NCDT/CDS - important????

  • Samantha Spurgin

    Actor

    Hi there

    Ive recently been offered a place at an accredited school on an accredited course - i have always been under the impression that a solid training at one of these more prestigious schools is very worthwhile to the actor -

    But i went to see a lady yesterday who is a top industry professional for some advice and she said not to go - The school is not one of the top 5 and therefore is a waste of money - money that would be better spent on singing lessons - learning new musical instruments - taking time to write my own material ect...

    Taking the course - which is just one year - may give me a great year where i can do what i love everyday but will see me leave 10,000 in debt... and i mat have nothing to show for it except that accreditation at the top of my CV is this worthwhile???

    Please help me - I only have a few days to put my deposit down or I will lose my place

    XXX

    • 17th May 2010
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    I never went to drama school and I have been working as an actress for over 4 years now, and yes paid work. But I had to start from the very bottom and work my way up. I did think about going to one when I started but I couldn't afford it and at my age (I'm a lot older than I look) I decided against it. I personally have learnt more from experience BUT it has taken me 4 years + to get to the level where I am today. So it's not easy! You have to be extremely pro-active, excellent at promoting yourself and yes do your fair share of freebies/student films in the beginning. It takes a lot of hard work, learning through trial and error, investing in your career and talent, of course, goes a long way. And when people ask why I didn't go to drama school? I simply remind them of some of the best actors out there that never trained or went to an accredited drama school. But having said all that, please remember that everyone's situation is different and at the end of the day you need to weigh up your options based on your situation. But it is definitely possible to be a successful actress without having gone to an accredited drama school! Hope this helps a bit. :)

    • 13th May 2010
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    I would echo what Sophia says. I haven't been to drama school (I was previously a school teacher and musician) and came into acting late with nothing but determination. I started from the bottom (yes, as an extra), badgered the extras agency for walk-on roles, blagged a small speaking part, then another, then another got Spotlight registration, then a decent showreel (now needing updating!!)and now have a great agent. To begin with I also used sites like the dreaded Starnow to get speaking parts in badly-paid (but regular!) commercials for shopping channels, dramas on Channel 5, paid indie films etc.. Extras agencies like Mad Dog also cast small speaking parts which are great for bolstering your CV (obviously don't put the extras work down if you do it!!) If you work out what the minimum is you have to do (maybe a few short courses) you CAN work around the myth that you need to have been to drama school. My agent wasn't bothered about training, she just wanted to see if I could act and was impressed that I was been very focussed and determined. When I worked on Doctors a couple of years ago, the guest lead there said that he taught at a drama school where there were plenty of students with no talent, but they were paying fees which kept the school running and paid his wages. He said most of them had no chance of work. So the advice to only spend that kind of money on a really top-notch school is good advice! If you can get regular background work it can be quite a nice earner which helps while you wait for the good stuff to come along. I say try going for it without getting yourself into an awful lot of debt. :) Hope this helps xx

    • 13th May 2010
    • 2
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    I did go to drama school and I think that the most important thing for me was what I learnt there and what it taught me about the type of performer I am/want to be. Some people take note of accredited training, a lot don't care as long as you are good. The thing to think about is whether you think the training itself will be of value to you. If not, then spend your money on something else. I don't think that the name on your CV alone is necessarily the best reason.

    • 13th May 2010
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    This has been very useful for me to read, as someone who's just put his possible, future "career" behind the camera on hold to focus on performing at the age of 28. Since I have been studying for three years for a non-acting degree, and especially since I'm Norwegian (which to universities mean "overseas student") I have a massive loan, and I was dismayed as I got the impression that I should be going to school some MORE to get accredited training.

    This has reaffirmed that I should rather spend my money on acting workshops and spend my TIME developing my own material, getting what I can of work and also doing something that pays while I'm working to get my acting career going.

    Hopefully, I can also be at a point where I make money four years from now, as long as I keep going and keep working at it.

    Thank you again Sophia and Vanessa.

    You have both given me new hope and increased drive.

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    10k on a drama school which is not in the top 5!!! ???

    Whilst there…you cannot really do any other work…if the course is really good you won't have time to do much else….so its not just the 10K its your living exp's as well to consider, I think your debt will be more than 10k by the end of the year?

    Course materials, clothing, books and plays, Computer, internet research etc etc…all will cost you plenty on top of your 10k fee….unless a lot of this is inc within the fee?

    What will you really learn, that you could not learn by creating your own work…networking and experimenting with other actors for a few days/nights here and there…even staging your own shows for a lunchtime viewing somewhere to friends colleagues and or family….maybe even a few paying guests -he best hands on experience and learning curve there is! If you are worried about the directing...all chip in a bit and pay a good diorector to direct you all? He/she will be pleased to be earning....and you will be learning!

    Private lessons and or part time courses…actors centre…actors temple etc..… and "recommended" private tutoring and so on can hone your skills.

    This will still leave you time to work and earn, whilst learning = no big debt building up = happy actor who can afford to go out now and again etc = happy life!

    Experience and money:

    Get some work with some role play Co's, team building theatrical work, Murder mystery etc….all who pay…all will give you fantastic hands on experiences. I know an excellent Team building Events Co!!!

    This will all cost you a fraction of 10k….also….think about your pictures, a show reel created for yourself….I know a guy who does that too!!! ….these are the tools you need to equip yourself as an actor these days.

    I also hear that a one year's course anywhere, is not widely considered to be that effective or taken too seriously within the industry, against doing a 3 year drama degree at a top school.

    I think going to one of the "very top" drama schools can be of great benefit…..will always look good on the CV - especially for good Theatre jobs…..but can you survive without having been to one….yes of course you can. Is it harder…. not if you "sit back" and simply wait for the phone to ring!

    Examine what you want to gain and experience, what you ultimately want to do and specialise in…..and then see what a 1 year "ordinary run of the mill" drama school will do for you?

    Think of this industry as a business…..and in any business, in order to be successful, it needs to pay. I am not at all convinced a huge 10k investment at the start least of all, in this industry, is money well spent.

    Great fun it might be…….!!!

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Cathy Conneff

    Actor

    I cannot state to highly how helpful going to drama school was for me.

    It made me realise what I need to be aiming for and made me aware of my strengths and weaknesses and what I need to work on.

    It also taught me things that are so blooming obvious, you never think of them till someone tells you.

    Helped me work on my voice, my physicality, and actually (most importantly, I feel), taught you how to be seen, do and don't in the industry etc.

    I also learned a hell of a lot of stuff about myself as a person and I am a million times more confident in myself as an actor and a person.

    Only you can answer whether you feel drama school would be beneficial to you and whether it would improve your career.

    Have to say, like having an agent, it is a foot in the door that you simply do not get if you don't have accredited training.

    • 14th May 2010
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    I agree with Cathy on this one, but if you want to make it in TV then try training as a gardener or maybe a chef or marry one! - Teasing!!!

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    I know this will open up a can of worms, but I am a big believer in drama school- without question- although I will say you dont necessarily have to go to a NCDT one to be a good actor- altho it does mean you will many times have preference for various auditions and casting directors.

    The point is that if this industry is to truly survive and maintain a sense of integrity, I firmly believe training MUST happen. Its a craft and hree at years at drama school is just the beginning- the more you grow and mature- so does yor craft- if you have been trained correctly, then your craft will improve as you grow and mature.

    NCDT or not- I would strongly consider it as you may end up in student debt- but I would say that many many agents will not take yu seriously at all if you have not trained. There are too many out there that HAVE trained and sadly- we actors are not in short supply.

    the flip side is that i know people who have trained at RADA and just dont work- there is truly no science to it.

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    I fully take your point Cathy, Blake and respect everyone else who has attended drama school and swears by it! I am not trying to put anyone off going to a top 5 drama school, as I am certain one would get a proven 3 years worth of good training to set you on your way. My view is directed towards the many run of the mill drama schools that are popping up quicker than grass these days...or who are accepting anyone with the funds! I don't feel that is good for the industry.

    I have always "rightly or wrongly" approached this business from a very practical point of view financially. Not everyone is the same...and everyone has differing views, though most who have been on these courses ..always seem to swear by them, even if they have no agent and or work record to speak of several years after graduation!

    I think it's not completely true to say one is "definitely" a better actor having had Drama school training, or to say that it will certainly give you a much better chance with an agent etc. As I said in my previous post, a top 5 Drama school training may put you ahead of the game? I will admit recognised "musical theatre" courses are very different, because the technical requirements of singers are far more detailed and technical than that of a stage actor. Yes I realise one has to learn how to project and use ones voice and all of that.....but you can be brilliant vocally and still be a lousy actor without timing and or ability to hold the attention of an audience, or be able to convey the real character you are playing! I feel that is something you are simply born with or without.

    I disagree with you Blake regarding being in debt….I think that is a bad state to be in if it can be avoided! What I would say to Samantha's original question: I started late in the business at 30 ish.....but managed not to get myself into any debt at any point over the past 23 years. When I first started, I did my fill of some rubbish fringe/good fringe - extra work and other odd theatre roles and tours, all of which involved acting and being hands on in the business. I soon found out that the Fringe jobs never paid any profit much and I still say I learned much more than I ever would have done at run of the mill Drama schools....and I also soon found out where my strengths and weaknesses were accordingly!

    23 years on, and of course, I wish I earned much more than I do, and got seen for better jobs more often than I do (who doesn't) ...my mortgage is paid off, I have remained self sufficient, never ever signed on and so on and my CV though not that fantastic…is OK'ish considering I did not do three years at Drama school. I have also never agent hopped much, having only ever had 3-4 in my time....progressing as I went. I'm not saying I am doing brilliantly & if I worked at it harder, I could probably achieve more!

    My observations are based on the fact, I have several close connections with friends, colleagues and family who have been through the drama school route....and the vast majority of them have never really gone on to bigger and better things, or even got a half decent agent....with the acceptation of one who went to Rada, and one or two at GSA on the musical theatre 3 year course. I have seen countless graduation or mid term shows at many drama schools and often been left wondering why the standards were not higher....although granted, now and again you see a gem or two. I have also interviewed many actors for work over the years, and it is certainly not the Drama school training, that is the decisive factor in how good the actor will be.

    Isn't it the case, as Blake says, there is no hard and fast rules, no absolute right and or wrong in this industry. As actors we are judged by type and by look, and more often than not these days...how cheap will we work for! Very cheap - judging by some of the CV's on this site!

    There are some brilliant students at Rada/been to Rada - who have never gone onto anything much...and there are people who have never trained and done brilliantly for themselves too. There are 100's of actors on CCP and elsewhere who have trained....and still don't have an agent, or cannot get an agent.

    I think Cathy made some valid points about perhaps becoming more confident, finding out about yourself and so on, etc etc.......but I still say for 10k, you probably could have gained that in other ways, with far better value and in less time than a years worth or more at Drama school.

    I still feel that being a professional, or training to become a professional in order to make a living in what you have trained to do: is only worthwhile if you can make a living doing that. I don't want to go down the route of "we do it for the love and the art" etc.....that's all fine and dandy if you can be totally self sufficient.....I am talking about regular, proper paid work.

    I think Drama schools can sometimes be guilty of give their students a false degree of belief and confidence too.

    Good work on the CV, and a good agent, under the leadership of good directors, is what I primarily look for. A good video reel with a well written opening letter and manner on the phone is far more impressive to me, than an "average" drama school listing.

    However, I see it from both points of view - everyone is different, Horses for courses and all that, as Blake says, there is no science to it!!

    If you can afford and cope with being 10k in debt, and not just let the tax payer support you all the time. If you feel certain this Drama school is going to give you everything you need ….go for it!

    • 14th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    I'm going to join the debate. I went to a 'drama' school but not a top 5 one and it wasn't too much money. But at the moment casting directors do not look for where you trained any more.

    I have been to all major west end auditions and even CD's are starting to dislike people from certain schools. At the end of the day i went to a school because I felt too young still, but i didnt go there to make myself a better performer. I believe you can't teach a person to be a good actress/singer you either have it or you don't.

    Hope you are successful in whatever avenue you choose x

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Cathy Conneff

    Actor

    I agree that you have to have teh talent there to start off with and yes, there are people who do not need training.

    however, when you are a twenty-somethign actress (casting-wise at least), you need to give yourself every available advantage because the market is saturated with us.

    Of course drama school does not assure you work, same with an agent - you have to work bloody hard to get anywhere and make contacts.

    Also drama school isn't just about "finding yourself" (I am aware that my previous post was a little airy-fairy!), or doing vocal work &c, but learning about things like actioning, impulses, which (if you're like me), you will never fully understand by reading it in a book.

    I also met casting directors and worked with directors whilst I was at drama school and have been lucky enough to keep in touch and be seen by them afterwards.

    BUT, it's a personal choice and you know deep down what is right for you.

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    May I say tho- that while drama school or training IS important- the main problem I have consistently seen is that actors dont know how to treat the industry as a business and from what Ive seen drama school doesnt equip people that way either-

    interestingly- many actors in the States do university or classes and then constantly have scene study classes while acting... its important to get a global perspective.

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Samantha Spurgin

    Actor

    Thankyou to everyone for your help and support -

    I think as it stands now I will probebly go.. Like somebody said here i will be taking those extra classes writing - doing anywork i can grab for the rest of my life.. I do not see acting as a career but as a lifestyle choice.. no money for a couple of years now when im young with no responsibility and with the oppertunity in front of me is probebly not a huge problem. it will come and go - its not important.

    Any step up the ladder is worth taking right? and why not spend a year doing something i love intensivly everyday...

    hmmmmmmmmmmm i have till monday to put down my deposit! any commments welcomed and digested xxx

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Peter Halpin

    Actor

    My two penneths...!

    I did a couple of years training, but not at an accredited school and not even full time! I absolutely learned things there that have made it possible for me to work my way up the ladder that Sophia so well explained. Things like posture, vocal & physical warm-ups, projection, diction and working with a range of other performers. All highly valuable.

    I honestly don't think I'd have improved much more had I spent a lot more time and a LOT more money going to the likes of LAMDA, RADA, etc. I have seen many a graduate of those and other top 5 schools who have been far less skilled and impressive than those with minimal training.

    The natural talent within needs to be nurtured and honed. Whether that is done through some form of learning or lower level experience (or both!), that's up to the individual I think.

    The one thing I think top schools give you though is the showcase to get a good agent from the off. I have only just got a properly good agent for the first time last year after now 4 years working damn hard to get more than just the tip of my shoe in the proverbial door!

    • 14th May 2010
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  • Hugh Osborne

    Actor

    One important thing to remember - I hope this info is not already out of date, is that if you go to one of the drama schools that is a constituent member of the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama set up by that nice Mr Blair - that's RADA, LAMDA (I think) and Bristol, and if you do an ACCREDITED course there, then a) you get your fees paid for you (minus the mandatory student contribution), plus b) you become eligible for student loans, irrsepective of the fact you may have such loans already.

    I attended Bristol five years ago, and was only able to take up the course precisely because I didn't have to pay the fees (as a mature student and low earner, I was even exempt from paying the mandatory student contribution).

    The situation may have changed in the meantime, but it may well be the case that attending the 'top' 5 may well be far far more cost effective than attending other drama schools.

    It took me two years' worth of auditioning to get in, mind, but there's a case to be made for applying, and if necessary re-applying and re-applying again in order to secure a place, purely on financial grounds alone.

    Best wishes

    Hugh x

    • 14th May 2010
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    Question, which drama schools are the top 5?

    • 15th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    Yeah, exactly what I want to know. Hi sam, remember me? Ha. First time ive ever been on this forum and your name pops up! Well maybe im biased but for me drama training at a good CDS School is really important, not only for the training but the three solid years of meeting and learning from people in the industry. In terms of networking, its second to none. Im currently in my third year, about to graduate and in a really healthy position now thanks to the contacts Ive made in the last few years. All I would say is Im quite wary of the whole "one year course" at drama school. For me, I couldnt imagine fitting in all the learning and professional development of three years into one. My ex gf did a postgrad one year course at my school and found it really tough indeed. She told me she felt like by the time she had finally got settled in and comfortable with the work, about jan, they were already talking about spotlight, agents and thrusting them out into the big wide world. So its swings and roundabouts really... Whats the school?

    x

    • 16th May 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    Yeah, exactly what I want to know. Hi sam, remember me? Ha. First time ive ever been on this forum and your name pops up! Well maybe im biased but for me drama training at a good CDS School is really important, not only for the training but the three solid years of meeting and learning from people in the industry. In terms of networking, its second to none. Im currently in my third year, about to graduate and in a really healthy position now thanks to the contacts Ive made in the last few years. All I would say is Im quite wary of the whole "one year course" at drama school. For me, I couldnt imagine fitting in all the learning and professional development of three years into one. My ex gf did a postgrad one year course at my school and found it really tough indeed. She told me she felt like by the time she had finally got settled in and comfortable with the work, about jan, they were already talking about spotlight, agents and thrusting them out into the big wide world. So its swings and roundabouts really... Whats the school?

    x

    • 16th May 2010
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  • Samantha Spurgin

    Actor

    MR BEAVER!!!

    Drama Studio London-

    I think Im going to go - already done some training and meeting ect - understand three years would be better but the only schools doing three year courses i like dont like me! hmmmmmmmmmmm

    where you at? best of luck graduating... be a beaver in your showcase - you'll rock there socks!

    • 16th May 2010
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