Written by Honey Gabriel
Graduate from the 2 Year Diploma in Professional Acting
28th July 2019: The best two years of my life had been wrapped up with an epic graduation ceremony and party. My incredible career as an actor was about to begin. I was filled with hope for the future and excited to get out into the industry and continue living the dream.
I still can’t believe it’s been over a year since I graduated from DSL! This year has been nothing like I expected it to be; frankly, it’s been nothing like ANYONE expected it to be! Despite the numerous ups, downs and all arounds it has still been a truly amazing and educational year.
I was lucky that the first 5/6 months of my first year out were pretty good. My Spotlight credits were slowly being built up; I did an episode of Doctors on BBC One, a two-week run of our grad show at the Drayton Arms Theatre and a radio drama scratch podcast for Ragged Foils Productions in addition to various auditions. And then in January 2020 things went very quiet. The industry was slowing down and people were becoming cautious with this new unknown virus that was spreading.
Once the world began to realise how serious COVID-19 was, I had settled it in my heart that my dream had to go on hold for a little while. Weirdly enough I felt a sense of peace with that knowledge; not that I wasn’t heartbroken at the thought of theatres closing and people being out of work, but in terms of my career, I resolved that this was just a pause, not a full stop.
And boy was it a pause and a half! During the quiet period, I watched most of the incredible NT Live at Home, and Shakespeare’s Globe shows on YouTube. I continued working my way through Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. I felt like the industry had all but disappeared, but it was also the industry that kept the world going during the lockdown, which gave me comfort that our art makes a difference.
I threw myself into play readings, panel discussions and workshops, and I spent copious amounts of time on social media connecting with other creatives. I figured if I kept myself busy and interacting with other actors, directors and casting directors, I would remain sane – which worked for the most part! I was also lucky to be cast in The Show Must Go Online’s Comedy of Errors, which was a joyous experience!
Then the worst thing happened; or what I thought was the worst thing. My agent dropped me. Cue meltdown. They said the pandemic had hit the agency hard, and they could no longer keep their full list of clients. I was heartbroken. For better or worse, having an agent makes life easier in this industry, and if they were struggling, then I knew others would be too, and the likelihood of finding another one seemed near impossible.
There's a bible verse that says God works all things out for our good. I’ve realised "good" doesn't always mean fun or easy - being unrepresented was definitely not fun or easy – but after a week of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to get back on the horse. Through my use of social media, I was incredibly blessed to be picked up by my current agent, Clarendon Personal Management a month after being dropped. Yes, I'm also still baffled as to how that happened!
The partnership I have with my new agent has been incredible; being dropped truly was a blessing in disguise. Alongside them, I have worked to maintain and build connections across the industry. I've done a few more TSMGO shows (Merchant of Venice, Antony and Cleopatra, and Winter’s Tale this coming week), worked on a big commercial for an American company, performed a one-person Shakespeare show called Bard in the Yard at Southwark Cathedral and more! This has been far from a typical year, but despite the challenges, I wouldn't change it for the world.
This year has proved that working in this industry requires resilience, resourcefulness and a bit of luck. So my advice to everyone is: work hard, make connections - you never know where opportunities may come from, throw yourself into everything you think could be fun, look for learning opportunities and talk to your peers. As cliché as it sounds, our careers are a marathon, not a sprint. I'm only one year in, but I'm very excited for the next 50+ years ahead of me!