By Tom Stocks @actorawareness
I have been running the Actor Awareness campaign for two years now. The campaign is slowly gathering support from all corners of the industry social media, local newspapers and bloggers. The deeper I look the more apparent it becomes to me that working class actors can not seem to find a way into acting without bags of money. The awareness is at an all time high with high profile actors speaking of the issue and new articles on working class actors coming out every week such as Julie Walters, Helen Miren and Christopher Eccleston. However I believe there just all talk and none of them are doing anything about it, which is where I come in.
I have built Actor Awareness from the ground from one angry blog about my heartbreaking deferral of drama school, to growing a large social media following and support coming from John Challis, Ryan Gage, the This is England Cast, Francis Barber and more. I was inspired to start the campaign when I got into East 15 but due to the large sum of money required, I deferred my place in 2013 for a year so I could work full time and save as much money as possible in order to make my dream of drama school become a reality. However working as a low paid chef, saving was not easy and have only been able to save half of the money that was needed. I enquired about bank loans, however I had serious concerns about plunging myself into serious financial debt at the age of 22. I am a working class lad and borrowing from banks is an easy route short term, but for the long term it could seriously effect not only my career which I am trying to build, but my life and acting as a whole in the future. So I plan to use my previous experiences and struggles to help and inspire others during the Actor Awareness campaign.
After starting the Actors Awareness campaign, I got introduced to a collective called the working-class conversation. For me, money (or lack of it) had always represented the problem but at meetings it became clear that the barriers facing young talent from working-class backgrounds was multifaceted. I struck up a conversation with a young actor from Wales who had found that his accent had become detrimental to his career, with casting directors encouraging him to speak in RP, rather than his native accent. There were stories where Shakespeare spoken in an accent other than RP was deemed too risky, even for Northern audiences. Last year, actress Maxine Peak commented “if you’ve got a regional accent you’re not taken as seriously” in an interview before she took on the role of Hamlet at Manchester’s Royal Exchange and I think this is true.
I also think there is the perception that coming to London is the next step in forging a career for an actor, and making that move is a difficult one if you’re from a low income family. The key is investment within the local arts. If communities nurtured arts it would mean young actors could forge opportunities locally rather than facing the increasing competitive nature of London. I recently read that new research from Goldsmith’s University has revealed actors from working-class backgrounds make up only 10% of the profession, and this doesn’t surprise me. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd and with little industry contacts or a buffer of money, you have to have that extra drive to work hard and make yourself stand out. I wanted to start the Actors Awareness campaign to help give working-class actors like me a voice and a network of likeminded artists who could encourage and support each other.
Hopefully with my campaign I can not just be a voice for working class actors but also someone who can help fight resolve the issues and do something about it. Alongside the Campaign film The Industry which is a film embodying the campaign, I have an array of ideas to get into motion. I am literally one guy trying to create a amazing opportunity and campaign for working class actors but I need your help!
I have ideas for projects ready but I’d love for volunteers and build a team to help expand Actor Awareness. I am currently working on a documentary about working class actors life which I’m collaborating with Andrew Ellis and his company Northern lads productions on to show the real life struggles of the struggles to get into the industry. Next month I am holding a campaign meeting for people to come share there stories and ideas. I am also I’m looking to put on a working class festival where Actor Awareness would showcase low budget films and performances, affordable headshot photographers and show Reel editors etc. With all these project and supporters I am trying to build evidence and be proactive so I can go to senior members of the industry and show what the campaign has achieved and get them on board.
However like I said I’m only one guy so I really need help to have any hope of achieving these goals along with other projects i have in mind so if you have any ideas guys, I’m all ears. Together we can become 1 voice and start to make some vital changes to this industry.