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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Acting Jobs You’ll Never See

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

Question Time- Part Two

Welcome back!

Last week I started answering some of the questions that the wonderful people of the Instagrams put to me (you can check out part one of my answers here). Now it’s time to talk about what happens after you get an agent/ace that audition.

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How do you prep from night to night?

Sleep and food are very big for me. A lot of actors have a post show routine that involves cups of tea & sitcom reruns, but I’ve never had the problem of trying to shut my brain down! The moment I lock my front door behind me, it’s serious sleeping time. (If it does take me more than five minutes to drop off, Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter knocks me out like THAT- true story).

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If it’s a gig that allows me the day off, than I try to make the most of that time. Because as we all know by now, I’m a #internetaddict and if I don’t schedule something to do then I can lose hours doing absolutely nothing. And I feel better if I get a workout in, really I do!

The routine I follow prior to a performance varies depending on what it is- if it’s a theatre job, I’ll try to be in my dressing room 60-90 minutes prior to the show. Then it’s makeup time and hair (or a wig). I try to leave getting changed into my costume as late as possible, and once it’s on I make sure to keep a dust-gown on top because there’s nothing more terrifying than admitting to wardrobe that you just spilled coffee on that nice, clean costume.

For a commercial shoot, the routine is basically the same except although it feels like 90% of the time I have to be rocking up at 6am, there’s a coffee cart waiting to IV caffeine directly to my brain, and I get to relax while someone else does my makeup! So my prep for those sorts of jobs is trying to make sure my skin is in good condition, and I turn up squeaky clean, vocally warm & physically ready to go.

Any time I’m about to work, I also like to try and squeeze in a meditation session (I mostly use Headspace) to clean out the chatter in my brain and let me focus on what I’m about to do. Failing that, I’ll plug into some songs that I know from experience are able to settle me down.

 

Can you see the audience when you’re on stage, or are the lights so bright, and the house so dark, that you can’t? Or are you so focused and busy that you never notice?

This depends on the theatre. With some of the largest spaces (2000+), it might be tricky to see the back few rows, but for the most part you bet we can see you! But normally the only time I really take a look at the audience is during the bows or if the direction calls for me to be interacting beyond the fourth wall (the front of the stage).

An exception to this was the recent production of Rheingold as part of Opera Australia’s Ring Cycle- a major feature of the set was a giant mirror suspended above the stage at an angle, reflecting everything that went on below it from birds-eye. I was involved in the production as an actor (who knew that was something a gal could do?) and lying on the slowly revolving stage as the overture started and the lights of the audience flickered in the mirror above us was a surreal & magical moment. And you can bet I was checking to see who was doing one last phone check after the performance had begun!

 

What do you have to do when you switch roles? Does it take awhile to shake off the last character?

I don’t recall ever having struggled with this, at least so far! Most of the characters I play, I find quite easily inside myself, I just need to reveal a little more of one aspect of myself or another. I don’t know if my answer would be the same if I was having to dig deep for something really challenging – hopefully I’ll be able to come back and revisit this question one day.

 

What is it like to finish the final performance of a show.

Bittersweet, that’s for sure!

Actors live in a weird reality where we’re regularly thrown into a room with a whole bunch of people for short periods of time. We all need to create art together, so friendships are formed very quickly and usually very intensely. You’ll live in each others pockets for the run of a show, and then all of a sudden it’s over! You’ll never say those lines again, stand in those lights again, or drink at that bar with those people again.

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For me, finishing a job also usually means that it’s back to the casual work I rely on between gigs. Double whammy of sadness. But ending a gig meant that you had a gig to do in the first place! And that’s always something to be grateful for.

 

How often do you start a new show?

Not as often as I would like! For better or worse, I’m quite cautious about doing unpaid theatre work, which is the sort that seems to come my way the most often. As a Kiwi living in Australia, I don’t have access to financial help from the government, so I always have to be cautious about missing out on paid office work to do unpaid work that feeds my soul. At the end of the day, bills have to be paid! This means that over the past few years I’ve only done one or two public seasons a year, focusing the rest of my time on acting through corporate work and building my skills so that when those paid jobs come, I’ll be ready.

Where do you like to holiday?

I was born a small town girl, and even thought Melbourne, Australia is small compared to many cities, it still feels like the big smoke to me! Any chance I get, I like to get back to somewhere with trees and wide open spaces. These normally end up being small weekend trips to the beautiful areas around Melbourne, but I’m slowly directing some of my income to saving for trips further abroad. In July I’m heading to Tasmania, so send your Must Do list my way, and keep an eye out for that blog post!

What is on your bucket list?

At the moment, travel! I want to see the whole wide world- there’s so many incredible places that I can currently only dream of seeing.

More long term, I have so many goals swirling around in my head. I would love to book a TV show, land a great role in a big-budget play, have one of my many half-baked novel drafts finished and published, create something to help performers with their finances because their bad habits make me streeeessed, live on a place with roaming acres that’s only accessible by horseback (I’m not sure about this one).

Do you ever feel like quitting?

Honestly? Not yet.

But do I ever doubt that I’ll get further with my career than I am today? All the time.

Acting is an impossible career. And of those that are able to make a living from it, how many of them have to credit their successful career to timing, luck, good looks, or just one person at the right time putting the right amount of faith in them?

Whenever I’m asked by a younger person if they should go into acting, my answer has been ‘If you’re asking me that, then probably not’. I’ve always said that there is any other career that can bring you joy and fulfillment, go and do that instead. When I moved to Australia, I had set myself a deadline to go home and retrain if I hadn’t forged a ‘successful’ career. That deadline actually snuck up on me last year, and you know what? I didn’t even need to stop to think about it. There’s nothing that can bring me the level of joy that I get from what I do (when I get the chance to do it), and all the other slaving away at day jobs, the fruitless auditions and the endless acting classes? Totally worth it. So I think I’ll stick at it.

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Even if I end up in a garage somewhere doing this 


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Question Time- Part Two