Actor Survival Job – more than just the money

A friend of mine recently booked a series that is shooting out of the country. The bar she worked at had a going away party that coincided with her last shift. It was one of the most loving, heartfelt, fun going away parties that I had ever attended. And it got me thinking about ‘Actor Survival Jobs’ – the stigma, the deeper need and how we’ve been going about it all wrong.

First off the name – ‘Survival.’ It’s dramatic and severe. It reeks of desperation and impending doom. People survive wars. People survive cancer. People survive danger, trauma, their mother… We all know the challenges of pursuing art, is it necessary to needle ourselves further with the term “survival’? When do we use that term? Mostly while defending ourselves. ‘This is just my survival job, I’m an actor.” (Don’t even get me started on the word JUST.)

Google actor survival jobs and you will find suggestions on how to find flexible temp work and gigs; something beyond the grind of the typical actor job like waiting tables. SIDEBAR – when I lived in NYC, I was a waiter for one shift. I am skilled at many things and being a server is not one of them. I did the temp work / gig thing. It was lonely. New jobs all the time, new people. Constantly in flux. Being a working actor is very similar – auditions, new gigs, new set of people for 1 – 4 days, then back to the hustle. It’s hard to hustle for survival jobs AND acting work. It takes too much of the same energy and I felt scattered. The benefit of being a waiter is that you work in one place with the same people. And if it’s the right fit and atmosphere, that is your home away from home, which most of us are. Away from home.

That is what I saw and felt at this going away party. It felt like authentic hometown friends and family sending off their friend with love and luck. It was remarkable and beautiful.

The place was packed with people for the party. The owner of the company was there, what looked like the entire staff whether they were working or not, regular customers and friends. At the end of her shift, my friend held court telling funny stories of their working together and an emotional impromptu speech of appreciation to the co-worker who covered her shift for the audition that booked her this gamechanging role. The owner was in tears – everyone was in tears. There was an absence of betrayal from the business owner that my friend was leaving, or jealousy from co-workers. Customers came to say goodbye and good luck. There was a genuine appreciation for everyone and the part they played in the relationship – the customers appreciated the service and atmosphere, the co-workers appreciated each other and the work, the owner appreciated the team she assembled and their service to public.

Business owners like this who genuinely support their staff’s artistic priorities get loyalty and excellent employees in return. Talented actors dedicated to their careers are the hardest working people on the planet. Employers that give the space, flexibility and respect to said actors, know that in return for that trust they get an employee that will deliver above and beyond. The trust is invaluable because the stigma is so severe. (Actors are always late, Actors are lazy, Actors are flaky. I’ll get into the weeds if I go into why this reputation follows us so I’ll leave it for another time.)

A quality survival job is so much more than the money to pay for rent. It is a place of stability and support. A place to feel appreciated for a job well done. Validation for positive contribution to our community is a basic need. The relentless ongoing silence after auditions breeds doubt among the most seasoned actors after a while. In the moment appreciation is essential, otherwise it can feel like you are disappearing. And yes, that same consistent in the moment appreciation at the survival job can become so rewarding that it distracts the larger acting goal, but we still need it. Especially when the place we call ‘Home’ and old friends are far away.

It’s tough anyway you slice it. But a job with generous co-workers and friendly customers who help created an environment of mutual exchange under the leadership of a supportive employers can help soften the edges the journey.

We need to find a word to replace ‘Survival.’ We need to give ourselves a break from the war of art. Something softer that acknowledges the honor in working a job that supports your basic needs while on the pursuit of a greater vision. Actors aren’t the only ones in the world who are rising to that challenge. Let’s find an appropriate word to communicate that courage and dignity. Suggestions welcome.

24 April 2015 AUTHORS NOTE: We have found a term! THRIVAL JOB. After feeling icky about having to use the term survival job Helenna Santos of coined the phrase ‘Thrival Job’.  And I think we can all agree that “ICKY” is the feeling we’ve been talking about here folks.


/Thrīv’īvəl jäb/


1) The job that helps one “thrive” while being an artist.

And for those times when we need more that the money and the lonely artist grind, a supportive THRIVAL job employer and community can be the thing that keeps you in the leap of faith mindset vs the leap off the Hollywood Sign, RIP Peg Entwistle.

I want to give a shout out to Beer Belly – that’s the bar that supported my friend and gave her the opportunity to take her career to the next level. It’s inspiring to know businesses like yours are out there. I want to thank you and all your fabulous employees for your contribution to artists and craft beer drinkers of LA.


50 Shades of Word Play

Alternate titles and plotlines

What started out as a friend’s funny Facebook post about 50 Shades of Grey quickly blossomed into the following hilarity. This is the list as of an hour ago. Thank you Cameron Morrison and his creative friends.


I have not read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but I have thought up some wonderful spin offs:

“Fifty Shades of Hay” starring, well, farm animals.

“Fifty Shades of Dre” featuring a love affair with headphones

“Fifty Shades of Santa Fe” never been there, but I see a desert theme.      

“Fifty Shades of Fay Wray” a giant gorilla with handcuffs, duh. 

“Fifty Shades of May,” when you only do kinky stuff on the 5th month of the year. I expect all of these to be made into blockbusters.

  • Fifty Shades of Spay starring Bob Barker
  • Fifty Shades of Morris Day. For the funkier lovers.
  • Fifty Shades of Clay, wherein the pottery scene in Ghost is expanded upon.
  • Fifty Shades of Gray, about a house painter with an indecisive client.
  • Fifty Shades of Ombré about a woman ‘too busy’ to go to the salon.
  • Fifty Shades of Che. It will be revolutionary…
  • Fifty Shades of Pay, where corporate CEOs give up their bonuses to the workers. (This movie would of course be a fantasy.)
  • Seriously? No one’s tossed out Fifty Shades of Gay?
  • Fifty Shades of Bay. Things get freaky at the thoroughbred stables
  • 50 shades of cray!!

CAMERON THEN REPLIED Fifty Shades of Cray is totally my biography title.

  • Fifty Shades of Nay – where “no” doesn’t always mean “no.” Just for the creep factor.
  • Fifty Shades of Bidet- a documentary following the devices & their asshole owners
  • 50 shades of whey. The compelling story of a cheese shop owner.
  • “Fifty Shades of Hey, Girl!” starring every variation of facial hair Ryan Gosling can muster.
  • “Fifty Shades of Parquet.” Home Depot better jump on that one.
  • “Fifty Shades of Ray”- Does everybody love raymond?
  • Fifty Shades of Inlay – An Antiques Roadshow marathon.
  • Fifty Shades of Frisée- a compilation of the many variations of salad preparation that twinks may choose to eat while reading each other to filth during brunch.
  • Fifty Shades of Por Que? – Sophia Vergara and Salma Hayek talking dirty to each other.
  • Fifty Shades of Parlay: a supercut of people in period costumes invoking the right to negotiate.
  • Fifty Shades of Relevé- two ballerinas compete with each other for the lead role in Swan Lake and fall- wait, wait. This one’s been done with a different title.
  • Fifty Shades of Flay- the food-network is getting spicy tonight!
  • Fifty Shades of Delay- try not to get “rear-ended” in this traffic jam

A FRIEND REPLIED: I’m laughing hysterically. So much so that my coworkers came to check on me…

  • Fifty Shades of Gandalf the Grey. “You shall not pass without buying this book!”
  • Fifty Shades of Bizet – Drinking copious amounts of Sangiovese while Maria Callas powers through ‘Carmen’
  • Fifty Shades of Jay: a study of Jay Leno and his cars.
  • Fifty shades of Shea: sex aid of the decade
  • Fifty Shades of Okay: The Stuart Smalley biography.
  • Fifty Shades of Ayyy!- the true meaning behind the catchphrase,”Sit on it”, of Arthur Fonzarelli aka Fonzie.
  • Fifty Shades of Parfait!! It’s a desert recipe book
  • Fifty shades of Bae. Because I really like you, but I’m too tired to say “Baby”
  • Fifty Shades of Jackeé- the philosophy of everyone’s favorite diva from the eponymous 227.
  • Fifty Shades of Creme Brûlée – A comprehensive study on under- and over-torched pudding.
  • 50 shades of Mary Kay – How she really earned that pink Cadillac
  • Fifty Shades of Sautée – The incredible tale of love, lust, and scampi.
  • Fifty Shades of Shenehneh-
  • 50 shades of filet – Things get raw and beefy
  • 50 shades of parlez vous francais – French men separated from their tour group in America
  • 50 shades of Faye Dunaway – A story of a mommie into wire hangers
  • Fifty Shades of Montego Bay: A Beach Boys retrospective
  • Fifty Shades of Lei- tantric hawaiian love making around the islands
  • 50 shades of Guantanamo bay – We all know how it ends
  • Fifty Shades of Toupee – A walk through William Shatner’s hair cottage.
  • 50 shades of Lisa Bonet – The mysterious Cosby kid
  • Fifty Shades of Sashay Away – (Enter ANY RuPaul reference HERE)
  • Fifty Shades of TSA…SAFETY FIRST!
  • Fifty Shades of T&A: got myself a fancy pair!
  • Fifty Shades of “Doctor I’m Not Ok…”
  • Fifty Shades of MMA-follow the lives of fighters as they deal with sexual frustrations in an 8-sided prison
  • Fifty Shades of Pray- apparently, we’re all doing it wrong or not enough.
  • 50 shades of predator vs. prey – Love and hate. Carnivores rapture
  • Fifty Shades of Kanye – “Genius” douchecanoe rips off popular 70’s/80’s era American music and insists on being the most hated “musician” on the planet.
  • Fifty Shades of Satay – Delirious ramblings of a chicken sentenced to die by bamboo.
  • 50 Shades of Jose? – A guide to every guy I have dated!
  • 50 shades of Tay, the coming of age story about Taylor swift, 50 shades of Kanye is the sequel about why he hates her so much.
  • 50 Shades of Decay. The truth behind British dental hygiene.
  • 50 Shades of Today – it’s just a time lapse.
  • 50 Shades of Fray – the unauthorized biography of Weezer’s sweater.
  • 50 Shades of Valet – gritty docudrama on urban parking, legal and…illegal
  • 50 Shades of Castaway – Tom Hanks doing the same thing on 49 more uninhabited islands.

Cyberbullying : Target Actress ‘Use your intelligence’

BULLYING is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others.

My cyber bully told me “Use your Intelligence.” … would that be Academic Intelligence? Emotional Intelligence? Intrapersonal or Interpersonal Intelligence? Who cares, here we go.
A week ago, an acquaintance from my high school days left a nasty post on my wall. And because I think these negative thoughts about myself from time to time, it didn’t occur to me that this was bullying or abusive until I witnessed my friends – Facebook and otherwise – respond, react, defend and, you know, stick up for me like friends do. Four hours after the initial posting, the bully removed the comment and himself from Facebook.

I’ve been sitting on this whole event for a week now and I want to share a couple of observations from my experience.
1) The immediate intolerance to cyber bullying was surprising and amazing.
2) The assumption that the bully was a woman.
3) Performer prejudice.

For the record, I don’t think this person is a bully, I think he had a moment. For brevity in this blog, however, I will continue to refer to him as ‘The Bully’.
I’ll start with the assumption that the bully was a woman. The bully removed his comment thus removing all the original responses which ranged from eloquent expressions of artists private struggles and democratic explanations of marketing to straight up fire with fire ‘FUCK YOU Bill Whipplesnipple (names have been changed) what have you done with your life.’ This circling of the wagons inspired me to make a response video – which you can view here – and the assumption of gender came from there.

This is what I can remember from his original post:
Katie – You and I have been friends for years. I wish you would use your Alaska Fame for something other than self promotion. Posting pictures to illicit comments like ‘You’re cute’ is getting old. Use your intelligence. We’ve only seen you in a vague commercial. We are all in our 40’s. This is getting old. We’ll definitely be over it by our 50’s.

My question is why did so many people assume that this bully was a woman? What is it about the post that would lead folks down that gender assumption? Is it simply that men bully with brute strength and intimidation where women bully with mind games and catty word play? My recent experiences with male anti socials (aka sociopaths) would not fit that theory. So what is it? Let me know what your thoughts…
Moving on – Performer prejudice. “So you’re an actor….um–“ during the awkward silence that follows, I can literally see the wheels turning in their brain ‘Do I recognize her from something? Is she someone? How does she make her money? Is she doing that thing where she says she’s an actress to boost her confidence but she makes her money as a waitress and is still just TRYING to be an actress? Hurry say something.
“What kind of acting do you do? Have I seen you in anything?’ And if they haven’t heard of it, it means you’re a nobody. You are either a celebrity or a failure. You were in an Oscar winning film or you’re just a commercial actress. Media culture feeds on the fascination of celebrities’ financial and personal lives, but the creative contribution that garnered the public’s admiration in the first place is often an after thought. So why would anyone at a cocktail party give a shit about my career?
The entertainment industry has the same black and white attitude towards actors. They LOVE actors, they HATE actors. They dismiss you, they kiss your ass. Leverage your notoriety, you don’t have notoriety. And if we start down the path of actresses vs actor, we’ll really be in the weeds.
The point is performer prejudice isn’t new. For hundreds of years in our country, performers were considered low standing in society and were regularly denied charity from most institutions, including many religious organizations. It was not unusual for them to be refused a decent burial. So while this discrimination isn’t new, let’s refrain from adding fuel to the fire; which includes watching exploitive shows like TMZ or reading trashy celebrity magazines. Those media outlets are catering to YOUR passive participation in collective bullying. For those of you who know me, this one cyber bully comment is nothing compared to the relentless negative, sarcastic commentary that celebrities are faced with as their career ascends. Let’s all do our part to refrain from snarky sarcastic bullshit.
The intolerance to cyber bullying I experienced this week has been remarkable. I am still getting supportive text messages, phone calls, emails, FB messages – I went to a party and saw some colleagues I hadn’t seen in 3 years, THEY had witnessed this event on Facebook and it dominated our conversation in person.
We think we know one another because we see our posts. We don’t. It’s an edited life. I don’t post the serious, dark challenges of my life on Facebook. I have them and I’m not the only one. Let’s keep it supportive and not take our abridged online lives too seriously. We’re all in this together.
This Neil Young song says what wish I could do in terms of thanking everyone individually. Enjoy.