An Actor’s Perspective: Day Jobs, Night Jobs, Survival Jobs.
I ran into an old colleague of mine at a Starbucks, of all places. I asked him how he was doing. He answered that he just booked a recurring role on a network show. I congratulated him and he said that he was especially looking forward to not eating any Top Ramen this month. We laughed and then it occurred to me how true that statement was for me in the past. I used to brag about how my first year as an actor I worked the entire year. But, what I don’t brag about, the second year as an actor, I had to supplement my income by taking on a Day Job in between acting gigs. I felt a bit ashamed and disappointed in myself. I said I would come into town, get lots of jobs, and be a working actor the rest of my life. However, that second year, reality came down like a sledgehammer. Fortunately, I got a job teaching tennis at the La Cienega Tennis Centre.
I later realised that most, if not all my friends had Day Jobs, Night Jobs, & Survival Jobs. I was not alone and I also realised there was nothing shameful about it. I paid the rent and I provided for my family. Some of my friends waited tables, were real estate agents, managed retail stores, ran small businesses of their own, and were substitute teachers. There was no limit to the various jobs my fellow actors had taken in order to survive during the slow times.
The danger with a Survival job was that you needed flexibility in order to go to auditions, callbacks, and when you booked work. That was the key.
That’s why there are so many actors that are servers when they are not working. I was lucky because I could make my own hours and still have a job when I returned. I was also making more an hour than most of my friends. But then as the jobs came less frequently, I realised I was taking on more and more lessons. I liked having money in the bank and being able to take my family on a holiday here and there. I was getting greedy. Then one day, I passed on an audition because I wanted to make money teaching tennis. I had crossed the threshold of being an actor with a survival job, into a tennis pro that also acts. It happened gradually and my mindset was locked in.
I guess that is the dangerous part of having a survival job. You get money on a regular basis. If you do a good job, you get a raise or a promotion. You get comfortable. Your day job says yes, yes, yes. But, your show business career rejects you every chance it gets.
I ran into that friend again, but this time it was a different Starbucks. He looked thin and a bit older. I hesitated to ask how things were going for him, but I couldn’t resist. It’s what we do. We ask each other how we are in order to hear that someone is working. He told me that in the last year I hadn’t seen him, he hadn’t been going out as much and worked sort of dried up. I told him I was sorry.
He stopped me and said, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I get to do what I love and get paid for it. I would rather work for one day and be unemployed for 364 days than do anything else.”
I stood corrected and refreshed with a renewed sense of purpose. My name is Javier Ronceros and I am an actor, and sometimes I teach in between gigs.