Teen Actors: Why Didn’t I Get Into Drama School?
Performer Isabelle Martin shares her experiences of auditioning for drama school and what to do if things don't go the way you planned.
By Isabelle Martin
Throughout our lives, it feels as if society keeps drawing us towards a particular path, whether we want it or not. Perhaps you feel pressured to follow an academic route in school instead of a vocational one? Or perhaps you’re holding back from taking your first steps into the acting industry for fear of being told ‘no’.
The good news is that if you’re reading this, then the hard part is over! At the very least, you’ve made the decision to become an actor. The next big hurdle you’ll face is entering the industry.
As a fellow teen actor, I can confirm that the default solution you’re pushed towards is drama school, and that’s no surprise. At the age of 16-18, most of our friends are preparing to go to university, and it’s easy to feel like you’re getting left behind.
Let’s imagine that you’ve done your research, and you’ve got your heart set on drama school. You’re adamant that you want to go, and you’ve been preparing for so long that you could probably perform your monologues whilst doing a headstand if directed to. You try your best to turn all your nervous energy into confidence, and you make your way into the audition. In no time at all, it’s over, and you walk out with a huge smile on your face - you completely smashed it! All your hard work and sleepless nights have paid off, and you couldn’t be more relieved.
For me, the not-knowing was by far the most draining part of the process. You do an endless amount of waiting for that email to come through, and you begin to overthink every last part of the audition. Did I choose the right pieces? Was I loud enough? Did I say the right things? Truthfully, the best thing you can do is forget about it. Of course, that’s much easier said than done when it seems as if everything depends on your acceptance. But that couldn’t be more wrong! You need to remember that it’s not a career-ending tragedy if you don’t get in. Your aspirations to be an actor are worth a whole lot more than an acceptance letter from drama school.
So, let’s say the long-awaited email finally arrives. You look down at your phone and see the daunting words 'Audition Outcome’ printed as the subject. You freeze. You panic. You take a deep breath. You click ‘open’, and your heart sinks. You’ve been rejected.
Speaking from experience, I can safely say that there is no worse feeling. You did everything right, and you were convinced that it was meant to be. So what happened?
The truth is you’re still young. A drama school rejection does not determine your future, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t make it as an actor. Maisie Williams, Matt Smith, and Emma Watson have all proved that you don’t need a drama school qualification to be successful in the industry. Even Hugh Jackman was rejected at first, so keep going! Remember to give yourself some credit - this is a tough industry, and you should be proud of yourself for having the courage to pursue it. Admittedly it won’t feel like it, but rejections are usually blessings in disguise.
Now is the perfect time to really ask yourself: do I actually want to go to drama school? Or do I feel like I have to go? If the second part to that question rings true to you, then there are other options. There is a large selection of affordable acting classes out there that can come with their own opportunities. By taking some time out of formal education, you can make new friends, save up some money, discover some new hobbies to complement your acting, and start to audition for (and hopefully book) some acting jobs.
However, if you’re still holding out your hopes for drama school, don’t ever give up. ‘I wasn’t good enough’ is inevitably the first thought to enter your mind, but there are so many more reasons as to why you weren’t successful. Much like auditioning for a job, most drama schools already have a clear idea of who they want. Perhaps they wanted someone taller? Maybe they’re looking for someone who looks just like you, but 5 years older. What if they wanted someone with a baby face who could graduate, and still get away with playing a 13 year old? Or maybe destiny simply had other plans? After all, everything happens for a reason!
Being rejected from drama school can undoubtedly take its toll on you. It may hit you harder than you thought and completely knock your confidence. To make a bad situation worse, you’re the one who has to break the disheartening news to your friends and family. You don’t want them thinking you’ve failed, or that you’re not good enough - but believe it or not, they won’t think that at all. They’ll just want to support you and help you get to where you want to be. So, don’t be so hard on yourself.
You are your own worst critic, so try your best to rebuild your confidence so you can keep on thriving. Remember why you started acting in the first place, and make sure you’re still enjoying it. Take a trip to the theatre with your friends, rewatch your favourite movie, or have a go at writing your own script. Remind yourself why you love acting so much, and have fun!
Bottom line? Don’t give up. This is a tough business, but also an incredible one. You’re going to love it, but you’ve also got to be in it to win it.
Isabelle Martin is a young actress and writer based in Manchester. She attends acting classes twice a week with Mark Jermin, and she enjoys writing her own scripts and short films. Isabelle is about to begin a BA Acting course at the Arden School of Theatre.