Written by Fred Tony
(Swiss student on our Adult Evening Acting Beginners Course)
“London... Fish & Chips... Bad weather, worse food... Mary Fu**ing Poppins... London!”
I remember that famous hateful movie quote about London, but I rest assured that nobody can hate London. It is impossible to remain indifferent to the effervescence of this great city. The lusty cultural shock and the frenetic pace might easily knock down a few, eventually they’ll get up and ask for more.
London is fast, electric, connected... And nearly nine million people make their way...compared to the 8.5 million in Switzerland...one can only be astonished.
When I started to spread the word among my closest friends that I wanted to go to London to attend acting classes, at the age of 34 and recently married, people were doubtful.
When I evoked the fact that I might have to fly in to attend the Tuesday evening class - then fly out on Wednesday mornings to go back to work in Geneva - then fly in to attend the Thursday evening class - then fly out on Friday mornings to go back to work in Geneva, people literally stayed bewildered.
After all, I got out of breath just trying to explain it.
Finally, when I said that I’ll have to repeat that very same process within a time period of ten weeks, they told me that it was an impossible avenue to pursue, and that I was crazy just to imagine it.
I would give the same answer repeatedly without tiring: “I am passionate and dedicated, being committed to something I believe in doesn’t scare me and if it is out of my comfort zone, then it’ll be even better”.
However, these previous words didn’t express neither motivation nor inspiration to my closest friends. But now that I achieved this journey, I can proudly affirm that I have never ceased to be motivated, I showed up to every single class without being late of a single minute. Even during the tragic events that occurred in airports and against my dear ones’ advices, I kept going.
To make this possible I managed to keep an on-call-job in Geneva pointing the fact that I won’t be available a few days a week. That job made it all possible, paying the bills, the tuition fees and the flights as well. Acting is a passion and so is my marriage, so I promised my wife she won’t notice my absences, this is why flying in and out was mandatory.
The movie industry in Switzerland is non-existent, so I had two options: either I chose to attend acting classes in France (closer to Switzerland in my own mother tongue), or I decide to go to London and attend an english speaking course.
How could anyone say no to the vibrant city of London?
How could anybody not be willing to dive into the rich intricacies of the english language?
And why try and cloud the fact that British actors are the finest? So many of them have an international career on several continents. My choice was quickly made.
What a tremendous opportunity to dip a toe into that ocean of subtleties that represents the acting profession, and how delightful it is to be far away from my comfort zone.
I strongly believe that once you start something, you have to achieve it despite all the problems that may occur. Of course, all the elements must be carefully considered with a rested mind but once you settle the priorities and your final goal, just go for it and never stop.
Along the way, your mind may play tricks on you because you might experience uncomfortable conditions such as fear, stress, fatigue...So your mind will beg you to stop, just ignore it and let your body take over, turn on the auto-pilot and your body will go for it.
I have been raised with a certain philosophy that requires me to be a hard worker: “Do the tasks that are attributed to you as if it was the most significant job in the world, whether you like it or not, even if you are scrubbing toilets... Eventually someone will notice you and you’ll make a difference”.
So it was very important to me not to miss a single class, out of respect for the teachers and for me.
It was important to reach a goal I set for myself, to acquire high quality knowledge taught by professionals to bring me closer to my passion. And finally on a more practical basis, to make sure that my investment becomes meaningful.
Aside from the content of the courses oriented to the acting profession, innumerable practical advices about the movie industry were always given to the students. Thanks to these, I rapidly plunged into the audition process that lead to a few small roles.
It is absolutely fantastic to take a course in the evening, to process it during a good night’s sleep and to show up the very next morning to an audition to practice what you learnt. This only happens in London!
The knowledge I acquired during the ten-week-class was priceless, even if someone doesn’t aspire to be an actor. Taking possession of my voice, strengthening my presence to fully occupy a room, pushing my body over its own limits in dancing or practicing screen combat. Working on facial expressions and gestures. Learning how to decipher a scene, understanding a character to bring him/her to life. And also learning how to release the brain of a monotonous well-structured routine so that it relearns how to improvise.
As a personal feeling I would add that this journey was exhausting in a very positive way. I had to plan my two trips a week from Geneva to London, which means four flights a week, always looking for the best prices. This exercise is very easy in a small town as Geneva because there is only one airport, but I flew in an out of London using every airport (Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, London City, Southend...) and that was an incredibly fascinating experience. Plus, I had to juggle with the course, the auditions in London and also with my job in Geneva. I would wake up at 5:00am in Ealing, jump in a shirt and suit, go to the airport and then go to work as soon as I landed.
Since the day this journey started I took 40 flights, and flew 18,000 miles which means almost a round trip London-Sydney-London. I attended 20 sessions in 10 weeks, went to 2 auditions, took part in one short scene, attended a photo shoot and of course I lost 5kg.
Going through the motion of stripping off every time you pass the security gates is tiring, but I made lots of friends along the way. I remember this one day when I looked awfully pale on the aircraft and the crew offered me a bottle of Champagne just to cheer me up, and because they knew what avenue I was pursuing.
Throughout this journey of passion, I acquired solid-gold knowledge, I made lots of friends, I improved my level of improvisation (in class and also through the London rail and airport network), and I realised that someone with great passion has an endless energy.
I’ve always known that this is where I belong...