Saturday, 17 September 2011

Basic Needs

Another day, another blog about actors rarely getting paid to work. I didn't plan on writing another entry, whining on about how hard done by we are but I saw an advert for an acting job yesterday and it brought a few poorly funded memories back.

The advert was for a film. Unless you are ridiculously lucky, films publicly advertising roles will never come with a pay packet. They're usually made by students, a new film company or just a group of people with time on their hands and hope that there are others out there happy to go along with their whimsical ways. This particular film fits very firmly in the last category. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with these sorts of casting calls, everyone has to start somewhere and while people are happy to work for nothing, why not put it out there. But what really annoyed me was that in the 'salary' section they had put:

'We will keep you warm and fed.'

Since when did two of the most basic human needs count as a 'salary.' Does this mean that I can now pay my bills with a blanket and a bowl of soup? Sadly not. And I'm guessing I can't get the bayliffs to go away with a fleece and a macaroni cheese either? As I said, I have no real problem with unpaid work. In an ideal world it wouldn't exist and I do sometimes wonder if the full funding can't be found to ensure that all cast and crew are paid fairly whether the project should still go ahead. It's a debate that could go on for days and I don't have the time or inclination to start that up on a Saturday afternoon when I should really be concentrating more on how I'm going to fund myself and my crisp addiction.

I've done some excellent projects which were unpaid. I think you have to weight up the pros and cons and as long as you're not going to make yourself bankrupt over it then they're often worth doing. I've been in some lovely films and have been ridiculously well looked after. One shoot I did, the producer had been up since 4.30am cooking and baking to ensure that all involved had the most incredible food to munch on throughout the day. On another shoot, the make up girl snuck out when she saw everyone was getting a bit tired and stressed and returned with a bag full of beer and a towering pile of pizzas. Add these lovely little touches to the fact that these shoots can provide you with excellent experience and it can all seem a bit more worthwhile.

On the flip side (there's always a flip side) I've also experienced some bloody poor treatment. I did a shoot not long after I'd graduated for a group of students wanting to make a film for their film society during the summer holidays. It was an interesting script (although my character was mute) and it was filmed near where my parents lived so I was happy to do it. The shoot was a complete shambles with filming usually starting around 4 or 5 hours later than we had been called. One evening especially stands out in my mind where we had to do a night shoot by a canal. Although it was during the summer, it had been raining nearly all day and by 2am, it was damn cold down there. I had to look like I'd been beaten to death so was covered in make up which meant I wasn't allowed to wear a jacket. Apparently smudged bruises just don't cut it. I also had to be barefoot so, couple this with me being in a vest and skirt and I was quite the shivering actress. The director's girlfriend had packed us off with a whole load of sandwiches and after myself and one of the other actors in the scene had finished our run through the first shot, we went to grab a sandwich while the crew finished setting up. As we got to the bag we found the sound guy happily devouring the last remaining sandwich on set. Bye bye dinner. Not one word of apology was ever offered us as we survived on a bag of dried apricots that one of the other actors found at the bottom of his bag.

Looking back now, I wish I'd just walked and told them to stuff their poxy job but I was new to the scene and I thought that this kind of treatment was normal. But we live and learn (that we actually do like dried apricots.)

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