I've been accepted to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York to study acting, beginning this September. The Academy is the oldest acting school in the English-speaking world and its glittering alumni have been nominated for almost 100 Oscars in its 125-year history. 70% of the school's students are North American, so for me to have been accepted as one of 30% from thousands of candidates from around the world is flattering and, I hope, a testament to my potential. The school is unique as an American drama school in that it auditions around the world and I was lucky enough to audition in my hometown of Edinburgh, not being able to afford flights even to New York to audition at the Academy itself. In fact, if I were to successfully raise the funds, studying in New York would mark my first time in the US and the longest flight I'd have ever been on!
Education in the United States is by no means cheap and being an international student, I am ineligible for student loans in the traditional sense, with bank loans only being available up to a small portion of the amount I require, $52000 (around £33000), for just one academic year in the two-year degree. This figure includes all school fees and equipment and the unavoidable high living costs of Manhattan. To accept my place, I need to prove to the school and the US authorities that I can provide the full amount before I can secure a student visa, and that process means I really only have until early July at the very latest to have my funding secured and take up my place in September. Neither myself nor my family (my mother is a single parent) have the money, so I've had to approach fundraising in several ways:
The school itself has awarded me its full need-based scholarship of $6000 (around £3800), but otherwise I've struggled to raise funds so far. I've applied to around 20 charitable trusts and foundations, whittled down from a longlist of over 50 I researched. I'm still waiting on responses from many and will receive answers from two of the larger trusts in June, but for the most part, these charities no longer accept applications, no longer fund the arts or no longer make sizeable awards, meaning the combined awards from each of the charities would still leave me with a shortfall and I've received quite a few apologetic rejection letters already, even from the bigger trusts. I'll be applying for a Personal Development Loan (available within a 12-week window of the course beginning), which as I mentioned before, only offers a portion of the figure I require. I've been advised and helped by many lovely people from several of the institutions in my life, from my high school to my places of work at Edinburgh's Lyceum (where I was an usher and youth theatre member) and Traverse (where I now work as a bartender and have performed in several shows) Theatres. I've had generous and glowing references from the Lyceum's Artistic Director throughout my application, audition and fundraising process, advice and support on charitable fundraising from the Traverse's Executive Director and its Club Members and the Chairman has supported me in writing to corporate sponsors and local businesses for financial donations. I'm also writing to successful actors, particularly those from Scotland for support and advice. On a smaller scale, I've been working 6 days a week as a bartender and have sold my collections of CDs, DVDs, books and used clothes to contribute to realising my goal. I also manage the Edinburgh band Discopolis.
The reason I'm presenting this project to crowdfunding is as I've explained above, that I can't achieve my goal through traditional sources or through any personal wealth. I've depended on the kindness of friends and colleagues so far, and now need to depend on the kindness of strangers to make this happen. Thank you for reading and for any support you may be able to offer me.
Thanks to all for generously backing my project. I've had to defer to a January start at the school for more time to raise the funds as I'm still some way off. Many trusts have yet to meet to decide on whether I'll get a grant from them and I'm currently planning more waves of fundraising with a Traverse Theatre fundraising night and a very very long run. I'll keep you all updated and thanks again for all your support.