Jess Frances

Jess drama school

Is there anything you know now that you wish you'd known three years ago?

I wish I knew the importance of creating your own work and collaborating with others. When I've spoken to those already in the industry, including directors, they always say that those actors still working five years down the line are the ones who made work themselves and didn't wait for the phone to ring. I wish I had taken more time in my year out to try writing my own work. 

Do you feel like you’ve changed much during your time at drama school? How are you different?

I believe I've changed significantly. I learnt to toughen up and deal with rejection more and not to take everything so personally. Sometimes (sadly a lot of the time) you are just not right for the part, or what the casting director was looking for. You can't beat yourself up every time you don't get a part; you have to pick yourself up and move on to the next one. 

Has it been pretty much what you expected, or quite different?

I had quite few friends go to drama school before me so I heard lots about the courses before I started. I always knew it would be hard work and challenging but I didn't realise I would be this tired the WHOLE time! 

What have been the most valuable skills you’ve learnt that you’ll take into your career?

The importance of contacts and networking and also a number of great exercises I can use to get into character. I also know which pieces suit me and which don't, and what unique selling points I have and can use when marketing myself as an actor. 

Do you think you’ll keep in touch with your year group?

It's a very small world and an even smaller industry so I will no doubt bump into them wherever I go. I've made some really great friends during the three years and would love to keep in contact with as many people as I can. Obviously, like many situations you get on with certain people more than others but I have a massive respect for my year and they have been a big part of my experience here. We've all been through so much together. 

What have been your highlight(s)?

Highlights have definitely been watching all the third year shows. When you’re in first and second year it seems miles away, you watch the third years and never believe that you will be producing work like that one day. During third year I have loved watching my year do some of their best work and watch everyone improve massively. The shows are really exciting. It's also lovely working with the students on the Stage Management course, external directors and a whole backstage team of costume and set design. 

What have you found particularly challenging?

Probably second year, when you are no longer new and the excitement has worn off a little. Obviously you still love drama school but you realise you need to work really hard and the pressure of your first shows watched by parents, teachers and the rest of the school is looming. Third year comes around really fast and although you’re still learning in third year, you don't have skills classes and are in full time rehearsals. 

Is there any advice you would give someone just starting drama school?

Enjoy and make full use of your skills classes while you’re in first and second year; work equally hard in all your classes, even the ones you think you’re not good at or don't enjoy as much. You'll really miss them when they’re gone and you understand the importance of them afterwards. Make sure you remember to have fun as well, you’re still learning and you don't need to be perfect or prove yourself to anyone. It's not a race. Things happen for people at different stages. You’re not in competition with your peers even though at times it might feel like it. And please remember to support everyone and not to judge.

What are you doing next?

I'm very thankful to have an agent who will help me find work as well as finding and creating work myself. I'm moving to London with friends and finding part-time work to fund my life whilst I hopefully audition for acting jobs. I also want to get better at the Irish accent so I'll probably be doing that. 

What are your lasting memories of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire?

Lasting memories include going to the zoo for animal studies, and hugging everyone at the end of term one and saying nice things about them (an exercise we were asked to do and it's lush – I’d recommend it). Also being so tired I just cried in the corridors for no reason! Making up songs in the common room with Rory's guitar and originally naming it "the common room song" 

BA (Hons) Acting

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