Your site is so great, it makes researching the business sooo much easier having all the info in one place! thankyou thankyou thankyou.
Amada, aspiring actress, Sydney, Australia
Just wanted to say that this site is FANTASTIC! It's helped me quite a bit and it's now my #1 bookmarked item, which means I'm going to be visiting here regularly :) Thanks again,
Rob, aspiring actor, Canada
I absolutely love your site - it's SOOOO helpful and very impressive!
I am a frequent visitor and have signed up for the newsletter, plus I think it's so good I have recommended it to all my acting friends! Thank you for creating such a wonderful website!
Wow Tony! I would just like to comment on how much you have affected my life.
First of all, any questions I have are answered extremely fast, and not only that, you give me a very helpful answer every time. Also, by reading your newsletters, I obtain just the right information that I need to succeed in the acting business. I am so happy I discovered your site, and I hope you know how much we actors appreciate you. Thanks again, and I can't wait to read your next newsletter!
Laura Doukas, Actress
I did what you said and I got two interviews with two agents! Thank you! Sorry but can I ask you how do I prepare to go meet the agent? What do I have to do?
Marsha P., New York, NY, USA
This site has taught me a lot that I needed to know without dragging me all over the place.
Lauren, actress, Atlanta, GA
The ActingCareerStartUp.com interview continues with Belgian aspiring actor Mathilde Dratwa about her trip to New York for 18 months to study acting.
Note: This interview was originally done back in 2008. Since then Mathilde has grown as an actress and filmmaker. She, without a doubt, can no longer be seen as an aspiring actor. I left this page on the website, because there is some good information in this interview for real aspiring actors.
Tony: When did you first decide that you wanted to be an actor?
Mathilde: Its difficult to trace really. Ive always been a kid who acted in school, but at the same time I always really ran away from it. I went to study English literature at Cambridge University instead of applying to a drama school. Then after I got my degree I went on to become a teacher and I taught English and Drama in a school in the south of France for two years. But even then I still had a passion for acting. That school where I taught didnt have a Drama department so I had to set it up.
I kind of ran away from giving myself over to acting fully and then it wasnt until I went to drama school in England after those two years of teaching that I decided to do it full-time.
Tony: So you were actually teaching acting first. How did that come about?
Mathilde: After I got my degree in English literature, I did a year of teacher training and I had the choice between training to be an English teacher or an English and Drama teacher, so I chose the latter. Then when I applied for jobs, I was looking for jobs where I could do both. It was a big coincidence that I ended up getting a job where the balance was so heavy on drama. It was funny because my training had been mostly in teaching English, teaching Drama was weighed less heavily.
Tony: So when was it that you really could start to consider yourself an aspiring actor, when you really started getting into acting seriously?
Mathilde: Between the age of 8 and 17 I would do a school performance each year or two. When I was a kid I also did some work for the Belgian National Opera House, where I was an extra in some operas. But it wasnt until university that I was in a production that changed my view of acting from then on, acting became as important as my studies and eventually, even more important!
Tony: Lets get to the part where you decided to come to study acting in the U.S. How did that come about?
Mathilde: I was doing a one-year course at a London drama school and when I was finishing that course, it was a logical time to start thinking about what I was going to do next. It made sense on a personal level too, because of what was going on in my life at the time.
Tony: What if you had stayed together? Do you think you still would have gone to the U.S.?
Mathilde: If Id still been in a relationship it would have been difficult to consider a move like this. I had been in a fairly long-term relationship and it ended. My course was also ending and so it was just the right time. Plus my best friend was coming to New York for her work. It just seemed to be such a neat thing to do, to go and live in such an exciting city, we could live together and everything was just perfect. It was like a dream, but because of the visa situation I didnt think it was ever going to happen.
Tony: The visa situation?
Mathilde: My friend and I were discussing the possibility of me moving over to New York with her, almost as a joke. From there I went online to try and find out what I had to do. I didnt want to just go and do something that wouldnt be worth it. If I was going to go to NY, then I knew I wanted to do something that had to do with acting, but I knew that it would be tough to get a visa.
So in the next 24 hours I had found the Ward Studio and applied and within the next two weeks I had been accepted, but I still hadnt told my parents yet! I hadnt told my best friend that I would be moving in with her either!
Tony: One of the questions I can imagine that people all over the world who come to visit ActingCareerStartUp.com and who are reading this interview might be asking themselves is: I would love to go to New York, but I dont have the money! How did Mathilde make that happen? Is your family supporting you or how did you get the money together to be able to come here and study acting for 18 months?
Mathilde: I had saved a fairly good amount of money during the time I had been teaching and I also hadnt been paying rent for a while because my course in London involved a few months in Russia, and I gave up my apartment. That was good, because I could very well have spent the money if I hadnt had a goal to think about. When I was teaching, I wasnt thinking of going to New York yet, but I knew that I wanted to go to drama school. I knew that eventually I would be an actor and that I would need the money. So during those two years I saved enough money to tide me over for a least a year here. Im already starting to think about how I will make ends meet for the rest of the time I will be here.
One of the most difficult things for an international student who comes here on what they call a J1 visa is that you are not allowed to work.
Tony: How long can you stay here on a J1 visa?
Mathilde: You can stay here for 18 months and you may only train. You are also allowed to earn money, but only from the institution you are training with. But J1 doesnt only apply to the arts. For example if you are training to be a lawyer, you could go and work in the law firm you are training with to make money. Thats fine, because its the same organization that is training you and paying you.
That is really frustrating for an actor, because even if you are training to become an actor, you cant go out and get a job acting while you are training unless it is with the same institution you are training with, like a theatre company or something.
Tony: So an aspiring actor who comes to the U.S. for acting must have to really be creative when trying to make ends meet so that they can stay here, study and keep their dream alive.
Mathilde: Yeah, because of the visa restrictions unfortunately not even as an aspiring actor can you go out and get a job in the industry to stay connected to the acting business so that you can learn while you make money.
Those are the first questions you ask when you meet another actor who is from another country: Where are you from? What kind of visa are you on? Oh. And what does that mean? Can you work with that visa? How long does it last? How did you get it? There are a lot of us international actors in the same situation.
Tony: What advice would you give someone from a country other than the U.S. who wants to come here to study acting?
Mathilde: If you are thinking of coming to New York, being the city that it is, it can be a bit overwhelming. I know people who have come and found that it was just too much for them. So I would advise people to come to NY first on vacation or on a fact-finding trip to find out where you are going to train. There are so many different types of training and all training isnt right for everyone. I would encourage people to come to the city first, see where they will be training, experience the city, meet the people they will be training with and participate in the training first (audit), so that you know what youre getting yourself into.
One other thing I will say is that if your only reason for coming here to get training is because you want to work as an actor in the States, then I would say dont do it. I think that if you dont want the training in itself for what it can give you as an actor and for the specific merits of it, then I would say dont come. I think there are a lot of actors who come here to train, because they want to be actors in America and not because they want that specific training and I think that is a really bad idea.
I think that if as an aspiring actor you are here in NY, which is a very busy city and the only reason you are here studying is because you want to make it as an actor and at the same time you really arent interested in the training you are doing, you can get very lost. Its important to have a strong passion for the training you are doing.
Tony: Thank you for sharing your story with us Mathilde.
Mathilde: You're very welcome.
Read here about Mathilde's classmate, an aspiring actor from Australia and who is also studying acting in New York.
We will abide by the law
and protect your privacy.
Your e-mail address
will not be abused or
given to anyone else.
I want to say you changed my life. I want to be an actress so bad, but i began losing motivation when I couldn't figure out what to do. And then I found you! Thanks to you, I'm taking my first acting classes next month! Yippee!
Sara, Pasadena, CA
Just wanted to thank you for bringing me in to [audition for the video], meet you and chat this Saturday. I was really excited to hear about your working on actingcareerstartup.com and even took a look at it today - it's awesome! You are very well-spoken, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and it shows through the work that you do! I hope our paths in the industry will cross again and really enjoyed meeting you. Thanks, again and best wishes with your very important work!
Gretchen, NY, NY