One of the joys of having a showbiz career, you can always make a comeback, a return.
While I have never left or taken time out, I have always freelanced in different sectors, in order to make a living, pay the rent etc.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given, was while working for a charity (I forget which one,) I was approached by one of the managers, who asked me whether I was an actor. I acknowledge I was. He then asked me what am I doing here? Replied I was trying to make some money.
His advice was:-
“If you have a passion for something, you should follow that passion, that dream because you can always return – here – If you fail.”
I never again laid eyes on the gentleman who gave me the above advice, but he was so right. And I have followed that advice.
Good as the above advice was, the only drawback is if one makes the wrong move, have the wrong strategy, make wrong alliances, one can waste a great deal of time and money in the process.
Take one scenario. I joined a screen acting course at a studio in Hendon North London. I learned a great deal in screen acting techniques, the business of running a fully functioning studio and film production.
The person who ran the studio was a director and had a script for a movie he was planning to make. He secured initial financing from those of us who were students – we were also workshopping scenes from the script. As ‘Producers’ on the movie Katherina aka Katherine of Alexandria, we were also founders of a Film Company, ‘British United Artists’. We went so far as building film sets, hiring a crew and filming a trailer to raise interest and further finance.
Despite all of the above, filming so much footage (much of which would have made a great showreel – a showcase of my abilities as an actor.
I like my fellow students/producers came out with absolutely nothing for all the time, effort and money we had invested in ‘Katherina’. On my last visit to that Studio many years ago, I noted those us who had made our concerns known had our names stricken from the list of founding members of ‘British United Artists’. So much for sweat, blood, tears, money, time and effort.
In short, the man was a charlatan of the first order. He had a good movie script, a good story, a good product but didn’t have a clue or he was just interested pursuing his dreams and goals at the expense (quite literally,) of everyone who enters his circle.
A movie called ‘Katherine of Alexandria’ eventually appeared and has been classed as Peter O’Toole’s last film. Go figure.
The above clearly shows what can happen if you attach one’s self to someone, a project that is going nowhere. Such an investment of time, money, time of effort, produces nothing. Worse, you are prevented from taking up other opportunities, which in the long run would have been a far better move.
All one can do is learn some great lessons from the above scenario and believe me there are many but I am never going recoup my losses and investment.
Every actor, singer, performer, have their own horror story to tell about their early career or something that happened much later on in their career. The Experience above is no different, save I am sharing that experience with you right here.
Let’s look at another scenario. Working in Theatre. Now what I am going to relate here is not what you would expect to hear from a British Actor who was trained in the theatre.
My experience in Theatre has not been a very happy, pleasant nor a profitable one. In fact at the time of writing this, I can honestly say I have never received a penny for performing on a theatre stage – Ever.
How is this so? Simple, you involve yourself with people whose ambition and ethics are a great deal lesser than your own. It seems stupid on a Neolithic scale to spend five years of your life, working for a director who could never pay you but could pay others. That should clearly tell me that as the director is not paying me, he clearly does not value me because it costs him nothing to employ me. But in my defence, I say I was following my passion, my dream. But my dream has no chance of being realised because as long as he (the director in this scenario,) breaks even at the box office, he is happy. He is not even interested in making money to pay his whole cast of actors or even have seed money for his next production.
I should also note that I never liked the kind of bloody awful behaviour I encountered during my theatre experience. It all came down to one director in particular. Their inability to cast a production properly or control things is what ultimately drove me away from theatre. That said, it is now five years since I last performed on stage. I don’t expect to step on a stage again in this life. But then they say never say never.
In both scenarios, I am following my passion, my dream, my goal but made some bad calls in who I connected with because it cost them nothing to have me involved in their projects. Why focus on making money if the majority of people working for you cost you nothing? Go figure.
I was the archetypal poor, hungry artist, following my passion, making some big sacrifices along the way to achieve that goal. My biggest fault was to ally myself with people who don’t share the same vision I have.
Let’s take another scenario like working for free. Professionals (unless you are an actor,) seldom if ever, work for free. Acting, it seems is the only Profession, where a professional is expected to work for nothing or a pittance (unless you are a household name of course).
The behaviour is no better but if you can get a paying gig, paying good money and get regular work then great. If not and you need footage to make up your showreel, then whatever freebie you agree to work on, ensure it is the right fit for you and the conditions are right for you. Have a contract drawn up and make sure you join the Actor’s Union ‘Equity’.
All too often I have worked on freebies and then had spend the next couple of years chasing people for film footage to produce a new showreel. When I eventually get the DVD, there is nothing I can use for my showreel. What a waste of fu#%ing time. Unbelievable but true. If you are not being paid, you have no value to the powers that be. And they will treat you accordingly.
Has I said above, circumstances have seen me having to be make a living of some kind. I don’t have access to to the gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. And yet the gentleman’s advice at the charity, still rings true. And because of that, I have kept my passion, my dreams, my goals alive, despite the many setbacks I have encountered.
I guess by writing this and becoming member of StarNow, I am kind of signalling, announcing to the world, that I am back – despite never leaving.
Despite everything I have done and experiences I have related above, if I can swim against the tide in a river of shit endlessly, reach shores, continue ever onward, I am sure to succeed at some point in the future. I still have the passion, the will and dream and goals are still firmly held on to.
I don’t have to return anywhere because I have not failed. I haven’t been given the chance to fail. My Résumé tell me that.
In spite of everything I have had the kind of career, where I have worked in just about every sector an actor can work in. Again, my Résumé reminds me of this.
And yet, after fifteen years in The Business, I still feel as if I am just starting out. Funny that.