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Inside Out: How do you manage a career and a survival job?

Posted on 22 August 2012 Written by

It is a bittersweet myth that actors earn buckets of money; in reality, Hollywood pay is something most of us mere mortals will never experience. So how does a normal actor manage with bad wages, insane hours and lots of expenses?

Starting out is the worst part. As a trainee actor you have to invest a lifetime of savings on private tuition, drama schools and so on – and even if you do nail an acting job at this stage, you’re unlikely to get paid. Most actors find it impossible not to have another job when they’re just starting out, yet many established actors stress that you have to be ready the second your agent or director needs you. So when this clashes with the side job that pays your rent, which one should you prioritise?

I’ve had so many different jobs I’ve lost count, and they keep clashing with my new career. With many directors offering no pay for weeks of hard work (justified by the ‘great experience’ offered, whatever that means), it is difficult deciding whether to make money or do the thing you love for free, just to gain experience and get your foot in the door. The tendency is to try and do both, running from the nine-to-five job straight to rehearsals. Yet this isn’t without its problems – you finish late, and then it’s up again early morning to repeat the cycle. Before you know it you are a walking zombie, with the light at the end of the tunnel becoming increasingly elusive.

This double life seems to be a rite of passage – even Jennifer Aniston used to have three jobs and now she’s one of the most successful women in the business. I am still learning how to fit in both acting courses and eating, and reckon it won’t necessarily get easier with time. We do survival jobs because we have to, but it is difficult to see how to make the transaction between the day job and the big break when you’re not related to a zillionaire and the closest you’ll come to a handsome, loaded Christian Grey is reading inappropriate books on the tube. Acting should be for everyone, loaded or struggling. Yet whether you end up embarking on a career path unrelated to acting or spending awful hours doing bar work, it’s not easy to juggle. If you manage without crying and eating porridge for a week then I’d like to know your secret.

Image credit: Dinner Series.

Camilla Gurtler

Camilla Gurtler

Camilla is currently training as a director on the Young Directors’ Programme with StoneCrabs Theatre Company. Camilla has worked as a director, actress and writer in Denmark and London, and loves Shakespeare, greek tragedies and children’s theatre. She’s obsessed with coffee, dislikes ranting on stage and hates the colour yellow. Especially mustard-yellow.

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