EXCLUSIVE: An interview with Charlotte Armitage, the Managing Director of YAFTA
TV presenter and actress Charlotte Armitage is now the managing director at Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting(YAFTA). Charlotte talks to Mandy News on what inspired her to start the company, plus a sneak peek into her exciting monthly agony aunt column she'll be launching with us soon at The Mandy Network.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and YAFTA
I’m the managing director of Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA) and YAFTA Talent Agency (PMA). I started the companies about 6 years ago to fill the need for reputable acting training up in the north, which was really lacking.
There seemed to be lots of classes that taught audition technique etc. but nothing that actually taught the skill of acting other than full-time degree programs. There wasn’t any training that people could attend to develop the skills of an actor which would fit alongside their work, education or other commitments.
My background is quite varied. I did a BSc (Hons) psychology at university and then a post graduate degree in business. I had a lot of business experience in various sectors before setting up YAFTA. I’m currently doing Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology and working in the NHS as a Doctoral Counselling Psychologist in training.
I feel there is a big crossover between the fields and I aim to help those within the acting industry with their mental health but also to use the arts to help those with mental health and wellbeing.
As an actress and certainly as an agent, I saw first-hand how much of an impact the industry can have on the mental health of actors and I’m passionate about helping actors to look after themselves whilst working in this undeniably difficult industry.
When did you realise you needed to create YAFTA?
I had attended an acting course in London and I realised I was spending a fortune on courses taught by people with no academic grounding in the arts. I thought I needed more and wanted to learn more about the craft of acting, not just about audition technique. For example. I wanted to learn about breaking down the text, characterisation, objectives and obstacles.
I didn’t feel I was being taught the academic side which I think is really important, not just how to read a script but understanding what it means and how to bring that and the character to life, I found that this part of the training was lacking in places I’d tried to learn acting at.
I therefore decided to create a school where all teachers were drama school trained from the world’s top drama schools so they really knew what they were talking about, I created YAFTA as somewhere that I would want to go to learn to act.
"I created YAFTA as somewhere that I would want to go to learn to act" - Charlotte Armitage, the Managing Director at YAFTA
Coming from a psychologist background you can’t work without being accredited by governing bodies so I found it extraordinary that there is no real accreditation in this industry for teaching acting. Consequently, everyone who works for YAFTA is drama school trained, experienced in teaching, screen acting and DBS checked.
The credibility of our teaching team and our core values of honesty and integrity are what has made YAFTA the success that it is today.
What’s the best way for people to get involved?
We have many different options if people want to come to YAFTA. There are evening classes which run for one hour a week so if people wanted to try acting then they can come along. We also host a calendar of expert led workshops focused on everything from casting to screenwriting and directing.
For those who are serious about pursuing careers as professional actors, we have our diploma courses which are 18 months long. We also have diplomas in Screenwriting and Film & TV Production. The diploma courses are suitable for beginners but we also have people with degrees undertaking the courses to fine tune their screen technique.
For the diploma we take applications which are then sifted through. Those who are successful are invited to audition then places are offered to the top 12 candidates from the audition process.
We are looking for applicants who have the drive to pursue a career in acting but that also have the right attitude and potential of having a career in the acting industry.
Tell us about the new Mandy.com column
I will be using my experience as a psychologist and also as an agent and managing director of YAFTA to help those in the industry with their mental health worries or concerns. In response to the survey you took on Pay and Opportunities in the Entertainment Industry, people outside of our industry don’t understand the pressures and strains of the industry.
We want Mandy readers to reach out and ask for help and tell us about the challenges they are facing.
For example if you go for audition after audition and you never get feedback that is really hard. We have a group called ‘Post Audition Blues’ where people can go and talk about their auditions experiences.
Peer support is important, having the support of a group of people who understand is so valuable when aiming to develop psychological resilience. Often you are left with your own insecurities and your own reasons as to why you think you didn’t get the part and that can be very difficult to deal with.
"...people outside of our industry don’t understand the pressures and strains of the industry" - Charlotte Armitage, the Managing Director at YAFTA
Compared to the numbers of actors going to auditions, there are only a handful of jobs, it’s normal not to get the part or to hear the feedback but this takes a long time to get used to.
The reality of it is that if you don’t have something else going on such as another job that is flexible, you end up sitting around waiting for the phone to ring with news of the next big audition and that can become quite depressing.
There needs to be somewhere actors can go to discuss mental health and hopefully this is what this column will provide a place to have a voice about your concerns about working as an actor or other freelancers in the industry.
What advice do you have for up and coming actors?
Be involved in as many groups as you can be, online or in acting schools. It doesn’t matter where the group is, but you need that support as an actor from fellow actors. Also, to have flexible work, to ensure that you make plans to help you keep busy. There really is a lot of advice I could give and I’m looking forward to sharing this in the column as time goes on.
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