Sometimes I feel like the title of this 'blog should be "Don't Get Me Wrong": Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm hoping to win the lottery someday. (Without ever playing? Yes. Without ever playing.) I will not kick thirty million dollars out of bed. Mostly because I would be smothered to death by it, and what a way to go. I'd love to be rich and famous. There. I've said it. I've put it out there, universe. Now, according to The Secret(TM), I should be getting smothered to death any day now. (And for those of you who followed the link, I beg of you: Stop playing on the conveyor belt of the universe.)
The issue of income is a constant one, but perhaps not quite so piquant with the odor of fear as when a person of modest income (read: me) finds him or herself in a position of A) Needing to spend a large amount of money, and B) Likely to soon incur large expenses owing to a lot of work coming up. Now, for a lot of people (I nearly typed "most people"--a wicked assumption on my part) a lot of work equates to more money. Not so in the case of struggling . . . well, anybodies. You're struggling. That's the unspoken struggle. You're not getting paid (or not getting paid much) for the thing you spend the most of your time on. Actors, at least, can have a certain limitation on this poverty when they pursue their careers in the most conventional sense. That is, we have to struggle to actually get the work, whereas visual artists or musicians or comedians can pretty much plunge themselves recklessly into a continuing downward spiral of self-nullifying, non-paying struggle. Yet an actor can, if said actor is so inclined, fulfill the same prophecy on his or her self. They just have to self-produce. That's the fast lane to destitution, right there.
It's not as bad as all that, I must admit. I am adopting a cynical tone for the purpose of humor, but (and maybe this is just the weather, and a cold coming on) it is rapidly growing darker than I really feel. It's great to do what you love, in almost any context. It's a trade-off, a blessing and a curse, to make your job your love, and vice versa. It's a little chicken-and-egg, but perhaps that's why so many actors one meets seem to have something to prove.
The other day I plopped down $2,400 in money orders to secure my new apartment. I had thought, due to a misinterpretation of the ad, that it needed only to be $1,600, and so part of my time spent off the day-job clock securing this apartment involved running out to my bank and acquiring another money order for $800 (and acquiring one more service fee of $5, thank you HSBC). Thankfully, I had it in checking. Often times, I don't. My account balances are a dance of heart-warming delicacy, between the needy Checking and the generous--albeit nary well-endowed--Savings. (There's also a much-neglected IRA, but he doesn't feel inferior, just unappreciated.) I got it done, and keys in hand, and then it was off to spend money on van rental and cleaning supplies. And soon I'll be off to Italy, where it is not exactly clear--as the whole venture now must be bank-rolled by the artistic director--whether or not we'll receive any per diem or such. Between gigs this summer, I have probably eight full weeks of day-job money to fund an upcoming 12+ weeks of low- or no-pay acting.
But it is ever thus. Especially in the summer, when everyone gets inspired to work. Inspiration can take one a long way, and not just into credit card debt. I schedule my summer work regardless of budget--to a certain extent--assuming I can maintain enough liquid flow through discipline or fund-juggling to make it through, and then make up the differences and debts in the Fall. I do it this way because one never knows from where one's next job is going to come, because the work can fuel itself longer than I might imagine at first assessment and because it is freeing, which is a quality an actor really can't overrate.