Saturday, 20 September 2014

Dreams vs Bills

A few weeks back I blogged about The Fear. The Fear generally creeps up on you, or sometimes runs at you at quite an alarming rate, and makes itself known when someone asks you:

“Oh, so you’re an actor? What work have you got coming up?”

And you have nothing. Not a job, not an interested agent, not even a ridiculous sounding casting call to attend. The Fear makes you feel physically sick when you realise what little work you've got coming up.

Yesterday, with a real need to stop paying bills with savings, I found myself attending an interview for a call centre job. Now I have nothing against call centre work, in fact it’s been a damn good friend to me during leaner times. And I certainly don’t wish to demean call centre work because despite how mind-numbing it is, in fact because of how mind-numbing it is, it’s some of the most challenging work out there. Constant rejection, miserable conditions and exceedingly low pay…I can’t possibly imagine why actors are drawn to such jobs…

So, yesterday I headed to a dingy little office and was interviewed to check that I was eligible to speak to people on a phone. After far too many questions that began with “Give me an example,” I was told that I needed to be aware that I was “up against some very strong competition” for the various vacancies they had available.  I then watched the interviewer hover their pen over the 5/5 mark they’d given for one of my responses, change it to a 4, change it to a 5 again and then frantically scribbled out the 5. 

For God’s sake. I once spent an hour on the phone helping Paul McCartney’s PA put an order through for Christmas labels.  I deserve better than this.

I was then reminded again that competition was exceedingly high and I realised I was basically being told that I wasn’t suitable to pick up a phone and harass people. This is news that should leave me frikkin’ delighted. If only my landlord saw it the same way.

I left being told that they’d let me know in a week whether I was deemed worthy to willingly put on a headset and call people at quite impressively inappropriate times (yes, I once managed to call for someone on the morning of their very own funeral.) So that’s some exciting news to look forward to this week.

I’m not sure whether this little tale says more about the current job market or my career prospects. Actors have always been near the bottom of the food chain but now people are being forced into taking second, third and even fourth jobs, we’re being pushed so far down that we’re now amongst the ants and plankton. And the problem with actors is that we need a job that allows us to juggle paying bills with chasing the kind of dreams that many would consider nightmares. It’s really no surprise that many end up having to abandon all their hard work just to keep their head above water. As romantic as hopes are, real life does sometimes have an incredible knack of getting in the way. And often the 'resting' jobs we get are so poorly paid that the amount of hours we need to do to stay solvent means acting is lucky if briefly passes us in the hallway once a week. 

Basically, what we’re seeing here is the rapidly increasing chance of me becoming a chugger. Place your bets now on how long it takes…  

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