Monday, 19 December 2016

First steps into the professional world . . . .

Our graduates from 2016 have already started to make waves in the professional industry . .
We are collecting their stories and will be introducing them over the next few posts to see what career choices can be made on the back of a Performing Arts (Film, TV & Stage) degree at Bucks New University.

Today we are introducing Rob Driscoll, who is starting a Portfolio career, working in independent theatre and film productions to develop his professional profile.
Here he is talking to us about his latest project, and has some valuable advice for our current 3rd year students:

Can you give me some details about your last performance; who wrote/directed it, and what the piece was about? What was your role? 

So I was in a new play called FOUR PAINTINGS, which was written and Directed by Tosin Alabi. Tosin is a care leaver and the play was about her life and experiences being in foster care. The play followed a girl Savannah who loses her Mum and ends up in care with her sister, all this whilst she’s trying to do her GCSE’s. It’s a very personal story but ultimately a very positive view at the fostering system in the UK.
I played a character called Daniel, who was a care leaver talking about his experiences and journey. He was put into care around the same time as Savannah and his purpose was to show another story of someone in care. Daniel grew up with a mother who had bipolar and it was so severe he had to go into care.

·      Tell me a bit about the rehearsal process: how many cast members were involved and what sort of approach was taken during the rehearsal process? 
The company, Azai Gallery, consisted of 11 cast members, the director Tosin and two assistant directors. The company felt like a family, it’s definitely the most fun, friendly and creative experience I’ve had. I know everyone says that but I really mean it. The rehearsal process was a joy everyday. I went to work excited and left eagerly awaiting the next day. The whole process was collaborative; from the very beginning Tosin made it clear that she wanted all of our ideas and input in everything. There were many instances during rehearsal where we all collaborated to devise scenes and even dialogue which ended up being used in the performance.
Personally, I undertook a lot of preparation for my role. I’d be sending my director 2 to 3 emails a week with things I’d written about and for my character after doing research. As mentioned previously my character had experienced life in care so I was reading government websites about foster care. A huge part of Daniel’s story was his bipolar mother so I was reading NHS websites, medical journals, forums and YouTube videos where people discuss the condition and their experiences. I also wanted to find out about any correlations between bipolar and foster care, whether the illness could be so severe that children might be taken away and there is. I also wanted to explore whether Daniel had bipolar, as it’s a condition that can be inherited. It was a fun process and the research helped my characterisation so much, always make time to do it!

·      What did you enjoy about the rehearsal process – what did you find difficult?
I don’t think there was anything I didn’t enjoy about the rehearsal process. One thing I did find difficult was travelling through London’s rush hour, tubes are horrible god forsaken places; at least Tuna are dead when they are stuffed into a can. But seriously one thing I initially found difficult at the start of the process was the emotional journey of my character and finding the right emotional intention in the delivery of the words. The more I researched the easier and more natural it became. Again, always make time to do your research.

·      How did the performance go and will the piece be taken further? Any confirmed performance dates yet?
The performance was fantastic; it went really well and we had a fantastic reaction from the audience. It was a huge event, with music, food and we had four paintings done by local artists. Propercorn Popcorn sponsored us so we had a load of their popcorn at the event. We also had members of the Prince’s Trust come along and representatives from the Young Vic theatre. We had previously gone to a small conference at the Princes Trust to perform a segment of the play to those who work in the foster care system. So far there are no more performances planned but hopefully with the connections we could hope to get further funding and expand the play more. We do hope to take it further if possible.

·      What other projects have you been involved in and what future projects are lined up?
I’ve been pretty full on with this project; it was my first auditioned professional role, which was super exciting, even more so when I got the job. During that time I’ve been furthering my career in other ways, setting up my online professional presence. I’ve also been lucky enough to be accepted by Spotlight. Having a profile with them is great, as some jobs won’t deal with you unless you have one. This also opens up their available jobs to me. They have a really extensive application and criteria so it was great to be accepted. I’ve also been attempting to get an agent but so far I’ve had no luck. So at the moment if I want work it’s up to me to be as active as I can be and I’m applying for everything I can.

·      Do you feel that your Performing Arts degree at Bucks has adequately prepared you for this opportunity? What student experiences have helped you the most?
Do I feel that Bucks has adequately prepared me for the real world? Yes I do. Like many students I had my moments where I complained about certain bits but as a whole it’s definitely prepared me. More so than I feel drama school would have. I’ve been spat out of education with the knowledge and confidence to do it on my own; I’m basically my own agent. It’s up to me to be self sufficient and further my craft which is one of the many things Bucks gave to me. It gave me that confidence to do it on my own. Many of the opportunities you get especially in your third year you just wouldn’t get at drama school. 3rd year performance, making you organise, rehearse and fund your own show is tough but gives you an opportunity like no other to do what I’m doing now.
Particularly the Arts Marketing and Creative Entrepreneurship modules in the 3rd year is one of the most important and helpful modules on the course. Once again it’s allowing you to be self-sufficient and shows how you can find work in the industry. The industry panels were also particularly useful; because of the lecturers' connections there were many interesting speakers. Of all the extra curricular activities the course provides, I found those to be the most important. Much of the advice from those panels is what’s helping me right now.
Speaking of extra curricular, the collaboration the course has with the Film & TV course offers an opportunity for actors to be in student films. This gives you experience working in film with a crew, which is great, and was always professional in my experience. Plus it’s basically given me a free show reel.

Rob in his 3rd year Physical Theatre  performance at Bucks New University.

·      Looking back at your student days – do you feel studying at Bucks has changed you personally, and how has it helped to develop you into an artistic practitioner?
I definitely feel that Bucks University has changed me; it allowed me to experience many things that are helping me now and make mistakes as a performer and creative in a safe environment. As with every part of that 3-year course you get out of it what you put into it, and it’s much the same for my life right now as an Actor. The more work I’m putting into my career, the more I’m getting out of it. I feel that all the experiences I had at Bucks have made me more focused in becoming the sort of professional I want to be. It has also cemented my work ethic, which is allowing me to showcase who I am as an actor and a person every time I go to work and meet other people in the industry.

·      And lastly: Any advise you can give to our third years who will be graduating soon?
If you’re a third year remember why you’re at university. Remember what you’re working towards and why. This year is going to go so fast for you so give it everything you got. Take advantage of every opportunity you can so you’re as prepared as possible for the professional industry. Ask questions and start planning now. Especially your big performance, treat it as your first foray into the professional world. If you set your work standard now the real world won’t be such a shock to you. Whilst you might not understand some of the things you’ve done over the last 3 years, they may prove super useful in the future. Trust me. Have fun, it’s your last year of Uni and you ain’t getting that back. Go hard or go home!

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