It’s one thing getting into the drama school of your dreams, it’s another thing to graduate.
Here are my thoughts on how to graduate from your drama school. From the start of final year to moving to your first set of digs.
First things first: our profession is a fickle one, and your career is a marathon and not a sprint. If your drama school is a good one they will drum this into you as soon as you walk through the door! Let this become your graduation mantra.
Of course, it’s not my duty to tell you what your mantra is. You’ll have to come up with one yourself. But if you can’t think of one right now, feel free to use mine as a placeholder!
Don’t Fret About Headshots
Ahh, headshots. I’ve spent hours sending these to countless friends and sometimes slight acquaintances. I’ve pestered each and every one of them for an opinion. “Are my eyes are too squinty?” or, “are my cheeks look too chubby?” or, a personal favourite: “does it captures my ‘essence’, you know?” I’ve known people to post them on Facebook and whichever gets the most ‘likes’ becomes that person’s calling card.
This is all, of course, completely unnecessary. Pick one that you know looks like you.
People spend a lot of money on headshots, if money is no object for you, go for it. If it is, like most of us, ask friends with decent cameras/Photoshop knowledge for help or some students who need to expand their portfolio. You’ll feel much more at ease with them and have unlimited time anyway. Always offer them a pint for their troubles.
Remember, your headshot won’t get you an agent. Your skills, personality and talent will. Besides, agents will often ask you to get new ones taken once you’ve signed. In short, your headshot needs to look like you and that’s it. Don’t stress about it. Pick one and then get on with learning your lines.
Support (Yourself & Others)
Luckily, I had a wicked graduation class and we were very supportive of each other. The feeling of pure love after showcase at the Criterion was electric. If you look after others when they are down, they will look after you when you are down… well, nice people will anyway.
Don’t be the Debbie-downer of your year group, be the leader of positivity and helpfulness during the final year. Of course, get on with your work and know when to say no, but keep any of those unhelpful, judgmental thoughts at bay. Let them come and let them go. They do not serve you. Which leads me neatly onto…
Have an End Goal
Your thoughts determine your actions. As actors and actresses, we are always thinking about our characters. What do they think, what they want and how can they go about getting it? It’s the same with you.
Have a set of clear goals or objectives and make sure that your actions are helping you achieve those goals. Yes, this will involve sacrifice.
Picture the scene: you’ve got have a meeting tomorrow with your dream agency. Your friend asks if you want to go for ‘a quick one’ at the local. You’re shattered and could use a drink. What do you do?
You go home, eat some good food, get an early night and do some exercise in the morning. You’ll thank yourself for it. Take your journey seriously. Be disciplined enough to say no sometimes.
Keep Your Finances in Check
Now, this is a more ‘boring’ tip, but the most important. Towards the end of the year, you will probably have a lovely accountant come in and tell you how it all works.
Now, if you have no clue about money or taxes or how to keep your accounts, listen up right now.
Start keeping track of your outgoings and note in a money journal all your income and outgoings. Get in the habit of doing this weekly or daily. Spreadsheets are your friend.
Just like with your spinal rolls and articulation exercises, little and often is key to success. You will be laughing when the time comes to submit your tax return once you’ve done all the groundwork all year. Every January 30th my Facebook feed is a window into despair. It shouldn’t be this stressful. Consistency is key.
Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself
Whenever the going gets tough, take a breath and remind yourself that this is not the be all and end all. Allow yourself to think ahead.
You may have got the lead in the first show and signed with an agent by December. So logic would dictate your career will be blooming by the summer, right? Wrong. Sure, some get lucky, but a lot more don’t.
If we want to stick with the blooming analogy, image your career is a garden. You’ll need to keep it in shape, trim the hedges and plant new seeds of your own. There’ll be a few draughts… despite doing everything your end to have a blooming garden, the rain simply won’t fall. But then, out of the blue, when the forecast declared another dreaded heatwave, you may get the rainfall you’ve been longing for.
The career you have chosen is going to be tough, but nothing you can’t handle. Yes, you may have to take on bar work or front of house shifts between jobs. It could three years before your first part even comes through. Don’t give up. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember that and persevere, even when all the signs are saying stop and get that ‘normal’ job your mum is begging you to take. I can guarantee, that is when you’ll land on your feet.
Pippa is an actress born and bred in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. After training at Bristol Old Vic she has worked all over the UK and is currently expanding her first play and writing her own comedy stand up show. Born a mover, she loves ballet, juggling, cycling and hitting the surf in Cornwall. She also runs her own business and has plans to travel and change the world…