How NIDA helps final year Acting students transition into the professional industry

Over the course of their final year, our Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) students are introduced and connected with industry professionals, such as agents, to help them transition from student to full-time professional. But what actually goes into the process?

Who better to tell us about the final part of the student actor’s journey here at NIDA than our Director of Acting, John Bashford?

At NIDA, we’re able to provide a supportive environment where students can make those first forays into the professional industry.

The process of integrating acting students into the industry usually begins in their final year. This can happen at an earlier stage, with agents and professionals sometimes coming to our second year student productions, but more often than not, agents are only interested in the people who are graduating and entering into the industry that year.

NIDA’s focus is on providing five opportunities in the final year of training in order for the students to encounter the different stakeholders in the industry. This enables the actors to be seen in a variety of roles and projects that can help the industry appreciate the accomplishment and diversity of our cohorts.

Over the course of the year, there are two public student production seasons to which we’ll invite industry professionals, such as agents, casting directors, theatre directors and filmmakers. The first occurs in June and the second in October/November. These are fully realised shows, enabling industry participants to see how the actors work on stage with fellow actors and how they fit into a particular performance. It offers them a look at the students’ polished work.

Generally, the agents will be assessing students and measuring them up against what the industry requires and who they currently have on their books. Agents will have a range of artists of various ages and types in order to maximise the possibility of getting their client work.

Besides the production seasons, we have two other theatrical events – Unplugged and Showcase – that enable the actors to be seen at work. And, very importantly in today’s climate, we also have our screen presentations called showreels. These short scenes offer an insight into the actors’ work through the medium of screen, and are shown to the public at Showcase.

This year, we are going to schedule these three key milestones differently to previous years. The format changes year-on-year to correspond with the nature of the group of actors that we’re working with and the needs of the industry.

Firstly, in August we will invite industry guests to attend Unplugged. At this event, the actors present short dialogues drawn from contemporary plays in a rehearsal room context. The idea is to offer the industry a ‘work in progress’; the actor working simply with their scene partner and sharing their craft. Last year, we did this in NIDA’s Space Theatre. This year, we’re going to strip it back even more so that it’s really bare bones. It’ll be very simple: no distractions and a complete insight into the actor at work.

Secondly, we are intending to share the showreels with industry prior to the final public productions. This will enable the industry to see the work of the actors on screen and then come and watch them on stage. This, we believe, will help them see how flexible and adaptive our actors can be.

The final event, Showcase, celebrates the actors’ journeys at NIDA and serves to formally introduce them to the industry. The emphasis is on short scenes, sometimes a song or two, and perhaps some movement work. At this point, we encourage industry professionals to make contact with the actors and begin conversations that we believe will lead to our actors securing representation and auditions.

With our various approaches, agents and industry professionals will get to see the actor in a production and the actor at work as well as on screen, helping them create a well-rounded understanding of their abilities.