The Working Actor

Paul_ClaytonSome people think I’m a dreadful actor. And they are right. Mercifully, some people think I’m rather good, and, of course, they are right too. The point here is that acting is never something that can be measured quantitatively; it’s always going to be something that’s subjective. We can sit side by side together in the theatre on the same night, watching the same actor in the same play, and we can have widely differing opinions. And that’s great.

But how does that work at the end of three years training and an investment of around £27,000 when you step out into the world? Your drama school doesn’t grade you. It can’t. Even those drama training establishments which are now part of larger educational bodies and offer degree status, mainly award the level of degree on the written work involved in the course, rather than the level of talent. That’s why drama schools offer up their final year students in showcases, knowing that some of these people are probably never going to work.

And the reason? It won’t be anything to do with acting ability. It’ll be a mixture of luck, opportunity, and hard work. Hard work at being a working actor. And when I say a working actor, I don’t mean an actor who acts a lot. I mean an actor who manages their business, and works at it day in and day out, whether acting or not.

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Knowing Your Type

girl in mirror
Take a look in the mirror. Pop into the bathroom now and have a good, long look. What do you see? Whatever you do see, I can guarantee that it’s probably not what other people see when they look at you. And knowing what people see when they look at you is knowing your casting.

It’s much easier if you have an agent. They are the person that sells you. So, to a great extent, what you see yourself as doesn’t really come into the equation. Actors are not always the best people to suggest themselves for work. If you’re out of work, then of course, quite naturally, your idea of what you can do widens. In days of yore when casting submissions were sent in a matte brown ten by eight envelope to the director’s address, inappropriate submissions were less of an issue. I have had submissions as a director, where having asked for “a 6’2” blonde man, physically able to lift people, with a good sense of comedy,” I have heard from lots of 5’6” brunette guys saying “I’m not sure about the lifting, but I know I can play the part.” Hope is a great part of every actor’s life, but knowing what one is suitable for is another.

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