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The Industry A Campaign for Working Class Actors

The IndustryInspired by Dame Helen Mirren, young actor Tom Stocks is campaigning to raise awareness that drama schools should not be just for the rich.

He has been running a campaign through social media, local newspapers and journalism for over a year now, and he says “The deeper I look the more apparent it becomes to me the working class can not seem to find a way into acting without bags of money. The campaign is going really well, however there’s only so much you can tweet.

This is what Tom Stocks has to say:
About two weeks ago I decided to contact writer, director, actor (of the working class) and friend, Marcus Armstrong and he has put together a fantastic script painting the very real world in which we both currently inhabit. This film completely embodies the spirit of the campaign and will hopefully raise the profile we need to make a difference to this issue. So what are the issues?

Most University courses and Students are government funded, so they get that money given to them by the government. However most drama schools are not and you have to find other types of funding; such as private grants like DADA’s which are not given to everyone. It must be said the some schools do offer government funding, but not all or enough of them, making it an uneven playing field. If you do not get government funding or a DADA then it you cannot get into Drama School, unless you have enough money to finance it yourself, which in this economic climate is unlikely.

There is no government or internal funding for any kind of Masters Degree, meaning you have to resort to crowd funding and sponsorships in order to continue your training post university. It is worth mentioning that there are career development loans but they are crippling to your financial future. The whole system is wrong. A Masters can offer a good alternative to Drama School for those of us who cannot afford rocketing prices but now this door is closed to us as well.

Tom StocksAs part of the Drama School process, you have to pay for auditions. You are not expected to pay for a University interview, so why are Drama Schools different? Auditions alone are now £50 a pop and if you audition for a few like you are advised to do, well you can do the maths.

If you manage to find the money for Drama School, or you choose to go down the route of University and a Masters Degree, then you have to face the reality of life as a jobbing actor. You have to pay for Head Shots, a Show Reel, Spotlight, Equity Membership and more, then only once you have paid out for these things can you reasonably start approaching agents.

The fact is with Drama School fees, Masters fees, getting yourself set up as an actor in the industry with all the things you need and a plethora of other things, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that those coming from a poor or not financially wealthy background are priced out of the industry.

Now I do not want myself to come across as a middle class hater because I am really not, it’s not the middle class individuals who are to blame, it is the greedy industry that is to blame, with soaring prices it just about extinct the working class from the industry and only affordable for the middle class.

I auditioned for drama school for 2 years and finally got into East 15, however I was told repeatedly by industry professionals that the hardest thing was to get in, competing with over 1,000+ people for each drama school, yes its so hard to get in, however what is like an untold secret to drama school is what follows, with the heartbreaking funding period where if you do not have a grant or help from parents, unfortunately money talks in this industry, if you don’t have it, you don’t get any where. Now coming away from drama schools if you couldn’t go then you are again advised to go to acting workshops and acting classes, which again are expensive, the average acting class in London from industry professionals is 60 quid, the industry revolves around money and working class people do not just have it lying around.

A quote by Danny Dyer really appealed to me “You’ve got actors like Benedict Cumberbatch – a great actor, but he’s a posh boy playing posh boys. He does it well, and he doesn’t get mocked for that. I play working class people, and I get mocked for it. I’m stereotyped, he’s not.

Along with the social media publicity I have decided to collaborate with a writer and director Marcus Armstrong to try go viral with a new film on the issue, because there is only so many times you can tweet. ‘The Industry’ is a short film following the daily lives of two young actors in their flat in London, one coming from a wealthy middle class family, and one coming from a working class family. The two young men are the same age and share the same dream; but for one of them it is far easier, which pushes their friendship to breaking point.

This film is a discussion about what it’s like for a young actor living in London, dreaming of success, and the barriers put in his way. With this in mind we hope to show the industry as a whole how hard it is to actually be an actor with the ever growing domination of middle classes. We hope this film will give a voice to people sharing the same fears, but one voice is not enough so that is why we need you!

Author

  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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