MA Acting - is it worth it?

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    Check me. Has anyone finished an MA Acting or know anyone who has and who could offer feed bacK, eg is it a good idea to do it.

    • 25th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    My Ma couldn't act her way out of a paper bag ... but she was lovely, lovely, lovely, .... and yes, she WAS worth it !!.

    • 18th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    I completed my MA Acting at Birmingham School of Acting last summer, and am really pleased I did the extra part to make the diploma an MA. I know it varies from school to school, but on my course it meant using the summer after the end of term to complete a research project. If you have the time, and potentially the extra little bit of money needed, then it's really rewarding and you can really tailor a project/performance to show your strengths and use it as an additional showcase.

    Obviously it's nice to have a bit of paper with it on, and it can come in handy when applying for teaching roles etc. Having said that, it won't get you seen for any more acting roles unfortunately, so it is more a matter of whether you'd like that little bit extra. I'd say go for it if you feel inclined!

    • 18th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    Rather like a Window Cleaner with an Honours Degree in Science !!.

    • 18th May 2010
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ...or crushing a grape with an industrial hydraulic press !

    • 18th May 2010
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Although this thread is mainly generating tongue in cheek comments, they have a valid point. I didn't do a specific MA in Acting, because I already hold an MA in History, and was happy for that to stand as an academic achievement, so I can't tell you *exactly* what you would get from specific courses.

    But, in general terms, it is certainly fair to say that, from the standpoint of furthering your practical career in the industry (if that's what you are interested in), an MA is neither here nor there. The one guarantee of *any* university level degree is that it will have a significant complement of coursework, essay writing and analysis all of which I (as an ex-lecturer) hold a personal regard for but none of which is really vocational qualification, and will not be taken by casting directors, agents etc. as such.

    Therefore, whether or not doing an MA is actively of interest to you depends on what you wish to achieve from it. If you are hoping to establish an academic qualification that will look better for you in the general job market, or even to specialise in some form of research area as an adjunct to your acting, then it is probably worth doing. If you wish to capitalise on the prospect of working within a university environment for a year or so, then it is probably worth doing. If you have a burning desire to learn more about the technicalities of theatre and screen, their history, systems of performance, the meaning of theatre-audience interaction etc. etc., then it is probably worth doing. If you are hoping that it serve to up your ratings on the Internet Movie Database, or convince more casting directors to take an interest in your work, then you are looking in the wrong direction and would be better off continuing to search for work in general, and making personal contacts. In an era when, to be honest, being a member of Equity and being represented by a bona fide agent, is no longer any guarantee that a casting director will actually take your professionalism seriously, holding an MA in Acting is really neither here nor there.

    With this said, there are two positive aspects to all this. First off, if you have the time, money and inclination to do the MA, no-one will despise you for it: should you mention it on your CV, it will always garner respect from others who will admire the fact that you had the nouse to go and win the sort of academic qualification that is hard to gain. Admitedly, my MA is not in an acting related specialism (which means the fact I have it is more of an unexpected surprise), but I have never known anyone whom I mention it to who has not been interested in the fact that I did it. But do I think it has ever secured me a casting in the first place? I don't think so.

    The second point, and the one which might invalidate most of what I have written about, is that I am not sure if you are solely talking about MA courses, which I associate mainly with university work, and hence, non vocational training. There are certainly 'postgraduate' courses at drama schools (often one or two year courses) that can be converted to MA status if desired (I know because I did one myself) that are fully vocational. Some heavily vocational courses (with only a small amount of coursework) such as the MA in Classical Acting at Drama Centre are only really called MA's in order that drama schools can gain better funding for them as 'university' level courses - they often aren't taught as they would be at a university (with the emphasis on written research, rather than practical application) and this will be the difference between courses run by CDS affiliated drama schools and universities. I don't know if you are looking to enroll on a postgrad acting course (reasonable if you want to knock some rough edges off your acting and hone your technique, but don't wish to spend three years in the company of those straight out of stage school) or to actually do a research led MA. Neither is a bad thing to do as a life choice if it will reward you, but the vocational course is always the better bet if you wish to be making genuine connections and establishing business practices that will orient you more seriously as a working actor.

    • 18th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    Lee ... love the way you take the time, and the trouble to smack home the points.

    But ... would also love to see your note to the Milkman !!

    • 18th May 2010
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  • Alice Potter

    Actor

    Well Seamus this is the first time ever I have participated in giving my comments - here goes.....I've just completed an MA in Acting from LIPA, I handed my MA dissertation in last week. I chose to do the course as I felt it'd help me grow as an artist and be in an environment where everyday you are surrounded by acting, your whole life becomes that purpose. There isn't on the whole auditioning for parts as the roles are part of your training, it is absolutely amazing environment to flourish creatively because of the intensity of learning and the abundance of input which is purely focused to enhance your learning. It all does sound a bit indulgent but I've paid a large sum of money to learn and that's what I did. However, as for getting work, that's a whole different matter. I went back to college when I was in my mid thirties, it was a change of direction, so now I may have learnt many skills for acting but I have no experience to put on my CV to say to any casting director please give me a job I won't let you down. Some directors have been pleased to see commitment and a dedication to the profession shown by doing an MA others have said 'so what' - where's your experience. I am new to this whole world of acting on the outside of the comfort of college so I can't really give any advice other than what I've experienced. Good luck with your choices. These forums have been so helpful to me particularly those who have the grace to share their experience with those less knowing - Lee you have guided me many times - thank you for being so committed in your responses - incredibly helpful! ;-)

    • 18th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    It depends what you want to get out of doing it- better chance of getting seen for auditions? academic respect? personal interest?

    My personal opinion is that you go to drama school for vocational not academic training which is why I only did a PG Diploma when I trained (it kept my focus where I wanted it to be - on the practical aspects of the course). Others in my year did the MA and I would say it was for their own satisfaction and for the opportunity of exploring a particular interest they had rather than to give them a career advantage.

    I think I could categorically say that it doesn't give them an advantage when it comes to getting seen for castings. I would also say that an MA from a drama school doesn't mean as much as an MA from a more reputed academic institution. The quality and depth of work presented as MA projects when I was at drama school would not have gained honours status where I went to uni so I personally don't hold huge regard for MAs gained at drama school for that reason.

    That said, it obviously shows a willingness to go the extra mile and is a starting point if you have academic research you think you may continue with in the future.

    Sorry if this sounds critical or elitist, I'm just speaking from my own personal opinion.

    Lindsay

    • 18th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    Hey Seamus

    Do you mean is it worth doing a one year course as opposed to a three year course, do you mean is it worth going to drama school for a year as opposed to not going to drama school at all and just throwing yourself in there, or do you mean is it worth taking a one year diploma course and doing the extra work to turn it into an MA??

    Totally different questions...

    If it helps I did a one year course at E15 and did the extra for an MA and would say yes on all counts, but there you go!

    Suzanne

    x

    • 18th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    It seems there is another thread, running parallel to this one, in the same dilemma.

    So let me point out, to all and sundry .. you are either born with the talent to Act, or you are not !!. No amount of MA's, BA's, Degrees or smoked kippers will put it there.

    Paul Scofield ... quite the finest Actor this country has produced in a long time, with a C.V. that covers Stage, Film, Radio and T.V. ... didn't have a Degree, or an MA ... in fact, he had no 'training' whatsoever !!.. he just got on with his job. He used his innate talent, watching ... listening ... and delivering !!.

    • 18th May 2010
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  • Daniel Jude Gennis

    Actor

    I tend to go along with Mr. O'Keefe here. I don't denigrate vocational qualifications, as have whole load of them, gained over the years - CSEs GCE 'O' Levels, City & Guilds Diplomas, Diplomas from private training organisations right up the a BSc Honours Degree in Computing & Multimedia. None of this pertains to Acting. The highest acting qualification I have is LAMDA Bronze Medal. I took 'The Paul Schofield Approach'. It has not garnered me a flurry of awards, or has kept me in work constantly but I have a CV that shows a hard working actor. The only people I hear talk about what drama school they went to and what qualifications they have in drama, are those actors who either went to drama school for three years or did a postgraduate course. Outside of that clique, no one cares. I have met many good professional actors with years of experience in the Business and the last thing you will ever here them say is what drama school they went to.

    The only thing that will get you work is the way you look and what you can deliver at the audition/casting - Talent! Nothing more. If you have money to burn (and most of the above people do,) then fine go ahead. If you want to be an Actor, roll up your sleeves and get on it with it! Like Dame Helen Mirren said when she accepted her Oscar, you have to do the work. It is about the work. And it is! Getting the work, doing the work, getting recognised for your work and efforts. In my humble opinion, and MA won't get you there. Irrespective of the above, good luck.

    • 18th May 2010
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  • Alice Potter

    Actor

    Allan I agree with you that Paul Scofield was indeed one of the finest actors we have ever seen. However, he did train, he was part of the Old Rep in Birmingham during the early 40's. He learnt his craft and honed his skills within a group of actors that allowed for experimentation aswell as working damned hard. Their mission statement when it was formed in 1913 was "serve an art instead of making that art serve a commercial purpose". I know that it is a completely different environment to drama school but all these acting courses popped up with the demise of the traditional Rep. Most actors who were working then started as part of a Rep company, today most working actors have been to drama school (I think the figure is 86%). Now I am not advocating drama school as such, it's just highlighting the absence of the traditional Rep. To be part of the funding from the government each course has to apply to their criteria which leads to the courses becoming degrees. As for whether you're born with it......that leads to a whole new debate!

    • 18th May 2010
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    I think....it was Richard Burton who once said: "There are 10 greatest moments in theatre...and 8 of them are Paul Schofields!"

    • 18th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    Alice ... he was on a professional stage at the age of 18 ... prior to his Rep period.. and yes, Rep was a damn good grounding for all would be Actors.

    It's nice to know that I'm in good company, when mentioning Paul Scofield.

    • 18th May 2010
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  • Bryony Tebbutt

    Actor

    Despite the banter that seems to be going on in this thread and the risk of getting ostracised.

    I can offer my first hand experience of having done a BA in performing arts then I also decided to take an MA in Acting at Arts Educational Schools London.

    I don't know if you have a BA in any other subject, perhaps if you do but not in performing - I would say it is definitely worth it. It may not impress anyone, but it shows you've taken the time and commitment to work at improving yourself, and at least you have some training in the field you're wanting to enter - would you apply for a regular job with no expereience?

    What you don't know about the industry now, you will learn at drama school rather than spending hundreds of pounds on showreels, voicereels, headshots, and travelling to auditions to learn these lessons you can do it in a safe environment, where you can take risks amongst friends, and the teachers, directors etc can steer you in the right direction, but yes they are expensive, so pick the right one!

    My MA was fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone, it wasn't about dissertations and projects, it was purely practical the whole year. Voice, singing, dance, acting- learning techniques that help improve your technique, make you fitter etc (whether your innately talented or not)

    I learnt so much on my MA and certainly techniques to help my confidence in singing, my strength in voice, ability to dance etc all things that improve your chances of being seen for auditions if you have the experience on paper, then can prove it in person at the audition. And even us MA's get acting jobs!

    • 19th May 2010
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  • Amy Barnes

    Actor

    Just throwing my opinion out there....I have a BA in English and Drama from Cambridge (which lots of people seem to think makes up for not going to drama school, but I am not sure that it does) and am looking to get drama training, as I think this gives you an unparalleled means of vocational, hands on training, working on yourself and what not....I have been told by some prestigious directors too that they don't hire people without training (snobs? Or just playing it safe?) and so I think training works on both the exposure/hiring factor and the self improvement factor. Given that you can't do another BA (if you have one already, like I do) at the same price as your original nowadays, MA's may seem like the only option (even though they are often mega-expensive too) - but if you can, I really think it might be worth saving and scraping for a BA acting course - 3 years is basically better than 1 - although of course this does pull you out of the industry for a bit and might mean you miss out on jobs that can teach you a heck of a lot about acting etc as well....it's a huge toss up methinks.

    I guess the safest bet are the 2-year acting courses at LAMDA and Bristol, designed for people with BAs, but who want more than just one years worth of professional training. I think it is a personal thing because there are so many fantastic MA/one-year courses out there, I guess it is all about what is best for you. Doing 3 years at drama school doesn't guarantee you an agent or a job - but I have known some people leave MAs with fantastic agents and have gone from acting job to acting job, so I guess it's more about YOU and who you meet, how you approach your craft, how you market yourself and all that, than the training you end up doing.

    Woah I wrote me an essay there!

    • 25th May 2010
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