At the risk of sounding like an exceptionally provocative and rebellious human (that description will elicit some chuckles from people who know me), I’m here to talk about yet another somewhat awkward topic amongst us actors: money. Yes, I’d like to seriously address those dolla dolla bills.
I’m someone who, up until recently, unashamedly romanticised the ‘starving artist’ persona. I honestly felt the only path for artistic folk with integrity was one of (relative) poverty (I appreciate most of us reading this aren’t living in war-torn, third-world nations). And I was kind of weirdly proud of that belief. I think my ego probably built somewhat of a superiority complex around it – assuming all those other humans working Muggle jobs had sold their soul for comfort and financial security, and here I was creating Art with a capital A, and largely living off bulk-bought wonky vegetables. Clearly I was doing it right, right?
But I’ve recently started challenging this idea, and questioning why we can’t – as actors – have both. There would be hundreds of thousands of Muggle workers out there who enjoy their jobs and get paid an abundant amount in return for their services. So why can’t that apply to working actors as well?
I should mention here that I completely recognise and acknowledge there is more to life than money, and I still stand by my decision to pursue my passion and craft over a life dictated by capitalism, but I continue to notice that the topic of money seems to make us actors – and likely artists in general – quite needlessly uncomfortable.
So I’ve decided to flip my mindset on this, and I’d love to invite my fellow actor warriors to perhaps do the same. Just beginning this process has already proved to be incredibly empowering, and let’s face it, we are already hyper-sensitive humans, must we really burden ourselves with yet another thing to feel guilty and ashamed about? I think not.
First, we are allowed to want, and work towards, a wealthy existence as actors. That’s okay, it’s not inherently bad to desire money – just like deciding you desire a relationship, or no relationship, is inherently bad. What you do with your wealth and how you intend to go about accumulating it is, of course, of huge importance. But honestly, the majority of artists I know are so deeply ethical and morally-aware that I have next to zero fear they would wield it maliciously. Actually, I kind of feel actors and artists would do a far better job of managing money than so many of the world’s richest. For example, I don’t think planning a ridiculous multi-billion-dollar wall between neighbouring countries would be at the top of anyone’s list. Yeah, I went there.
The second flaw I believe plagues this ‘starving artist’ mentality is the fact that there are actually actors out there in the world, right now, who are making a comfortable living of doing their actor-y thang. It’s not just Muggles who get that privilege. Actors can, and do, do it too. Sure, some are earning mind-boggling amounts, others simply enough to live and travel and raise a family and give to busking musicians on the street. I’m not sure what financial status you personally yearn for deep down inside, but look out into the world – there are actors doing just that! Why the hell can’t that be you too?
People often say, “money is the root of all evil”, and I think a lot of us subconsciously buy into this notion. However, may I point out that this has been misquoted. The original passage from 1 Timothy 6:10 is closer in translation to, “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”, and that’s a very different sentence. Those small, shiny circles and thin rectangles of paper or plastic we exchange aren’t innately bad, they’re simply a tool that we can use for better or for worse. We decide.
So in closing, I’d like to humbly offer three thoughts for one to ponder:
- Ask yourself what your beliefs surrounding money actually are, where they come from, and if they are genuinely serving you. If money wasn’t this ‘horrible thing’ to be so proudly fought against, how much would you like to bring into your life?
- Recognise that money isn’t actually Satan incarnate. It is simply a means that can just as easily be used for good and the betterment of the world, as it can for bad.Start to lean into your desire – however modest or extreme it may ‘seem’ to be.
- Find examples of people in the world who are already achieving your goal, and know that it is just as possible for you.