Stephanie Street: For actors, summer brings work fears that can blot out the sun
Who’d have guessed with all the rain, but summer solstice has been and gone. Which means only one thing for an actor – holiday anxiety. When can I take a holiday? Will I ever be able to take a holiday? Will the summer only mean me sweating about if/when I will ever work again? And, most destructive of all for the actor with children, it’s now time to start saving for Christmas.
Recently an actor friend shared with me that he had not taken a holiday in seven years because of work FOMO (fear of missing out) – that terror that a job will cross your path the minute you’ve clicked ‘confirm payment’ on Expedia.
Those of us with kids feel the pressure to be diligent and responsive professionals, ready to answer the call to audition when it comes, and at the same time provide our kids with the kinds of experiences their friends with non-actor parents have: a jolly away day at Peppa Pig World or a seaside jaunt to change the scenery. How on earth is it possible to do both?
I have arranged to do things, see family and go away with my kids this summer – and I have lost out on quite a bit of work because of it. Not to worry, I tell myself, I can just work after the summer holidays. Forgetting that I have been able to conjure up a perfectly timed acting job that fits in exactly with the school timetable precisely never.
Holidays cost every extra penny we feel we ought to be saving for a dry spell without work
And it boils down to the two age-old issues with our employment status as actors: 98% of us don’t get to choose when we work, and don’t get adequately paid given our professional qualifications.
While the creative industries in the UK continue at a pace of growth that outstrips general economic growth, those of us who work in these sectors – almost all of whom are freelances with no income security – are not, in any real terms, living a life of economic abundance. Far from it.
The sharp reality is that holidays cost every extra penny we otherwise ought to be saving – not for a rainy day, but for a dry spell without work. For freelance creatives, there is never really ‘money in the bank’, just money that needs to be put away for my next period of ‘resting’.
The sums just never add up for actors. There’s almost no balance between always being on the hustle for work and needing some time and space to be a human being.
I hope the sun comes out soon, literally and metaphorically. As important advancements are being made in flexible working, we also need to interrogate how freelance creatives are paid – otherwise we cannot, with clear conscience, call this an industry.
Stephanie Street is an actor, writer and co-founder of Act for Change. Read more of her columns at thestage.co.uk/author/stephanie-street/
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