So You’re Thinking of Applying to Drama School? HA! I Laugh.
Once upon a time I was told by a senior tutor from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama that they receive approximately 6000 applications, in any given year, for about 20 spaces on their BA Acting Course. 6000 people vying for 20 places. That’s just for one UK accredited drama school out of the other 22. If you’re a woman, your chances are smaller. And if you are an ethnic minority, your chances are even lesser. But, if you’re anything serious like me then you probably already knew that.
Don’t be the average Joe applying for RADA and picking the same dead monologues. Applicants are getting smarter. They are becoming more creative and innovative to how they approach auditioning. Which is why you need to listen up, because like ANY ACTOR and pilot season, it’s about marketing i.e. selling yourself.
Here my seven tips to nailing drama school auditions:
1. BUILD A CAMPAIGN - Just because you are not a professional actor yet, doesn’t mean you should slack on your goal regardless of whether or not you get in. Do any and everything whilst you’re young and free with no responsibilities. Do as many FREE young initiatives, programmes, schemes, young companies, workshops, classes, masterclasses as much as possible. Do it whilst you have age on your side because post-25 they don’t come often and they don’t come cheap. Partner with friends, make short films, make plays, learn a language, learn to swim, practise your ballet moves. DO IT ALL. Get to know people in your chosen career. Teachers, directors, youth coordinators anyone and everyone. It helps. Especially when seeking a letter of recommendation or reference. This is what will separate you from the average Joe who just did GCSE Drama and wants to be in Star Wars.
2. GET A JOB – If you come from a household like mine then your parents probably weren’t supportive of your chosen career which is why it’s important to have a certain level of independence. For the love of god: GET. A. JOB. Save your money and reinvest that into your “campaign” that means taking classes, courses, workshops, going to theatre shows, networking events, having savings to pay for auditions, your drama fees and any downtime that may occur e.g. free full-time summer courses that take time off from working. GET A JOB because you will need money and it will save you a lot of aggro and missed opportunities.
3. APPLY EARLY – Whoever gets to the table first EATS! Between the month of October and December is picking season. Some drama schools *cough* like to increase their application fee after that. The truth is they get tired by January. They get bored. There’s someone already like you that they’ve seen, there aren’t any recall spaces or they’ve seen so many good people that your mediocre rendition of Hamlet wasn’t enough for them to want to see you again. Whatever the reason, the earlier you apply the greater the chance of them recalling you.
4. KNOW YOUR FUCKING SPEECH! – I tell you what. You go in there with a piece of paper and some reason why you don’t know your speech off by heart and you’re better off giving me that 50 quid you just wasted. LEARN YOUR LINES. The end. Next!
5. KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE DOING – There’s no point having the entire script memorised if you’re gonna go up there and act like a twat. THE POWER IS IN THE PREPARATION. I REPEAT. THE POWER IS IN THE PREPARATION. This is where it helps to be part of a class or drama group where you can practise not only your speech but the moment you walk in the room. How to handle the atmosphere. How to handle talking to the girl with the nice hair to being called in by the staff into the audition room. It’s that moment between OFF and ON. That gear shift. You master that and you are well on your way to being a great actor let alone securing a recall.
Give your speech the integrity it deserves. Don’t be a statue. Actors questions, emotional memory, these are some of the most basic tools you will need to even begin acting. Otherwise, you’re simply reciting the lines and winging it. Be intentional. Think of it as a one-minute performance.
Practise your speech to anyone, everyone and your pet. Keep it fresh by switching up the scenarios. Do it running outside. Do it on the train at 7 am in your pyjamas. Do it outside the tube station handing out the Metro. Get my point? Experiment, experiment, experiment! Don’t be afraid to look stupid practising. You don’t have the luxury of wasting time feeling scared. Fear is a luxury you cannot afford.
Practice interview questions so you know how to answer them. “Tell me about yourself” The question we all hate to answer. What exactly is being asked? What part of myself do they want to know? Can’t they see what’s on my application?
They want to find out about you and your experience. Be strategic in what you say. Is there anything on your form you left out? What are your other hobbies interest? WHY DO YOU WANT TO ACT? WHY DO YOU WANT TO COME HERE? WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE ACTORS AND WHY? AND FOR FUCKSAKE DO NOT SAY ANYONE FROM HOLLYWOOD WITHOUT GIVING A LEGITIMATE REASON. WHAT IS THE LAST PIECE OF THEATRE YOU SAW? DON’T JUST SAY “ITS GOOD”. So many people give an amazing performance and kill it in the interview because they ramble or don’t know how to sell themselves. And some people give a subpar performance but are called in for a recall for being great in the interview and selling themselves well.
6. CONFIDENCE – You don’t NEED a drama school to validate your existence. DO NOT GIVE AWAY YOUR POWER. I REPEAT. DO NOT GIVE AWAY YOUR POWER. You are there to show them your work and your preparation. You are there to show them, “look, this is what I have been working on and right now and you are going to see the best version of that work”. YOU HAVE PAID YOUR FUCKING WAITRESSING MONEY IN THAT SHITTY MINIMUM WAGE JOB TO BE THERE. OWN THAT FUCKING ROOM. Don’t get side-tracked with all the conversations you will have with outside the audition room. Don’t compare yourself to Mrs NYT over there. The minute you do that, you give away your power. Having said that, don’t be the chatterbox distracting everyone. Don’t be cocky and think you know it all, telling tales of how you came to meet Rufus Norris at Starbucks. FOCUS ON YOUR OWN SHIT. Know why you came. You came to SLAY.
7. DON’T FREAK OUT IF YOU DON’T GET IN – Remember when I told you to build your campaign. Yes its sounds dramatic but the competition is high. You want to give yourself the best chance and THE BEST CHOICE. Remember it’s the same £9,000 a year for three years for most of these drama schools, so INVEST in the one you fucking want and invest the time and effort in yourself. When you build your campaign none of that is wasted. It’s a learning curve and you still have a lot to show for it when you don’t get in. DON’T BE A DUMMY. A Campaigner is further ahead than the average Joe auditioning and winging it. You may not get in this year, next year or even after that. But you are well on your way to being an actor. A DENIAL FROM A SCHOOL IS NOT THE DENIAL OF THE INDUSTRY. And nothing and no one can ever take that away from as long as you stay committed to your own campaign. DON’T GET BITTER. GET BETTER.
Rosemary Akinola is an actor with Carey Dodd Associates. Based here in London, she is also a blogger/writer and can be found at her website www.rosemarysdiary.co.uk, on twitter @rosemaryakinola and Instagram @rosemary_akinola. She is also member of The Diversity School Initiative.