“You don’t go to a doctor if you’re well,” says Tilly Blackwood, founder of bespoke coaching service for actors The Audition Doctor. “In the same way, people don’t come to me if they’re doing fine. They come when they have a problem or a need, and I create bespoke sessions to help in any way that I can.”
Whether you’re a student applying for drama school, a professional actor looking for help with an upcoming audition, or simply need a self-esteem boost, The Audition Doctor can ignite confidence, while never losing sight of the main prize: securing the job.
Blackwood has been a full-time working actor for more than 30 years, and she set up Audition Doctor to pass on the skills and expertise she has learned from her time in the industry. “I’ve got all this knowledge, and it gives me so much joy to share it. I’ve experienced many of these same things myself: I’ve suffered with stage fright, with lack of confidence. I know what it feels like.”
She prides herself on creating a safe and welcoming space at her flat in Borough where you can work through specific problems – delivery, posture, characterisation – or just sit and chat.
Applying to drama school is undoubtedly an exacting journey that can span over the course of several months. Every applicant will be constantly reminded of the punishingly unfavourable odds of successfully securing a place. I wanted to seek professional advice from someone who was experienced in coaching actors for auditions. I looked through dozens of acting coaches on the internet and Audition Doctor was the only website that distinctly stressed how Tilly Blackwood ensured that every student that she took on benefited from intensive classes that were specifically tailored to each individual. Already feeling like a very small fish in a sea of 4,000 applicants, I thought it would be a wise idea to get in touch. Her warm and approachable manner combined with her enthusiasm and thoughtful advice allowed me to start the process with structure and confidence.
As Tilly stressed, investing time to pick speeches that show off your strengths as well as your potential is key. Depending on how many drama schools you apply for and how successful you are in getting recalls, the odds are that you’ll be doing the same two or three speeches twenty times in auditions, not to mention using lines from them during audition workshops. Knowledge of the play as a whole is vital for when you are hopefully redirected. It puts you in a position to be able to make intelligent decisions and justify them. The ability to analyse and articulate thoughts on character is rooted in a deep understanding and familiarity with the text.
Going into Samuel French or Waterstones and being faced with seemingly unending bookshelves with centuries worth of plays is, without question, intimidating. There are some reassuring guidelines that help narrow the search such as “Modern” being rather arbitrarily defined as being post 1956. Certain drama schools such as the Central School of Speech and Drama have a list of audition speeches that you must choose from. RADA offer helpful criteria such as advising candidates to pick speeches that feature characters that are close in age to them and not picking modern speeches that require an accent that isn’t your own. As some people found out, some drama schools are averse to certain audition speeches. With Shakespeare, this is clearly unavoidable, however, Tennesse Williams, Steven Berkoff and Chekhov were at times deemed to be “overdone.”
I bought a selection of plays. (As long as you are careful not to bend the spine and smear the pages, Waterstones allow you to return “unwanted items” and obtain a full refund within 21 days. I would advise only doing this a maximum of two times as you will be strictly reprimanded for “using the bookshop as if it’s a university library, which it isn’t” and banned from purchasing not only books but also stationary for a month.) I auditioned them with Tilly and it was immediately clear which speeches were not suitable and which were real contenders. We did this for about 3 weeks until we narrowed it down and when the final 2 were chosen, I felt a bit like I had climbed Everest as the general consensus is that when you’ve chosen your speeches, you’re half-way there. Little did I know it was only Base Camp.
I have been a professional actress for over twenty years and during this time I have had some fantastic jobs and met some wonderful people along the way. After I left drama school I have always continued to train by doing classes or one to one with a coach. I have enjoyed these sessions over the years and definitely felt that there was an improvement, however, in between I have felt very low about my ability- especially in the area of television and have often felt that I am missing something.
Then by lucky chance I came across Tilly Blackwood. Tilly is without any doubt the best drama coach I have ever worked with. Tilly has an incredible ability to help you find the truth in what you are doing; her methods are subtle yet very effective. In one of our sessions I found myself so deep in character, that it took me a while to recover. I was able to trust what Tilly gave me and go with it- pure joy. I also have felt incredibly motivated since Tilly became my Coach. Although I have enjoyed Shakespeare in the past, now I love it and find myself seeking it out wherever I can. Suddenly my ears have been opened and I am able to truly enjoy and appreciate it.
I have also noticed a 100% improvement in performances in my auditions and film work. I did some filming the other day and for the first time I arrived feeling confident in my ability. I was able to go for it and not feel worried and the result was clear for all to see.
I cannot recommend Tilly highly enough- she is a very special and talented person who is able to share her gift with her students in a very positive way. I am just so happy that I have found her now.
Students come to you with scripts from all mediums- television, theatre, film- does your approach to each of these differ?
It doesn’t differ at all- all of them require an intricate analysis of the text. The luxury of having an entire script is rare in television and film. Nowadays, not only are you quite often given the script at the very last minute but usually only the scenes in which your character appears. This means that you have to understand your character very quickly; big decisions have to be made in a very short amount of time and you have to be open and malleable because there are so many different ways to play the character. This is where your drama school training becomes invaluable because you have had the benefit of three years of constant experimentation and trial and error.
With television you might not have the luxury of time, so I think it’s very important to explore every avenue; which is what I encourage my students to do at Audition Doctor. Often students pick a route which is completely justifiable, but when I steer them down a less obvious path they quickly realise that, that choice is also equally valid. What I aim to do is to show them that there are far less constraints in acting and so many more interpretations than they think, and the more ambiguous ones are often far more interesting as sometimes they suddenly have these seismic shifts in the way they perceive the text.
Was it daunting when you first got out of drama school after having been in such a structured and intense environment?
I was lucky enough to be offered a professional acting job before my training at drama school officially ended, so I didn’t have that feeling of disorientation and displacement that a lot of graduates can experience. Although I still had the structure of daily employment, it was very new working with people who were complete strangers and not my fellow students for the past three years. It was exhilarating to get a foot in the door, but at the same time that feeling of achievement was slightly marred by the nerves that are not unusual for any inexperienced actor on their first acting job. During the rehearsal process, in my head I was constantly questioning whether I could pull it off.
How and when did you get your first agent?
I got my agent in my last year at Guildhall and I definitely wouldn’t have had the opportunity for so many casting directors and agents to see me if I wasn’t at a drama school. As with any industry, the acting world is closely- knit, which means word of mouth spreads very quickly; such wide exposure to all sorts of people from the acting world is something that only drama schools can provide. I played Nora in ‘A Doll’s House’ and it was flattering that a couple of agencies wanted to take me on. Getting professional approval outside the confines of drama school was thrilling. I remember thinking that the acting world wasn’t as closed and exclusive as I previously thought and excited that there might possibly be a place for me in it.
I was lucky enough to have worked with the talented Tilly Blackwood before an important audition for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Training with Tilly was an incredible experience. She is professional, passionate and inspiring. Tilly was easy to work with; she respected my creative decisions all the while guiding me in the right direction. She pushed my boundaries and challenged me.
Her classes were held in a safe, peaceful and quiet environment, making our time focused and extremely beneficial. I have Tilly to thank for the success of the audition. It was such a pleasure to work with a teacher that really cared. Tilly changed my career and consequently my life, I know that she has the power to do the same for you.
Bel Knight interviews Audition Doctor founder Tilly Blackwood
How did you come to set up Audition Doctor?
It started as a happy accident. Initially Michael John at the Actor’s Centre suggested that I teach a couple of one-off sessions once a month, due to the overwhelmingly good response I was then invited to have my own regular class each week. These acting clases were quickly oversubscribed so I decided to set up Audition Doctor.
What do you do at The Actors Centre?
I teach Shakespeare Masterclasses, Audition Masterclasses and Introduction to Acting courses there. Being part of such a rigorous and unique organisation means that I am in quite an uncommonly good position. At the Actor’s Centre, I mainly work with young professionals so I’m very conscious of the ever-changing demands placed on up-coming actors.
What would you say to someone thinking of an acting career?
Acting is a wonderfully fulfilling career if you are willing to be adaptable and as auditions for both drama schools and theatre and telly jobs are getting increasingly more cutthroat, actors need to continuously develop their auditioning skills. The reality is that it can be a dog-eat-dog world and when people realised that I had an insider-view so to speak, they started to ask for more acting sessions- especially one to one lessons so I set up Audition Doctor.
What do remember of your acting teachers?
I also remember how my own acting teachers at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama such as Patsy Rodenburg-the internationally renowned voice coach- had such a profound effect on my journey as an actress and I suppose I’m in a way trying to pass on what they opened my eyes to- things like being present, staying true to the text and being connected to the language are all acting absolutes.
Do you think the auditioning process has changed from when you started twenty years ago?
Yes, radically so. The nature of the acting profession has changed immeasurably. I auditioned after a three year English degree at university and chose speeches that were totally wrong for me; I did Amanda from Tennesse Williams’ ‘Glass Menagerie’ who is a 60 year old Southern woman- not the best choice for a 22 year old from Sussex and Portia from ‘Julius Caesar’. I was also stupid enough to think that it was fine to learn my audition speeches overnight- you just can’t get away with that now.
What do you think of the acting industry today?
The acting profession has always been a highly competitive industry but there are so many more people applying now. Consequently, much more thought has to go into your audition speeches to highlight your individual talents, so your audition can differentiate you from the gazillions of others.
What do you remember of your first audition?
When I did my audition I didn’t have a large amount of acting experience- Acting and directing in productions at university was about it-apart from the West End musicals that my parents used to take me to. Now I think you have to be far more savvy because the acting world has changed; Equity is no longer a closed shop and there is more of an appetite for reality TV. While it’s great that acting has become more inclusive, there exists a kind of assumption that anyone can act. Admittedly, there is no definitive guide to acting or auditioning but the honing of any sort of craft requires an enormous amount of passion, discipline and technique which I hope Audition Doctor fosters.
Introduction To Acting gives a priceless insight into the professional tricks of the trade from a working actress’s perspective. The course will be led by Tilly Blackwood, a working Actress in the Industry for the last 20 years. She teaches weekly audition master classes at the renowned Actors Centre in Central London and has founded Audition Doctor in order to meet overwhelming demand. Participants will be encouraged to give constructive feedback to one another as part of the learning process.
Introduction to Acting is open to anyone who has always had a secret desire to be an actor or for anyone who didn’t feel confident enough to ever give it a try.
The only requirement for this course is to bring your enthusiasm, support for your fellow actors and a speech that you are passionate about and have learnt in advance. This makes the best use of the two hours and will help you realise your true potential.
The course lasts for 2 hours and will take place every Monday from 6pm – 8pm.
The course costs £150.
To book yourself on this course please call 0207 357 8237 or fill out the contact form below.
Audition Doctor provides bespoke acting classes that are tailored to your individual needs; helping build confidence for your next audition in TV, Film or Theatre.
We provide a service that is unparalleled with a proven success rate for getting actors back into the professional workplace and offer a variety of acting classes, from 121’s, groups and workshops.
Audition Doctor was set up by Tilly Blackwood; an experienced working Actress who teaches regularly at The Actors Centre in London, where she continues her work on a one to one basis, as well as further text based work with larger groups.
For 2 weeks only, buy one acting class for £40 and get one free!
For more details or make a booking please call Tilly Blackwood on:
Audition Doctor offers Classes for Acting in London. With 20 years of experience in the acting industry, Audition Doctor provides help with auditions, both for Drama School applications and for those professional actors who find themselves suffering from a crisis of confidence, to customers throughout the local area.
The Audition Doctor offers a tailored tutoring service to individuals, which is designed to meet the client’s individual needs at all times. With a relaxed environment, the business also has friendly staff helping clients to realise their true potential.
Audition Doctor was set up in 2010 and has an expanding customer base, located around London, including regular work with the highly respected Actors Centre in Covent Garden.
I’m thrilled to be starting a new course at The Actors Centre called Audition Masterclass. It will comprise six three hour sessions, with a mock audition at the end with an invited panel of professional casting agents and directors. Already oversubscribed, I’m hoping that this will be the first of many.
Audition Doctor is delighted to be teaming up with Bespoke Reels-the #1 showreel providers in the UK, who also host a range of talent in their custom built self-tape suite, which accommodates live streaming sessions if you need to audition internationally – to provide you with the perfect, stress free self tape experience.
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