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Monday 16th May 2022

Can you put a price on an acting career?

Actor Cost

Money (this section could be a book in itself, so I’ve just chosen a few examples)

A last minute audition comes up so I have to cancel a day’s teaching work. I may get the job, I may not, there are no guarantees. That’s a loss of £90-210 earnings, depending on the job.

New headshots are needed as my photo says 26 and my face says 32 – I’ve lived through some stuff. That’s £350+ for a really good photographer.

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My Spotlight membership is due. My agent can’t put me up for jobs without it. That’s £150 for the year.

Last minute musical audition comes up for a Sondheim show. I can’t just wing it, so have to pay for an emergency singing lesson – £50 for the hour.

Time

Last week, I spent seven hours directing Shakespeare with some wonderful young people in a black box theatre in Yorkshire. I was delighted to get into the fresh air where I planned to take a walk, have a coffee, and chill with Netflix in my hotel room.

My lovely agent rang – I had a casting for an exciting commercial tomorrow! But, alas, my train wouldn’t get me back in time. No fear, she had cleverly convinced the casting director to accept a self-tape.

The script was sent in English but the audition was in French. Cue 30 minutes hastily sipping coffee whilst doing the translation. 30 minutes trying to learn it – checking with my French-teacher mother on the phone that my accent was authentically French North African. Plus, time to think about my character.

Self-tapes require a mobile phone you can film on, a quiet space with good lights, no interruptions, and, most crucially, someone to film you. I was staying in the hotel alone and had no choice but to ask the manager of the hotel to take up the gauntlet. He admirably rose to the challenge, and so it was recorded in the hotel breakfast bar at around 8pm:

‘I’ll do it, love, but I don’t speak a word of French.’

‘That’s okay. If you can just press record, please.’

Take 1.

‘That was great love, but it didn’t record. I didn’t want to say and interrupt your flow.’

‘Oh. Okay. Not to worry but if it doesn’t record again, feel free to stop me!’

Take 2.

‘Ah thank you, that did record. Oh, but I don’t like how I delivered that. Can you film me again please?’

Take 3.

‘Yep. That’s what I wanted to do. Thank you very much.’

‘Yeah, yeah, you had more emotion and expression in that take. I don’t speak French but I thought that was the best you acted in it.’

‘Thanks so much.’  (30 mins and everyone’s a director!)

Self-tape successfully done, and evening nearly gone.

Relationships

Two jobbing actors* are having a conversation in real life –

HIM: Babe, I would love to have a relationship with you.

HER: (this is rather out of the blue, but great, great, you are really philosophical, and also really, really fit.) Okay…

HIM: But, we can’t!

Dramatic pause. 

HER: (oh no, please don’t be married already/be secretly gay/prefer animals)

HIM: …because of our careers! Actors can’t have relationships.

*names have been omitted to protect identities.

Morality

A few years ago, I was booked to temp as a receptionist for a month’s holiday cover. I had done only two days there when I got cast as a Lindy Hop dancer in a Samsung advert. I was chuffed and, me being me, rang up my temping agency to ask them to send in a cover temp for that one day. How naïve I was! They then took away the month’s work from me to ‘punish me’ for having a career outside of ‘good morning, X company. How may I help?’. My actor friends berated me, ‘You should have lied! If you’d called in sick you wouldn’t have lost a month’s work!’ Sadly, they were right.

Anger Management

It requires great restraint on a daily/weekly/yearly basis not to vocalise the bracketed retorts to the following questions from strangers who are not in the industry:

‘Are you famous then? Can I have your autograph (ha ha ha)’

(Obviously I am not famous as, if i was, you wouldn’t have to ask. And I’m not giving YOU of all people my autograph so that you can sell it on eBay when I find fame one day.)

‘Been in anything recently?’

(Yes, I have, but more Wilton’s Music Hall, less Midsomer Murders – not that you would even know what the former was.)

‘How much do you earn?’

(What a very rude question to ask someone you just met at a house party. I wouldn’t dream of asking you that even though I suspect it is in the £60,000+ bracket. It’s true what they say then – money can’t buy manners.)

However…

Last year: I worked as a non-stop actor. Working on four plays, two short films, and some corporate jobs training doctors and lawyers. I had a great time! I got to: tour the South East; be a teenager again, a Spanish queen, a twisted psychologist; get a BBC credit; scream blue murder in Berkeley Square, and now have highly niche knowledge about hereditary illnesses and probate law which will surely come in handy one day.

Last month: I met my TV directing idol in a recall for a very exciting job.

Last week: I got paid £50 to cuddle up with a very handsome man on a sofa for 20 minutes for an advert recall.

So, sometimes, I do indeed live the dream.

Photo credit: Hernán Piñera

Nadia Nadif

Mouthy blogger

Nadia works as an actress. She also teaches acting and storytelling to adults at City Academy and is an associate for National Youth Theatre, directing young people and leading inclusivity training.

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