How to stay open, positive & honest as actors in the face of commercial pressures in the 3rd year?

In your final year at drama school, it can be very disturbing to find yourself suddenly focusing on all the commercial pressures that are looming. “Will I get good casting? Will I get an agent? Will I get a job when I leave? How good am I compared with the others?” What formerly felt like an ensemble can feel like a competitive blood sport.

I want to share with you a very powerful exercise I’ve been doing each year with my third year students at Guildhall. Although it works best as a group exercise, you could also do it by yourself. It’s called Metaplan and it goes like this:

I put up on the board a question for everyone to address: “How can we stay open, positive and honest as actors in the face of commercial pressures in the 3rd year?”

Then, in groups of three, they get five cards between them on which to jot down their answers. It’s best to use a flip chart marker. Aim for about seven words on each card.

When that’s done, I collect all the cards and someone reads them out, and I stick them up on the wall. I usually group them under three headings: SELF, WORKING WITH OTHERS, THE WORK.

I then give each person three red dots to stick on the cards they think have the most useful ideas. That gives you a weighting of what the group thinks is important.

The exercise takes about an hour and yields some really valuable collective wisdom. Here’s what a recent cohort came up with (the numbers show the cards that had the most dots):

How can we stay open, positive and honest as actors in the face of commercial pressures in the 3rd year?

Live your best life
Live in the moment with gratitude
Remember the power of your own individual voice (3)
Focus on what we are doing not how we are doing it (4)
Look after yourself, mentally, physically and emotionally
Look after mind, body and soul (3)
Remind yourself of 10 things you’re grateful for
Be open to continually learn from others
Have clear goals of what you want, not others (5)
Remind yourself of other things which make you happy.
Keep sight of your hopes and dreams for your whole life, not just this year
Don’t forget who you are

Working with others

Use your antennae – sensitivity
Hold onto our ensemble ethos throughout the year
Be there for others and allow others to be there for you
Celebrate everyone else
Remember the joy in our opportunity to be together
We are on separate journeys – creativity is not competitive (6)
Respect each other and want success for everyone
Unconditional love for your fellow actors
Stay present in other people’s work (generosity)
Be sensitive to others
Maintain and honest, open channel of communication with peers in your year
Find pride within your ensemble
Remind yourself of everyone’s individuality to find true joy in other’s successes
Celebrate greatness in others. It raises your bar!
Put no one or yourself on a pedestal
Celebrate each individual journey for their differences
Remember your love for the ensemble

The work
Maintain a sense of humour (8)
Don’t change but accept growth (for yourself and everyone)
Let the story be more important
Remember your love of acting
Always feed your creativity and curiosity
Remember why we love doing it (acting)
Have fun and keep perspective
Realise the story is bigger than yourself, and the impact it can have to change the world (8)
Remember Ken’s helicopter-view perspective when it all gets a bit much
Remember the work is more important than the bullshit
Wake up every morning and tell yourself you have something no one else has
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
Be organized; don’t let things fester; take control
Embrace failure and success, and see your/our growth in ALL things
Focus on the factors you can control
Don’t take it all too seriously- this won’t kill you!
This is just the beginning of a long journey
Don’t be ashamed of success

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