I have always had trouble answering confidently when people ask, "What do you do?"
My hesitation derives from a combination of self-doubt (every artist's personal demon) and the idiotic responses I get from people when I say I'm an actress.
|Proof! Look at me learning lines at the last minute!|
Actually, let's start here: gender. I tend to say I'm an actor. To me, this is a gender-neutral term (although my friend Ariel did suggest the alternative use of 'actron', and I like that), and it leaves out some of my personal qualms with the diva qualities (personal prejudice) associated with the word 'actress'.
A COMMON SCENARIO:I don't remember getting this particular line so much when I was in the States, so maybe it's a British thing, but I find it infuriating.
New Acquaintance: "So, what is it you do?"
Anne: "I'm an actor."
NA: "Don't you mean 'actress'?"
To be fair, some of the people who ask me this question do not speak English as a first language, so it could be a sign of a genuine translation problem, especially for those whose native tongues include gendered articles and pronouns. Nevertheless, if they continue to argue the point after I say, "No, I mean actor. An actor can be a man or a woman," I generally sigh and walk away.
If we get beyond or bypass this first hiccup in the conversation, what usually follows is this:
NA: "That's great. Been in anything I would have seen?"It's probably because I have not been in anything you would have seen that this question perturbs me so (refer to aforementioned self-doubt), but I also find this type of comment naïve and reductive.
It's like when I tell people I do stand-up and they say, "Really? Tell us a joke." It's as though, if you told me you were an accountant, I'd say, "Really? File my taxes." Because being an accountant means that you want to do my accounting. Right now. In this environment that is totally inappropriate for crunching numbers.
I also think that if I had been in something you had SEEN, you probably would have SEEN me in it, thus making the question moot.
As a result, when asked this seemingly uncontroversial question, I usually begin with, "Um..." In that moment of verbal hesitation, I am considering whether I should just lie; whether I should tell this person that I am just a bartender (I am a bartender, so it's not an egregious falsehood), rather than delve into a lengthy explanation of an actor's struggle to be valued and paid as a part of a creative venture.
No more! I am an actor, and a damned good one at that. I landed a paid gig at my first London audition. In the last year I have shot three short films (two of which I wrote or conceptualised), was flown to France to perform at the Cannes Film Festival, worked with two wildly popular and successful interactive theatre companies, and secured two commercial auditions, all without an agent or showreel. Imagine what I'll do when I get the agent and showreel sorted.
I am an actor.