THE SURVIVAL JOB
Every actor has or had a “survival job.” And these jobs vary from nanny to receptionist, sales girl to tutor and to the ultimate cliche – waiter. Now don’t get me wrong there is no shame to a survival job, ya gotta pay rent, ya gotta eat and a night out on the town once in a while shouldn’t be just a “treat.”
The picture at the top of this post is the view from my office at my survival job in mid-town on the 7th floor of Tower 45 in Times Square. I’m a CPA. No, really. And I came by this survival job after a series of missteps trying to figure out how to have a survival job that allowed me to pursue my passion and at the same time not have to have 4 roommates.
When I finished at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts I realized that this business we call “show” is a BUSINESS, which operates Monday thru Friday 9 to 5. So, the trick was I needed a job that would allow me to be available for auditions and castings. My first survival job introduced me to the hospitality industry. Having attended an open call at the Royalton Hotel to become a bellman on the overnight shift (11pm-7AM). Thinking if I work the overnights I’d be free during the days. Well I never did become a bellman as they needed a Night Manager to run the hotel during the overnight. FAB! I was sold, although even though I had never managed a hotel in my life it was the schedule I was after.
As the Night Manager I had to deal with all the VIP’s and celebrities, and trust me when it went wrong it typically went wrong at 3:00AM and with either Jim Carey or Liza Minnelli (not pretty). And the getting to auditions and rehearsals was starting to get tough as I was showing up having stayed up all night. I started to feel like a vampire. Then a dear friend asked “Weren’t you a CPA in a previous life?” Come to think of it……..I was.
SO, here’s really the point to this blog. Having a marketable skill outside of your “craft” can be an extremely valuable commodity. I sought out a firm that was looking to enhance their staff and found one that had a huge SEC project that needed staffing. I signed up and made a commitment that I would give this firm a solid 6 months or relatively uninterrupted time to establish myself as a needed entity, something I refer to as my “Human Capital.” Then when the project was complete they asked me to join their staff full time.
This is where I got to call the shots. I did join up, but on my terms. I explained that my first priority was my acting. That I would never miss an audition, go-see, booking or rehearsal while still contributing to the firm. I set my own schedule so as never to miss an acting opportunity and they agreed. I guess you really only get what you ask for. And I’ve been running this way for about 10 years now, This week for example I was able to get to auditions for The Blacklist, HBO Wizard of Lies (Bernie Madoff story), a Spokesperson audition for a time-share travel company and the A&E series “I Love You…But I Lied” And all the “in-between-time” I was back at my desk (with this view) working on client’s audits and estates.
I guess the moral of the story is, invest in YOUR Human Capital. Find another skill that you are good at, or take the time to develop a new skill that will allow you to command a better than average wage in order to live a better than average lifestyle while you pursue your dream.