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How to make it from high school to Hollywood

Your chances at making it big?

The statistics are terrifying, with something like 92% of the profession are out of work at any one time. What the figure doesn’t reveal is that the same 8% tend to work continuously while the same 92% never get a look-in.

The trick therefore is to be in the top 8% – obviously.

Still reading? So – drama school or university?

There is really no set path. Plenty of people make it without going to drama school. Some never study at all, while some study at university.

Here’s a list of the most reputable courses for acting in country:


What is it? National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney.

Courses include: acting, staging, design, production, costume, properties, directing and playwriting.

Course duration: Acting – three years full-time (five days per week).

Degree attained: Acting, Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Alumni: Cate Blanchett, Mel Gibson, Baz Luhrmann, Alex O’Loughlin, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington, Jessica Marais.

How do you get in? You’ll need to audition via two monologues, one Shakespearian and one modern.

Admission rate: It’s highly competitive with approximately one in 100 applicants accepted.

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What is it? Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Perth

Courses include: Aboriginal Performance and Production & Design, acting, arts management, costume, dance, design, lighting, music, music theatre, performing arts, props & scenery, sound and stage management.

Course duration: Acting – three years full-time (five days per week).

Degree attained: Acting, Bachelor of arts (acting).

Alumni: Hugh Jackman, Jai Courtney, Heath Ledger, Frances O’Connor, Lisa McCune, Tim Minchin and more.

Audition: You’ll need to audition with two monologues to be performed (one classical and one contemporary from those selected by WAAPA).

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What is i? Actors Centre Australia, Sydney

Courses include: Only acting.

Course duration: Three years full-time (three days per week).

Degree attained: An advanced diploma of performing arts (acting).

Alumni: Hugh Jackman (before he went to WAAPA)

Audition: two monologues to be performed (one Shakespearian and one contemporary).

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What is it? Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne

Courses offered: Theatre practice (acting), dance, production, contemporary music, dance, film & TV, music theatre, production, theatre, visual art, and more.

Course duration: Theatre practice – three years full-time.

Degree attained: Theatre practice, Bachelor of fine arts (theatre practice).

Audition: two monologues to be performed (one Shakespearian and one self-devised).

See Also

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What is it? Australian Film Television and Radio School, Sydney

Courses offered: Screen business, producing, screen design, radio, screen studies, screenwriting, sound, visual effects and more.

Course duration: Variable, they offer long and short courses.

Degree attained: Masters, Graduate diplomas, Graduate certificates, Bachelor of Arts Screen & Production and more.

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Advice on the industry

Whether you choose to study or not, your greatest asset in making a break is your novelty value. When you finally become a professional, for six months or so (or at least until the next wave of graduates are ready to launch themselves) you’re brand spanking new, and this is your best chance of getting a foothold.

Everybody – producers, agents, directors – wants to be the one to discover the next big thing, so you’ll be paid levels of attention that, however slight, will seem a distant memory even a year later.

In the old days the profession allowed a slow, steady approach, but nowadays only a handful of regional venues produce their own work, and in this novelty-obsessed celebrity culture, getting noticed while you’re still shiny and pink is more important than ever.

Getting an agent

A good agent is make or break. You’re waiting for them to get you a job.

Approach an agent like you would any other work interview: with a CV, a reel of work, and a polished approach.


The business may as well made the saying, “it’s who you know, not what you know,” and so the most likely source of employment is through the people you meet. Knock on every door that you know could lead you somewhere.

Find out what’s going on and where. What productions are being cast? What plays are being lined up? Who’s directing what and when?

You’ll find this information by trawling the internet and by signing up to industry newsletters.

What other options are there in the entertainment industry?

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