Monday, February 20, 2012

Are you a resting actor too?

It is a sad fact of our industry that there will be, regardless of your standing in the industry, times when work isn’t as plentiful as we’d like – on either side of the camera. And while it’s true that once we (hopefully) get to a certain point in our careers these times may not be as lean as when we first started out, most actors have a second job, sometimes a second career, to ensure that they can pay the bills and survive those gaps between gigs.
So, what are the ten most popular “other” jobs actors take on while they’re “resting”?
No. 1 – Waiting on Tables
Yes, it’s a cliche, but after a quick poll around my actor buddies, nearly all said they had waited tables at some point in their career.
Most worked in small cafes, I started waiting tables at a Music Hall, others worked for one of the large fast food joints. So, why is this form of second job so popular for actors? One word: flexibility.
Usually you can swap shifts when you have an audition or gig come up at reasonably short notice. If you’re doing a fringe theatre gig or taking evening classes, you can usually take a day shift so you can rehearse/study at night.
You also get to practice your acting skills dealing with the general public – anyone who has done this, knows how your skills as an actor can be very helpful when dealing with a difficult customer, or if you’re just having a bad day and can’t let it show – and no opportunity to do that is a wasted opportunity.
It also doesn’t require you to study or have a degree as you can learn on the job and you can also leave the job behind you when you go home (i.e. you sign off from your shift and walk out the door, not having to take work home with you to prepare for the next day).
Note: This also includes bar work and working in a pub for all the reasons outlined above.
No. 2 – Temping
Temping – otherwise known as Casual PA or Secretarial work – is the second most popular “other” job for actors.
Again, it’s flexible – you only work when you want to work, and it usually pays better than waiting tables. However, you will need some kind of Secretarial skills set to do this job (thanks Dad for insisting I do a Secretarial Course when I left high school – as much as I disliked you at the time for making me do it!).
To undertake Temping, you have to join a Temp agency, which usually involves an interview and a few tests – such as testing your typing speed. To be a successful temp, you have to be good at adapting to a different workplace every few days or weeks (depending on the length of your temp contract), be reliable and be able to pay attention to detail.
I recommend temping as a second job, as it’s challenging and gives you a chance to use your brain in a different way to acting. I temped when I first got to London, and it’s how I ended up working full time for the BBC. I began with them as a Temp and, after working for three different executive producers, was invited to stay for a full time contract. (I also worked for the British Airways Authority (BAA) for a few weeks as a Temp, when they offered me a full time position as well, but I took the BBC’s offer for obvious reasons!).
But, it’s really only a good choice for those who don’t mind working in an office environment and who are quick at adapting to different bosses and situations. Also, there’s no guarantee you’ll get to work just for the entertainment biz – you’ll most likely also work for lawyers, accountants, government departments and other large corporations, so you need to know how to dress and behave in a corporate envionment.
No. 3 – Teaching
At #3, there’s Teaching. This covers not just teaching in schools, but also working as a Drama Tutor (ie. running your own classes). Most actors do some kind of tutoring during their career – as many of you know, I have with the “Acting Up” Masterclasses, and I know many others who are teaching in Primary and High Schools to earn their income between gigs.
The problem with working for High or Primary Schools is that you don’t have flexibility – you’re on a curriculmn and you have to be there for classes. However, I do know of teachers who manage to have an acting career AND a teaching career in “normal” schools, by having a relief teacher who takes over from them when they have acting work. But, this does cause a disruption for students, so finding a relief teacher who shares your teaching philosophy and methods is best, if possible.
The other way of teaching – running your own classes – obviously gives a bit more flexibility, but again, if you’re running weekly classes, you still have an obligation to students to be there every week. Again, you can get a second teacher to run the classes for you when you’re on a gig, but, again, make sure they fit your style and philosophy of teaching to ensure students get some continuity.
One of the reasons why I went from teaching weekly classes to weekend masterclasses is because of my increasing workload as an actor, writer and producer – only teaching weekend workshops meant my week was freed up to concentrate on my career in the ‘biz. I have stopped teaching entirely now – not necessarily forever, but for the moment – due to my not having enough hours in the day to prepare classes and teach and manage the two television projects I have on the go and undertake my acting work.
Please Note: If you’re going to teach kids, you’ll need to get a “Working With Children” certificate – it’s now a legal requirement – whether you’re running your own classes or working for someone else.
No. 4 – Working in Retail
Retail is at #4 – which surprised me, as I assumed this would have got higher in the ranks and appeared before teaching, but no, according to my poll, it comes in at #4.
I had a brief encounter with this “other” kind of work when I first started out, but it just didn’t suit me – didn’t keep my interest, really!! However, it can be great for actors as you can work part time or casually, therefore you should have some days of the week that you know are always free and you should have the option to swap shifts if you have to.
I know actors working in all sorts of retail – clothing, electrical goods, DVD rental, computers, outdoor furniture, office supplies, party supplies, etc, etc. The other bonus to working in retail is that you should get staff discounts, and if you’re working in clothing, then that can be very helpful for your audition wardrobe!
No. 5 – Telemarketing
Again, I expected this to be higher on the list, but I suspect part of the reason why it’s not is due to the amount of large corporations relocating their telemarketing divisions to India – such as Dodo, amongst others (oh, don’t get me started!!).
This job is great again for flexibility, as it’s usually done on a rotating shift basis, which means you should fit in auditions and gigs as they come up without effecting your “other” job. However, there’s been a lot in the press lately about the pressure Telemarketers face in the job, so really, this job is only good for those who enjoy selling things to complete strangers over the phone and hitting their quota of sales every week.
Related to this work is Customer Service. This job carries less pressure (you’re not selling things), but can be a little difficult as you’re likely to get some angry people calling you as well as nice ones. Really, it’s only good for those who know how to handle people and have a fairly thick skin.
No. 6 – Children’s Parties/Clowning
Children’s Parties is on this list because, while it’s related to acting (you usually play a character and get to dress up), it also involves the skill of knowing how to entertain kids – not as easy as it sounds – and possibly doing balloon art and face painting amongst other, non-actor things.
I used to be a clown. Yes, I admit it. She was 13 and called “Bubbles”. She came to life through a sketch I did for a kids concert when I was a teenager myself at the Victorian Arts Centre for the Royal Childrens’ Hospital Appeal. She stayed with me for nearly five years and appeared in the Moomba Parade in Melbourne, several festivals, many concerts and, yes, the occasional children’s party.
It’s fun work, there’s no denying it. But kids are a tough and honest audience and it is a true test of your skills as an actor. There are a few Agencies dealing with children’s party performers – and they run the whole gamut, character-wise: Pirates, faries, clowns, witches, princesses, jesters, you name it. Have a look in your local Yellow Pages or Google “Children’s Performers” or “Children’s Parties”.
Please Note: You’ll need to have a “Working With Children” certificate to do this work as well.
No. 7 – Promotional Work
Different to “Children’s Parties”, as this kind of work is done to promote a business to the general public. It can be anything from being a Grid Girl at the Grand Prix to dressing up as the Easter Bunny in the Bourke Street Mall for an Antique Jewelry store Easter Sale (yes, I did that too – the Easter Bunny, not the Grid Girl!!).
Hey, if Brad Pitt can work as a Chicken for Nandos wearing a silly costume and carrying a sandwich board, then any of us can (and have)!!
Usually hired directly by the business concerned, or sometimes through an Advertising Agency, again, it’s good for actors due to the flexibility of the hours and, if you’re in a full character suit, you’re covered up so nobody knows it’s you anyway! (Unless you’re playing the Easter Bunny in the Bourke Street Mall in a tight fitting bunny outfit with your face showing – which means you’re going to get pinched on the backside more times than you can count and propositioned on a half-hourly basis).
I’ve also done full suit work – only once, as “Pepe the Pelican” for the National Water Sports Center, which involved standing on the front of a speedboat as it moved at a fairly fast rate of knots down the watercourse – so make sure you know what’s expected of you before agreeing to taking on a contract!
No. 8 – Web Design/Graphic Design
This job is really for those who have an artistic bent (other than acting, of course!) and some technical skills. That said, there are a few actors now who are now doing this job as their “other” job, including yours truly. It gives you a chance to explore your creativity in another way, and also helps with your analytical and logical skillset as well.
Do you need to study to do this? Well … no, but that said, it doesn’t hurt to do some classes in it if you intend to make it a business in the near future. I am self-taught, but I’ve had nine years to work on my skills in this area and only began designing for others about six years ago.
I work for myself, as do many others, and so the job is great for flexibility – as you work on your own time. However, once you have a stable of clients, you do need to be organised and meet deadlines. And, as much as it sounds great to be able to work in your pyjamas, you do have an obligation to put your clients first, without impacting on your acting career, so it’s a little bit of a juggling act.
I specialise in entertainment industry clients and have a core group of clients that I design for on a regular basis. They are all fantastic people and all in the biz, so they understand when I have to duck off to a gig (or have my wisdom teeth out, as I did last month). As a result, I am as loyal to them as they are to me and enjoy my work for them – which is always important.
No. 9 – Photography
This is becoming a little more popular, but, again, not for everyone. Most actors who go into photography specialise in actors’ headshots – ensuring that they’re still in the ‘biz. It’s also a great way to network. BUT – you should only set yourself up in this aspect of the industry if you have a talent for photography. I don’t, so I don’t even bother attempting this area of work. But, others do and have run a successful sideline photography business, sometimes for years, that supplements their acting income.
One of the better known actors, who was also a headshot photographer, is Alan Fletcher (currently playing “Dr Karl Kennedy” on Neighbours). Alan ran his photography business for years, becoming THE photographer for actors to hire for their headshots in Melbourne, until he gave the business up a couple of years ago, due to his ever-increasing acting and music workload.
Please Note: You’ll need to purchase the right equipment to do this work, so there will be some expense and outlay to set this up before you can even start.
No. 10 – Writing
And the last on our list is Writing. This covers screenwriting, playwrighting and short story, article and novel writing.
Think it’s unlikely? I know of five actors who are currently earning their living as writers AND working as actors at the same time. Two of them are writing for Australian television, one is a short story author who is being paid for her work in magazines and anthologies all over the world, one is making money writing articles for Internet magazines (or e-zines) and from her blog, and the last is making a tidy income from writing Harlequin and Mills & Boon novels (under a pen name, so no-one knows it’s her).
Obviously, for this you need the ability to write. That really goes without saying. You also need the ability to meet deadlines and be reliable – but that should be in your work ethic as an actor anyway, so that shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
Again, you get to go to work in your pyjamas (apart from when you’re writing for TV and have to go to writer’s meetings – although, the way some writer’s dress, you might suspect that they didn’t get dressed to go out!). You also need to be able to take criticism of your work – again, something you should be used to as an actor.
To write for TV, you’ll need to write a spec (i.e. speculative) script for the series you’re angling to write for and send it into the Writer’s Dept. for their consideration. Information on how to do that is available usually on the show’s website, and if not, Google for “writing for [name of show]” or “writer [name of show]“.
If you want to write for Internet e-zines, just type “internet magazines” or “ezines” into Google and follow the links. Guidelines for submissions are usually displayed on their websites.
And, if you want to try your hand at romance novel writing, just go to the Mills & Boon website – all the info you need is here. And here’s an interview with an Australian Mills & Boon writer to give you an idea of what’s involved from an author’s point of view.
This list is in no way a comprehensive one. But, it should help actors out there who are trying to find a second income. If you have any additional suggestions that I haven’t covered – please feel free to comment below – the more suggestions the merrier!
Article Copyright © S. McLean 2007

Potential minimum-wage increase could force small-business layoffs -

Potential minimum-wage increase could force small-business layoffs -

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yes indeed, a Trifle of Strawberry Shortcake is what we all need....

I made this Trifle Cake for my lovely office mate cuz, she was leaving, but as it turned out she only moved to the opposite side of the floor.. bhaahahahahha

Okay, so it's layers of  Angel Food Cake, Vanilla Pudding, Fresh Strawberries and Whipped Cream. It' s lite a feather, lo cal and extra yummy!

Cafe Centro's Class Action ~ they never learn.

Posted on February 10, 2012

A lawsuit alleging that Café Centro failed to pay its waiters and waitresses properly in regard to tips, overtime, service charges, and spread of hours premium has been permitted to move forward to class action certification.
In an Award dated February 6, 2012, Arbitrator Bonnie Siber Weinstock denied the restaurant’s motion to compel the employees of Café Centro to arbitrate their claims on an individual basis. Arbitrator Weinstock reasoned as follows:

The decision to permit the arbitration to proceed on class or collective claims is fully consistent with the agreement to arbitrate which these Respondents crafted and imposed on their employees. The Arbitrator finds that while the Supreme Court precedent may dictate that a broad arbitration clause does not necessarily indicate consent of the contracting parties to permit class arbitration, neither should a bar to class or collective arbitrations or statutory claims be presumed absent evidence that the parties made a knowing waiver of that right. Where, as here, the employees were subjected to contracts of adhesion, and absent any indication that there were advised that their claims – even if statutory- would be limited to individual claims in an arbitration forum, the Arbitrator finds that the language of the Dispute Resolution Policy and the Dispute Resolution Agreement do not preclude class or collective action claims.
Louis Pechman, founder of, is the lawyer for the waiters in this lawsuit against Café Centro.

And, this is why they call it the: "FRONT LINES."

Jan 11, 2012 6:18pm

Angry CEO 

Allegedly Breaks 

Waiter’s Finger

A server at Club Colette, a restaurant in Palm Beach, Fla., was allegedly assaulted by the chief of a private equity firm for bringing the check to the table prematurely.
In a report filed with the Palm Beach Police Department and obtained by ABC News, waiter Paul Kucik, 57, claims that John Castle became very irritated Saturday night while dining with his wife in the posh community and took Kucik’s hand, twisting and bending his fingers.
Kucik went to a walk-in clinic the next morning where his hand was  X-rayed and his left ring finger was broken, the report stated.
Castle, 76, is the chairman and CEO of Castle Harlan, a private equity firm.
Kucik claims Castle’s wife had actually requested that he bring the check to the table.
According to the police report, “Kucik stated that when he returned to the Castles’ dinner table, Mrs. Castle instructed him to give the bill to her husband, John Castle who was seated across the dinner table from her.
“Kucik stated that he attempted to hand Mr. Castle the bill and Mr. Castle became irate with him and yelled, ‘You schmuck, why did you bring the bill to the table?’”
Then the finger-breaking allegedly ensued.
Kucik has not pressed charges. An attempt to reach Castle for comment wasn’t immediately successful.

Waiter Training with Gordon Ramsay ~not for the faint of heart.

Consistent Great Service Is More Complex Than You Think?

On the Menu: Less than first-class service is a missed opportunity for restaurants
Sunday, September 11, 2011
By China Millman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
John Heller / Post-Gazette

Contemporary restaurants are dominated by kitchens. We know chefs' names and faces and follow them on Twitter. When people talk about restaurants (or critics write about them), they are mostly focused on the food. This wasn't always the case. For decades, the maitre d' was the most powerful figure in fine dining restaurants -- so powerful there was often a separate line on a check for tipping him.

Today, front-of-house staff command no such respect, and people rarely discuss the art of service except to complain about it. We're in awe of cooks' culinary skills but collectively seem to think that anyone could be a server with a few days of training.

A controversial article from restaurant critic Alan Richman in the September issue of GQ accused many New York restaurants of a "disastrous decline in service," which has resulted in "inconsiderate servers who do almost nothing for customers other than slap plates down in front of them and expect a generous tip."

The complaint is not limited to New York restaurants.

Roger Levine, an instructor at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, posits that these days diners have greater expectations about service as well as food, and that restaurants aren't meeting those heightened expectations -- a huge missed opportunity.

Restaurants cannot rely on individual servers to manage customer relations. They should have coherent service philosophies, which empower servers not just to perform the technical tasks that are required for a meal, but also to create an atmosphere of true hospitality. Mr. Levine calls servers "ambassadors," because "If ... the food doesn't reach the [diner's] expectations, the server can still win the customer back."

Most of the time, servers are like stage managers. If they do their job right, we don't notice them, but if they forget to move a piece of furniture off the stage -- or forget to bring you a spoon for your soup -- it can bring the experience to a screeching halt.

Servers' jobs are made up of dozens of tiny yet essential tasks: Setting the table, taking orders correctly, serving food and drink, replacing silverware, keeping water glasses full, bringing the check and collecting payment.

These are just the elements of service that most diners are aware of. Add in entering orders into a computer system, following up in the kitchen to ensure that orders are executed correctly, and being the first line of defense for any problems that arise -- and multiply that by the number of tables in a server's section.

Habitat, in the Fairmont Pittsburgh, Downtown, bucks the trend of more casual dining rooms and offers a more elaborate, European style of service. There, servers go through two days of hotel orientation followed by five fully supervised shifts, before they're set loose on guests, said Nicole Tabori, the director of outlets for the Fairmont Pittsburgh.

Ms. Tabori oversees training for front-of-house staff at Habitat, as well as in-room dining, Andys bar and the refreshment center, but Habitat's executive chef, Andrew Morrison, also plays a role in server education by conducting staff tastings when specials or new menus are introduced.

That knowledge of the product they are serving is essential to today's servers. As diners grow ever more experienced and sophisticated, restaurants try to stay one step ahead, sourcing unusual ingredients, and offering more personal, creative interpretations of dishes. Where once servers mimicked the role of servants, today, skillful servers are more like tour guides.

The overall quality of restaurant food in America has never been better, but for every person who goes online to rave about a restaurant's food, there seem to be two people complaining about service, often at the same restaurant. When diners call or email me to complain about a restaurant experience, they usually focus on a problem with service.

Restaurant service is rarely technically perfect. Whether it's a missing steak knife, a long wait at an empty host stand or a burger with the wrong kind of cheese, mistakes happen at every kind of restaurant all of the time. But it's what happens after a mistake that determines the quality of the service.

In "Setting the Table: The Transformative Power of Hospitality in Business," New York restaurateur Danny Meyer describes the moment that he realized that perfection in restaurant service was an impossible goal, but that mistakes could be viewed as opportunities, rather than disasters. He wrote, "In handling mistakes, our goal is always to alter course to create a positive outcome and an experience that ends up being memorable for the right reasons."

The best restaurant service experiences happen when a server turns a problem into an opportunity to impress. Often it's something as simple as a server letting you know that there are only two peach cobblers left in the kitchen in time for you to reserve one.

There is a lot of genuine bad service out there, just as there is still plenty of mediocre food. But talk of bad service seems to have totally overwhelmed any discussion of the many restaurants offering consistently great service. There may never be a show on television called "Top Server," but the very best servers and the people who manage them are every bit as deserving of our respect and admiration as the talented team in the kitchen.

China Millman: 412-263-1198 or cmillman@....
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First published on September 11, 2011 at 12:00 am
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