacity. This is where you need to list all you have done and are proud of, short films, student films, fringe plays and performance pieces. If you haven’t yet had any or enough experience on stage or on screen, it’s time to get yourself out there. Experience is education.
Not having been to university is not a ‘bad’ thing, unless you make it one. So instead of answering the question of “Where do you study?” with an inaudible “I haven’t” whilst you shuffle your feet and look around the room wishing you had known you had wanted to do this years ago. Hold your head high and accept the fact you haven’t, but you are still worth it. There is not just one way to become an actor.