Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Paying the Price

The first Monday back after the No Man’s Land of Christmas and New Year is an exciting time for actors. Pantos are grinding to a halt and Santa’s Grottos are shutting up for another year so it’s time to start thinking about finding some good ol’ acting work.

As 9am…Ok, 9:30am…fine, 10am…oh for heck’s sake, MIDDAY hits, we all sit in our clean pair of pyjamas, logging into the casting sites that we’ve given our hard-earned cash to, in the hope that we’ll find that one job that will mean 2014 is our year.

So you can imagine my dismay when, fired up with the expectation of getting work that will definitely put me in all the ‘Ones to Watch in 2015’ articles, I find that there’s an awful amount of unpaid jobs. And when I say awful, I mean ‘actors first role out of drama school’ awful. So awful in fact that, by the end of the day, just one casting site had listed a meagre 37 paid roles and a rather staggering 293 unpaid roles. And that was just the jobs that had been listed that day.

It’s a terrifying statistic. It means that for every 1 actor that can maybe breathe a little easier for a month, there are another 8 actors desperately panicking and hounding their temp agency for more work just so they can afford to live in the damp-ridden, mouse-invaded shack that they call ‘home.’

Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve been very passionate about making sure people see the other side of the industry. I want people to see the side that isn’t represented in Sunday supplements where actors are interviewed in quaint little cafes during a few snatched moments between that 5-star run at the National and that feature film that the director demanded that they were in. For most actors, this industry is that friend who only gets in touch after they’ve contacted everyone else they’ve ever met. At its best it’s fickle and at its worst you wish you’d never met it.

So to see such a staggering amount of unpaid work is a worry. It means that acting work is the work you do in between your other job when really you wish it could be the other way round. I’ve written so many blogs on unpaid work that to write about it again would be pointless. It’s the sad fact of this industry that sits in a musty box along with sexism, racism, ageism and people who think it’s OK to not provide lunch on a shoot.

There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to make a living from what you want to do with your life. And it’s something a lot of actors will be coming to terms with at the moment while they sit, filing their last minute tax returns and realising just how little they’ve earned from such a wonderful job. Last year I earned £510 from acting work. That’s not even a month’s rent.

So why do we still do it? Why do we insist on supporting an industry that really doesn’t seem that bothered about us? Well it’s that little skip it puts in our step when we know we nailed that audition. It’s that little dance we do around the room when we get the call to say we got the job and we realise there’s no one else in the house to celebrate with. It’s that glow you get when you’re walking home after opening night, cheeks flushed with pride and three too many glasses of wine. It’s knowing that even though you dread being asked what you do for a living, you’re pleased you don’t have to answer them with any other job in the world.

It’s being able to sit at home in your pyjamas at 11am on a Wednesday and calling it work.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Nice statistic work too (counting 37 x 293 jobs) :)