Wednesday, 30 July 2014

No pay but...

It’s been a bleak few months for actors and their earnings. Casting website, CastingCallPro, recently surveyed its members and of the 1,700 that responded, a whopping 46% said they earned less than £1,000 a year from acting work. Equity ran a similar survey and found that around half of their members were earning less than £5,000 a year from professional work. As an actor who very much falls within that category and is extremely reliant on ‘resting’ work, it makes for grim reading.

I could write a whole blog on the problem but sometimes that’s not what we need. So, in an attempt to help cheer us penniless thesps up a bit, here’s a look at some of the ridiculous payment terms I’ve seen in genuine casting calls, most of which come from sites that require you to be a paying member to apply…

Salary: A lovely time.

I can’t afford to pay anyone. I will, however, buy you a Subway sandwich.

Since it’s low budget, I can’t pay you. I can however bribe you with Instagram worthy food.

Payment: petrol voucher.

We can’t provide any expenses or refreshments but the venue has an awesome menu.

No pay but I will write a blog post about you.

No pay but I’ll put the completed film on VHS cassette for you.

No pay but, for this project, name your sandwich because it’s on me.

No pay but you will receive compliments.

Unpaid but you’ll get to take home a small bag of coffee.

Unpaid but you will get a raffle ticket.

You will be paid in love, glory and possibly a pizza of your choice.

Payment: kiss on the cheek.

And a genuinely wonderful one…

Payment: bottle of gin, travel card, £20.  

All taken from my Tumblr,

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Been In Anything I Might've Seen?

“Oh, you’re an actor? Been in anything I might’ve seen?”

You know your career is in dire need of help when it reflects poorly on the person asking if they have. Like many actors, it would be highly unlikely that you’d have clapped eyes on my brief offerings to the actor gods (Dench & Hurt.) In fact, unless you're one of the following people...

  • A lover of Theatre in Eduction
  • The person behind the fact that all three adverts I’ve appeared in have never made it to air
  • Have a knack for stumbling upon poorly advertised plays
  • My mum

…then I’ll never have been in anything you might’ve seen.

Never ask this question. Firstly, it makes the actor question their own dubious career and what if we have been in something you might’ve seen? Was our performance so unmemorable that you need to ask us? Are you really going to put us in the position where we have to meekly remind you that we were once in Channel 5’s Family Affairs? Really? Is that how you get your kicks?



And you should really stop watching Come Dine With Me and, please, clean your net curtains.

Basically, all you’re asking with that question is “Have you ever been on telly?” And I dread that question. Because I haven’t. In 8 years as an actor, I’ve had one TV casting (Hollyoaks. I didn’t get it but I did get to see the Grange Hill building so, y’know, those 3 years at drama school definitely paid off.) I can’t tell people things that might impress them when they ask me about my career. Of course, we don’t do this job to impress others (well, we do) but it’s hard to feel upbeat about your job when you watch someone’s interest physically get up and leave as you tell them about the time you played a stag in front of 8 people. And of course, a TV career doesn’t mean that you’ve made it, but in party-chat currency, it’s pretty damn useful.

Brilliant things are being done to ensure that more actors get at least a slight chance to be seen outside the trusty comfort of friends and family. The Act for Change Project that's asking for greater diversity on our screens and the calls for the BBC to stop going to the same agents time and time again to cast their shows are working hard to open up the TV industry to those who aren’t white or privately educated.

But there’s still a huge gap which was proved today by two stories currently in the news: one listing the top 10 earning actors (Robert Downey Jr made about £44m last year) and the other about Sir Ian McKellen calling for actors to earn a living wage (£8.80 an hour which would allow actors to earn £18k should they be lucky enough to work full time.) Most actors currently find themselves earning way below a living or even a minimum wage and are more reliant on their temp agency than their acting one. 

The main argument is that there are just too many actors but it would be easier to tell how many we need to get rid of ask politely to try a new career if the acting work and wealth were spread out even just a little bit. If the actors we see in EVERYTHING (I'm not naming names but I'm looking at you, Cumberbatch) donated just one job a year to previously unknown actors then imagine that. A few more actors might be saved for that special wince that's reserved for CVs and bank accounts and they would no longer dread being spoken to at parties. 

So, next time you meet an actor and go to ask that question, think about what you’re really asking them and just offer to buy them a drink instead.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The 10 Commandments for Being a Bloody Decent Actor

1. Thou shalt not snap when someone asks whether you’ve been in EastEnders. They're just not sure what else to ask someone who has decided to be a tree professionally. 

2. Thou shall always remember to smile appropriately when another actor gets work. Too little and you look bitter, too much and you risk jaw dislocation.

3. Thou shalt not tweet or create Facebook updates about how much acting work you have on at the moment. Just do your job and tell us when you’re nominated for a BAFTA. 

4. Thou shall remember that leotards are for indoor use only.

5.  Thou shalt not compare you career to anyone else’s, however tempting it may be. One actor’s TiE is another actor’s Hollywood.

6. Thou shall always treat crew with respect. If in doubt, imagine your mother is always watching you.

7. Thou shalt not feel bad about, occasionally, having a duvet day. Spending a whole Wednesday in your pyjamas watching RuPaul’s Drag Race is what makes being self-employed bearable.

8. Thou shall leave your tax return until the very last minute. Completing it any earlier is just disrespectful to your fellow self-employed friends.

9. Thou shalt not talk above speaking volume in casting waiting rooms. You’re impressing no one.

10. Thou shall remember that you do the best bloody job in the world. Enjoy it, keep that skip in your step and remember that for every awful audition, your best-selling autobiography gains another chapter.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Real Lessons of Drama School

Drama school. What a waste of time, eh? Singing, dancing and prancing around pretending you’ve got a glittering career ahead of you. Surely it’s just three years preparing yourself for a life on the dole, right? Wrong.

With it’s dizzying array of classes and subjects, drama school can seem like a very expensive way to become proficient at jazz hands but all those subjects can genuinely help you in the real world…


Ever wanted a tube carriage that’s exclusive to you and your little gaggle of actor friends? All you need is a good song to sing in the round and with just one turn at ‘Rose, Rose, Rose, Red’ you’ll have ordinary, hard-working people risking life and limb to get themselves on to another carriage. Ah, a seat all the way to Cockfosters... 


You might think that the dance that you learn at drama school will make you a hit down at the local disco. And maybe it will if the kids at Infernos are impressed by the same 4 moves repeated for the entirety of Orinoco Flow. But what will eventually stop their taunts and jibes is when you’re stuck in the queue for the toilets. While they’re miserably hopping from one foot to the other looking like amateurs, you can style out that wee-dance like the beautiful lovechild of Wayne Sleep and Michael Flatley that you are.


Keith Johnstone, author of the book ‘Impro’ which will you'll see an unfinished copy of in every actor's bookcase, said:

“Good improvisers seem telepathic; everything looks prearranged. This is because they accept all offers made – which is something no ‘normal’ person would do.”

Quite. And that’s why improvisation is such a useful tool. There’s no way you’re going to do well as an actor if you deny any knowledge of Microsoft Excel in your temp agency interview. Say yes to EVERYTHING. Fax machines, accounting programmes, open heart surgery...anything so you can stop living off the random selection of cold meats and drying quiches in Tesco’s discount fridge. You can worry about the dead bodies and confusing spreadsheets later. 


Vocal support is incredibly important. And no, not because the meanies at the National Theatre won’t let you have a mic. But because how else will you let the rest of the bus know that someone once told you that your portral of Sally Bowles was better than Liza’s? I said “BETTER THAN LIZA’S.” If you don’t allow that to resonate through the whole bus (both floors) then no one will realise just how important you are. And you never know, there might be someone very influential listening in like Trevor Nunn or the recruitment officer for Asda.

Animal Studies…

Tutors can spend as long as they want telling you that Animal Studies is important for character development. It’s not. However, what it is useful for is having a story that’ll instantly make someone else feel better about their life. Friend just been dumped? Sibling lost their job? Their woes will be instantly alleviated when you tell them about the time you were chased around a dance studio while you lumbered about pretending to be a pig.


Because you never know when you might be asked to fill in for Aiden Gillen on Game of Thrones…

Alexander Technique…

You might think that lying semi-supine in a studio can’t teach you anything. However, this class will teach you the invaluable gift of sleeping while you pretend you’re doing something incredibly important. If anything, Alexander Technique sums up your whole life as an actor.


You may not still fully understand the point of Laban and your physical interpretation of the sound of running water may have been reminiscent of a skittish cat but I defy anyone to beat you at Charades from now on. And what better way to show your family that you’ve finally made it then successfully miming Saved By The Bell to your cousin this Christmas?


Don't worry, you won’t be needing that.