Monday, 16 May 2011

Trump card

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but even if I haven’t, I most definitely will be saying it many times in the future. This is the frustrating fact that everything in life happens at the same time. Hey Life, I have an idea. Instead of handing me twenty things to do at once, why not spread it out a little bit? Give me a few, important, manageable tasks and opportunities now, and then a few more later. You could have given me some back in January when I was pulling my hair out because nothing was happening and I felt like I was going nowhere. What’s that, you say? It’s not how you work? Fine then, I shall be tearing my hair out for different reasons. I shake my fist at you, Life.  

Let me attempt to summarise my last two months, not in chronological order but in ... Jonological order, I suppose.

Firstly, I enjoy my current day job as a bartender. I work in an excellent atmosphere, and it’s nice to have a permanent full-time job and be slowly climbing out of debt. I’ve had to learn a whole slew of cocktails, which is cool, and they are also very flexible when it comes to asking for time off or rearranging shifts for auditions and the like.

Secondly, about two weeks ago I started working on the side for an ex-colleague’s husband, who runs his own business from a home office but needs help with the organisation of files and other basic administration. I agreed to help, since it’s something I have plenty of experience in. Also, it’s very nice because he says, basically, “Come in whenever you can.”

And thirdly, my last play, The Count of Monte Cristo, ran at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre and then went on tour, to very positive feedback. The company asked me back for their next adaptation, The Brothers Karamazov, and offered me a role without needing to audition. I of course said yes, since I have worked with this company multiple times before and I regard the scripts very highly and I always have a wonderful time with them.

So I was on the verge of balancing these three things, keeping myself very busy and believing that I was getting myself back on track financially while still acting when possible. But THEN, oh then, I get a phone call. THAT phone call, the one every actor strives for. Okay, it’s not Steven Spielberg, but it’s from my agent, telling me that an audition (one that I thought went poorly, by the way) has been successful, and they want me for their production. This is a highly professional and experienced company and looks very promising, and could potentially mean international attention. I’ve already signed a lengthy confidentiality agreement with them, so I can’t go into detail, but here’s the crux: it’s happening outside of London, and I would be required to be gone for about a month.

The bar managers, flexible as they usually are, are not willing to allow me to leave for that long a time, especially in the summer. I was told today that my only option, if I chose to be away for a month, would be to resign and then reapply for the same job upon my return. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the admin job, and I would have to pull out of Brothers simply because the dates conflict.

You might think there would be a fair amount of internal debate, but really there wasn’t. There is no way I can pass up this other opportunity. It serves as a trump card to all prior responsibilities. The thing I do feel bad about, however, is disappointing the people who had counted on me, and the only internal debate that happened was how to go about informing the bar managers, the self-employed husband, and the theatre company about my decision.

It was in this way that after the phone call, I initially resisted just blurting out “Yes!” and accepting everything straight away. In retrospect this sounds mad, but at the time I thought to myself, “But I have everything in order! I’m balancing my life efficiently, and it’s going well! I have all these other commitments!” but I guess when you get that opportunity, you have to jump on it.

Moral of the story: sometimes when you get what you’ve been asking for, you won’t always recognise it. Sometimes you get it but it’s not exactly as you had envisioned; the difference might be in the details which you hadn’t exactly been specific about anyway when you asked for it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you anyway.

So I can say that at the moment, life is good. As much as I get frustrated at its inconveniences, I have to focus on the fact that my life is currently going in a positive direction. I just need to stay focused and work on my attention span. Because I still get easily distracted, especially when

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Looking for a job is soul-crushing.

When people ask me what I'm doing nowadays, my current standard response is something along the lines of me attempting to balance my acting career with my day job. This is in a sense true – I mean, I'm not lying to myself – but for a while the problem with that statement is that I didn't really have either one of those things: an acting career or a day job. The waitering thing didn’t work out (ask me later) and for a while I had nothing on the cards acting-wise. This is unbelievably stressful and really panicked me for a long time. Thankfully I have been cast in a promising show and can spend my creative energy that way, and ideally looking for a job can take a back seat while I focus on acting for the next couple of weeks.

Except I can’t. Or at least I won’t be able to until I am actually balancing the two. The process of finding a new job is in and of itself a stressful task, never mind the fact that I would prefer to find something that is flexible with my acting aspirations. I spend enough time sending out applications for casting and then more effort going to auditions and doing other things to promote myself. This is the same as a day job, but instead of castings and auditions, it’s cover letters and interviews. I have twice as much work to do.

I guess in every industry, it’s easier to get work through contacts and networking than sending out your CV/résumé to interesting-looking people and then chasing it up with an email/call. I would just be happier if I could skip all that audition malarkey it would be amazing. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a better way for employers to find who’s out there. I suppose it’s the same with the rest of the world, but it’s seriously getting me down.

It doesn’t help that whenever I get frustrated, it’s my nature to find the closest distraction. (That reminds me … okay back now.) That’s why I’m writing in this blog … which means that I seem to write in here only when I’m frustrated with something. I should really use it more often, since one of my original goals is to try to get back into writing more. Well, I would feel more comfortable with setting aside time to write if I knew I wasn’t obliged to use said time to find a job! Ah, it’s a vicious cycle.

What prompted me to write in here was another instance where I have booked myself solid with rehearsals, and then suddenly I get a call from my temp agency, saying they may have a position available, starting very soon, for about a week, i.e. the exact same time I’ve already committed. Thanks a lot, world! Why does it always happen that way?

Right, I need to stop rambling and get back to work on this, and then get back to memorising my lines. My show opens in eight days, and I am getting very excited. I promise that my next entry will be one or more of the following: exciting, positive, whimsical, funny, insightful, light-hearted, disarming, intelligent, informative. All things that could describe me, basically. (hahaha)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Not out of the woods yet

It always seems that my busy-ness comes in waves. I can have nothing on my plate for weeks at a time when all I do is worry about how I'm going to afford to pay my bills next month, and then suddenly have five things going on at once, and feel stressed about pulling myself in many directions simultaneously. This would be normal for most people, but, with my inability to properly manage my time, I instead go through phases of freak out: when I'm stuck at home, I panic because I'm not working, and when I'm so busy working I panic because I feel I'm not getting enough stuff done at home. ("Work" here applies to both acting jobs and the day job.)

Currently I am very busy. I don't usually undertake student films anymore, but I agreed to one recently because it's only one day of filming, and it sounds like it would look good on a showreel. Some actors forget that when you do a student film, it is being produced by students, and I completely understand how quickly that can become frustrating. But you have to remember that they are learning too, and will have different levels of experience as well as professionalism. It is probably for course work, so you can't always expect Martin Scorsese. It is, however, good material for showreels, which is what I'm trying to put together at the moment. Not to mention I need some material in some accent other than an Irish one. 

The most obvious thing about student films is that they're unpaid. Well, the nice ones will give you expenses. Every job should "pay" you in some way, whether it be via sandwiches, a pint, or monetarily (the cash credit copy rule). Wait, I'm rambling now. What was my point?

Oh right. So basically, I had to get a "real" job. I'm already with a temp agency and temping is easy and convenient, but it's inconsistent and so it's not always enough. I had to swallow my pride and admit that my monthly expenditures do not decrease just because my incomings do. It is very hard not to think like I'm giving up or failing, but I have to remember that I've only been seriously pursuing acting in London for less than a year, and some would say (and have said) I have accomplished a lot in that time. I always feel like I should be doing more, though, and of course I would love it if I'm always busy doing acting work. But I also need to remember that a burgeoning actor still needs to survive. I've decided I'm okay with getting a permanent job, as it allows me to be picky in the acting work I apply for (at least that's the way I'm choosing to look at it). And at the risk of becoming a cliche, I've actually become a waiter again. I start this Friday. It's good news and very welcome, but I'm not in a complete financial safety zone yet. Let's hope I can start climbing out of debt soon. 

Meanwhile, I'm filming that student film today. It's set in a church, and the visuals will hopefully look pretty cool. All the students here share roles: today one is AD, tomorrow he will be DoP on someone else's film. Today she is cameraman (camerawoman?) and tomorrow she is director. 

Yesterday I was busy doing a little bit of every facet of my working life: induction for my new waitering job, temping for half a day, costume fitting for this film, rehearsal for the next film, and all within less than 12 hours. Last week I was bored out of my mind at points, with nothing to do. Even though I hate routines, maybe complete aimlessness isn't the best way either. From now on I'll try to find a happy medium. 

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Things that keep me up at night

It's 5am here now, and I can't manage to fall back asleep and I don't know why. What to do, what to do? I know, I'll post something in my new blog. That's logical, right?

The past couple of days I've actually gotten quite a few random sparks of ingenuity (rare I know) and inspiration concerning interesting things to write about. I've forgotten them all now. Sorry. I'll try to be more focused in the future (though to be honest I wouldn't suggest placing your bets - focus is not one of my strong suits). (Side note: I've written this in bed and on my iPhone, and I have a love/hate relationship with Apple's predictive text software, and upon proofreading this blog I found the previous sentence had said, "focus is not one of my string suits." I wish I had a string suit.)

So, I'm still a novice at this blogging thing, so bear with me, but I think I'll just say what's on my mind. Welcome to the twisted world of Jon Marx's brain. Enter at your own risk, and please leave your shoes at the door. I'll try to keep it lighthearted but please keep in mind I will be brutally honest if I feel the need. I won't hold back or sugar-coat anything. You are forewarned. I will always be tactful and clean however (and grammatically correct), though I'll try not to self-edit as I go, which is a bad habit I think all aspiring writers share.

So let's see ... what to write about ... what's on my mind ... acting acting acting. Ok wait. I've lied to you. I do in fact know why I can't fall back asleep. It's money. Money is tight at the moment, and I'm not one who lets worry creep into my subconscious much, if ever, but I'm sitting here now, at twenty past five in the morning, actually thinking I might not be able to pay my student loans this month. It's an awful feeling. Since I've quit my job and focused on acting (see above note on focusing) here is my history with money. I've depleted my savings, which I kind of regret. I've received some payment for some work I've done, but I decided to join a temp agency to give me occasional office admin jobs to help cover bills. It still wasn't enough, so I took out an overdraft with my bank (which I'm aware is the potential start of a slippery slope, but I'm careful) which has been spent on a plane ticket back to the US so I could see family for Christmas, some Christmas presents, and normal bills. Now it's a new year, this was the first working day of the UK, and I've got nothing in my sights at the moment yet, which is actually kind of scary. 

It is for this reason, and a few others, that I actually hate money. I hate that it's a necessity. I hate how everybody requires it for everything. I hate the devious methods that people and companies employ to obtain it. I hate how it makes people act. I hate that it makes me write this negative-sounding blog available for the world to see and I hate that I'm awake at night worrying about it. 

I don't dream about being rich and famous. I dream about being financially secure and distinguished in my chosen industry for producing high-quality work. Who in life wouldn't want that? I'm well aware that acting is a business just like any other profession, and my dreams, the way I've just written them there, applies to ANY profession. Why should acting be so different or more difficult? Someone please tell me I'm just needlessly complaining, or that I've gotten something wrong or missed something out. Ok rant over. 

I'd like to think that the fact I treat acting as a business puts me a step above of most "actors" out there who may not realise how much hard work it actually is. Still, I did ask for it. Sometimes I do consider just ditching the whole effort and finding another full-time job. Oh, how much relief that would bring! But then, I'd eventually be unhappy with myself because I'd know I couldn't really live with myself if I were growing older and older not doing what I love. So I'd break myself free and the cycle would start again. 

At the moment I'm still trying to find that happy medium between these two extremes. I realise that I'm not living in a fantasy where I get noticed overnight, so I'm happy with subsidising my income with a bit of "real world" employment (for now). But I'm so ready to land something, and I'm impatient and I know I'm just slightly panicked because I don't have anything on the cards at the moment. But I'm sure it will all work out eventually. I just want to speed things along a little. My current long-term goal is to be financially secure and independent doing just acting. I don't want to have to do anything else, and I believe that this is achievable for me. 

Wow, this has taken me an hour and a half to get out. What can I say, I spend my time pondering the perfect word. Now to try to get some rest. I wonder how much longer I can use jet lag as an excuse...

Saturday, 1 January 2011

I'll stop pretending this isn't a New Year's resolution.

I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions. I kind of hate them. I could go on for paragraph after paragraph about how they only set people up for failure, and how a calendar is merely a human construct, but instead I have to stop pretending that I’m not making a New Year’s resolution and admit that I have. (Also, I don’t want to start this blog by being overly negative and turn away potential readers.)

Although I wouldn’t like to admit it, I’ve made a New Year’s resolution. I’m going to start a blog and commit to it at least twice a week. I have a number of goals with it: I will document my efforts at establishing my career as a professional actor in London. I will use it to organise my thoughts in a coherent manner, and hopefully I won’t be so scatterbrained. I also want to get back into writing, since I like doing it, and seem to find too many excuses or distractions and avoid it. I think if I start a blog then at least I’m writing something and will eventually form a daily habit. And also, to avoid being entirely selfish, hopefully I will have some fun with it, so in case anyone else decides to read it, they can laugh, cry, rage along with me.

I’d like to avoid falling into that common amateur blogging trap that I always see when I browse random blogs, which is that entry dated 5 years ago saying, “Omg I know I haven’t written in this thing in like ages, but I promise I will get back to posting regular updates starting, like, tomorrow!” … and nothing since. I’d like to follow that up with a sentence on how I’m going to discipline myself to two entries a week, but I don’t think I’ve really thought that bit through. I’ll get back to you.

I am also very aware of the vast abundance of blogs out there. I sometimes wonder: what’s the point? Why is mine so special? In other words, why should you read it? (besides the fact it makes me feel special)

First and foremost, I am an actor. I feel comfortable calling myself that because I have done it professionally. There was a long time where I felt bad calling myself an actor because I hadn’t been doing anything about it. So I ended my full-time job about 7 months ago and began to focus purely on acting. Since then, I’ve been in a number of theatre shows on London’s fringe, a radio show, some student films, and an upcoming episodic made for the iPhone being called “The World’s first iPhone Series.” (More on that later.) The vast majority of it has been unpaid work, which has made it very difficult. And now that it’s a new year, I feel like I’ve put in my practice. I’ve built up my CV somewhat, and now I’m ready to break out. I feel like I definitely deserve it. And I don’t imagine myself doing anything else with my life.

So just you wait and see. Something big will happen. I’ve just turned 27 and I feel old. Right now I’m at the point in my life where something has to take off and I am very hungry for it. This is the year I will make it happen. And it’s about time.

I suppose that’s a New Year’s resolution if I’ve ever heard made one.