Surviving Actors caught up with actor Tom Stocks to hear more about a recent campaign he has created facing the struggles of the working class actor forging a career in the arts #ActorsAwareness
Tom tell us more about your background and training experience to date?
I studied Musical Theatre for 2 years at Pendleton College, then Acting at The University of South Wales. Through the university I was given my first professional job in ‘Robin Hood’ at The Riverfront Theatre. In the production I was Lead Chorus and Dance Captain.
After the run they asked me back to do a production of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. After the success of ‘Robin Hood’ I was promoted to Assistant Stage Manager, Assistant Choreographer, Understudy Beast and Lead Chorus.
During my involvement in these productions I had to balance my studies, involving the graduate show cases. The shows were ‘The Cherry Orchard’ by Anton Chekov and ‘West’ by Steven Berkoff, after both my shows I was scouted by a welsh theatre company 4 Theatre Productions to play Renfield/Seward in ‘Dracula’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014. Since then I have toured ‘Aladdin’ attended workshops at The Actors Centre and have been signed by TTA.
When and how did your campaign come about, what was the catalyst for #actorsawareness?
I have been running the campaign via social media and local newspapers for almost 2 years now. The reason I started the campaign was when I struggled to finance my place at East 15. When offered a place I deferred entry to save for the fees. However I never realised just how hard it was to find funding. Sponsorships were scarce, arts funding had dried up and then it hit me like a brick wall that I just couldn’t afford it. Over the year I deferred entry I worked and worked on minimum wage as a chef, writing to anyone who was anyone asking for money. However the economic state of the industry opened my eyes and by the time it came around to accepting my place I nowhere near my target and I had to give it up. Around this time Helen Mirren had just done her BAFTA speech speaking out for working class actors and it really inspired me and after failing to accumulate the money I needed, I decided to take action on the Industry and raise awareness and the campaign was born.
Tell us more about your short film ‘The Industry’?
Friend and fellow working-class actor, Marcus Armstrong and I initially talked about trying to introduce a different dynamic to the #actorsawareness campaign by making a film about the struggles of an actor from a low income background. We got together a storyboard, script and crew and by crowd funding we have managed to raise the funds needed to hire equipment. The short film will be shot in June and we hope the film will eventually evolve into a four part documentary, with interviews from working-class actors from around the UK. The film follows the daily lives of two young actors in London; one coming from a wealthy middle class family, and the other coming from a working-class family. The two young men are the same age and share the same dream; but for one of them it is far easier, which pushes their friendship to breaking point.
How has the reaction been so far to the campaign and have there been any responses which have surprised you?
The campaign has really gained strength over the past few months, and I have been so encouraged to hear of people’s support. With an overwhelming response from all corners of the industry trying to help, the biggest being The Actors Centre. The help from Paul and Louise has been incredible. The response on social media has been unforgettable, including posts and RT’s from Amy Nuttall, Michelle Eagleton, Mark Kemp, Paul Roseby, Shaun Dooley, Daniel Portman and organisations such as NYAT and Act For Change are just a few of those who have shown their support on twitter.
What would be the ideal result from this campaign?
The result is for the working class to have a voice, not just talk about making a change but actually do it. Brilliant organisations such as Ideas Tap are closing down because of funding cuts! However this does leave a gap in the market and I would love to perhaps in the long term work up to something like Ideas Tap and replicate their incredible achievements. Also to set up a working class actors union alongside an organisation called The Working Class Conversation. Some of these things may be pipeline dreams but they do have foundations set in place, all I need now are voices like my own to help me set things in stone.
Just because you are from a working class background does not make you any less talented.
Twitter – @Tom_Stocks
YouTube Video – #ActorsAwareness