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Careers Clinic: Will I get regular work in the regions?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I’ve recently graduated from drama school. My first job straight after was as a kids camp activities worker – not exactly ‘stagey’ but it was quite well paid and after two years of self-funded study, I was completely skint. With that (welcome) detour out of the way and a few quid back in my pocket, I’m now ready to start my ‘glittering career’ in earnest. The reason I’m writing is because I live up north and it does seem to me from the various casting websites I’ve looked at that the vast majority of castings, particularly the ones I can go for as a relatively new and unrepresented actor, are London-based.

That would seem to indicate that the first thing I need to sort out is whether I stay close to home or bite the bullet and move to where the action seems to be. This might be the easier option but certainly not my preferred one. I don’t have any friends or family further south than Wolverhampton. If I am to make the most of the time and money I invested in training, is it London or nothing as far as regular work is concerned?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE I am not sure every actor who has made the move to London for work would agree with you that this is the ‘easier option’. It is probably the more obvious choice, though, so it makes sense to explore the ‘staying put’ scenario too. Lianne Robertson is an actress from the small town of Fraserburgh in Scotland, which is pretty far north by anybody’s standards, and also one of the organisers behind the very successful Surviving Actors event which returns to Manchester on October 10 this year. She said: “Realising that running a career outside the capital is in many ways different from being London-based is a good start. The next step is being clear on what the particular challenges and potential solutions are for you based on your own situation and location. So, during our Manchester event, we’re having the Actors Centre do one-to-one sessions on building a non-London based career.

“Continuing that ‘realism’ theme, it is obviously more difficult to get casting directors and other influencers who are not already here up to see your latest show. An excellent online presence where you can showcase your work is important for every actor but it is absolutely essential for actors who are based further out. All of the above said, there are some very important companies and excellent casting people such as Beverley Keogh (one of our speakers this year) who are based in the north. If that’s where you are based too, it makes sense to do your research on what your local influencers specialise in and what they want to see from you, and brush up the appropriate skills accordingly.”

Full details of all the workshops and events on the day may be found at www.survivingactors.com. I’ll add my own reminder that, while it would be nice if work was evenly spread across the country, realistically unless you really limit your options, even staying home is going to involve a certain amount of long, last-minute and sometimes expensive trips down south. That’s something you may have to factor in to your budgeting and even choice of ‘day job’. Most of all, try to connect with more experienced northern-based actors (networking events or local union branches are a good start) and get their honest take on the pros and cons of staying or going. Every success whichever option you finally choose.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

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