Sometimes it’s a no brainer; sometimes it’s a painful choice; should we do what we love or should we make money? Thankfully, moving to Japan, for the most part has allowed me to do both. Recently, I sent out an email to some friends (who I thought all love acting) about some unpaid extra work opportunities. The responses I got back were pretty shocking. Despite the fact that the email was marked clearly UNPAID extra work, I got snide replies saying that this person or that person would demand to be paid for his/her time. Really the bottom line is that a response like that should be written off, but it irked me on many levels. First of all, it made me take note of the people and mentally blacklist them, and secondly it made me feel horrible for even having shared the information in the first place. The messenger gets shot—all the time!
Making art is an uphill battle. It costs a lot of money, and it costs a lot of time. Sometimes as individuals looking out for ourselves we are unable to see that a lunchbox for 200 + extras adds up to a lot of cold hard cash. We need to be able to clearly identify the value we are getting out of opportunities, especially unpaid ones. With that in mind I wrote some guidelines for myself moving forward in my career and social activites. I’d love to hear what you think of them:
1. Stop working to the point of burnout & don’t participate in toxic work environments. (i.e just don’t engage if you think something is toxic, please don’t spread the toxicity around more!)
2. Cultivate knowledge! Seek professional development opportunities, paid or not!
3. Make sure you are getting back as much as you give whether it is financial compensation or a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction with your work.
4. Do less, better.
In conclusion I spent all day today on the set of that same film, and yes, all my time was UNPAID today, and no, it didn’t bother me one bit because it was a great chance to observe Japanese modern filmmaking up close and personal. I got unprecedented access backstage and even got to chat with the director. I had done some paid work on the film as well, but the time I spent on set today may be more valuable in the long term.