Can I make it as an Actor without Drama School Training?

  • Lee Petcher

    Actor

    I know this is a subject that comes up time and time again. And I know that their are people out there who do make it in the industry without formal training, but I also know that having that training does help, not only as it gives you a grounding but it also helps having that Drama school on your c.v.

    I've heard these points argued both with vaild points, but it doesn't help me or make me feel better about my situtaion.

    Here's a little about me, I studied performing arts at college where I passed my Btec National Diploma with distinction, whilst there I also took the LAMDA acting exams, Bronze, Silver and Gold, again all passed with distinction. When I was 18 I passed my audition to train with the NYT summer course.

    Since then I did several amature productions, then went on to a semi-proffesional shows and eventually 2 years ago I finally packed in my day job and auditioned for a touring panto company, which I got the job. I have then done several touring works with different companies going into primary schools but also into old peoples homes. (Whilst at these jobs I have been talking to the other actors and found out that most have been to drama school, so I think well I haven't been to drama school but I'm doing the job you're doing and you have been.) I have also done a few paid student films. I have earnt enough credits to be apart of equity and join spotlight, so to all intents and purposes I am a "proffesional" actor, and I know I should be very grateful for what I've done and for being in permenant work for the past 2 years, which I am.

    But I am now worried that this is all I will ever do. And for myself I want to do bigger and better things. I'd love to do a proffesional play in a proper theatre, to really have a character I need get my teeth into. To go in to a feature film, etc. And I feel my lack of Drama school is holding me back.

    Now this isn't to say I've not tried for drama school, I have I think I have tried for the past 8 years to get in. One year I was very lucky to get into the final rounds of LAMDA but no further, and haven't had any luck since. Well not with the schools in the CDS (although the only 2 I've been auditioning for recently are LAMDA and Italia Conti). I did get a place at Acting School North, (which I didn't take as something didn't feel right and it folded the next year) and London Drama School (again I didn't accept this place either due to not being able to get a student loan to support me through training).

    There is evidence to suggest I have talent, but it's annoying I haven't been able to obtain a place at a school in the CDS.

    It's also getting hard now as I have been with my partner for 5 years now, and if I do apply and get a place at drama school it means moving away for 3 years.

    I just don't know what to do for the best. I never went to university from college as I got a job straight away in a bank. Acting is all I know I wouldn't know what else to do with my life. Do I continue doing what I'm doing and hope for the best? Do I apply for Drama school again and face yet anoter rejection?

    Help I'm going through a career crisis.

    • 20th Mar 2013
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  • Tamaryn Payne

    Actor

    coming from an actor who has been to drama school - yes you can definitely work without having training. I have worked with loads of good actors who didn't go to drama school don't worry about that!

    • 11th Mar 2013
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  • Adam Anouer

    Actor

    Hi Lee.

    I think you can trust Tamaryn's judgment here because she's done some amazing work and the fact she still uses CCP (Most actors seem to abandon it after joining spotlight) shows she's always looking for new opportunities so that she can continue evolving as a performer. (Lovely girl too).

    I'm not Drama School trained my self (although don't get me wrong I'd love to be). See with most drama schools you are a product of a specific type of training and when it comes to that for the most part you know what you're getting which is why quite a few companies look exclusively for people of that discipline. However I've found that I am constantly evolving through experience gaining new strengths which make me a unique actor of my own design (That sounds really predantic) which can be extremely helpful especially when it comes to Independant Writers. When it comes to unique directing it's always an image that's created by imagination and sometimes to find the perfect match you have to look far deeper than training but for actual experience and character.

    I'm sorry if that sounds vague as I'm still learning this all myself. All I can say is always keep searching and you'll keep getting better and better and I promise that will help you.

    • 11th Mar 2013
    • 2
  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    In short, of course you can! I didn't start my professional acting career until I was 39 and simply couldn't afford the luxury of 3-5 years of drama school as I have a) a family to support and b) an allergy to debt! I've now been at this for nearly 9 years, have worked on some amazing productions and made lifelong friends along the way! The best piece of advice I can give anyone starting an acting career is sort out a flexible alternative form of income first! Turning up at auditions and NEEDING the job as oppose to WANTING the job is a recipe for disaster and that desperation to pay the rent comes through in your performance and will be your demise!

    • 11th Mar 2013
    • 3
  • Meryl Griffiths

    Actor

    I agree with Forbes. Although I DID go to drama school back in my twenties but I'm not sure it particularly equipped me for acting! I was young, insecure and had no idea what I really wanted to do or whether I was any good at it even if I knew what 'it' was. I was crippled by self consciousness and lack of belief. So I quit and went into the corporate world as a presentation skills trainer. I'd also met a man at that time which was part of that decision ;-) - much nicer sharing a bed with him than the bed bugs I encountered on tour!!

    During that time however I carried on acting albeit with a well established London non-pro theatre company. And it was THAT that taught me the most.

    So I'm now coming back.... with much more of a sense of who I am and what I can offer.

    What I'm taking from your post, actually, is not so much around whether or not you should go to drama school but more about what kind of material you could be doing. You've done a fair bit of panto and such and wondering whether you are capable of 'straight' stuff. Is that right?

    If that IS the case then just start doing the straight stuff, even if it's on a low pay/no pay basis. And then you'll get more of an idea first whether you enjoy and second whether it's right for you.

    Another thought, looking at your profile picture you seem from first impressions to be a character actor with the potential for gently humorous pieces rather than heavy drama as the 'hero'. But that is just based on the one shot.

    I would also second the need to get something other that brings in some dosh. Which will give you much more freedom in the choices you subsequently make.

    Hope that helps...

    • 11th Mar 2013
    • 4
  • Angharhad Owen

    Actor

    Solid advice from Forbes as always!!

    Plenty of people didn't go to drama school I live that people like Sir Ian McKellan actively speak against it - not because I'm anti drama school but because drama school is about whether you have the money and for those of us who have never had the financial oppurtunity to go reassuring. Current Dr Who matt smith didn't go he came through NYT. James corden didn't go. Pick half the folks you consider to be o. The A list and they didn't go... I dare say the list of those who did is longer but it really depends on how hard you are prepared to work and what you are prepared to do to get where you want to go. I think you should expect it to take longer- for you to bills up more and to be able to show a body of experience which its sounds like your doing.

    Best to you

    A

    • 11th Mar 2013
    • 5
  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    In short, of course you can! I didn't start my professional acting career until I was 39 and simply couldn't afford the luxury of 3-5 years of drama school as I have a) a family to support and b) an allergy to debt! I've now been at this for nearly 9 years, have worked on some amazing productions and made lifelong friends along the way! The best piece of advice I can give anyone starting an acting career is sort out a flexible alternative form of income first! Turning up at auditions and NEEDING the job as oppose to WANTING the job is a recipe for disaster and that desperation to pay the rent comes through in your performance and will be your demise!

    • 13th Mar 2013
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  • Ashleigh LeRoy

    Actor

    In my opinion, if you have the talent, skills and professionalism required then it doesn't matter if you've trained or not.

    • 13th Mar 2013
    • 7
  • Julie Hoult

    Actor

    When I went to Drama School back in 95, I use to think 'Can I make it as an Actor without having my family being associated with the Industry e.g. Fox, Redgrave etc' because between you and I it infuriated me back then, that easy access into the Industry due to one's surname - but I'm over that now as I know the answer 'Yes I can and I am making it as an actor' Importantly to me and this is where Drama School comes in and why I went, Acting is a 'Craft' and I wanted to know and still do, everything about my Craft from the History, to learn about the writers of the Plays and why they wrote those words from the atrocities or happiness in life at that time etc, because without writers there's no actors....There are today wonderful actors who haven't been trained and do their job very well, but to me? Its not enough but I'm a traditionalist, don't get me wrong I ain't a luvvie but I have worked with some actors who have not been trained and it showed... But Lee I know you are going through a crisis but only you can answer your own questions but for God don't go into debt over it!! The last thing I'll say is and it may sound quirky but after all these years its so true to me -'Rejection has to be your best friend'

    • 13th Mar 2013
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  • Robert Dukes

    Actor

    Hello all, this is one of my first posts on here - haven't ventured onto forums until now. However, I wanted to add my two cents worth.

    I 100% believe you can do whatever you want to do, yes ok, it's been said before, but in my experience, if you go in to a situation believing you are the solution to the "problem" then you will be.

    I haven't been to drama school either, I studied drama at University and since then have worked with American Acting Coach, Bernard Hiller, here in London and out in LA, these are very intense workshops that are geared not only to forwarding your skills as an actor but also creating the right mentality, belief and support network you need in this industry to survive.

    It does not matter where you are from or who you are related too, or what training you have, I have friends who have been to Drama School - some have loved it, some have hated it. Ok, Drama school gives you contacts, this however does not guarantee success, it just guarantee's you a contact.

    If you want something, go and get it.

    Thanks for reading!

    • 14th Mar 2013
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  • Cynon Lewis

    Actor

    These are two (or three?) different goals:

    "do a professional play in a proper theatre, to really have a character I need get my teeth into. To go in to a feature film."

    Which one do you really want? What does 'go in to a feature film' mean? Be very, very specific.

    Decide and go for that one. Not just auditions and courses. Networking, parties, if it's film you want read Michael Caine's book on how he did it. ( He worked very hard to get a break it was not luck.)

    Drama/Stage schools, in my experience, don't teach much camera technique and that's vital. So check out the City Lit courses.

    Cynon

    (film only)

    • 15th Mar 2013
    • 10
  • Lee Petcher

    Actor

    Wow,

    Thank you so much for all your replies, you have certainly given me the lift and boost I needed.

    Forbes as was stated before "sound advice", and Meryl, you hit the nail on the head! I know I'll never play the "hero" or "love interest" and I made my peace with that sometime ago, but I don't want to fall into the trap of just doing panto and TIE pieces. And Julie, I like you am a traditionalist and want to learn as much about the craft as possible, but you're right I don't intend to get into debt.

    I will continue to work hard and learn from the people around me. And you guys have been a true inspiration, thank you.

    • 15th Mar 2013
    • 11
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I'm a late starter with no drama training apart from one week course, so this topic interests me! An agent has taken me on but suggests I add another drama course to my CV.

    I am happy to do this in theory but it is an expensive business! Should I? If so, can anyone recommend one? Rep College seems good but too good to be true?

    Any advice welcome!

    • 15th Mar 2013
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  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Rep college was great fun and I learnt lots, warmly recomended!

    • 16th Mar 2013
    • 13
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Thanks again for your advice Ian

    I'm trying to work out a way to finance this and wondered if anyone else who has done the 1 year course got much share of the ticket sales as stated.

    I realise it wouldn't be enough to live on, but every little helps.

    Thanks

    • 20th Mar 2013
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