Fifteen years as an actress and then what?
I've discovered that life can be just as dramatic as
the roles I've played, drama school didn't prepare me for this!
But I love my current cast list, set and script
and these blogs are just a bumble through my life lessons.
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
'When Enough is Enough' and 'Getting Back on the Horse' - my life in cliches
I started writing this blog last
week when a 2013 survey carried out by the website Casting Call Pro released the
results that over 75% of actors earned less than £5,000 last year. 46% earned less than £1,000 from acting work and
just 2% earned more than £20,000. It made for happy reading but I doubt it came
as a shock to actors.
Aaaargh! I didn't realise I was broke!
There has since been much analysis
and opinion on these results. One suggests that there are too many drama
schools churning out too many actors into an industry that cannot support them.
I have to say that despite working at these institutions from time to time, I
do agree with Susan Elkin’s blog for The Stage. It is wonderful to teach a
room full of bright eyed eager students because it reminds me of how it used to
feel to be that motivated and trusting of the industry. It is a great honour to
help them progress and inspiring to share their positivity but I can’t help
feeling slightly guilty sometimes because you do walk away thinking – how many
of you will actually work? And how many of them will join the majority of
actors earning under £5,000 per year?
There are too many of us. Only
yesterday I got an email from my agent saying how quiet things are in Musical
Theatre Land at the moment and we need to start working for ourselves again, sending
letters to get ourselves remembered amidst the sea of graduates.
There's me - I'm the short brunette
The fact that the industry is so
unforgiving and rarely allows someone to earn enough for rent in London has almost
become an accepted joke. Twitter is full of talented actors/writers who post
amusing audition tales and comments. Pro Resting Actress gives us daily updates
on degrading castings and Kayleigh Llewellyn reflects on life in a ticket booth
and yes we all chuckle in recognition and feel part of the acting clan. It is a
wonderful industry but the reality is that it is hard. Really hard.
People on the outside perhaps don’t
see the day to day of being a jobbing actor. They see the names in lights and
the appearances on This Morning but every high is surrounded by days of
counting pennies and crying into old show scores.
So what happens to the actors who are in that 75%? It’s all very well marveling at the statistics but they represent
real people. Real people feeling dejected who can only survive on bar tips for so
A lot of actors have to give up.
Normal life or the bank manager comes a-calling and you have to accept that
maybe you cannot withstand the ups and downs anymore; your need for security,
self-esteem or sanity become too strong.
There are not many other professions where you enter with a degree and
crossed fingers accepting that there is no guarantee of progression, pay rises
However it isn’t a conscious
decision, it happens slowly. For many actors the industry drops them before
they make the leap.
The reason I dithered about this
blog post is that I have had a change of heart since starting it. I was going
to discuss giving up the profession, although giving it the more positive
connotation by calling it ‘moving on.’ I
have been going through all the struggles I’ve mentioned, not being right for
anything, not getting auditions and not fitting in a casting bracket anymore.
But I was alright with it all. You
know when unemployed actors have a speech prepared (complete with
over-stretched grin and dead eyes) about how “it’s just quiet at the moment but
they’ll be something in the pipeline.” Well I had developed a similar one
saying “that I was ready to settle down, that it’s hard when you don’t look
your age and well, I enjoy the teaching and it pays better than a West End
ensemble wage” and I believed it. I was content.
I got an email. It’s always the
smallest thing that makes you break. I had enquired about some summer workshop
teaching and the reply said that they only wanted people who are currently in
West End shows. That is totally fair enough but for some reason the floodgates
opened and I was overcome with every feeling of failure, regret and loss of
being one of those West End Wendies on a pittance! After multitudes of snotty
sobs, my wonderful, supportive boyfriend (only fellow actors can understand)
calmed me down and I booked new headshots and vowed to get back on the horse. (Preferably
War Horse, if anyone from The Nash is reading!) A complete turnaround from the
woman who was quite happy to move on a few hours ago!
This industry may be in the process
of dumping me but I am not going to go down without a fight, I love it too much.
The reason why this industry is
so saturated and its inhabitants are struggling along on less than £5,000 a
year is that we are all infected with the same disease – we love performing. We
need to perform. And it never totally leaves us.
Even when your head, bank statements
and body clock scream ‘ENOUGH,’ they can never quite be strong enough to quash
that annoying thing that we’ve been cultivating since we first came across
Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins or a cassette of show tunes by Dave Willets –