What type of membership would you like to apply for?
Account access problem
You do not have permission to access this page with your current sign in details. If you require any further help, please get in touch at questions@spotlight.com.

Catching up with Spotlight Prize participants from over the years (Part 2!)

The Spotlight Prize is only a week away! Here is part 2 of our catch up with some of our previous participants and winners to get their insight into the night itself, the networking opportunities and the sense of community that you can gain from a showcase.

Mimi Ndiweni

Winner 2013, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

When you’re face to face and just having normal conversations with people – when there’s not an audition pressure – it is just really nice to realise, “People in the industry are just humans!” You can just talk to people.
Mimi Ndiweni

What was your experience of preparing for the showcase? How did you choose your piece?

I was put forward by the Head of Acting, Dave Bond. I went to Royal Welsh and I’d left early to do a show but he called me and asked me if I wanted to go up for the Spotlight Prize. The show I was doing was up in Wales so I came to London, I had an afternoon rehearsal with Dave to go through what I wanted to do. I kept debating the monologue that I chose because I was worried it was too short. I thought they were going to hate it! I’d seen everyone else’s by then as well and they were all doing stuff that was longer. But Dave said, “Do it.”

So, I did a monologue from the YouTube artist/comedian Jenna Marbles. So not from a play or anything which is why I was like, “Am I allowed to do this?!” I just took a section from one of her sketches – it’s called “How to avoid talking to people you don’t want to talk to”. It’s really funny! I find her hilarious. I had done a section at my end of year showcase, and I wanted to do a longer section. I love doing showcases – I think they’re just my thing. I think you just have to embrace it and do something you feel comfortable and confident with.

What did you make of the chance to network?

Most of us are still in touch now, people I met that night and the other actors. It really helps just in terms of having a way to talk about stuff. [The night] is a chill environment for the people in the industry, you have a few drinks and a chat and you get to meet a bunch of people you would only otherwise email. It is a really warm evening – I expected it to be a lot scarier than it was.

The evening was just us all celebrating together, which was really nice. I remember the week following it I had just a full week of meetings and auditions off the back of that. I reckon my first year out of drama school, pretty much everything that I did was based on the Spotlight Prize. Even now when I go for auditions and things people say, “Oh, I first saw you at the Spotlight Prize!” It was my first encounter with a lot of people in industry.

When you’re face to face and just having normal conversations with people – when there’s not an audition pressure – it is really nice to realise, “People in the industry are just humans!” You can just talk to people. That was great and I think it’s important to utilise it – my agent really utilised that platform that it gave me. Making sure that straight after that I was meeting people, talking to people, auditioning for things.

Do you have a particular method for preparing for a showcase?

I think for me personally it was about making sure I made options for myself – I had about three monologues that I could have done, that I was confident in and that I enjoy as well. I just showed them to my drama teachers – really utilise your drama school. My drama school were great in helping me pick, and feel confident. Going through stuff, playing with stuff. And it has to be something that you enjoy because that’s when you shine through. If it’s a monologue that you’re stressed about or that’s overly technical, and that is all that you are thinking about, it is probably not the best thing to do.

I watched a lot of previous Spotlight performers and I think that helped me feel really comfortable. Just in watching other people on the night, you get a sense of what it might be like.

Since participating in the Spotlight Prize and graduating, what have been the highlights for you so far?

I’ve been so lucky and I’m so grateful for it. My two major highlights are a play that I just did at The Gate – The Convert. My first big meaty emotional journey in a play! I loved that as an actor, just getting stuck into a character. And on a journey from being 13 years old until the age of 25. Just getting into that mind-set and really diving into something, I loved that.

The other thing was [working with] David Yates. When I did Tarzan I was working at the RSC, but it was so busy and we weren’t going to have much time off. So, I had a backlog of self-tapes to do and was trying to see what were the quick ones I could do in a lunch break. I just sat in a field and did a self-tape and forgot about it.  Then my agent calls me and says David Yates really liked it and wants me to come down and audition – he says to me “Oh, I watched your Spotlight monologue! It was really funny!” I didn’t have a showreel so that is what he watched! He said, “You were really warm, which is what this character is.” I honestly think if I hadn’t had that Spotlight monologue I would not have got that job. That job was a really big highlight for me – it was my first massive budget film, and David is one of the most wonderful people on earth. It was the best summer.

Bessie Carter

Winner, Screen 2016, Guildhall School of Music & Drama

You always think you want to be an actor because you want to be someone else. It’s true but you also have to bring yourself to it. They just want to see you comfortable.
Bessie Carter

What’s your memory of actually performing on the night?

Because we had the two days beforehand with the director, we all met and it took a lot of the pressure off. It was quite daunting to meet your fellow performers, but then once we got into the room we all realised, “We’re all in the same boat!” that’s when the bubble just burst. You’re all just rehearsing stuff, remembering that it’s about the work – those two days were great.

Because we’d done our showcase already by this stage, we’d probably met a lot of the same people who were at the Spotlight Prize. I’d sort of had the initial scare over and done with, prior to the actual night. I am quite a confident person, I don’t really get frightened, so I actually felt alright on the night. I got quite nervous the minute before, as the person before me finished, but I kept thinking that everyone there wants you to be there and succeed. So, why let nerves get the better of you? I think I had a handle on it. So, I really enjoyed it!

Afterwards it’s so lovely – you all come out and take your bows, and feel you’ve really achieved something. Then you all just mingle and chat and it’s a world that we love, it’s our tribe, and you feel very welcomed into it in a way.

What was your experience of preparing for the showcase? How did you choose your piece?

The school were very good – the teachers picked me to do it, they explained it, and I was emailed all the details. One of my acting teachers emailed me and said if I needed help, they’d be more than happy to do a few sessions with me on the monologue I chose. Last year was the first year where you could do the screen monologue as well, so we were told we could do two different monologues, or the same one twice, and I just thought if you have the chance, why not do two different ones? I had a think about monologues I’d done in the past, just going back to my showcase monologue, which is the best monologue in the world – it’s called Muswell Hill, written by Corbin Beck. It was on at the Orange Tree a few years ago. Basically, the whole speech is someone apologising for being late, and I just find that whole thing really funny. I prefer that to something super serious – we’re given a minute and a half and you don’t have enough time to get the audience to care. You need to just come on and flash something. It was something quite new and I could bring myself quite well to that.

So, I picked that for my live monologue and I worked on that with my teacher. For the screen monologue, I decided to get my best friend to write it for me. After a while it can just be soul destroying looking through play after play. I just thought that he knows me, I can tell him what I want from it, and what I want to show. So, I gave him some loose quotes that I wanted for a more vulnerable side of myself, as the live one was quite funny. He wrote a rough thing, we read it together, then we met with my teacher a few times and rewrote bits. He then came with me to the filming of it at the Spotlight studios. He was the person I directed it to, because I’m speaking to someone in it. They let me bring him, which was nice. So, that’s how I prepared.

What did you make of the chance to network? Were there any other benefits to participating?

I’d had my agent for I think about 10 years. So that wasn’t the top of my list, I could just enjoy it. I was more thinking about whether people would remember me – and they have. Most auditions I’ve gone into, people mention it, or they were there that night, which is really nice. They’ve seen a glimpse of me beforehand and it takes the pressure off a little bit in the room.

A lot of casting directors who I have been meeting have seen my screen monologue. So, for instance Rachel Freck who cast Howards End said, “Oh, I’ve seen your Spotlight screen thing…!” I put the monologue on the end of my showreel so that my agent could send it out.

I was a bit short on confidence on screen, because a screen teacher came in for 2 weeks at school and crushed my confidence saying, “It looks like a circus is falling down your face.”  That’s the least helpful thing you could tell any young, aspiring actor! So basically, for me it felt even more like, “Okay great, I’m not bad on screen, I actually can do something!” It was very reassuring.

Do you have any advice for those preparing for a showcase, including the Spotlight Prize?

Squeeze out as much advice as you can from whoever is directing it – I had Matthew Dunster and he was awesome. I’d known his work before, and we had one on one sessions, sessions in groups… they normally get amazing directors so just chat to them, listen to them, take their advice. Stay in contact with them – I stayed in contact with Matthew, went to one of his shows afterwards. Just try to enjoy it, which sounds like the most annoying thing to say! But try to enjoy it because you’re in front of 200 people who will change your career, so if you’re enjoying it you’re your best self. I guess if you don’t already have an agent you’ll be putting a lot into it. But I dunno – just try and enjoy it.

Know your speech really, really well, and really like the speech you are doing – you have to love what you’re doing, because you’ll be rehearsing it for days and you want to be talking about it, so pick one that you love, that you know well, and that shows you, rather than trying to put on an accent. Do something good for your age, that shows you as a person – I like to think I’m quite funny as a person, so I picked a funny one! And you never know what the panelists are looking for.

You always think you want to be an actor because you want to be someone else. It’s true but you also have to bring yourself to it. They just want to see you comfortable. With the screen monologue, that’s out there in the ether for everyone to see so pick something that you’re happy to leave floating around on the interweb.

Since participating in the Spotlight Prize and graduating, what have been the highlights for you so far?

It’s been a bonkers year, actually. I did a play at the Park Theatre at Finsbury Park, just after the Spotlight Prize, which was really fun. Three days after we opened I started rehearsals for King Lear at the Old Vic. So, I had a mental three and a half week overlap which was exhausting, but good exhausting! Now I just finished filming Howards End for the BBC. I shot a Doc Martin in the midst of that, which was really fun – it’s been a mental year!

What would you like to do next?

I want to do some more theatre please! I’ve been filming Howards End which has been absolutely brilliant and I’ve made some good chums, learned a lot – but I just love theatre, creating something in the room with a group of people who want to do it just as much as you. Just a good, meaty part!

This year’s Spotlight Prize will take place on the 11th July.