Actors, admit it! How many of you spent your childhood dreaming of a career in the performing arts, imagining all the parts that might come your way and the awards you may win? I know I did. Safe to say my imagination well and truly led me astray, and I haven’t yet put my rehearsed acceptance speech to use.
For those of you who have followed your passion through – first of all, congratulations on your determination. Second of all, what has the reality been like? I’d guess (and I don’t mean this in any derogatory way) the out-of-work periods have outweighed the periods you have had in work. And don’t worry – even more established actors would say this too. The truth (and you don’t need me to tell you this) is that the industry is brutally competitive and roles are few and far between. Perhaps even more so today, given the number of people who want to act.
But how do you handle this reality? Do you sit around, waiting for your agent to call with that one audition that may well send your career skyward? Or do you take matters into your own hands and create your own opportunities while you await that life-changing moment?
More and more I hear of actors putting pen to paper to create their own work because there is nothing else on the table
Just this week, I interviewed Jessica Knappett – someone you may not be familiar with (yet) – who this week will star in the new E4 sitcom Drifters.
What’s interesting about this show is that, aside from giving Jessica a starring role on TV, she wrote it all. And she wrote it because she knew that she had to create her own opportunities in a business in which everyone is trying to get ahead.
She told me:
You have to [create your own opportunities] as this whole business is ridiculous – so competitive – and you have to take matters into your own hands.
She added too that she believes any actor can write, if they put their mind to it.
With actors, sometimes the attitude is, you’re just an actor. But if you are a creative person, then you’re creative and you can do a lot of things. I do believe that.
Knappett wrote the sitcom while she was working on The Inbetweeners movie, the writers of which mentored and helped her in her efforts – so she had support of people in the know who were going to read her end result and potentially make it a reality through their own connections.
Yes, she had a head start, but her point is a valid one, isn’t it? More and more I hear of actors putting pen to paper to create their own work because there is nothing else on the table. One such performer is Sally Lindsay, who says actors should be proactive and “cannot wait for the phone to ring”.
Again, Sally is someone who has contacts and who is established, so she knows the right people to go to with her work. But her idea is right, and is surely one any actor can embrace.
You may think you have no ideas, nothing you want to say – but think again. One of my favourite stories of late is how the play Fog, currently running at the Park Theatre, was born. It came about after its star, Toby Wharton, needed an audition speech for RADA, but couldn’t find one he liked. So, with his mother’s then partner, Tash Fairbanks, he created a scene from what would eventually become the full play of Fog. It just goes to show…
I’m not saying it’s easy. And of course, it may well be that writing such projects have to be done alongside temping work in order to pay the bills (Jessica Knappett had to temp while writing her sitcom and awaiting a commission). But nothing in this industry is easy. And where’s the harm in having a go?