The Life of One Artist in Particular

Many people who work freelance, whether in the performing arts or elsewhere have the usual universal problems – An uncertain future (prior to becoming rich and successful), getting regular paid work and when they do, actually getting paid.  It is the latter I want to focus on.  The above all gets tied up in one nice little bundle but if you are unemployed things are damn tough but when one actually works in their chosen field and have problems actually getting paid, then the situation is much worse and actually soul destroying.

The above is a daily and emotional hassle.  What kicked things once more into focus was an artist’s picture doing the rounds on Facebook.

The Artist in Need

If you’re artist or art supporter, share and spread this drawing as a message.

It pretty much sums up what we Freelance Professionals have to deal with.  I am not sure of what happens anywhere else but as a London-based Actor, I have grown wary of the arrogant stance of many people who expect actors to not only work for free but should be grateful to be cast in their production.  We should also be grateful for the privilege.  These days if I have to (and I still do,) then the project has to be sold to me.  Is it worth doing? Where are you taking the production? How are you selling it?  It is amazing how many indie films are made here where actors are not paid and the film makers do absolutely nothing with the film.  It doesn’t go to festivals, it is not streamed across the ‘Net, no kind of marketing of any kind is done.

Having said all that, I have met and seen some very good work done by up and coming film makers, who, while they are not able to pay the performers or crew anything, have done really good work.  And they actually market their work and showcase them.  One such film maker is London/Essex-based Daniel Johnson who does all of these things.  I went to a couple of film networking events last year (Daniel’s being one,) another run by Snake Gully Productions.  These two events renewed my faith in the British indie sector but I digress.

While I agree with the artist’s sentiment in the above painting, the sorry fact is that the greater world does not see it that way.  I had one Facebook friend on seeing The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, (a film I appeared in,) went on about how disgusting and stomach churning it was.  No surprises there as that was the intended effect the film was meant to have.  She then went on to say if having your mouth stitched to someone’s arse is acting then I wasn’t doing much then.  If she had seen what I had to do to prepare in the four months prior to filming, let alone what the rest of the cast and myself had to go through during filming, I don’t think she would be so dismissive of mine or anyone else’s efforts working on that Movie.  I have to say the treatment I received prior to, whilst working on the movie and afterwards was first class and I actually got paid on time.  In many other cases, the opposite is true and therein lays the crux of the problem.  What we do is not all that valued by the general public, let alone those who hire us – Well some of them anyway.  Why else do we have to wait months to get paid for work we have done?  Why do film students when casting for their film project, begin thinking they are Franco Zeffirelli when I have yet to do anything?  And yet they expect us to audition.  Having done all that crap in the early years of my career, I thankfully have far too much self-respect to even bother now.

This seems to be a long-standing problem throughout the Industry and I wonder whether this is just something endemic at the lower rung of the ladder. And whether the air gets cleaner the higher one goes?  I do wonder.  I occasionally work as an Audio-Visual Technician when things are slow and the same problem exists there also.  It took me four months to get paid for a job I did.  And now I am still chasing payment for a job I did back in December. So it seems to be a wider spread problem.  The trouble is (in my case anyway,) that I hardly ever see my money because it disappears in bank charges due to the long periods I have wait in order to get paid.

When I contact the people who hired me, they normally tell me they are waiting to get paid from the client.  Now I miss the point where that is my problem!  Did they not budget for the production before they began hiring people?  I have known friends wait more than a year to get paid.  Unfortunately my creditors are not all that understanding but no matter how much one complains to their Union (Equity in my case,) nothing seems to happen.  We are not talking about tens of thousands here in fees but a couple of hundred, sometimes less.  And they can’t even afford to pay that on time.

I suppose one way of finding out if things get better as one’s name moves from being ‘nobody’ to ‘Somebody’ is to actually climb to new heights by doing the best work one can under the most difficult of circumstances.  But then that is the wonderful world of Showbusiness.  Doing the impossible to achieve the impossible.  One can hope it gets better the further one moves up the food chain.


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