Read on to hear about Dean's experience and advise for budding actors and students alike
I have been pretty blessed with opportunities from the time I graduated. 2016 was a great year for me making various advances, but if I had to pick the best I think it has to be when I was on set of Transformers 5 and randomly got chosen in person by Director Michael Bay to do my very own scene! It was such an encouragement for me and it felt absolutely amazing to have all the camera crew and staff setting up millions of dollars’ worth of equipment for my scene.
There have been lots of other nice moments along the way, from simply getting a good screen grab of my character from a blockbuster such as ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ to the times I received responses from a Casting Director or an Agent of whom I was emailing. Getting to know the ‘Midsomer Murders’ team was also fantastic, and from this I was given the role of a minor character (a CID) in each of the episodes of Season 19. Landing a role in ‘The 1975’ music video ‘Somebody Else’ performing various scenes with the singer Matt Healy was also memorable.
I am always working with different agencies; making new friends, contacts and learning new tricks. I have likely worked with most of the general agencies in the game. The favourites tend to be Ray Knight Casting, Andrea Casting, Talent Talks, Casting Collective and Pop Platform. I also have my Personal Manager who oversees everything and my Personal Agent.
My day to day work varies between the occasional ‘normal’ jobs to pick up extra cash, acting work, and my personal administration duties such as working on my Internet CVs (Spotlight & IMDB) or applying for acting jobs on Websites such as Starnow, Casting Call Pro or Talent Talks.
On average I usually get around 1 or 2 acting jobs a week and I think its came about this way because I development contacts within most of the nonexclusive agencies during my 3 years at Bucks New University.
Each day is always different for me and always poses a different set of challenges. I am a big believer in utilising as much time as possible, and make each day as productive as I can. I write down a list of things the night before to try and achieve the following day, and it can feel quite exhilarating to set out different challenges in this way. For example on a Monday I would write: apply for 50 acting jobs in the morning, arrange a photo-shoot in London via Starnow or apply to a few Agencies etc. This always gave me feelings of purpose and control over my life.
For my goals to become possible I still require extra income, to cover costs of travelling to an audition, sign up to an acting website or simply to secure a roof over my head. For quick cash to support myself I ruse Brook Street Agency and Blue Arrow in High Wycombe. Temporary work allows me to be free at short notice for an acting Job, audition or meeting with an agent etc.
The Course and University Experience
I had studied Performing Arts in Ireland for the previous two years, worked on Game of Thrones, I left my family and friends and became single on the way to the airport. There were times in my life thought I would never get this chance! And now I had it!
I am extremely proud of graduating from Bucks New University with a 2:1 in Performing Arts. It is definitely helping to pave the road for me in my career! I barely scraped a pass during my first year and thankfully early on I discovered with a little research that in order to have the option to progress into a Master’s Degree one must have graduated with a BA (Hons) at a minimum grade of 2:1 or a First. This was an immediate ‘kick up the backside’ for me as it was always a fundamental plan of mine to study a Master’s Degree at some point in a drama school. At the very least I wanted to have the option to do one rather than going through my life wishing I could. From the second year onwards I used this option as a strong motivator to maintain focus and work as hard as I could towards a 2:1 and thankfully I made it. This is a credit to each and every teacher I came across at Bucks!
During the 3 years at University I had worked on at least 100 Television, Film and Commercial and Music Video Productions, mostly as a Supporting Artist and slowly building myself up towards featured roles and roles with small dialogue. This allowed me to manifest from scratch a fairly plausible Spotlight CV for a graduate to take to the industry.
During my first year of University I decided to spend a lot of my extracurricular time focusing on the Industry and learning as much as I could, gaining a general feel for it and the basics of what needs to be done to succeed. By the time I graduated I had become knowledgeable on the Industry and developed many contacts and insider ‘secrets’. I had discovered probably every Supporting Artist Agency there is and worked out what productions they focused on, for example if you wanted experience on Hollyoaks then you need to source an agent in Liverpool such as ‘Lime Actors’. If you want onto Coronation Street then you need to suss out ‘Industry Casting’ in Manchester and ‘Phoenix Casting’ in Bristol for Doctor Who and so on.
There have been many advantages from receiving my qualification at Bucks. It has no doubt gave me an edge and opened up many doors whether it was when applying for an Agent or getting the attention from a Casting Director leading to an audition. It has also increased my confidence and self-esteem knowing that if I put my mind to something I can achieve it.
As a graduate I now have the option of applying to an institution to study a Master’s Degree which gives me the power to go on and study a Doctorate in the future if I wanted to. I would definitely advise the current students to work as hard as they can on their degree. It gives you more power in life and you’ll never regret having it, even if you can’t see that when you are studying.
During my time at Bucks we had inspirational seminars and workshops from actors who are household names such as Mr Raji James (Silent Witness, EastEnders, Doctor Who), and from the academics, including Dr Jem Kelly, John Lewis and Dr Nic Fryer and many more! I was always inspired by their individual careers, and the possibility of becoming financially secure by becoming a lecturer at a University someday, and knowing it’s possible to do both screen acting and teaching, and even have the chance to write a book someday as Jem and Nic have.
Spending my time at Bucks working on the various assignments, both theoretical and practical, over the three years has no doubt developed many skills that I can bring to the industry. The text based assignments, aside from providing good hard critical information on the chosen subject, have also strengthened my ability to be independent, to work to my own initiative, and to source and read books to learn about other people’s relationship to the industry and to conduct critical research and analysis to deadlines. The writing skills developed are very useful for the working world, for example application forms, CV, cover letters and preparing professional emails.
Gaining my degree in Performing Arts has definitely developed a higher sense of maturity within me. My whole outlook on life is definitely more positive and I tend to be more critical in my thinking.
Each practical performance based assignment I carried out definitely strengthened me mentally, from building my confidence, raising my self-esteem to improving my acting skills. I genuinely am a completely different person now than the way I was as a Fresher at Bucks. I am better equipped, more prepared, confident and focused for the road ahead.
Advice to budding actors
I am definitely no expert at this. I get things wrong all the time, am rejected on a daily bases and simply progress through trial and error at times. However, my personality traits have elements that are perfect for the industry, such as being self-driven, highly dedicated, competitive, self-disciplined, determined etc. which thankfully gives me an edge. On the other hand I still find acting very challenging, it never comes natural to me, and is something I need to perfect.
However things that I do know are that firstly you must figure out where you want to go. What is your goal? Who do you want to be? You really need to have some kind of clear vision of exactly what you want to achieve. There are really two options. You can enter the industry and see what happens, do bits and pieces, or maybe rely on ‘luck’, sitting back and waiting with a mind-set of ‘if it’s meant to be its meant to be’ kind of attitude constantly being negative saying things like ‘it’s who you know’, or its just being at the right place at the right time etc. OR you have your vision, your goal and find out what’s required to achieve that goal. Break everything down with one step at a time. Join Equity, join Spotlight, make an IMDB page, Get a personal website, source a photographer for Head Shots, and build up a Showreel, get agent etc.
For example, do you need a showreel? If so start to get involved with short films. There are countless opportunities with the Bucks TV & Film students and also websites like Starnow, Casting Call Pro or save up money and get one professionally done, for example Slick Showreels.
Example 2 – working towards joining Equity. Find out how to join. They require that you have worked as an extra for at least 5 or so times. Therefore if this is what you need, the next goal is figuring out how to get involved as an Extra. It’s all about setting achievable goals, making little steps, achieving them and moving to the next.
It’s always good to listen to any advice given to you and other people’s viewpoints! Then you can make your own choices. Remember that everyone’s journey is unique. The industry is not black and white. It’s always the same phrases that circulate with aspiring Actors that do more mental harm than good. For example giving up at the thought of… ‘It’s all about who you know!’ or you NEED to be at a ‘drama school’ or Extra work will destroy you. Says who? Each person who became a successful Actor came about it their own way. Some made it through Extra work; a few make it because of being in the right place at the right time or because they know someone but genuinely 99% of them made it through hard work. They decided where they wanted to be, made the effort to do the necessary planning, and didn’t give up. Don’t fall for the mentality of relying on ‘luck’ or hoping to get noticed or having an attitude of ‘if it happens it happens’ and not doing anything. Go out and do it. You’re the boss.
Putting in the work will naturally lead to what seems like ‘luck’ or being in the right place at the right time. You’ll start to get noticed automatically unless your invisible and if anything concerns you, perhaps the fact ‘it’s all about who you know’ then set out and do what’s necessary to get to know these people! Your journey is your own. If you are determined and want it bad enough all these concerns are superficial!
I came to High Wycombe to get a degree and to become an Actor. Nobody else is going to do this for me. So this was more than enough motivation to get my act together. I started to become aware of the things in my life had the potential to stop me from accomplishing my goal and started to visualise them as burdens for the first time in my life.
Advice to 1st year students
The University experience will usually only happen once in a life time, especially with the total cost ranging in the 50K mark. It’s a lot of money and most people don’t tend to grasp that because of the quick and easy accumulation of grants and loans. Therefore I do believe it’s wise to try and get as much out of your university experience as possible, perhaps getting involved in one of the societies on offer. I didn’t get involved as much as I should have whilst I was studying at Bucks and became quite isolated at times which made maintaining a stable mind quite difficult sometimes.
It’s important for you to be healthy both physically and mentally. Enjoy your time at University and enjoy yourself. It can be a daunting experience leaving your family and friends and starting a life in a new environment but the experience only comes once and can/will be filled with fantastic memories that you will share for the rest of your life!
Attend all your classes; make the most of all the help offered by your lecturers. You have paid a lot of money for every class and the classification of your degree will depend on the amount of classes you go to. The more classes you go to the easier your degree becomes! Focus on working hard as much as you can during the week, going to all your classes and spending quality extracurricular time studying, reading over your worksheets for the next class or rehearsing/revising and then you can spend time enjoying yourself with a clear conscience as you have done your honest work. Balance is key but the priority is your degree!
I believe if you set your goal and do what’s required to achieve it and stick at it until you get there you can’t fail. Now I’m not talking about getting rejected and failing on daily bases. It’s all a part of journeying to your ultimate goal I am telling you! My Acting journey genuinely seems to be working for me and always as I predicted. I just went for an audition for the Ant and Dec show at the ITV Studios a few days ago and just found out I got a role on their show. I am absolutely over the moon. Ask any of the tutors at University, I may have been the worst actor in the class or even the group but the thing is I am a fighter and am always determined to learn how to act and become good at it and someday I will! Determination is key. If I can do this, you certainly can too regardless of what you look like, shape or size or anything. If you want it go for it and don’t ever stop until you get there. It’s all down to you. How bad do you want it?
Make your journey yours and claim your goal and go and take it! See your vision, believe in it and then achieve it.
It all starts at BUCKS NEW UNIVERSITY.