Sunday, September 25, 2016

thoughts about being a background performer

I decided to become an actress after a lot of inner child work, after deciding that I *was* an actress, had always been an actress, and needed to work at doing what God made me to be, rather than trying to be what my father wanted me to be.  Here's a related blog

Some people think this is because I must always have had an acting dream -- no, though I always did make up stories and act them out alone in my home -- a hobby I was very embarrassed about.  Some people think that this career change is because I'm in love with acting -- no, not exactly.  It's who I am.  This is me.  I'm doing it because it is me.

But getting to the point where one actually can make a living as a performer is not easy.  Most acting jobs pay poorly.  If you're non-union, they're about $100/day -- and they don't pay you for the time you spend learning your lines.  You have to do that on your own time.

Getting roles with lines is not so easy, either.  It's easier to get background gigs.  They also pay you about $100/day for non-union background, but you don't get lines, typically don't get IMDB credit, may not even get your face on the screen.  You might be a sleeve, or a blur of color at the edge of the screen.  One time the deal was that non-union got IMDB credit, but didn't get paid, while union people got paid. You're not allowed to tell anyone that you've been on that movie or TV show, at least not until after it's out.  You can't mention the gig on social media.  On a lot of sets there aren't enough bathrooms or enough lunch (which is normally provided).  

You have to bring your own clothes also.  They want you to bring lots of choices.  They don't want to have to pay for wardrobe for you.  Often you have to sit in a folding chair in a very crowded room, without enough space around you for all the luggage they had you bring, with the changes of clothes.  I was on one set where there weren't even enough chairs, but they wouldn't let us sit on the floor either.

I've also been subjected to frightening air quality issues: spray on makeup -- which means you're inhaling pigment; plastic snow, which fractured and became airborne after 3 hours of dumping the stuff, so that I was covered with fine plastic dust, which I'm sure was in my lungs as well; closed windows and no ventilation so that we were all falling asleep from excess carbon dioxide.  And you can't complain.  There are too many people who want those jobs. 

One time I saw an ad that kept repeating for a background performer to bring a Mini Cooper.  Like why don't they rent the mini cooper?  It's cheaper to get a background performer, desperate for work, to bring one in.  It sounded like they weren't finding one that way, tho.

When you're a background performer, sometimes you're on set with someone famous.  You're not supposed to talk to them.  You're especially not supposed to ask for an autograph or a selfie.  

It's pretty jealousy inducing.  You might be in a crowd of hundreds of background performers, many of whom have degrees in theater, and there's only one star, who might be making as much money as all the background performers put together, and certainly is getting more attention.

But, then, I thought about what I'm trying to get out of this.  I'm trying to be the true me, not the me that my father might have envisioned. 

Part of the true me has been a longstanding resistance to things like makeup, jewelry, hair dye.  I don't like this idea that women's natural appearance is defective, that the solution for this problem is purchasing items from a merchant to cover the woman's natural appearance. 

I realized that when I'm on camera, even as a background performer, my undyed hair might be visible; my face with no makeup (or as little as the makeup artists feel comfortable putting on) might be visible; my hands with no rings, etc.  

Even though my brief appearance doesn't seem significant, it might influence someone.  Someone might say to herself "Look.  That woman isn't wearing makeup and doesn't have her hair dyed -- and she's in a movie. Maybe I don't have to do those things either. Maybe it's OK to just be the way God made me.  Maybe I don't have to pay some company money I don't really have to sell me so called 'beauty products'." And, if I'm background in a lot of different shows, I might influence more people.

That made me feel better.  Maybe -- even if I'm feeling insignificant, underpaid, and under-appreciated -- I'm still accomplishing something.

[mystery.  Why is the end of this blog in white type, while the rest is black? I didn't change anything]

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