Why train on a Foundation programme?

January 1st, 2019

Before embarking on a three year degree in Acting, I trained in Musical Theatre at The BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology and undertook Mountview’s Foundation course in Acting. I trained for two years at BRIT, deciding to stay on for a third year for their first year of their ‘Foundation’ course in Musical Theatre when I was eighteen. Despite getting into drama school during my first year of applying, I felt that I wasn’t perhaps ready to enter three years of rigorous training as I wasn’t entirely sure what aspect I wanted to train in- I had been very set on training in Musical Theatre, until I found myself more exposed to Acting elements of my course at BRIT, and was then torn between the two. This is when I chose to train at BRIT during the day, and I successfully got onto the evening Acting Foundation Course at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. This meant there was not much time left for me to do much else, except work in a bar in order to able to afford to go to Mountview (and survive)- at the time this almost felt impossible; training at two schools, working in a bar, auditions for drama school. However, this was actually one of the most beneficial years in my six years of training.

Foundation courses allow you to adjust to the environment of a drama school and the hours and workload that are demanded of you. Many peers that I trained with on my degree who had come straight from a sixth form/college environment initially found it extremely difficult to cope with the sudden demand that drama school can bestow upon you. During this year, I learnt key lessons in time management, ensuring I met deadlines before the date given to free up my time for the next hurdle, balancing auditions with work for both courses and working in a bar to regulate income and learning to organise my finances- something that can easily be overlooked during training.

Foundation courses are especially important as they emulate what the first year of a degree in an arts based subject will be like, as most aspects of the course derive from the structure of the first year of a BA. This is a fantastic way to prepare yourself for three years of strenuous training, as I found it solidified for me that I wanted to continue on that path- for many, they discovered during that year that they didn’t want to- this is a very important lesson to learn.

During my foundation courses at both BRIT and Mountview, I was exposed to a vast range of skill based classes, audition technique sessions, movement styles, voice work, practitioners, and freelance teachers (who are incredible to learn from, as they are masters at juggling a creative life. From weekly Acting through Song classes to weekly Monologue sessions in front of a small group of peers to gain feedback and progression to prepare for auditions, I was constantly honing my skills and beginning to form my own process as an actor- something that the first year of a degree is so heavily based on. This is the kind of training that you don’t often get exposed to during a degree until really your third year- you have external tutors yes, but you do get used to your crowd of teachers and their teaching styles. I was exposed to so many more opportunities whilst doing foundation courses as I frequently met with industry professionals for workshops, which prepared me for three years of training as I came in with the knowledge of the industry that I needed at that stage. I was also extremely aware of what would be expected of me- the hours, the workload, the emotional, mental and physical demands it would have on me, and the steps I needed to take before reaching third year and graduating. I felt I started my degree with my interest already piqued, and that I had the determination I needed to knuckle down immediately and get stuck in- whereas I witnessed many of my peers initially grapple with the idea of giving so much of your time to this all-encompassing path we’d chosen.

Training on two very unique foundation courses at the same time also gave me the benefit of learning to network early on- something you don’t really cover during your degree until your third year, where the focus falls largely on you emerging from the hidden depths of your drama school as this fresh graduating butterfly, ready to take on the industry. I both met and worked with a huge number of freelancers and professionals who I am still in contact with now that I am a working actor, who without the environment of a foundation course, I wouldn’t have been exposed to. It certainly became apparent to me very early on to keep track of everyone I had crossed paths with, for example, my voice teacher at Mountview was also the Head of the Voice Department at Italia Conti, where I did my degree, and we built an incredible working relationship that has now been sustained for five years. I worked with up and coming writers and actors on shows, fundraised a show to take to the Brighton Fringe (amazing prep for when our year took two shows to the Edinburgh Fringe at the end of our second year at Conti), and was encouraged to write my own work (again brilliant prep for when it become compulsory to create and submit a practical dissertation in my third year, rather than a written one).

All of these aspects of foundation courses are something that have contributed to my ability to have gotten through an extremely demanding three years of training, as I felt I had already dipped my toe into the water- but perhaps the most important aspect for me personally has been the preparation it gave me for being a working actor. Balancing auditions with work on the foundation courses with auditions and having a “normal” job was incredible prep for being out in the industry, where you are given a moment’s notice at times to get something done, and you are constantly having to adhere to deadlines. It gave me the experience of having to manage everything effectively, and being in control of each project I had happening at one given time, without getting to the first year of a BA and feeling overwhelmed by what can seem like an impossible workload.

In my experience, foundation courses can go one of two ways- you can either realise that this tricky path is not the one you want to choose for yourself, and that is more than ok. Or, you can realise that you actually quite want to continue with it, and allow yourself to be worked hard before the hard work actually begins, which really does pay off in the end.