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August 15, 2012 / Amy Bradney-George

“Is that a fancy way to say you’re unemployed?”

Last night at salsa I was chatting to one of the guys from the same class as me when he asked what I did. While the judgmental warning signs were there from the start (he asked if I was “a student or something”, which I normally like because I love thinking I look like a uni student), I didn’t notice them.

So I just went the way I normally do with this question and told the truth: “I’m an actress and a writer.” He asked me to repeat what I’d said. So true to my profession I said the line again, with different inflection. His response was a sarcastic smile and “is that a fancy way to say you’re unemployed?”

It’s the kind of reaction I haven’t had to deal with in a long time. I’ve got used to saying that’s what I do and having people accept it without question, or even with enthusiasm. It’s a cool job, right? I love that I’m able to make a living doing what I’m passionate about.

The thing is, this guy’s reaction is kind of what’s expected in the arts. I should have known, I mean, so many of my friends and colleagues have been asked when they will get “real jobs”, it’s often disheartening. In fact, I would have expected that question by default three years ago when, fresh out of uni, I was still working in retail and hospitality part time while I did my writing and acting projects.

Me and a participant in the Acting Out project getting our zombie on for Brisbane’s Valley Fiesta in 2009. I was one of the facilitators for the council-funded project, where we worked with young people at risk of homelessness.

It was only when I lived in Canada and travelled through North America in 2010 that I started to own acting and writing as my work. Since then, no one’s really questioned it…

At first I thought it was because my confidence had started to show when I responded to “what do you do?” – for the last year my theory has been that it is all about how you say it. Now I’m not so sure…maybe it’s just that most of the people I come in contact with are open to the idea that you can make a living being creative?

Is it a Melbourne thing? I don’t think so, because in the last year I’ve met people from Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and all other parts of the world who have responded to my profession the same way they would any other (I imagine). Plus this guy last night was from Melbourne.

Is it an age thing? Do twentysomethings and thirtysomethings find jobs in the creative industries more believable? I don’t think so, I’ve hung out with people from nine to ninety who haven’t shown as much sarcasm.

So what is it that makes some people think so poorly of creative jobs? Is it about the value (or lack-thereof) that they place on the arts? Is it, like I previously thought, about how you spin it and how much confidence you have when you tell people what you do? Do all artists get these cynical questions?



Leave a Comment
  1. Animalnews2012 / Sep 10 2012 3:26 am

    I get that all the time to, just in a diffrent format. When anyone one asks me what do you want to grow up a be, when I say actress, they always sya: “And………… what else?”
    So frustrating!!

    • Amy Bradney-George / Sep 15 2012 9:01 pm

      I used to get that at times too Animalnews. The best advice I can give you is to stay true to yourself. If you know what you want to do, then that is enough!

  2. Amy Bradney-George / Sep 15 2012 9:00 pm

    A friend of mine responded to this post really eloquently but for some reason couldn’t leave it via wordpress. I’m posting it in full below…

    Completely on your side here, Amy.

    Why is it that someone must cast doubt upon your profession? They know nothing about your level of success or even financial situation. So I can only presume that people ocassionally react discouragingly because they realise, firstly, how difficult it must be to work in the arts and secondly, the suspicion with which “others” (who do not work in this industry) treat their profession. In which case the whole situation becomes rather ironic, doesn’t it?

    The biggest factor that I resent the most of this kind of hesitant, sarcastic reaction is the idea that said person is somehow judging – and not positively – my ability to work in various artistic roles.

    Just thought I’d put my two cents in since, as I’ve told you before, I’ve doubted telling others what I “would like to do in the future” because I expect to be met with said reaction and quite frankly, I’d rather not deal with that kind of doubt from others when I’m getting over my own first!

    Which is why I’m so pleased to know such arts-orientated people as yourself to support and be supported by!

    Freya D x

  3. Jeszlene / Sep 25 2012 9:37 pm

    My favourite response so far to “I’m an actress” is “so what are you going to do when you grow up?” Of course everyone changed their tune when I ended up on the front page of newspapers, and had weekly television appearances, which really displays their shallowness & hypocrisy.

    Nowadays, I prevent people from snubbing my job as a communications practitioner (public relations / blogger/ social media / trainer) by telling certain personality types that “I have coffees with people and tweet about them,” “I cyberstalk people,” or other quirky improvs. It’s heaps more fun, you should totally try that one day! =)

    • Amy Bradney-George / Sep 25 2012 10:26 pm

      It sounds like you’ve achieved a lot so far Jesz! I’m really looking forward to chatting more soon, and maybe I can try out your quirky job descriptions at the Young Workers conference tomorrow or Friday! 😉

      • Jeszlene / Sep 25 2012 10:41 pm

        It’s been a long journey, and I have excessive energy to get rid of! hahahaa…

        Looking forward to tomorrow too, we might try that together for extra fun! 🙂

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