Drama school graduates ‘not being made aware of industry reality’

Steve Winter. Photo: Nadie Attura
Steve Winter. Photo: Nadie Attura
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Drama school graduates are not being made aware of the time it will take them to gain success as an actor and the reality of the industry, the outgoing director of the Old Vic’s talent development arm has said.

Steve Winter, who is leaving Old Vic New Voices to pursue freelance work after nine years leading the London organisation, said: “Often, we are mopping up those who have huge expectations when they leave [drama training] and don’t realise that it’s the long game, that it’s a series of jobs and can be erratic. You can be above a pub, at the National Theatre and then before you know it back to a temp job.”

He added: “In general, drama school is out of reach for most people, and certainly those that come out of drama school don’t always appear to be ready for the reality of it [the industry] anyway.”

Winter said that, after leaving training, most graduates lacked the understanding of how long it would take them to gain a profile as an actor, and that they would be out of work for “90% of the time”.

He added that they were also not aware of the contacts required to achieve success in the industry and how to connect with producers, director and writers.

“A lot of our job initially is showing them pathways and making them understand that you are the business and the one that drives your own career. I’m not sure that is entirely explained often. The reality is you should be planning for five years and working out what your personal barometer of success is,” he said.

Winter added that drama schools should be providing more information to graduates about how competitive and “crowded” the industry is.

“If there are 18,000 actors in training, it’s possible they cannot all be good enough to succeed, so why are we telling them they are?,” he asked.

Winter, who joined the Old Vic’s talent development arm in 2004, will be succeeded by Alexander Ferris - who is currently senior manager of OVNV’s community work.

During his time with OVNV, Winter has produced five major productions and commissioned more than 60 plays.