So here I am, back to square one.
The first time round, it was 2004 and I had just finished four long but enjoyable, informative and fulfilling years studying Performing Arts and Theatre at college. I made sure that I was prepared before I left to pursue my ambition in the big wide, competitive world of acting and started approaching agencies in advance. I prepared my CV, I researched casting websites to start self submitting and I started applying for work. I had my Equity student card securely in hand and I had the confirmation that I had been accepted on the Spotlight Casting Directory. I had saved my student loan to get some head-shots and I purchased a video camera to film my college theatre performances to add to my show reel, I was armed up to the hilt and ready to go! I couldn’t wait to start auditioning. Even before I graduated I had managed to sign up with an agent and she was already putting me forward for roles before I left.
I was excited for the future and the world was there for the taking.
I will never forget my first audition in my acting career, I traveled to Manchester for a TV commercial that my agent had submitted me for. It was for a top British Casting Director that was well known for casting serious television dramas and she ended up scaring the hell out of me. Erasing my audition tape and ordering me out of the room, my agent had failed to inform me of the character and accent that was expected of me. It turned out that she had wanted to see me for a Scottish accent, (I was born in Aberdeen) but as I had been living in England since a child, my accent had evolved into a local Shropshire twang. This my agent knew, so it baffled me that she wouldn’t have told me what was expected of me before I go there! I traveled back home on the train in shock. I learned one important lesson that day, push your agent for the FULL information and to never be too scared to ask questions or ask to do it again. However it didn’t put me off an acting career, putting it down to experience, a couple of years later I paid to attended a workshop with the same Casting Director, despite the fact that she put the fear of God in me, I knew there was a lot that I needed to learn about auditioning and that she was one of the best in her field. Well, that was my first taste of what was to come but I still couldn’t wait for the next one, I worked with film students to develop a demo reel to put forward for potential work and I auditioned for endless TV commercials until a job came along for a film. I was persuaded into doing featured Supporting Artist work by my agent on an internationally distributed feature film. Despite having to pay for my own accommodation and travel, I knew it would end up being an invaluable experience and also my first taste of being on a film set. Back then I dreamed of being ‘discovered’ and delusional, I went for it. Being able to stand back and watch, I learned a lot, it taught me how to behave on set. I learned what each persons responsibility was, the jargon, the etiquette and I was also able to watch the actors closely as we were working in quite an intimate environment. It helped me enormously to prepare myself for when I actually got a featured role were I would be expected to know what the heck was going on.
For the next 6 years I endlessly self submitted as well as relying on my agent which I equally pestered, auditioning throughout the UK, from Birmingham, to London, to Liverpool, at my own expense and what an expensive business it was. I most definitely spent more money during that time than I earned back in my acting career. I began to realise that there was never a guarantee of work, I would get booked then dropped, booked and not used, booked, used and then end up on the cutting room floor. After three years of showing up and doing my bit I started being shortlisted for roles, being remembered by casting directors and getting recalls, I was even selected for a TV Commercial that I wasn’t asked to audition for as the director had remembered me from a previous audition for a car commercial (a huge thing for me at the time). I started to pick up momentum, making contacts and building friendships. It got to the point that I turned up on set one day to have a runner make ME a coffee!! Put up in a hotel and driven around in a car that I actually didn’t have to pay for! I will never forget going home when filming wrapped and the feeling of being so proud of my self after working so hard and it paying off, it felt like the beginning of the rest of my life.
Then it stopped.
In 2010 I reluctantly had to make the decision to take a rest due to a family upheaval in the hope that I would get back to my career sooner than I have. I left my family and my friends to believe that it was the end of the line, I didn’t think that they would understand due to the situation that I was in at the time, if I told them I had not in fact given up on my acting career. So finally, six years on and I am back to square one, unknown and forgotten. I have yet again started submitting to student productions, looked into retraining, researching new monologues and saving money for those important new head shots.
So much has changed since my first time around, there were no such thing as Sat Nav’s, I carried big thick and heavy A-Z’s of the cities, head shots had to be in black and white, very few people had a mobile phone so you certainly couldn’t get in touch with a Runner to let them know you were lost on the way to a film set at 6.30am (You HAD to be on time.) or even promote yourself on something called Social Media. Letters were stuffed and posted off in their hundreds to casting directors which cost me a small fortune in stamps every week and demo reels were burnt onto several DVD’s for my agent to post out. That’s right, a career in acting isn’t all glitz and glamour! There was no such thing as online self promotion or self recording our auditions before sending a private link from YouTube.
Luckily from my experience of running an agency I haven’t completely been left in the dark age, I have updated my Social Networking pages, gone through my Google presence with a fine tooth comb and tried to get rid of anything which has no relevance to my acting career. Deleting as many embarrassing pictures as I could and setting up my YouTube channel so that I could start doing my self taped monologues. I also started researching acting classes because, finding out the hard way, acting is not like riding a bike I’ll have you know. This I found out when I auditioned for an agency two years ago and I admit, pretty much made a fool of myself. I sat there and watched recent Drama School graduates nail it one after another and then came me, ‘Little Miss Rusty’ doing the same old Alan Bennett comedy piece that I had been doing since college. I felt like an 18 year old performing arts student destined for stacking shelves in Tesco compared to the talented young, enthusiastic and hungry aspiring actors standing before me. Watching the emotional and dramatic out pouring of monologues that I had never even heard of, I wanted to crawl under a rock. It wasn’t a good sign. So finding the right audition piece for me is also on the agenda. Then there is the expense, the anxiety set in knowing that there was a slim possibility that I might not even earn it back in a year. Already it is mounting up, the head-shots, the Spotlight Page, the Castingcallpro subscription, IMDB Pro, Equity and that’s even before the classes, one to one coaching and a professional demo reel, but I know its going to be worth it.
I am sure if I ever buck up the courage to admit to my family that I am going to give to another go, some just won’t understand. I have had to accept what is in my heart, it follows me everyday as it has done for the past 25 years. I wake up with it, I go to sleep with it. I doubt it will ever leave me, I am doing this because it is a part of me and if I don’t try I may regret it forever. After all, if you don’t try you never know, right? The last thing I want to do is to look back at my life and think ‘What If?’.
So the website is in place, the monologues are being researched, I have started to reach out to business contacts and I have applied to an accredited acting course to finally get my degree. I feel so much more prepared than I ever have done, I am older and wiser and most importantly I understand myself more. This time I will get it right, albeit carefully, slowly and with much more thought and preparation.
So here I go, onward and upwards in 2017 with the world at my feet and the internet at my finger tips, wish me luck as I pursue my acting career.
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