All actors work other jobs. Many of those jobs we do to support ourselves while acting and many jobs precede our acting career. I worked in a variety of fields in my 20’s and 30’s before becoming an actor in Houston. Some of those jobs I didn’t enjoy much at the time, but their importance has become clear all these years later.
The passage of time allows me to look at each job as necessary in shaping the person I became. Each job contributed something, whether it was helping me to learn a particular skill or providing a story I could tell for years to come. From my first summer job to my first taste of the movie business, here are 10 jobs that I feel pay off more since I became an actor.
1. Video store clerk (1994)
My first introduction to the movie business came at a video rental store in my college town. I watched Pauly Shore’s Son-in-Law almost daily and took home a lot of low-budget horror films while there.
2. Movie theater manager (1995)
Working at the two-screen movie theater for 7 months gave me hands-on experienced splicing together 20-minute reels on a large platter. On Thursday nights, I spliced together the new releases and would host private viewings for my cousins.
3. Plumber’s assistant (1989+)
Helping my uncle on repair and installation jobs for his heating, plumbing and electrical business gave me a chance to work with tools, learn how to comfortably interact with strangers, and get knocked off a ladder when the drill I was using got stuck in the wood and hit me in the head.
4. Pizza cook (1994)
Making pizza dough every morning at a pizza chain restaurant in my college town was my first introduction to corporate policies and procedures. I also got to hear how much the wait staff complained when away from the customers.
5. Club bellman (1993)
This club in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve looked a lot like The Shining’s Overlook Hotel, and could have been the setting of a summer teen comedy thanks to a young staff of waiters, lifeguards, and bartenders.
6. Waiter (2003)
Waiting tables is THE job for actors, and I worked at two restaurants in Houston. Dealing with customers is an education, but discovering what really goes on in the kitchen was far more eye-opening.
7. Health care center driver (1992-93)
Driving fellow college students 10 miles to the “local” hospital, often in the middle of the night, gave me a chance to provide comfort and enjoy a rush of adrenaline. Once at the hospital, I would go on scavenger hunts to prevent boredom during long waits.
8. College dining hall kitchen staff (1989-90)
Doing dishes and restocking desserts on the serving line at a private school felt to me like being Danny Noonan in Caddyshack. In fact, most of my college experience felt that way. I remember complimenting one lovely student on her fashion choices only to later realize she was wearing horse riding pants, an item I had not seen until that time.
9. Acting & modeling school promotions director (2002-03)
Helping others learn how to get into the business and guiding them through an audition process for training gave me a sense of how many people wanted success to come with very little effort on their part. Thanks to a dynamic company owner and some key staff members there, I came away with a better understanding of the devotion, sacrifice, and hustle necessary to even have a small shot at creating a career in entertainment.
10. Radio salesman (1995-97)
I took a job in sales even though what I really wanted was an on-air job that I wasn’t qualified for yet. But this may be the job that’s had the greatest impact on my career as an actor. While there I discovered the importance of learning how to do everything. Also, I found working with all the creative veterans provided the caliber of role models any young talent should be surrounded by.
Even if you’re working a less-than-desirable job right now while you pursue acting, find value in what you’re doing. Some of this week’s challenging experiences could one day inspire and shape your performance. Then you can go back and thank the people you worked with for their influence.