Many young aspiring actors and actresses cannot afford to put themselves through drama school nor do they have the family financial backing to pay the ever-increasing fees. So do people manage on their way to the top? How do they cope before they get their big break, or even any break at all? Not everyone can reach the pinnacle of the industry, there isn’t a place for all and most will die on their sword and go down with their ship being stuck in a dead-end job desperately trying to fund their ambitions and support their dreams. We look further into the ups and downs of the potential future stars of screen and stage and the paths some take to make it.
Tuition fees vary depending on both the country and the institution but the top schools usually charge around $50,000 a year. On top of tuition, other fees soon mount up if you add in accommodation, fuel, food, laundry, bills etc. And as a performer, you have to look the part so maintaining personal appearance and costume/outfit completion are not cheap either.
Grants and Scholarships
You could be lucky enough to receive a government grant to support your studies. Grants are available in all sorts of form and category however are typically accompanied by rules, restrictions and qualifying criteria to whittle down the candidates. It is definitely worth applying as the application process alone will be a huge learning curve and open your eyes to the standard expected and the level of competition you will face, even if you are not successful. Schools and universities do provide scholarships where they pay a proportion or on occasion the entirety of the tuition fee depending on the students level of performance history, attitude and potential. If your personal attributes and credentials are suitable, you may have the funding provided for you to fulfill your dream.
The most common route taken by those starting out in the business is to volunteer as a part-time performer taking small roles or even assisting as a stagehand or a runner just to make contacts and get a foot in the door. This is then supplemented with a part-time job, ideally within the industry but due to lack of finances and availability combined with the fierce competition, work for the novice is predominantly in unrelated territory and something completely removed from the performance world. Unfortunately whether you are serving coffee at lunch times, working at a local bar in the night or spending your evenings coaching a junior team, part-time work will not suffice in paying the huge tuition fees.
The reality is that nothing gets handed to you on a plate. In all likelihood, the most sensible route to avoiding crippling debt on your route to the top would be to take a year or two out and work full time to save enough money to finance your acting or performing dream. A fitness trainer salary for example will come with a set-rate per hour or per month with additional bonuses for success in terms of gaining clients, teaching classes and helping people achieve personal goals. Similarly a sales role could offer the incentives and bonuses to top-up your wage sufficiently for you to bank some income in the short term with your eyes fixed on the long term goal.