Day 1 of 'Work Experience Advice Week' is here! Every day this week I'll be posting tips and advice on work experience in the world of costume, and today I'm starting with.....
Now this is obviously the first and most important step before getting a paid job, and it's definitely the hardest. It can take a long time to finally get a position somewhere, even as a volunteer, but once you have your foot in the door everything else will come easily to you.
The easiest way to start working in a wardrobe department is to volunteer your skills to amateur dramatics groups or school theatre groups. Start by having a look on the internet or browsing through local newspapers, making a list of any companies with upcoming show weeks. REMEMBER: YOU HAVE TO ASK FOR AN OPPORTUNITY, IT WILL NOT APPEAR BY ITSELF!
Email or call as many companies as you can (but make sure you don't contact two companies with the same show week, in case they both need you!). Normally it's best to contact the director of a show, or the chairman of a company, if you have a choice of contact details. Don't be put off if there is a show coming up just next week - explain to them that you only just found out about it, but are still available to help out.
In your message, introduce yourself as someone with a passion for costume, an interest in pursuing a career in that area and therefore, in need of some experience working on a production. Be polite, but don't make your email or message to posh or frivolous: get to the point, as people busy organising a show don't have time to sift through long complicated emails etc.
In your message mention your skills - can you sew well? Can you drive and help with transporting costumes? Also, let them know when you are available (day, evening weekends). If it's the first time you are working for a company make sure you are available for every night of a show, which for an amateur group would probably be a week. Keep it as professional and uncomplicated as possible, and demonstrate your enthusiasm by being dedicated.
Provide your contact details - name, telephone number, email
Although many companies might turn you down, once you do get one that needs you, chances are they'll need you again and again, especially if you make a good impression, so it's worth trying really hard to find that first work experience. Also, once you're part of that drama group, people will know other companies in need of help, or the wardrobe mistress may be friends with the wardrobe mistress at another company. Personally, I got 3 more jobs in other productions from just the first one I did. And from those 3, I meet other people who needed help - and the jobs just multiplied!
- Start small. Large companies like the Royal Opera House have strict rules concerning age, qualifications etc. You are much more likely to have an interesting and engaging position in a smaller, amateur company.
- It might be easier to start off in am dram theatre - that way each job lasts a week or two and doesn't interfere too much with other commitments.
- Expect to be a wardrobe assistant on your first job - helping with repairs, quick changes etc. An assistant is the perfect position for learning how a costume department operates.
- Don't be disheartened by non-repliers, or if a company doesn't require any more help. Try elsewhere.
- Be careful not to accept anything you don't feel experienced enough to do. If you've never had any experience before, don't agree to be a replacement Head of Wardrobe if someone's ill, for example.
- Don't reject other opportunities, such as working as stage crew or front of house. Every opportunity is a good one, and a chance to meet people in the industry.
I hope this helps anyone interested in getting experience - good luck to you all, and let me know how it goes by commenting below!
Tomorrow, Day 2 of 'Work Experience Advice Week', I'll be giving plenty of tips on 'making the most of your work experience'. Follow me on Bloglovin to keep updated!