Right at this moment I’m sitting in a gorgeous cafe in Cheltenham soaking up the relaxed ambience, within this quaint little town. This little locale is charming. It’s visually beautiful and it’s also everything that is quintessentially British. My partner is off filming and I have a “day off”.
And what a funny moment that is. To realise you don’t have to work today. You don’t have to prepare for anything, you have no filming, no lines to learn, no deadlines. A day off for an actor is one of those…erm…odd things. We feel such guilt taking a day off to relax. It’s almost like we could and should always be doing something. There shouldn’t be a reason why we aren’t busy prepping, practicing, preparing (my three P’s). We are told that we should be creating, we should be writing. More and more often actors are now also producers, writers and even directors. That said, when is the right time for downtime?
Days off are so important for our sanity, for getting refreshed and focused, and for our mental well being. So why this guilt? Why, as I sit sipping my espresso and contemplating life, am I racked with guilt that I’m not progressing my career forward. Why aren’t I just chilling?
Days off, that aren’t just because it’s the weekend or a public holiday, should be factored into an actor’s semi-regular routine. We must identify when to put the hand break on and take a “leave” day (or duvet/pyjama day as companies often call them). And in thinking more about it, here is a list of justifiable reasons why actors are allowed and should factor in days off:
1. Just because you don’t work Monday to Friday with set hours doesn’t mean you aren’t always “working” just as much as your office-based buddies.
2. Within any given year, due to filming and theatrical performance commitments, it is likely you will loose between 5-10 weekends….And even that may be an underestimate. If you’re in The West End, Broadway or a fringe show, chances are you were rehearsing for the show weeks before it started, and each weekend you’ll loose at least your Saturdays to perform for the weeks that the show is on.
3. Often booking commercial work means traveling at very unsociable hours and this means you may even have a Sunday for travel thrown in.
4. If you’re prepping for an audition that is on a Mon or Tues, you’ll be learning lines over the weekend.
5. Actors rarely switch off. You’re at networking nights, coffees and wine appointments with directors and producers, Casting Director workshops and more, every single week. You don’t get to hit 6pm and “emotionally clock off”.
6. Many actors have to court a part time job, day job or temp work to keep up with the rent payments so this means even on your non-acting days you might still be working.
Because of the nature of this job, you will generally be working (on something actory) 60-70% of your week, even if it does involve a wine or coffee with one of your favourite industry buddies. So it’s a necessary evil to make sure that every few weeks, or at least monthly, you give yourself a duvet day.
Switch off your phone and grab a book you have been wanting to read for the last month. Don’t check your emails until at least 1pm. Go to the movies in the daytime and catch the latest new release you’ve been dying to see. Call your bestie and schedule in a manicure/pedicure date so you can talk boys, OITNB and what you’re gonna wear to Sally’s party on Sat night.
Days off – well, I’m about to go and have one! Later B.A.B.E.’s.