Not many people in the UK can afford to be an actor. Drama school auditions, headshots, showreels – it all adds up.
Nathan Miller, a 23-year-old filmmaker from London, last month replied to a tweet that highlighted how expensive being an actor can be, to offer struggling actors free headshots. His gesture will save each individual, on average, about £400.
So on Wednesday 6 March, Miller put together a makeshift studio with support from the ACE hotel, which offered him a free room for the day.
“It’s not taking anything out of my day,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I got one, two, three, four retweets came back and saw it had lots of responses. I saw my emails and about 200 people got in contact with me.”
“Some people were cheeky and emailed asking if they could have a photo to update their Instagram," he said, but after fishing through over 200 replies he found about 35 people who had sent heartfelt messages asking for his help.
Miller was joined on the day by two photographers – Vasily Agrenenko and Paul Stollery –who had not met before. After they saw Miller's tweet, however, they felt compelled to get involved with a good cause.
Andre Clayton, 22, told BuzzFeed News that he was was unable to complete his last year of drama school due to financial difficulties and it left him distraught. “My last year of drama school was my big shot to perform to agents – this is the moment we’ve been studying for," he said. "That was the worst time in my life.”
That was little over a year ago, and Clayton is still determined to achieve his dream and become an actor. He's working in digital marketing now, so he is in a position to attend auditions. The free headshot has saved Clayton about a month's wages, he said. “This is a blessing in disguise. This is £500 off my list," he said. "It’s a ridiculous cost. I can't wrap my head around it. I don’t know if anything will be done about it and I'm on the other end.”
Clayton started acting at the age of 11 in primary school. “I played Peter Pan and from the first applause I knew,” he said. “That feeling of doing something that makes people laugh.” But, he said, it was a challenge at first "growing up in Peckham, where acting and expressing emotion was not cool".
He was encouraged to take acting more seriously after his uncle's death in 2009. “I overcame something when my uncle died, a switch. Everyone tells me you'll experience a switch and that was the switch for me. I was close with him and he wanted me to be an actor. He was the only person.”
Tara Hoyos-Martinez, a 27-year-old from London, always dreamed of being on the big screen, but the financial burden of being an actor really put her off. Three months ago she quit her full-time job for part-time bar work, so her hours were flexible enough to go to auditions and attend drama classes.
“Quitting my full-time job was really scary – something I had thought about for ages but I needed a push," Hoyos-Martinez told BuzzFeed News. "And when I felt like I wasn’t being appreciated at my job, I have a really supportive family, and luckily I live at home with them, so I knew I'd be financially OK."
She was about to book headshots for £400 when she saw Nathan’s tweet. “It was just great timing,” she said. “The prices when you are an aspiring actor are insane. Some people might think £100–200 quid is not a lot, but that’s just one part of it. Then I booked up showreels, which are expensive: £600–1000 to get it made well. You have to go to an agent with something that's good quality."
“Acting makes me feel amazing,” Hoyos-Martinez continued. “Doing classes really brought it back to life. I felt vulnerable again and I love and I enjoy being onstage. Being able to tell a story and portray emotions to people who might not see them firsthand, and being able to tell a story for other people, is why I want to do it.”
She hopes her new headshot will open doors. “I hope to get gritty roles with this headshot, and more edgy roles. The new Lara Croft film was made for me. Alicia Vikander will be great but I can really see myself doing it.”
Hoyos-Martinez is Colombian and hopes she’ll be able to represent where she is from universally one day. “Gina Rodriguez inspires me. She's leading the way for Latinos and opening up a whole area that's maybe unseen. ... There aren't many Latinos in the UK in the acting world – this is something I want to bring to the table.”
Stephen Odubola, a 22-year-old from London, told BuzzFeed News that he was really shocked by all the prices that added up while breaking into the acting industry. “Not many people in the acting scene help or open doors, unlike music. First time I've ever seen this… He's the type of people we need.”
Working as a part-time sales advisor, he rushes to and from auditions. “Acting is so fast-paced; you have to be very flexible,” he said. But, he said, acting can be disheartening. “You'll go to 20 auditions and only hear back from one or two. It gets hard and it gets to you.”
Odubola continued: “I used to act in school plays and I didn’t think much of it. Then I thought about careers – acting could be the one. I went to acting school at 16 and signed up for the website, made a showreel for agents. Paying for acting expenses hurts but has to be done.”
“I am looking at the big screens. Daniel Kaluuya and John Boyega – they give me that hope," he added. "When I saw Black Panther, I was proud, and I haven't watched many films and felt that way.” One day, he says, he wants to replicate their success.
Nathan Miller is 23 years old. An older version of this post misstated his age.