Ch01.Blog20 How do artists survive in the industry?

Ch01.Blog20 How do artists survive in the industry?

by Hilary Stevens

The more time I spend around my fellow people, the more it flabbergasts me how everyone can remain so passionate and committed to something that only gives back half the time – if that. It’s heartbreaking.

With Netflix, Stan and similar online streaming services it seems free-to-air television is becoming outdated. Friends and peers alike download or watch shows primarily online, and its 99% from the US.

That’s the larger scale of things, with programmers and commissioners only putting, in my opinion, shit shows on prime time telly (I’m a celebrity aka I’m an idiot) instead of funny little dramas or comedies. How are actors, filmmakers, directors and writers meant to survive in our small Australian industry when the decision makers only fund the brain-deadening television we see most nights while we struggle to fund fantastic short films and shows like gay teen drama: Subject to Change.

Now, I won’t go down the lack-of-diversity road too far, that’s for another day. I just want to somehow spread the message to the Aussie public that good television is out there and to encourage us to demand well-written local shows whilst steering clear of the reality TV and franchise competition.

It’s a giant food chain pyramid, with programmers pocketing the funds from advertising, meaning there is only a bit left for everyone else. Which is filtered down through management and agencies until the performers are left with jack. This is what is happening to myself and my peers.

We all know this industry is hard work, we need thick skin and a daring to be different. But how do you survive when all your time is spent on working for free?

How do we make money to sustain our art? How do we create art without funding?

I don’t know a thing about sustainability to be honest. All I know is I’ve tried acting while working full time and I missed out on too many opportunities due to work commitments.

Pro – I had money.

Con – I was unhappy as I wasn’t acting.

I tried casual work in a different industry and went for auditions when I could.

Con – I couldn’t afford my rent.

Pro – I was trying again.

Then I landed some great little gigs and the one I spent almost a whole season rehearsing, FOR FREE, was cancelled. This is the norm. My fellow acting buddies tell me they are hitting similar roadblocks. Some have taken on different work, some have moved back home, some have gone travelling and some have done what I have and gone back to study.

That’s right, I’m a student again. Why? It is another path that I love and hope to one day compliment my passion for acting. It’s also my backup, a safety blanket or an emergency parachute with the aim that I can still do acting when it comes up and create my own projects when I want.

This may not work for others, or some have tried it already and ended up back where their heart lies, and for that I applaud you. Hopefully if we all keep pushing to make better work for everyone and ourselves, the rest will catch on and the advertising will fund good stuff instead of rubbish so the industry can sustain a future.

Money or passion? Parachute or free fall?

Have a look at Judi Dench talking about the wealth divide in young actors.

I’d love to hear your opinion on how you create sustainability in your artistic career!

Ch01.Podcast22 Chad O'Brien & Emily Wills

Ch01.Podcast22 Chad O'Brien & Emily Wills

Ch01.Blog19 Buy local

Ch01.Blog19 Buy local