Congratulations! You have graduated from drama school, finally, you can put those tights in the bottom drawer, take up smoking again, throw out the diet and really ease into those late nights watching YouTube conspiracy theories. Or, you can keep up those good habits, hustle, network, and embrace everything the industry has to offer, without expectations. Totally up to you, but given the choice I’d work more towards the latter. Yes, it can be scary coming out from the safety blanket of drama school but have no fear! This is StageMilks guide to standing out for all the right reasons, and becoming a valued part of the entertainment industry for new grads.
Don’t stop working
One of my biggest regrets from being out of drama school for a few years is I did not keep up the good habits that I established at drama school. At The Actors Centre Australia, we were doing yoga every week, voice work every day, working on scenes and reading plays every week, putting down self-tapes and just generally working on our craft 60 hours a week. Instead of finding a way to maintain some or all of these, I let myself completely slack off and only sporadically restarted them when I had a job coming up. If you can find a way to maintain your healthy habits, especially around voice and scene work you are going to set yourself up for success in the long run.
Getting an agent isn’t everything
Showcase can be a hellscape and there is heaps of pressure on everyone. The administrators of the school want to make sure the best agents are there, the actors are all vying for limited spots on agents rosters and the agents themselves have 24 actors desperate for their attention to deal with. The whole thing is intense and at the end of it, you can find yourself without an agent, or not with the agency that you dreamed of. This can be really challenging, especially when people from your year group have moved to more prestigious agencies than you. A close friend of mine got limited offers after showcase, and went with an agency that wasn’t quite right for them. After 18 months, they were without an agent and spent every waking hour sending headshots and showreels to agencies all over Australia. They also put their head down and created a show which propelled their career into critically acclaimed projects, a great agency and international representation. In fact, being without an agent for a period of time allowed them to focus on creating their own work, which has been of significant benefit to their career.
Showcase is a stepping stone, it’s an opportunity but it is not the only opportunity you are ever going to have as an artist. If you get meetings or signed, that is fantastic but it is not the be-all and end-all of your career.
Give yourself a break
Straight-up drama school is freaking intense and as much as my first point may seem to contradict this, it is really important you cut yourself some slack and take a beat to congratulate yourself on sticking it out. Drop out rates at all schools across the world is high, and the fact that you made it through the entire course, got through showcase and emerged on the other side as a fully formed creative practitioner is an achievement in its self. You can now join the thousands of other graduates in pubs, bars and cafe’s across the land reminiscing about the joys of drama school.
After three years of being mostly exhausted, poor and significantly under pressure the temptation can be to hermit up or party so hard you can barely stand. I would advise finding a middle point here and using your new-found time and funds to go and see as much theatre and film as you possibly can. You only get to know your industry by being a part of the community, get to as many theatres and film festivals as you can. See a range of independent, community, professional and semi-professional work. Take note of what works, what doesn’t and where you think you could fit in. Also start to get a feel for what you like and why. As much as possible ingratiate yourself in your local scene and get to know the people in it.
Say “yes” to as much as possible
Think like improv class and ‘Yes And’ the hell out of everything early in the game. Getting on set and on stage experience is absolutely vital and yes, more than likely a couple of these things are going to suck. But at this stage, that is totally fine. In fact, if you are able to be great in something that sucks it can still do you favours in the long term. I did a show when I just came out of drama school which I knew by week two of rehearsals, was an absolute stinker. Bonafide shocker. However, a well-known director came and saw that show, and enjoyed my performance which led me to my first paid theatre gig! So you never know. Get out there, do some free stuff, get on stage, get on screen, meet local producers, directors, writers and crew. Get amongst it as much as possible!
Network, network, network
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the idioms are completely accurate. It is not what you know, it is completely who you know. Contacts are everything. I can almost guarantee you will get more work through your career from people you have met in foyers, pubs, sets, cafes and events than you will through your agent. Make connections, create friendships and meet people. Never disparage or write someone off, you never know who they could become so approach all interactions with an open mind. Try and avoid being too anxious or desperately keen, but getting to know the humans who make up your local industry and becoming a part of that is an essential tool for young creatives.
So in conclusion, don’t be worried young graduates. There is a place in this industry for you, if you don’t find it immediately or even if you do, it’s about working your butt off to become the creative force you are meant to be and using your interpersonal skills to find the right place in the industry in which to thrive. Don’t rush it, be kind to yourself and others and as much as possible leave the comparison to other peoples careers at the door. You really do make your own luck so get out there and in the immortal words of Shia Le Boeuf, ‘Just do it. Do. It!’