This time last year Jesse Smith wasn't thinking about going to the National Youth Drama School (NYDS).
But a visit to Flaxmere College by actor and former NYDS student Rachael Blampied to promote the Havelock North-based NYDS piqued his interest.
Jesse, now 17 and in his final year at school, was one of 31 students successfully awarded scholarship assistance for NYDS 2013, where he attended the screenwriting and directing for short film-making course. This year at NYDS, he intends to work on his speaking and acting prowess.
Jesse is interested in onstage work and behind the scenes, and since then has been working on repertoire including skits for flash performing. "I'm not exactly afraid of standing out in a crowd but I want to lay down a foundation for whatever comes in the future."
The supportive NYDS environment means he is able to be himself. "I've always liked theatre and being at NYDS even just watching from the stalls with the final show stimulated my mind in a way I'm really still unable to comprehend."
The scholarships were made possible by a $5500 grant from the Gwen Malden Trust, with a further scholarship available via a donation from the Green Room Theatre.
For more than 20 years, up to 250 students aged 14 to 19 have descended on Hawke's Bay for NYDS, an intense eight-day programme of workshops run by industry professionals. Many of them have gone on to forge their own careers in a variety of creative industries.
Many former NYDS students from throughout the country are also playing a part in promoting NYDS as volunteer "ambassadors", speaking to schools and drama classes, senior student assemblies and distributing fliers.
The classes on offer include a new one for 2014, Presenting for Screen & Stage, which includes working on the annual NYDS documentary and MCing the final showings of work on NYDS' final two nights, Slapstick - where Comedy collides with Stage Combat, and the very popular Dance Explosion, covering a variety of styles and aimed at committed dancers. Tutors from Sandbach in the UK are also back with a revamped class, Cutting Edge Theatre.
Award-winning Kiwi film-maker Gaylene Preston will be guest speaker at the official opening of NYDS 2014 on April 19.
The deadline for scholarship applications for NYDS 2014 is February 15. For more info, visit nyds.co.nz