Benjamin Archer – BA (Hons) Acting
Life as an Actor
I have just finished playing Quince in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. My key responsibilities were to work as part of an ensemble, to perform a classical play and make it accessible, engaging and entertaining to a modern audience.
Performing on a daily basis in front of a live audience and hearing them laugh and enjoy the show is the most rewarding aspect of my role. There is nothing quite like the experience of being on stage and having an audience respond to your work there and then. I sometimes find the rehearsal process to be the most challenging – it is usually a three-week rollercoaster that pushes you physically and mentally. Quite often your ideas and opinions are changed on a daily basis and any expectations of your character are wildly different at the end of rehearsals compared to initial interpretation.
Importance of a degree in Acting
Acting degrees can be vital in starting out in the industry. In most cases being seen for an audition without professional experience is near enough impossible. In the absence of any professional credits, having an Acting degree demonstrates to potential employers that you as an actor are professionally trained and have an understanding of the industry. Post-graduation, continuing your training and developing your skill set are essential. Generally speaking in the first few years you spend more money on developing your career than you make from it.
In order to expand their CV and create a reputation within the industry, actors quite often have to work for no or little money in profit share and Fringe theatre. Casting databases such as Casting Call Pro and Spotlight are the best places to find acting work, though quite often this industry relies on networking and creating excellent working relationships within the industry. Whilst this route into acting isn’t the only one, it has been mine, and many actors I know have had the same path into their careers.
I personally have been very fortunate with the development of my career. During the third year of my degree, a locally based director saw me in a production and offered me my first job a few months after graduation, which created a great basis to propel my career from.
Studying Acting at the University
Studying at the University of Northampton created a launchpad for my career – during the third year of my degree a locally based director saw me in a production and offered me my first job a few months after graduation. Since then the same director has introduced me to other industry contacts and recently introduced me to a theatre company who I subsequently worked with on a production in October.
I enjoy working on classical plays the most and in the last two years I have worked tirelessly to pursue jobs in this genre. I was fortunate enough to perform as part of the Shakespeare Birthday celebrations in Stratford Upon Avon earlier this year, after which I worked with Tread The Boards Theatre Company on their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which ran at the Attic Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon over the summer months, finishing with two special outdoor performances for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
In 2013 I will be going on tour with Tread The Boards Theatre Company performing two of Shakespeare’s well known and loved comedies which will be announced in the New Year, followed by ten days performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Skills I learned from my Acting degree
As with most actors the hurdles I face at times are unemployment – finding work can be very difficult and for every casting that is sent out there is no shortage of competition for that role.
The vocal coaching and development on the degree was definitely the most useful skill I gained. Clear and strong vocals are essential in the theatre and can make or break a career, the voice is such a key tool. The classes I had and the opportunity for private tuition through the University were invaluable.
I believe determination and perseverance are key to anyone wanting to work as an actor. It requires a lot of work and drive to develop an acting career, you can’t sit back and wait for work to come to you – it has to be pursued tirelessly.
Advice for young actors
There are a couple of things I wish I had known earlier; thinking of yourself as a business is the big one. As an actor you become a product and like any product you need marketing for people to buy you. There is a lot of expense involved such as new headshots every two years, showreels that should be constantly updated, annual fees for casting services and business cards to name a few.
Knowing how much money needed to be invested in my career at the start of my degree would have given me time to put money aside for my final year. The other main thing I wish I had known is that initially you will have to work for little or no money, not that that should be viewed negatively because it’s not, however I think it is important to know so that you can make plans on how to finance yourself whilst building your career.
The course at the University of Northampton prepared me for working in the acting profession, giving me an understanding of the industry and the different roles of people within it. From the second year onwards we had the opportunity to work with a variety of professionals from the industry such as directors and agents, which was a great experience and opportunity.