I’m very excited to share an article on one of the most widely discussed topics of actors – having that ‘other job’. The job you need to pay the bills! I have a lot of personal opinions on this matter and I am in agreement that everyone does need a back up JUST incase things don’t go to plan. As for most actors, they don’t go to plan if I’m being honest. This is purely based off going to Drama School and keeping up with friends who are now still working in an artistic industry but not necessarily working in the field they expected to.
However, enough on my opinions on this topic…
Here to speak on the topic is Ian Hughes, who worked closely with James Cooney in the past (from a previous guest article earlier this year).
Ian Hughes is a UK based Actor, Voice-Over – sometimes Director. Ian has worked in every aspect of the business – from The Royal Shakespeare Company, The West End, Television and Film, as well as voicing a range of commercials, animations and Computer games and narrating over 70 TV documentaries. His speaking work focuses on story and human interaction – often using the works of Shakespeare as a starting point. More information can be found on his website.
The Other String
You’ve done the training, you’ve got some striking headshots, you managed to land that swanky agent, you’ve played some good parts and now you’re waiting.
And waiting, as we all know, is a large part of being an actor in 2017. Waiting for that call, from that theatre company, or that director, or for that production.
And as you wait you see that chap you were at Drama school with on the telly in a really good part. Being, well, really good! You stumble upon a cast-list for a show at The National Theatre and there – tell me it’s not true! – is that actor you did a biscuit commercial with a few years back , playing a leading role! You read the reviews for a show at some trendy London venue and there is that actor (the one everyone thinks you looks just like you) getting tremendous reviews! How can this be? Why isn’t my talent being recognized you cry?
Welcome to the reality of trying to make a living in the over-populated, ego-crushing, bank-account dwindling world of acting. But you wouldn’t do anything else would you?
Or would you?
The results of a 2014 survey commissioned by Casting Call Pro (now owned by Mandy), a casting website, makes sobering reading. The results show that just 1 actor in every 50 makes more than £20,000 a year (about $25,000) .The survey also revealed that 46% of actors made less than £1000 from acting work and a further 30% made between £1000- £5000. Not encouraging is it? Added to which, Drama schools are loath to publish the employment rates of their graduates for fear of decreased numbers applying in future years – although conservative estimates suggest that more than 70% of graduates from British Drama schools have abandoned their chosen career with three years of finishing their courses. From my own experience, some very fine actors I shared a stage or screen with in the 1990’s have long since disappeared from the profession – fed up with the lack of parts, profit and progression. Yet others stick at it – myself included – determined to make it work. How can you stick at it? What can you do to make your career an easier, happier experience? The answer: pull the other string.
After my parents had got used to the idea that their son wanted to be an actor, whenever I worked in a related field – be that teaching or corporate work – their response was always the same – ‘Oh good…another string to your bow’. For them, having an alternative career plan – just in case acting didn’t work out – was a useful and constructive process. The sentiment came from a care and concern that trying to make a living from performing might be a rocky road indeed and that having a skill-set that was in demand would be sensible and make sound financial sense. And so it proved.
While I’ve enjoyed a level of success – a 10 year stint at The Royal Shakespeare Company and several bits and bobs in well respected TV shows – I’ve always pursued alternative interests at the same time. For me, this was teaching acting and, more recently, corporate business work and Keynote Speaking. What began as a way of making money to support periods of unemployment from acting has become a separate career strand that now keeps me sane, busy and occupied. And keeps my bank-balance in decent shape.
Over the years, I’ve increasingly worked with actors who, not happy with tele-sales, bar & restaurant work to pay the bills, have turned their interest or passion into better paid work. There’s also the added benefit of building a second career that has the possibility of really developing into something solid and lasting. I’ve worked with actors who are photographers, voice-coaches, supply teachers, writers, painters, DJ’s, illustrators, web-designers. The list goes on. What they all have in common is that they see themselves – first and foremost – as actors. Who just happen to work in different areas from time to time.
But perhaps the greatest benefit from pursuing another passion alongside your commitment to acting is something you can’t put a price on: self-esteem.
In an industry that by its very nature involves rejection, set-backs and no clear career-path, it’s not difficult to take these knocks personally which can lead to a downward spiral of anxiety, stress or depression. It’s important, we all know, to remain buoyant and optimistic in spite of the odds that actors routinely face. From time to time I work as a director, and one of the most off-putting qualities any actor can bring into the audition room is desperation. It’s not attractive, often obvious and rarely leads to paid employment. Staying upbeat and positive is so much easier when you know you have an alternative line of work that makes you feel wanted, valued and respected.
As you’re reading this, you’ll know instinctively what that other work might be for you. My advice – if you aren’t already giving it a whirl – is to take active steps to get that secondary career off the ground. It won’t detract from your commitment to acting but it will give you as sense of focus and hopefully, optimism. If you’ve got another string to your bow, maybe now is the time to give it a pluck!
Thank you so much Ian for the piece and make sure to go follow him on Twitter to check out any new updates!
Also, make sure to check out my latest post on what to watch at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
#actors #theatre #work #UK