Culture, Uncategorized

a resting actor’s response to ‘Is acting today just too tough’?

There’s an article that is doing the rounds at the moment. A very insightful, very depressing article. It’s about being an actor and how blooming tough it is. I’ve posted it here and you should probably read it if you’re an actor, or have any interest in understanding showbusiness.

“The cruellest aspect of the acting business is not that it’s unfair, but that it’s merely indifferent. It gives everything to some and nothing to others; talent, ambition and virtue have little to do with it. What’s more, with no qualifications or tests to assess how good (or bad) you are, the only benchmark is success. Anxiety is thus your daily companion: you can’t escape the drudgery of comparing yourself with your peers unless you stay indoors with the curtains closed and the TV unplugged.”

Full article here:

No-one enters this profession with any pretence, don’t get us wrong. In fact, along the path of training, teachers and industry professionals actually seem hell-bent on actively discouraging people from sticking to it, telling us how unfathomably cruel and awful and unjust it can be. Of course, when you’ve made it through all the many rounds of drama school auditions and are in the middle of your training (which your parents probably had to remortgage the house for), you take it all with a pinch of salt, nodding along but also listening to that little nugget at the back of your head which tells you, “Yeah, but not me. I’ll be the one that does okay.”

And then you graduate. You have a showcase. And these days, schools don’t even have just one showcase. Depending on how many different courses they run, they may have numerous classes of lovely creative, well-trained and talented bodies bursting out into the industry. And you may or may not get an agent from your 1.30 mins showcase scene/song. And the truth of it is, there’s just not enough jobs for these lovely creative, well-trained and talented bodies. Especially nowadays with all the cuts to the arts (which is a whole other issue). There’s just not space to take a risk on all these new creatives. And most of the time, I feel guilty for even daring to have a whinge or moan about the realities and hardships of being a performer. I mean, I’m just an actor right? I’m not a doctor, or a neuroscientist. What difference do I really make? I chose this, I made this bed really well, and now I’m going to lie in it for all I’m worth.

There’s a lovely phrase in the industry called ‘The Graduate Glow’. It describes the way brand new graduates are viewed by casting folk. Fresh and shiny. Once you’ve been out of drama school for a while, your ‘Graduate Glow’ inevitably dulls somewhat, and unless you went straight into a West-End Show or some high profile TV work whilst your glow was still shining, it becomes increasingly harder and harder to even get into auditions for things, let alone to get the job, no matter how brilliant your agent is or how many letters you write, how many courses at the Actors Centre you do. One casting director once said to me, “If an actor doesn’t have anything decent on their CV within two years of graduating, I’ll never see them.” It does become very difficult to not judge yourself, your integrity and your own ability and talent based on what your friends and peers are doing. It’s an odd juxtaposition of emotions; feeling absurdly happy for them getting fantastic jobs and auditions, and quietly admitting to yourself that you’re a bit jealous of them at the same time. It’s an ugly feeling that last bit.

They say actors have to have thick skins. I’ve been rocking around the block for three years now, and mine is like rhino hide. I’ve been to castings for characters called things like ‘Chubby Twentysomething’ or ‘Big Girl’ (one where I had to pretend to sexually eat an eclair into the camera. I’m a size 14 FYI.), have spent time and money learning difficult vocal lines for auditions only to be told it’s ‘not going to go any further’ and travelled once for 9 hours to get to and from an audition where I was in the room for no longer than two minutes. Rhino skin I may have, but I’ll tell you what, those stories make for blooming good dinner party tales. In no other profession would potential employees be treated this way, and perhaps the worst thing, is that we have learnt to accept it, that that’s just the way it goes in this industry, which makes me a little bit sad. We’re people at the end of the day, not just timestepping robots. I just like it when people are nice to each other.

There’s tonnes like me. Bashing along, doing unpaid gigs (which is again, a whole different issue), collaborating with friends on our own projects, taking advantage of cheap theatre tickets, cheerfully whinging about how tough it all it whilst at the same time silently panicking about never being able to buy a house, get married or do normal grown-up things if we carry on this way. I envy my friends who wanted to do ‘normal’ jobs, teaching, recruitment consultants, lawyers, because the truth is, right now, I still don’t want to do anything else.

But if I did, I think I’d find it quite hard to admit it. They say at drama school, ‘Don’t do this unless you really want it. You have to want it more than everyone’ which I always found a little ridiculous. Of COURSE we all want it, we’ve all got creative fire and passion. We wouldn’t be putting ourselves through 8.45am ballet followed by an hour and half of core strength if we didn’t. But sometimes, real life takes over. Commitments change. Right now, I am more than happy to live hand to mouth, scraping my rent together and living on a diet of beans and Sondheim. But one day, I might want a family. I might just have had enough. I might just want to simply do something else. I want to do lots of things with my life (current goal: open a pie and mash shop called ‘Nobody Puts Gravy in the Corner’) but actors find it hard to admit that they might one day want to have other goals that they are equally as passionate and fiery about because we may get written off as not being as driven or focused as those around us, who are also fighting for auditions and jobs.

The truth is as well, there is no solution. Given the nature of human beings wanting to express themselves, there will always be hundreds of thousands of people who want to perform. The culture surrounding showbiz won’t change, and as difficult as I find it sometimes, I’m not at all ready to turn my back on it (Sorry pie, mash and pun lovers, you’ll just have to wait a bit). Because when it is glorious, it is wonderful glory UNBOUNDED. Seriously. There’s absolutely nothing like it. All those clichés about showbiz, the lights, the greasepaint, the applause, the comradery of castmates, the feeling of just standing on that stage and belting the shit out a brilliant, yielding money note- they’re all true on paper, but they FEEL even better. However, at the moment there does seem to be a few voices speaking up about the realities that actors face. The whole low pay/no pay debate has raised voices from all over the industry. Cush Jumbo in her current (BRILLIANT) show, ‘Josephine and I’ discusses how difficult and degrading this industry can be at times, with a particular nod to women in their late twenties on a the cusp of making other important life decisions. I feel like honesty can only be a good thing in an industry so brilliant and vibrant yet so utterly ruthless.

For now, fellow performers, I shall battle on with my head held high until it just doesn’t feel right anymore. And if that happens, then I promise you can all come to the shop for some free pie and mash. I may even throw in a joke if you’re lucky.



  1. Eleanor O'Rourke

    July 24, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Totally nailed it! I’d go even further to say this sums up the 21st century dilemma. While not everyone wants to be an actor, most people want to be creative in some way – because it’s the only way to really feel alive (duh!). The graduates who compete like crazy for the few jobs in advertising get equally distressed when, after an enormously gruelling interview process, their prize consists of spreadsheets and filing. There has to be a better way…and you’d be the girl to spearhead the revolution!

    1. katiebrennanldn

      July 24, 2013 at 1:40 pm

      VIVE THE CREATIVE REVOLUTION! Yes, always searching for ways to stay creatively active, or ‘creactive’ if you will! thank you for such a wonderful response x

  2. Nigel Nevinson

    July 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I’m 63 & still battling with my head up high doing my one man play at Henley Fringe & Edinburgh Fringe to hopefully make contacts (The Trials and Tribulations of Mr Pickwick at Hill Street).Unfortunately it still feels right.

  3. It's tough to be an actor, or anything else ← Arts ← Scott Matthewman

    July 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    […] Actress Katie Brennan has written a nice piece in direct response to Simkins’, which if I had to sum up in half a sentence, explores some of the positives to be found amongst the negatives: […]

  4. Martin

    July 24, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I’m glad the Guardian article was written and I’m glad drama schools are constantly telling their students how hard this business is to work in. I work with some of the biggest theatre actors in the country, and almost none of them can live on their acting wage. They do workshops, teaching, work in shops, have other freelance work, but only those who have made a TV name for themselves or are constantly working in number one theatres can actually afford to live in London. It’s a very cruel industry and it destroys a lot of people in various ways.

    1. Alix

      July 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Couldn’t agree more. And it is more than a little worrying that even people who are high up can barely survive off what they make. Surely that can’t be right.
      Would you say there’s anything else the creatives themselves could do? There are a lot of us after all and we all feel strongly about this I’m sure..!

  5. Adam p

    July 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Great article and very accurate.

  6. mark heartford

    July 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    says it all really. I find myself having to work on various low paid temp jobs where in the past I could get time off to audition but now more impossible as managers tend not to employer you if you have other dreams in your life apart from working for pennies for them. This state of affairs has been brought to us by the banks screwing up and conning people into to much debt (which is still going on today).
    Now I will only audition for paid work (which I know is difficult to get) or work that suits who I am as a actor.
    this make me depressed and is something else to come to terms with and control.

  7. Holly Wells

    July 24, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Katie, this is really good and completely relevant to other creative careers.

  8. Katherine Shirley

    July 24, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    I grew up in the theatre (parents, grandparents and all their friends made this their profession). I tried to find a way out into another sort of life many times, but kept being sucked back in to the only thing that seemed to engage all of my brain at once. I went away to uni in search of real life and did an MFL degree (much to my parents’ horror), then, having failed to find another calling in life, came back to the fold for drama school. Following which, I battled on through eight long years of low/no pay fringe, bit parts and TIE while holding down as much of a double life in an office job as I could physically sustain to keep me in rent, dance shoes, petrol, headshots and singing lessons. I did some good work, made the best of it, networked, created my own projects, and managed to keep my head above water throughout, but I never made it to the West End and prospects of my doing so before the age of fifty seemed increasingly less probable with each passing season. My agent retired. My singing teacher died. Finding another of either became a penance rather than a pleasure as I went through a series of ghastly trial lessons and interviews which usually ended in tears. A number of actresses I knew put their careers on hold to have children and soon the only people I knew who were still working with any regularity all seemed to be men.

    Things finally came to a head in 2011 when I realised I would never achieve the level of emotional independence I so desperately craved if I did not allow myself some basic dignity – first on the list: privacy. I wanted a home of my own. But more than just the material comforts of not having to deal with poorly maintained rental accommodation and a nosy, lonely, live-in landlady, I wanted the right to my own opinions. I was sick of having to be a constant people pleaser, pandering to the capricious whims of casting directors and bending over backwards to accommodate the costly idiosyncrasies of appallingly managed ‘profit share’ (note to any would-be film makers: a cheese sandwich and a bus ticket in no way constitute adequate recompense for three days’ work – if you haven’t yet budgeted to pay your crew or your performers, you are not ready to make the film – go back to the drawing board and find a sponsor or some funding if you want the film to be worth showing). This doesn’t mean I can’t act, or sing, or dance, sustain a diet or a particular look. It doesn’t mean I lack passion, or talent, or a fundamental need to express myself creatively. However, I reached the unhappy conclusion that I wanted no further part in anything the industry was prepared to offer me if it had to be upon such soul-destroying terms.

    My friends, parents and grandparents tell themselves my defection is a temporary waste of talent, that I will miss the industry, come back to the world they understand. I know I have betrayed them and their faith in my ability by stepping outside of their sphere and this is painful to me and to them. Those who have managed to feed themselves on a dream for the duration of an entire lifetime find me incomprehensible and now avoid me, as though my decision to leave might be contagious. I understand their reticence and largely keep my distance for the sake of mutual dignity.

    One of the saddest things about the whole affair is that I can no longer bring myself to go to the theatre on a regular basis. I find the quality of what I am still invited to come and see makes me almost incoherent with rage at the arbitrary nature of what is considered commercially viable, (and therefore receives copious funding), and what dies a death before it has made back its costs. Of course I understand about the need for bums on seats. I can even see the point of a star vehicle to revive the fame and fortune of a fading reality television celebrity. I am not so naive as to imagine that art for its own sake is a significant consideration in the mind of the average money man. Life has certainly taught me better than that. But my own level of fury at watching the struggle of others who deserve better than they repeatedly receive is in no way healthy.

    The dreamer inside me sincerely hopes the experience of my peer group from drama school, and all those theatrical friends and acquaintances I grew up around and no longer see has been kinder, or at least less destructive. I wish there were something I could do to change the industry significantly for the better, but I fear therein lies the problem. The industry itself is built upon the dreams and wishes of the aspiring actor. My very disillusionment would prove anathema to so many that I would be as ineffective and unwelcome a spokesperson for reform as I was an underexposed actor and singer with the shine of drama school all washed off.

    1. Elle-Jay

      July 25, 2013 at 8:26 am

      I loved reading your reply and can relate so much! I’m still ‘hanging on’…prob never be able to ‘give it up’ – respect to you for making the choice (it certainly couldn’t have been easy!) x

    2. barjeff1

      July 25, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      I totally get where you are coming from and have been in a similar position. I will say though, that nothing is forever and nothing stays the same.You will always be an actor but not always working.
      Good luck for your future.

    3. Alix

      July 27, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Katherine, your reply was very touching.
      And in all honesty, as someone’s who’s only just beginning it’s good to be faced with the reality that could be (and with all likelihood will be).

      I think it’s a shame quite of those around you don’t seem to be able to sympathize with your plight. In all honesty, I can see where you’re coming from. And even though we’re all addicted to the acting “drug” and it will probably always be a part of you – you have a right to your own happiness.

      I think everyone who reads this can learn from you. You were strong enough to say “I know what I want and I’m going to get it, even in the face of adversity”.

      I’m a firm believer in that if something’s not making you happy anymore, leave it. Same as with relationships and whatnot – if acting isn’t making me happy anymore, I will leave it. I promise you that.

      I hope everything goes well for you and that things work out the way you want them to be. Goodness knows, you may return, you may not. But it will be your decision.

      Best wishes,
      Alix x

  9. Sarah Lines

    July 24, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    It’s difficult from the otherside too – I guess I’m now one of those “normal” people who shunned a creative job and headed into a full time position with a regular pay check, and I can’t tell you how many jealous ugly thoughts I’ve had seeing my creative peers following their dreams.

    Part of me thinks I should be chasing my dream now, while I can, writing plays full time, submitting and staging them at every oportunity but I’m far too afraid that I won’t get to do all the other things I know I want from my life (travelling, marriage, kids etc). I admire your courage. You and all my friends who’ve stuck and are sticking with it.

    I wish I were braver. I try to be creative when I can, taking photos, writing shorter plays or poems for the local pub night but it has become a part time passion (for now).

  10. Dercter Hackinabush

    July 25, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Something that seems to be a recurring theme here is things like ‘profit share’ and working for free. I completely understand it is near impossible to survive in this industry. But the fact so many “talented” and “creative” people will work for free makes it just that much harder for those of us trying to survive in the business. In my opinion, if you’re not getting paid, don’t do it. Regardless of how many “contacts” you can make or how good it looks on your showreel. Have some dignity and self-respect for yourself and your art and don’t do it for anything less than it deserves. I would rather starve than sell out for a shit part and a pittance of a wage.

    as my Dad used to say to me (former RSC and National Theatre actor)

    “If you’re good at something, don’t do it for free”

    I also understand that this would not solve the entirety of the problem, but it certainly would help, if only for the dignity of the everyday actor.

    1. Jon Sharples

      July 25, 2013 at 9:32 am

      “If you’re good at something, don’t do it for free” – it sounds good, but it’s not realistic.

      Isn’t the point that performers enjoy performing for its own sake?

      I know several guys who are almost unbelievably good at golf, but not quite good enough to make a living at it. They still play though, because they love it – what sense does it make to tell them not to do it free because they’re good at it?

      1. Sarah Price

        July 25, 2013 at 10:30 am

        I don’t agree with you in the slightest Jon. If you are a trained professional actor, you should not have to work for free. Would you ask a plumber to come and fix your boiler and do it for free or for travel expenses because you haven’t quite got the funds to pay them? What do you think their response would be?

      2. Jon Sharples

        July 25, 2013 at 10:48 am

        Sarah – I agree that nobody should ‘have’ to work for free, but everyone should be free to decide whether or not it’s something they would find useful/enjoyable to do.

        I suspect if I asked a plumber to do that then he/she would tell me to get stuffed because they don’t do it for the fun of it – i.e. the activity is not fundamentally enjoyable in itself, which is the important distinction I was trying to make above.

      3. Dercter Hackinabush

        July 25, 2013 at 11:14 am

        Ok I understand your argument, but say, for instance, the plumber you used in your example absolutely loved fixing peoples toilets… like, he couldn’t live without fixing piping or whatever. If he turned up somewhere and they said they weren’t going to pay him, he wouldn’t turn round and say “You know what, I love fixing toilets, this ones on me” he would say go stuff yourself.

        Of course Actors love what they do, who wouldn’t? It’s incredible. I’m saying that actors and creative people everywhere have to have enough dignity and respect for themselves to be able to say “no, I would rather refuse this job and starve for a little while rather than work for under minimum wage and pay my own expenses” If all actors did this, the fatcats who are usually in charge of employing us (who have no idea what they’re on about) would have no choice but to treat us with respect and a fair wage.

      4. Jon Sharples

        July 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

        “say, for instance, the plumber you used in your example absolutely loved fixing peoples toilets”

        Why would we waste our time ‘saying’ this? It’s not a reasonably plausible hypothetical situation, is it?

        Anyway, the truth is that I also understand your argument and can see some of the appeal in the enormous, strong performers’ union you describe.

        Let’s try a slightly different angle though. Is it not true that sometimes art is most uplifting when it has absolutely nothing to do with money and is done for the sheer love of it? Is that a completely redundant ideal now?

        I am a huge advocate of creative people treating each other with respect, integrity and transparency, rather than the abrasive, race-to-the-bottom of standards that we sometimes see now. Total open-book accounting should be the absolute sine qua non standard when it comes to anything that is done on a profit share basis.

        But the upshot of what you are saying is that fringe theatre and performance should be banned unless it is commercially viable – this has to be the logical conclusion of your argument. I just find this profoundly sad. If art can’t sometimes be about something other than money, then what can?

      5. Sarah Price

        July 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

        “say, for instance, the plumber you used in your example absolutely loved fixing peoples toilets”

        Why would we waste our time ‘saying’ this? It’s not a reasonably plausible hypothetical situation, is it?

        I think this is rather insulting to tradesmen to say that it’s not plausible they would love their job. My partner is a tiler by trade and he absolutely loves his job! But I can categorically say now that if someone asked him to tile their bathroom/kitchen/swimming pool for free…he would tell them to stuff it! He would never consider working for free for the “love of it” and as a trained, professional actress, neither will I. My problem is with the fact that it is deemed as acceptable in this industry to work for nothing or “expenses” but would be ludicrous in most others i.e trade construction.

      6. Martin

        July 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm

        The distinction is golf may be your buddies hobby and not their chosen profession…

      7. Jon Sharples

        July 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm

        Hi Martin – no, I’m talking about guys here who had a serious go at making a career in the sport. Playing in the lower ‘Challenge Tours’ and desperately trying to make ends meet living as cheaply as possible out of a suitcase on the road, trying to perform under a level of personal pressure that I can’t quite imagine.

        What is the distinction you see between sportsmen who try and make it and performers who try and make it? It’s all entertainment, right?

        1. Martin

          July 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

          Hi Jon,

          thanks for clarifying your statement. I don’t see a distinction if both are attempting to make a living from their chosen pursuit. It was unclear from your initial comment that your friends were doing it to pay the bills too.

      8. Jon Sharples

        July 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

        Come on Sarah, let’s not bother with the whole ‘how insulting’ charade. As it happens, I grew up in the trades myself, as my dad has always been in small construction, plumbing, electrical contracting – that sort of thing. I don’t doubt that plenty of tradesmen enjoy their jobs – meeting new people, taking pride in your work, and providing a good service at an honest price is a satisfying way to make a living.

        But forgive me – I think the way you compare acting with construction isn’t merely wrong, it’s completely wrong-headed.

        I suspect you know this really. You say that your partner loves his job, but would never tile anything for free. That’s because there a distinction between the job and the actually activity. There’s nothing fundamentally enjoyable about tiling as an activity – that’s the point.

        I honestly think it’s healthier and makes more sense to think of performing as being more like sport than it is like construction. In both cases, lots of people would dearly love to get one of the scarce paid positions in the field they love. Whether you love it enough to do it anyway when this hasn’t happened yet is up to you.

      9. Sarah Price

        July 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm

        Well Jon, I’m now actually dumbfounded at your arrogant and ignorant post. I used construction and trades as one example where it would be ludicrous to ask skilled people to work for free!
        I also have a friend who is a professional drummer ( Does this fit your narrow minded view of an “artistic” enough job for you?) and works regularly as a session musician. He also loves his job, but will NOT work for free. He gets paid for his talent, skill and worth. Why should it be any different in any other arena?

        “There’s nothing fundamentally enjoyable about tiling as an activity – that’s the point.”

        This comment alone shows how closed minded you actually are.
        I mentioned to my partner your views on his job. I won’t tell you his first response on hearing your ill-informed views but I will say he told me he is creatively fulfilled in his work. He loves coming up with designs for wall spaces and has done amazing things in mosaic. Mosaic art (and it is considered an art form.) goes back 4000 years which began when the Greeks raised the pebble technique to an art form, with precise geometric patterns and detailed scenes of people and animals and so on with the Romans, the Byzantine empire and the Moors.
        My point is, you can never presume or “suspect” how people feel about their work or their lives.

        So “come on” Jon, lets do away with the patronising insults from behind your computer shall we?

      10. Jon Sharples

        July 25, 2013 at 11:03 pm

        Your friend, the session drummer – you have said he gets regular paid work doing that. To me that means he’s got to where lots more people would like to get – paid positions doing the artistic thing that they love doing.

        Maybe we’ll leave the tiling thing – it’s hard not to sound blunt when discussing things in writing with a stranger within the confines of a comment box. I am an amateur art historian (funnily enough I give free gallery tours all the time because I enjoy it – 7pm, tomorrow night, at the National Gallery Friday late. You’re more than welcome to join.) and am familiar with the tradition of mosaic art. I can imagine working on a mosaic recreationally at the weekend, but not tiling a swimming pool. I think I know why that is, but nevermind.

        The point is, you are insistent that the difference between pay conventions in some jobs (like trades) and performing is ‘ludicrous’. All I’m saying is that that mystified outrage is not necessary, because the different dynamics can be explained. If you genuinely think that is a bizarre, weird, surprising and unfair anomaly not grounded in rational explanations, then that is up to you.

      11. theBriceStratford

        July 28, 2013 at 10:58 am

        The big difference here is that (lets face it) nobody actually NEEDS actors (or golfers), not in the same way they NEED plumbers or tilers or doctors or lawyers. It’s borderline delusion to refer to ourselves in such an inflated way. I’m sure that we all love to act, and are all very good at it – that doesn’t mean we are owed a wage, nor does it mean that we should stop art being created that doesn’t make money. Who exactly are we demanding this great general wage from? This wage that will employ all the thousands of new drama school graduates every year and then keep them employed for life?

      12. Jon Sharples

        July 28, 2013 at 11:55 am

        Oddly enough, I don’t actually agree, Brice. I think we do NEED actors. I will stick to my view that the big difference is on the ‘supply side’. Speaking as a lawyer, I do think that some of what we do is a zero-sum game for society. I hardly ever think that about acting and music!

    2. Joseph Thorpe

      July 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

      As an artist, does you create for money or for the sake of the work? I run a theatre company and we pride ourselves on how we pay our performers. We may not be able to pay at equity minimum, but we are open and transparent with performers. In this way we have attracted great performers to work with us for the sake of the work. Taking unpaid /low paid work is not about making contacts, anyone who tells you this is trying to sell you something, it is about choosing the kinds of work you WANT to performer in, not the ones you have been picked for.

      I think that this article is bang on, the industry is hard, but it totally enjoyable. We choose this life, and we keep on making until it is no longer desirable. After all, we won’t hit our prime until our 50’s.

      I have been able to pay myself twice in the last 5 years. I place performers above myself and the company. Actors needs to change their perception on their career, and, maybe, respect their art a little more than to place a price on it.

      1. Dercter Hackinabush

        July 25, 2013 at 11:22 am

        Again, I have to disagree with you. By saying “Respect their art a little more than to place a price on it.” You’re basically insinuating that I only want to work for money. Which Katie Brennan even mentioned in her article (we are made to feel bad for wanting to earn money for art). The fact of the matter is, every actor has to live. It’s all well and good to say let’s just perform and perform because we love it and we’ll worry about when we’re going to eat and live later. This kind of thinking is what allows the fatcats to take advantage of us. We have to stand up for ourselves. When you’re travelling to Scotland from Portsmouth off your own back, paying your own expenses to perform as a soap bubble in some stupid commercial you are not allowed to say to yourself “Well, this is the life I chose” You should be saying to yourself “I am being taken advantage of. This is a joke and i’m not doing it”

        That is respecting the art! The art-form itself cannot have a price put on it, but then to sell it for such a low, pathetic wage is an insult to yourself, and acting.

  11. Five tips to building personal resilience for those in the creative sector | Jo Verrent

    July 25, 2013 at 7:39 am

    […] on the fickle nature of acting, and the ultimate toll it can take on actors (also worth a read is Katie Brennan’s musings on that […]

  12. Titus Rowe

    July 25, 2013 at 9:24 am

    such an HONEST and uperbly written piece – thank you. X

  13. Sam

    July 25, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Wow! Spot on. I only managed to last 3 years. The final nail in the coffin what loosing Arts Council funding for a 14 month UK tour for a company I helped establish. Glad so many keep going, but I suppose the industry does sort the ones in love with the idea of, and those in love with being an actor. Maybe I was the former. Now a successful chef. Maybe my tutors would be proud- they were always asking what our sideline business/income would be!

  14. girlinsearchofalife

    July 25, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Excellent words. Bloody hell it’s tough. xxx

  15. The Creative Life – Stairway to Heaven or Highway to Hell? | Eleanor O'Rourke

    July 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    […] This blog was written in response to Katie Brennan’s brilliantly colourful piece on the trials and tribulations of an actor’s life. […]

  16. Eleanor O'Rourke

    July 25, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Well I started a response, but it wouldn’t fit inside the box so it turned into a blog.
    I think Katie should be on Question Time…anyone know David Dimbleby?

    1. katiebrennanldn

      July 25, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      totally brilliant thought inspiring piece. makes me want to take on the world and change it! Thank you so much!

  17. a resting actor’s response to ‘Is acting today just too tough’? | jeffmakesbelieve

    July 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    […] a resting actor’s response to ‘Is acting today just too tough’?. […]

  18. NICHOLAS HORWOOD (@nicholashorwood)

    July 25, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I’m a screenwriter, but I completely relate. Solidarity sister!

  19. Tasker Streete

    July 25, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Thank you…just, thank you xoxo

  20. Sarah Simpson

    July 27, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Very accurate response, as a musician rather than an actor so much of it is still relatable/transferrable. Thank you!

  21. James McGarry

    July 27, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    A great article and it really does sum up the state of things. I only perform part time with a singing group, but trust me, I’ve seen how hard it can be just on the edge of the industry. But as you say, just because a profession is hard, doesn’t mean you should stop doing it.

    Let me give an example. I’ve worked in ‘stable’ professions such as local government, retail, customer service, and even in sales. In every one of these professions, there is insecurity, layoffs, egos, changing priorities, and an uncertain future: the same kind of flaws I hear naysayers claim that about the entertainment industry. But EVERY industry is tough these days. As we get told again and again, there is no job for life. So the performing arts should be treated like any other competitive (and creative!) industry: with respect.

    Your job is your job, whether it’s selling balloons on a street, shuffling paperwork in an office, or performing on a stage. The same amount of dedication goes in. But the problem with the artistic professions (and even sport) is that it is made to look easy and effortless. Like one theatre director once told me, it is “the art concealing the art.” So of course, people who haven’t done it make assumptions. They have no idea about the work behind the scenes, and the effort that goes into things, as you say, that never get put on. I’ve watched my parents put together around 40 musical productions, so I know just what a massive undertaking a theatre project can be.

    There’s still the issue of steady work though. Your argument was brilliant about people’s passion for performance: people will always want to be creative and artistic, and that’s a good thing. Why should they give up their passion, just because some bankers and billionaires screwed up our economy?

    The challenge is how to create enough artistic jobs to employ the people who want to do them. Here s an idea that I came up with a while ago:

    And also, an important thing is to get people outside the arts industries to respect the profession. Like you said, performing artists may not want to complain like doctors, teachers and other professionals etc. But I say they need to think of themselves AS professionals like any others, and give themselves that respect. Then they will get the recognition from others that this is a serious industry, not just some fun pastime. It’s been done with sport, it can be done with performing arts.

    To anyone who wants to perform for a living, I say GO FOR IT. Life can only be lived once. Better to do what you love.

    1. James McGarry

      November 23, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      Oh, and here’s an updated version of my idea. It’s for all professions, but I hope performing artists will benefit too:


  22. Micci Gorrod

    July 27, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Hi Katie and fellow readers,

    My name is Micci Gorrod and as the founder of THE CONSCIOUS CREATIVE I’m really glad I stumbled over this great article. I’m very passionate about running specialist workshops for performers & creative artists that offer tools and support to help address the pressures of this industry and help people stay connected to their passion and creativity long term.

    As an actress myself I have sadly lost two friends who were extraordinarily talented that took their own lives. Following this other friends came forward saying they have considered doing the same thing. Whilst the combination of contributing factors to this can not be over simplified and I understand that each individuals situation is totally unique and complex, I believe that the challenges that can be experienced as a creative artist can act as a contributing factors to experiencing anxiety or depression. Even if that’s not your experience as your article so beautifully explains it just plain tough out there at times, regardless of how “successful” you are.

    Having also qualified as a Mind Detox Therapist and Meditation teacher I decided it was time to share what has worked for me and I’m delighted to say that we’ve had great feed back from actors that attend our open workshops and from students at drama schools such as LAMDA, LIPA and Tring Park.

    This isn’t supposed to sound like a sales pitch, more that I’m keen to address the importance of these issues so here’s what a couple of attendees have had to say:

    “This has to be part of the course. It a very useful way of showing actors how to deal with the stresses in the industry” LIPA Acting Student

    “Thank you so much and I hope this goes on to help us and many others in the acting world and beyond'” – Nessa. M (LAMDA acting student)

    “‘It’s informative, fun and immediately applicable to my life. It all makes a lot of sense and had a definite positive effect on my outlook.” – Chris.L, LAMDA Acting Student

    “The topics covered really spoke to me. I feel this will benefit me in life and acting.”- K.Tyler, LIPA Acting Student

    So if anyone is interested in finding out more about what we do take a look at or get in touch at

    Thanks and good luck out there!

    Micci Gorrod.

    1. theBriceStratford

      July 28, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Wow. Your response to this blog post is to try to get the penniless, out-of-work actors, desperate to do anything to make cash, earnestly trying to work out how to make a living from their art… your response is to try and make money off them?

      1. Micci Gorrod

        July 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

        Hi Brice,
        Thank you for your comment because perhaps others might feel the same way and it gives me the opportunity to respond. In fact we subsidise many of our workshops, and we’re always looking for funding to make them as affordable as possible. Ideally I’d like to get enough funding so the workshops could be free, but at the moment the open workshops that we offer are run just to cover our costs. We have in fact even run workshops when we knew we were going to make a loss because we feel so passionate about providing tools that might help actors and creatives deal with the stresses faced within this industry. The feedback we’ve received overwhelming states that this is the case, and drama schools such as LAMDA and LIPA have also recognised its value.

        Many actors, including myself, have scrabbled together the money to go to workshops that we feel will develop our skills set, and for me, finding tools that actually meant I had the ability to cope with the industry has provided me with the ability to stick with this career that I love so much for the long term. I value every penny that I spent learning those skills and now I pass that knowledge on at the lowest possible price and it’s my absolute pleasure and passion to do so.

        Warmest wishes,

        Micci Gorrod

  23. Annie

    July 31, 2013 at 10:12 am

    You write beautifully. If all else fails, (though I can’t see why it should as you’re so enthusiastic) maybe that could be your next plan. Good luck (or break a leg!) x

  24. WE ARE ONE | bloody HELL brennan

    February 4, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    […] Thank you for sticking through me throughout bad dates, copious alcohol consumption, edfringe, ranting about being an actor, gigs, restaurants, bars and pubs, my ever-growing love for the big smoke and that time I read […]

  25. James McGarry

    December 23, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Hi All

    Its been a couple of years, but im still inspired by Katie s article, and have set the above group up on Linkedin, to get together all our fellow Alumni of the Guild Musical Theatre Group, and build a new arts netowork.

    So far.members include a cruise ship company owner, a former Production Assistant from the movie Spectre, and a West End Producer – the group definitely has potential!!

    If there are any fellow GMTG Alumni reading this then please do come along and join.

    And thanks Katie for inspiring us all!

  26. James McGarry

    December 23, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Hi All

    Its been a couple of years, but im still inspired by Katie s article, and have set GMTG Performing Arts Group on Linkedin, to get together all our fellow Alumni of the Guild Musical Theatre Group, and build a new arts netowork.

    So far.members include a cruise ship company owner, a former Production Assistant from the movie Spectre, and a West End Producer – the group definitely has potential!!

    If there are any fellow GMTG Alumni reading this then please do come along and join.

    And thanks Katie for inspiring us all!

Leave a Reply to The Creative Life – Stairway to Heaven or Highway to Hell? | Eleanor O'Rourke Cancel