Two Jobs

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to write specifically about the issue, dilemma, complete mind-fuck, of having two jobs. I’ve talked about working for free, which sort of touches on a similar subject, but not really. This is about juggling two worlds, whilst desperately trying to leave one of them behind. Since I was thirteen or so, I’ve pretty much always had a job on and off – paper rounds, cleaning dishes and pub work, restaurants, even a night club (and I hate night clubs!). My place in society is as a worker-bee. I don’t mind, necessarily, in fact, it’s installed me with a good work ethic – hard graft is something you can’t acquire, you either have it or you don’t. Some see artists as a dorm dwelling, weed smoking, hippies, but actually, you have to be considerably hard working to be an artist. It takes a lot of determination and self motivation to get ‘there’.

So for any regular 9-5er, you have one job. This pays your bills, and hopefully gives you some fulfilment, but my guess is that you enjoy your life more outside of what than you do inside it. ‘Living for the weekends’ is a cliche coined in my lifetime. So you work, you come home, and the rest of time is yours. You probably still struggle with money, but you know you’ll get some more at the end of the month as long as you don’t phone in sick (or are you lucky enough to get sick pay?), so you’re financially secure. But for anyone pursuing a creative art, you have two jobs – one which pays you, and you’ll probably hate, and the second is the one you love, but pays you nothing. I’ll set up shop now and say, we are all dreaming of ditching the first one and pursuing, in some way, making money from the second – if you’ve managed this already, I applaud you. But honestly, how many times out of a hundred thousand, will that actually ever happen? And if it does, how long will it last? The hard truth is that we will likely be working a job we don’t enjoy for as long as we choose to pursue our creative art.

I teeter between being proud of this admission that I’ve worked a second job for so long, and being embarrassed by it – depending on my mood. It’s the only ‘proper’ job I’ve ever known, and it pays my bills. I’ve never worked in an office (I couldn’t hack the repetitiveness), and only had a couple of stints elsewhere (I did have an apprenticeship at a power station for two years when I was sixteen – but I wasn’t pursuing filmmaking as a genuine career choice at the time). So I went from that, which was decent pay for a sixteen year old, to something that is only ever going to pay minimum wage, unless you get tips. At eighteen I made the decision that the film industry is where I wanted to be – bummer! So, if I was going to quit my well paid job, it had to be for something I loved doing. I had to go back to college so I could get the A-Levels that would send me to Uni, and I instantly started applying for part time jobs because I had become accustomed to having money by this point, so didn’t want to start sponging off my Mum and Dad, who were also getting divorced at the time.

From that moment onwards, the only time I haven’t worked part-time was in the first year at uni. I probably didn’t need to get a job, but by the end of the second year I had realised that I didn’t want to climb the ladder of a production company, but instead wanted my own equipment so I could work and produce for myself. This meant I studied at uni Monday to Friday, and worked at a restaurant Saturday and Sunday – a schedule I’m still imprisoned by to this day. There are many benefits to this way of living (one being the amount of time that is my own), and I’m not suggesting that I am at all hard done by, because I’ve chosen to live this way. But heed my warning, you need to be really self motivated to make a go of it. So many mornings you’ll wake up knowing that no boss or manager is going to reprimand you for staying in bed, and have to battle that lazy side of you to still get up – it’s not our fault, school has made us so dependent on authority to motivate us to get up.

What tends to play on my mind, quite consistently, is that there are plenty of other filmmakers out there, likely to be younger and more able than me, who don’t have to work part-time to make their way. This means they can dedicate a full week towards their film work, which automatically puts me at a disadvantage. However, I am fully aware that whilst there are probably an endless amount of people out there who are seen to be in a better position than me, there are just as many (if not more) people who feel the same way about where I’m at. I work almost twenty hours a week at a restaurant, often less, which is nothing really, is it? It spans two days, as I tend to do double shifts, and I get fed and watered in that time. This means Monday to Friday is my time. This affords me the opportunity to do the work that I want to do, including writing this essay, whilst also living by myself in a rented flat, in an expensive city. The alternative is that I could be working full-time doing something I don’t want to do, albeit perhaps closer to the industry I do want to work in, and only making my films on the weekend (if ever). With the way things are now, my situation allows me to be working on my own things and with good regularity (this year, I hope to film four short films – last year, I filmed three), whilst not having to pursue jobs and projects to for the money. Now, if someone had said this to me ten years ago, that I have the freedom to make my own work, I would have snapped their hands off for the opportunity.

I do feel somewhat trapped by this part-time job arrangement. Am I ever going to be able to give it up and become a filmmaker full time? I am always so close to the breadline of not being able to pay my bills, that I can’t quit the restaurant and go completely freelance – who’s hiring directors anyway? Over the last six months or so, I’ve thought desperately about how I can leave the restaurant job and commit myself to filmmaking full time. I’ve considered teaching as a possible compromise (but we’ll see how that develops0, but ultimately I would have to put my own work on the back burner for a while in order to pursue ways of making money from filming. But do I want to do that? I’ve still got a healthy number of projects I want to do, including the feature I’m working towards. So perhaps once that’s done, I will reconsider the ‘two jobs’ thing, and spend more of my time figuring out how to change that to one – whether it be through taking other on-set production jobs like being an AD or continue to pursue my own showreel company. I do fear that I’m continuing to make the wrong decision when it comes to this two jobs thing. Maybe I should have joined a production company as a junior filmmaking, and worked my way up. Now, I’m too old. And probably have too much experience to back to interning – and couldn’t afford it.

The main difficulties arise when you’ve had a full and productive week working on a film project, to then spend your weekend working in a busy, and often stressful, restaurant. I hardly get a day off, and if I do (I don’t), it won’t be a day of rest. I just won’t be doing much creative work – monitoring social media accounts, writing a blog entry, and research, are just some of things I’d do on a day off. And it seems I’m always clashing with people at my place currently workplace (I had a job last year which I didn’t, and it was heaven, but it paid little in tips). I think the reason for this is because my attention is often elsewhere, on what I consider to be more ‘important’ tasks that I need to be doing. So when someone comes up to me and asks me to use a tray to clear away plates, and I dismisses it as petty and I respond appropriately. But then this is totally the wrong attitude, and I know it, because I’m using up more energy fighting it, than I would be just accepting it and letting it go. So it’s a constant juggle of these two worlds – and I have to realise that for the person who has asked me to clear the dirty plates away with a tray, it is important to them, even though I’d rather be writing or editing – neither of those things are being the bills at the moment.

Ideally, I need to find a way to make these two jobs become one – but I think that is the nirvana that every creative is trying to reach. There are not many people in the creative industries who are successfully sustaining themselves on the one job – even Stephen King taught whilst he was publishing his first few novels. So perhaps it’s something I have to admit to myself and look into. I need to find a job where I can be content with the job I’m doing, whilst also making films.

All I can say now, in the words of the Spice Girls, when ‘two become one’.

That’s the dream.