What do you called an unemployed Actor?

….still an actor

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Greetings! And welcome to my Monday evening post, fuelled by the realisation that we are now almost at the end of June. For the duration of this post, I will be portrayed by the fabulous Titus Andromedon, a fellow struggling actor who accurately represents where I am in life at the moment.

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Life as an actor can be a pretty big roller-coaster – one week you’re drowning in auditions, dashing from place to place and feeling like the whole world wants a piece of you and your big break is mere moments away, and the next you’re watching the dust bunnies roll through your voicemail as you wait for that call from your agent that never seems to arrive.

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And with the unique combination of unfailing confidence and endless self-doubt that only artists seemed to have mastered, the quiet periods can be hard.

If you’re the sort of person that still has bills to pay between gigs (ie. probably everyone- if this isn’t you, please let me know how you’re doing it), the lull probably also means that you’re working twice as much at your day job, which can be draining. Sometimes you get home after a full day, look at your optimistic ‘to-do’ list of self tapes, acting classes and unpaid work, and then accidentally end up four hours deep in YouTube documentaries on the minutiae of life as a Mennonite (or is that just me?)

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I mean, you’re past the age of 23, so it’s probably too late to make a serious go of it anyway. Maybe you should just spend the rest of the evening with some Korean fried chicken and the course prospectus of a grown-up degree in something practical. You’re fine with this change of path. Totally fine.

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But then you hear that Kathy Bates didn’t score her breakout role until the age of 43. And that usher from the cinema down the road just had a feature role in Alien: Covenant!

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Maybe you’re not a dried-up, shrivelled old hag after all! And while I might be past my prime Home & Away high-schooler age, I guess there’s still hope that I can replace Dame Judy in the Bond franchise.

So what do you call an unemployed actor? Maybe foolish, maybe unrealistic. But also driven, dedicated, and above all things – still an actor.

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What do you called an unemployed Actor?

Have you embraced your Freebie? (Tom Hiddleston has)

While enjoying my morning routine of interwebs and procrastination – yes, I know I’m trying to cut down, but sometimes a gal has a moment of weakness and that moment is every morning ever.

Anyway, while browsing I came across this fun nugget of trivia that I’m sure everyone but me has probably already stumbled across. Apparently Kingofthebritishgentlemen Tom Hiddleston originally wanted to audition for the role of Thor in the Marvel Universe.

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Oh, darling

According to rumours, he actually got close to the final audition rounds before director/Shakespeare God Kenneth Branagh pulled him aside to gently break the news that they weren’t going to be offering him the part-

“Ken told me that every actor has something for free. Jack Nicholson has an irreverence for free, Anthony Hopkins has a majesty and gravitas for free. Idris Elba, who plays Heimdall in Thor – and, by the way, anyone who’s been complaining about a black actor being cast as a Norse god is just crazy; this is a fantasy world, for goodness sake – has a watchful gravitas for free. He explained that what I have for free is that I can’t turn off my intelligence. Therefore Loki would be much more up my street.”

How cool is that thought? That there’s some trait that’s so inherently you, that it’s just suffused into every role you’ll ever play- no need to work for it, it’s always just there. And the more I think of it, the more I can list actors and their ‘freebies’. Morgan Freeman has that playful God vibe, Helen Mirran (my queen) has that edge of ‘don’t mess with me bitch’- And Hugh Grant? Floppy fringe. I don’t think he can act without it

Acting world aside, I got to thinking of my own Freebie in the real world- the part of my personality that is just waiting to burst out. I would say that mine is enthusiasm. Push the right buttons and I will gush at a hundred words a minute about something I’m passionate about (you don’t want to be near me when you’re complaining about an unexpected bill, or how you don’t have any savings). The same will happen if anyone even breathes about a theatre piece I love, or some passing obsession that I currently have. It’s like my brain is wired to thrive on that endorphin kick I get from being ridiculously over-excited about anything.

I think I look like this…

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But I really look like this…

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For so long I’ve spent time apologising for my random outbursts, or trying to pretend that I am waaaay cooler than I actually am by moderating my responses (sound familiar?).

Recently I’ve started to wonder if maybe it isn’t just better to embrace that side of myself. And if I come off a little manic (and maybe a little ax-murdery, as has been mentioned in the past) then phooey- playing a serial killer is definitely on my to-do list anyway.

And if I know what makes me a little more ‘me’, then maybe that will help me pinpoint when I’m losing myself a little. If I can’t be bothered to muster a kitten scratch or a suggestion than an actor should roll their fifteen super funds into one account, then something is wrong in my life and I need to identify it. Because not having the time to scratch a kitten? Definitely not me.

So what would your freebie be? Is it something that you’re happy to indulge in, or something that only your nearest & dearest get to see? Maybe you have the dryest sense of humour, or you can’t help working to turn any room you walk into into a place of calm. Maybe you don’t even know what yours is yet (Hiddles clearly needed some help). Or am I raving (with enthusiasm) on a topic that isn’t really applicable in the real world?

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Have you embraced your Freebie? (Tom Hiddleston has)

Acting Jobs You’ll Never See

Mention to anyone that you’re an actor, and invariably the first response you’ll get will be somewhere in the ballpark of “Cool! What have I seen you in?”

If you don’t have a suitably recognisable response lined up, you’ll probably get a vague knowing smile and the sinking sensation that you’ve been filed under the category of “actor”‘ (aka bless her, she’s still clinging to those dreams).

But just because an actor isn’t appearing in the latest blockbuster, doesn’t mean they’re not making a reasonable living. Here a few jobs that you’ve probably never realised that actors are getting paid for right under your noses (and yes, I’ve done most of them).

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Corporate Work

Ah yes, the only time I get to dress like a fancy office worker (I secretly get office-wear envy, I love a good pencil skirt). Corporate work can encompass any number of different jobs, from filming informational videos to using improvisational skills as role-players. Want to train your staff in dealing with difficult situations in the workplace? Hire actors to portray the customer of nightmares and let the training ensue. Now doesn’t that sound like fun?

Simulated Patient

I’m sure you’ll be reassured to discover this job exists- I know I was when I first stumbled across it.

Similar to the above, simulated patients work with training medical specialists to ensure that when they actually encounter real-life patients, they’re ready for it! Simulations  can be recorded for education purposes when it isn’t ethical to record an actual appointment, or can take place ‘live’ in an examination setting.

‘Communication stations’ in medical exams are usually used to asses a candidate’s ability to communicate appropriately, on top of all their medical knowledge. As easy as it sounds, experienced simulated patients are highly valued because of the high-emotion situations that are normally portrayed. Faking a cough may sound like an easy job, but I can promise you that after eight hours of sobbing over a dire medical diagnosis, I’m using every last bit of my actor training to keep my ‘performance’ real, and that headache has nothing to do with my acting ability.

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Presentations

Got a great product? Need to tell a lot of businesses about it at presentations or conferences? Hate standing in front of a crowd? Hire an actor! We can remember huge amounts of tech-heavy jargon, thrive on engaging a tough crowd, and we don’t scrub up too badly either. Product presentations are my favourite thing because (super nerdy moment) I get to pretend that I have this whole other life as my product hawking alter ego aka lady version of Gus from Psych.  (She likes stationary and long walks to the coffee cart for pastries. Just in case you were wondering)

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Voice Acting

While voice acting is a legitimate career of its own and there are many talented performers who specialise in it, a lot of screen and theatre actors also work behind the mic to record ads, voiceovers, videogames or dubbing- even that annoying voice thanking you for your patience after 15 minutes on hold. Voicework is the best (mostly because I can turn up in my comfies and don’t need to worry about that strange bald spot my fringe makes for once).

Motion Capture

I don’t even know what this involves. I just know that there are funny suits with white balls, and some actor is probably getting paid to move in it. It sounds awesome.

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Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

Acting Jobs You’ll Never See

Wanted: Cabin in the woods

As I write this, winter is slowly creeping in on Melbourne. The trees are dropping leaves and nights are cool enough that I’m sleeping snuggled around a hot water bottle. I miss the feeling of sun soaking into my bones, and the way it lingers on the corner of my couch when I have time to sit for a morning coffee.

Maybe it’s the change of season getting the best of me, but I’m also feeling as though life is stretching me thin at the moment. I haven’t had two days in a row off in forever (at least it feels like it) and I can feel my poor body struggling to keep up with the endless balancing act of my bill paying work and the ‘work’ of building an acting career. I get a sort of tightness in my brain that makes me crave a cabin in the woods somewhere with nothing but green as far as the eye can see.

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My soul needs this…without the stabby stabby

Failing a cabin, what would you suggest? How do you cope when life is getting a bit much?

 


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Wanted: Cabin in the woods

April Reading Roundup!

Such a busy month, so few books read!

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The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World – Shelley Emling

First, a moment to snigger that the author of a biography of a fossil hunter is called Shelley…/moment

I had never heard of Mary Anning before being assigned this biography in bookclub, and to be honest, that’s crazy. The amount that she contributed to the scientific field without acknowledgement or financial restitution is absolutely staggering. You may not recognise her name, but you’re probably more than familiar with the men her work assisted. Does Darwin ring a bell?

While I devoured the story of Anning’s life, The Fossil Hunter itself left something to be desired. Given that so little is known about Anning’s early life, Shelley resorts to a bucket-load of ‘Maybe she would have’, ‘perhaps she did’ that can get irritating as the book progresses. Nevertheless, it’s a great intro to a woman that definitely deserves more coverage. Time for her big Hollywood feature?

 

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A Life in Parts – Bryan Cranston

This book. This Book! I’ve heard it said the Christopher Lee reads The Lord of the Rings every year- I think that’s going to be my pattern for the next few years with A Life In Parts.

Like most people, I only knew Bryan Cranston as the Dad from Malcolm in the Middle,  and I was vaguely aware that he was doing some great work on Breaking Bad but it was a show that I had never gotten into. So prior to reading this book, it’s safe to say I wasn’t a gushing fan- I only picked it up in the first place because I read an excerpt online that piqued my interest. I’ve now read it twice and I think it’s a safe bet that I’m going to pick up again before the year is done (I have a high tolerance for repetition, I consider it a life skill).

I haven’t read many celebrity auto-biographies, but I feel like this one is probably different from most of them. There’s no salaciousness or navel gazing here- Cranston is clearly someone who has dedicated his life to his work, and he lays that rocky path out in the open with a brisk matter-of-factness. For me, the main appeal of this book is the insight Cranston gives into his thoughts on acting and his process, complete fodder for my soul. I would have thought that it would hold less appeal to readers in other fields, but the goodreads rating definitely proves me wrong there. If you see this book all lonely on a shelf, don’t hesitate to give it a loving home -it’s worth it.


What have you been reading this month? Comment below to share your favourite, I’m always looking for recommendations!

If you want to see more of me, you can check out my Instagram & Twitter, I would love to see you there!

April Reading Roundup!

Let’s Hear It For The Crew!

As I write this post, I’m tucked into a corner off set as we film a pilot for a fun little web series I was asked to be a part of. I’m over-caffeinated (because that’s what sets are good for), and I thought it might be fun to shine a light on the side of the industry that I think can be sometimes overlooked. (Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the financial ravings later on in the week.)

Any actor will (or should) hand on heart admit that what we do is nothing compared to the work the crew put in. This team were here before I arrived this morning (at an hour that I firmly believe shouldn’t exist), and they’ll definitely be here striking the set long after I leave. They work through my breaks to set for the next scene, and leave lunch early to do the same. Long after I’ve wrapped there will be people colour correcting, editing, re-editing, soundmixing- painstakingly working to make sure that my performance is the best it can possibly be. Actors get the glory, but it’s the team behind the camera who really create the art.

As a theatre kid at heart, one of the first things I noticed on set is the crazy amount of down time for actors.  As I type this I’m ‘on five’ again because our crew is busy resetting for a different angle on this scene. Every shot needs to be set up individually, and the larger the shoot, the longer it can take. There are cameras and lighting rigs to wrangle, sightlines to consider, boom positions to be negotiated – way more than you would ever think from watching a twenty second commercial spot on TV.

Once the crew are good to go, I’m called in to shoot that one particular scene from that  one particular angle. As soon as they’ve got the coverage they need, it’s time for the crew to reset and back to waiting around for me. (Seriously, so much waiting around!)

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Every part of filming has a person responsible for monitoring that aspect (and I mean literally every part, it’s crazy).

It’s bad manners -and sometimes unsafe- to encroach on any of those jobs, so all I have to worry about as a performer is being there when they need me, keeping out of the way if they don’t, and making sure to be ready to bring the goods when it’s time to shoot. It may sound weird, but it’s kind of a wonderful feeling.

More than anything else, on a film set the ‘talent’ are just one piece of a very organized puzzle. The next time you’re sitting through five minutes of names to get to the Marvel post-credit scene, spare a thought! Every one of those names is a person who sweated through bad weather, long days, sleep deprivation, and probably weeks or months away from their family and friends to create alongside the Hollywood stars. And you can bet they don’t get the sweet-as goody bags.

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Working SO hard guys


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Let’s Hear It For The Crew!

When it’s time to say No

We live in a world that places value on Yes. Yes to staying late at work, Yes to the third girls night out in a month, Yes to that upsize.

Yes means that you’re a team player, a go-getter, someone who’s seizing every opportunity that life throws your way. But do you also sometimes feel trapped by the big Y-E-S?

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(Gratuitous Hiddles GIF because we’re getting deep)

As I’ve detailed before, when I’m not able to make ends meet with acting gigs, I cover my bills with a variety of casual jobs. These all dove-tail nicely and usually mean that I’m able to earn more than I need to to keep afloat. And I mean way more. It’s completely normal to get a ‘By the way, are you free on…’ every time I’m in an office. My knee-jerk reaction is always to say yes, because who’s going to turn down extra money? If I don’t practice my No muscle, there are times when I can look at my diary and realise that I’ve worked 50-60 hours in a week. My workplaces are probably grateful to have an extra set of hands available and I know that my bank account always sure appreciates the extra boost, but how is any of that helping me move towards what I actually want in life? Looked at objectively, my Yes is serving everyone but me.

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The self-sacrificing Yes can disguise itself in a number of ways.

Online sales are my weaknesssss- I’m the person that will open a dozen tabs and add hundreds of dollars of items to my cart before coming to my senses and leaving everything behind. So where has my Yes to their emailed invitation gotten me? I’ve probably wasted a few hours of work time and decided that I need to completely overhaul my wardrobe, browsing the sale was really only the good little capitalist in me trying to burn my hard earned money on some low-cost, sweatshop clothing. Is that really what I’m working for?

The real irony is, the more I’ve been working in a day-job, the harder it is for me to resist the chance to throw my money away. I’ll find myself engaging in hard-core research for products I don’t even need, because deep down I’m trying to justify the overwork. I’m working so hard so I deserve to spend money on the things I want – or the things they tell me I want. And then what do I have to do to replace the money I spent?

Bingo. I say yes to overtime again.

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Sometimes not using your Yes won’t make sense to the rest of the world.

This whole blog post started in my head last night when I went to grab a burger on the run for dinner. At the end of my order, I was offered sauce for an extra 50c and obviously said yes because aoli is life.

And then I got ‘and what drink would you like?’

The options on offer were canned soft drink (which I’m avoiding because I’m trying to deny that it’s time for a visit to the dentist) or bottled water (see here and here for the back story on that one).

‘None, thank you’.

‘None?’

‘No thanks’

‘Are you sure? It’s free with the sauce.’

‘I’m good, but thanks’

‘Not even a water?’

‘No thank you.’

I had to turn down a free drink four times before she would accept my answer.

Because who doesn’t say yes to free? Crazy people, that’s who!

Saying Yes would sure have ended the conversation sooner. But then where would I have been? Technically I would have been up the cost of a water, but why do I need it? I had a bottle in my bag, and if I had taken the plastic bottle it would have lurked on my conscience all night.

No matter how badly the lovely woman wanted me to follow the purchase path (probably making her till order easier) and take the ferdydurking free water, withholding my Yes was what was better for me. (Okay, technically it was more of a series of very polite No’s, but you get the point. I’ll write on the power of a good No another day.)

Treasure your Yes-es as if you had a finite amount to give- because you do! How many times can you say Yes to everyone before you suffer a complete breakdown?

Save them for the things that will bring you joy. Say Yes to that movie with friends, that extra-nice bottle of wine, or that short film that you really don’t have time to do but the script is just so.damned.good (guilty). Save your Yes-es for the things that will feed your soul, because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who has to live in the life you’re creating.

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PSA: This post is written from the perspective of a compulsive Yes-er. If you think that mayyybe you’re a compulsive No-er, you go and sprinkle those Yes-es like stardust, you beautiful little nay-sayer!


Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

When it’s time to say No