The "working" actor...
What does it mean to be a working actor? The term "working" itself is where the misconceptions begin and it's time to open up about the work that happens before you sign a contract or after the director yells, "cut" on the final scene.
There is a conversation regularly had amongst actors, artists and peers...the "I want to be working" conversation. This idea that you're not working if there isn't a contract put in front of you, something for you to sign or a big announcement is kinda backwards. I mean, how are you supposed to get those offers without putting in the work behind the scenes?
Discrediting your work because it is not paid or feeling inadequate because you don't have representation does nothing for you other than mess with your mental health. Which, in case you didn't know, is extremely important to keep in balance if you want to be an actor or artist. It is part of your work. Keep yourself off the ledge and remember there was a time you may have been doing unpaid community theater, student films or projects with fellow colleagues. Though this is unpaid work, it is the work that will help you achieve the ultimate goal.
The minute you sign on to the internet to scout auditions, agencies, etc. you are working. This is part of your job as an actor to know what and who are casting. When you step into class, you are working. Honing in on your talent is part of your job. When you read new plays, watch your favortie tv series, or go see a live show. You are working. Keeping on top of new material, watching others artists and supporting the industry is part of your job.
There's no line drawn in the sand saying that once you cross it, you are considered a working actor. The minute you decide to take this career path, you become a working actor. Auditioning is work, networking is work and, I cannot stress this enough, practicing mental and physical health is work. Keeping your vessel healthy, ready to perform and in top shape is work.
We have this backwards idea that we have to be on contract in order to be considered working but the work of an actor (or any artist) is not defined by being booked or signed. And yes, it is sometimes grueling, self-deprecating work that sometimes makes you question everything about yourself, your choices and your abilities but it's the work you put in when you're NOT on a contract that makes all of those things easier to get through.
You are worthy, even when not on a contract. You are talented, even when not signed by an agency. You are important, even when you feel like no one is watching or listening to what your have to offer.