I realised this morning that, give or take a couple of weeks, I graduated from drama school exactly 9 years ago. Bloody hell. Gnarls Barkley was at number one with Crazy. We’d only seen 2 series of The Apprentice. The best mix up on TV had just happened when Guy Coma ended up accidently on BBC News. And, like it knew there were a whole new bunch of actors in need of procrastination, Twitter arrived…
But, after a few hours of dicking about on Twitter, it got me to thinking about the lessons I’ve learnt in those 9 years. There are fair few supposedly wise words that I’ve kicked to the curb; chiefly that a pair of character shoes and a character skirt are a wise investment. I can only assume drama schools suggest buying these so you can own something that gathers more dust than your acting career.
However, a fair few have stuck and, because I’ve got a spare hour and blogging time is scarce these days, I thought I’d share them with you.
Lesson 1: KKK
Now, when we were told at drama school that we should consider the KKK when looking at potential jobs, I was shocked to say the least. I know the industry is rather in favour of white actors but, really? They went on to explain that when you’re faced with a job offer (it took a while longer to learn what one of those was, sadly) you should consider the 3 Ks:
Kash (hey, we weren’t at drama school for our excellent spelling anyway…)
I must say, I dismissed this at first. When you graduate and you stare into the awful void that you thought would be your glittering career, you, sometimes foolishly, take on whatever job you can get your hands on. But it’s wonderful for those jobs you’re just not sure about. So, when in doubt, see if you can get at least 2 of the 3 Ks covered. And it kinda works. Of course, you can never be entirely sure and we’ve all had those jobs that we thought would be fun but ended up being an utter nightmare (hello eating dried apricots on a riverbank at 2am…) but it’s a handy little technique for those of us who are a little less decisive than we’d like to be.
Lesson 2: We all have our own career path
This was a tough one to learn. You spend your 3rd year determinedly planning your career. You’ll do a spot of TiE first because, y’know, that’s totally the done thing. Then you’ll do a bit of fringe theatre, a few short independent films…and oh, that’s what I did do. However, that’s when it all starts to fall apart. I thought I’d then do some TV, maybe a major advert and then, obviously, Hollywood would be ready for me and I’d be sorted.
Now, that totally happened for some people in my year. Others got the massive film job instantly and haven’t stopped working since. Others got a TV job immediately and then never worked again. Others gave up the second they graduated and I now get to log into Facebook and look at the houses they own and the holidays they go on. But the majority of us just toddle along our own little road. Sometimes we’re striding along looking fabulous, sometimes we’re stumbling around drunkenly and other times we’re sleeping at the side of the road while surrounded by biscuit crumbs and cups of tea. At some points our paths will cross and at other times it’ll take us out somewhere horribly remote. But I now find having my own path rather comforting. Yeah, maybe I don’t look after mine as well as I should. I’m sure others get more money for the upkeep and others are more resourceful but I like mine just the way it is, potholes and all. Which takes me on to my next lesson…
Lesson 3: Don’t compare yourself to others
This has been the toughest one of all to learn. It seems straightforward but, believe me, it’s bloody hard to not compare yourself to others when you’re sat on the sofa, you’re wearing your oldest pyjamas, you’re picking crisp crumbs out of your hair and you look up to see one of your drama school mates looking a bazillion dollars on TV.
If we didn’t compare ourselves to others then we wouldn’t be human. I don’t care how sorted you say you are, if you say you don’t sometimes look at someone else’s career and then look at your barren CV on your barely functioning laptop and wonder where the hell you went wrong, then you’re a liar.
The point is that, when you see someone else doing fabulously, you don’t beat yourself up over it. Yeah they’re on TV playing a part that you’d kill for but have they ever got to pretend to be an electric toothbrush in a church hall in Derby? Sure they’ve been listed in that ‘Ones To Watch’ article but have they discovered that Papa John’s Special Garlic sauce makes the filthiest, most glorious topping for macaroni cheese? See? You’re doing just fine. You might want to get your cholesterol checked out but, seriously, YOU’RE FINE.
So there we go. 9 years and 3 lessons later and here I am. Sat indoors on a sunny Saturday afternoon wondering where the next acting job is coming from. But I have biscuits in the kitchen, tea on the go, Netflix on the telly and a pair of pyjamas that will last longer than any of the acting careers of my peers so, y’know, my path ain’t looking too bad right now…