Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Resting On The Job

I'm very in demand at the moment. Every day I'm getting emails from various people offering me work. And this would be bloody wonderful if these folk desperate to give me money in return for my services were directors and producers and generally people who would let me act like a fool for cash. But they're not. They're from the people that look the other way and smile pitifully when I talk about my life as an actor. They're my resting jobs.

Unless you're exceedingly lucky, exceptionally rich or went to Eton then it's highly likely that you'll have to take on a resting job while you pursue your wildly optimistic dream of uttering a single line at the Lyttelton. We all like to think that resting means a period of lounging around the house in silk pyjamas. However, the reality is more likely to contain a stint in a call centre, a spot of waitressing, some Front of House jaunting or a bit of drama teaching. They're a necessary evil but if you get it right then they can be just about bearable.

I currently do some work in a call centre. Amazingly, when I mentioned this on Twitter I got a few messages criticising me for doing such work. While I know that cold calls are immensely irritating, so is not having enough food to eat and pay your rent. That heart-sinking feeling you get when you pick up the phone and someone's trying to sell you something? Yeah, well I get that feeling when I look at my bank account and realise that if I live off rice and porridge for the week then I might just scrape by. I know the idea of suffering in a grimy bedsit, putting your art above your need to survive has been somehow romanticised but it's impractical and Quorn Pepperoni is expensive.So yes, that's why I and thousands of other people find themselves donning an extrememly uncomfortable headset everyday and calling people that generally don't want to be called. Funnily enough, none of us want to be there. Call centre work is not a career choice. It's a necessity. And not all call centres are terrible. If you look carefully and try and find the smaller ones then they're actually run rather nicely and don't insist that you're constantly hitting targets. They're flexible, don't mind too much when you drop them at an audition's notice and you often get access to the internet meaning that you can apply for acting jobs while you're working. Also, due to the sheer amount of strangers that you end up talking to, you learn more about humans than you ever thought possible. Just last night I spoke to a man who refused to believe I was calling to speak to his wife because she'd just gone out, a man who only left his house in Manchester to go to Nottingham and a man who had to ask if he needed to wear clothes to attend an interview. Just amazing.

I also do casual work for a company in their post room. I've found it's always worth letting people know that you're happy to do a few hours here and there as it's amazing just how many offices and companies could do with an extra pair of hands every so often. Again, the work is massively tedious but it's another job that allows me to be super flexible. Also, this work has lead to me being asked to do other jobs in the office and has turned into a nice little earner.

Other jobs I've found myself doing have been on the phones at a takeaway where I was constantly shouted at for the fact that we were constantly out of ribs and that our leafleters walked over someone's freshly concreted driveway, leaving large heavy footprints embedded in their front garden. Oh, and I also wasted police time by accidentally calling Holborn Police Station to tell them that we were unfortunately out of vine leaves. I've also worked as a software tester where the highlight of my time there was the fire drill that meant I got to sit outside in the sunshine for 20 minutes and in a clothing company packing factory where I got to fold up cashmere jumpers all day.

And then there are the other actors that you tend to meet when doing these jobs. I like to think that all actors are like all you lovely lot that I get to chat to everyday on Twitter. But they're really not. There's a whole sub-species of actor that, because your castings are wildly different, you would just never get to meet otherwise. There was an actor I met a while ago who refused to speak to actors who hadn't gone to drama school as they clearly didn't have as much to offer as those who had gone. The fact that, despite going to drama school, he was now being forced to work in a call centre seemed to completely pass him by. Then there was the actor who spent the whole training day taking the rest of the group through the long and arduous tale of all the benefits he receives and the very exact details of all the bus routes that he takes. Then, when the supervisor did manage to get a word in, he'd use that opportunity to tell him just where the company was going wrong and the numerous mistakes they'd made over the last twenty years.

These jobs might be soul destroying. They're not what we want to be doing. But, as stopgaps go, there's nothing more grounding than being threatened with legal action because you called someone up while they're trying to have their dinner...

1 comment:

  1. And anyone who says that these jobs are good for research is clearly talking bollocks. People are generally dull at work, because the work itself is dull, and they only let loose and become interesting while out of office hours presumably when they are doing something that they actually enjoy. Only ever useful if you are doing research for a Mike Leigh film.