Category Archives: Arts Funding

Back In The Game: Why Now Is The Time I’m Returning to Acting and Writing.

You could argue – with some success – that I hadn’t actually left acting in the first place, but it’s true to say that I stopped actively chasing work after the birth of my son in 2017.

Anthony was born very premature and required a lot of time and care in the early months of his life. I needed to be available and I needed to secure a steady, reliable income to be so. As such, I became a permanent member of staff at my local GP surgery (where I’d been temping for many years).

I settled my finances and secured my immediate future but lost my ability to audition.

It needed to be done.

Some work still came my way even without chasing it. I find this a constant, though very welcome, surprise when it happens. A publisher in New York approached me to narrate an audiobook for a NY Times bestselling author (through ACX) in 2018. Working around my surgery hours, I completed the project in early 2019. I’ve also had consistent work from a medical roleplay company that has kept my acting tools sharp throughout, with 2 or 3 one-day gigs a month.

I also gained very strong interest in providing the continuity voiceover for a medical fly-on-the-wall documentary series that was pitched to BBC2. Sadly, the pilot didn’t result in a series comission and Covid meant that the project fell by the wayside.

See what I mean about not actually leaving acting work? It’s probably more accurate to say that it never really left me.

So why am I going back now?

To answer that I have to go back to 2012 when I started a one-person Copywriting and Public Speaking Agency to support my acting and writing ambitions. Having worked as an award-winning copywriter for BT for many years, this seemed like an ideal opportunity to provide income and freedom – and it was immediately successful.

Sadly, in 2015 I suffered a bout of depression. This was compounded by the passing of my mother and grandmother in 2016. My agency work was placed on hold while I got myself back into shape and returned to a lesser degree when I worked at the surgery.

I’d always promised myself that I would move back into performing if the agency started to take up slack from the surgery. In late 2019 this seemed to be happening, with a run of success that closed off the year with a bang.

And 2020,…. we all know what happened.

2021, however, has seen the agency take off once again, with enough work to support myself and my family, and the freedom to choose when I do it. It’s my “side hustle” once more.

You HAVE to have a side hustle as an actor and performer. Unless you’re already independently wealthy, you won’t survive the infrequency of the work you get as an actor until you “make it” – and 99% of us never hit the dizzying heights of “main stars” like David Tennant or Idris Elba, though we must fight to.

My good friend and colleague Catherine Balavage (http://www.frostmagazine.com) once put it best: you have to be an Actorpreneur. Give yourself the income to support yourself and the freedom to chase the work. She wrote a fantastic book on the subject that you can read here.

Which is why, now both of my children are more independent and my side-hustle is secured, now is the time to pound on doors and chase the work once more.

I am intensely proud of my work at the GP surgery and forever grateful for them for providing me the stability I needed when I needed it most. It was with a heavy heart that I handed in my notice in August and left for the final time in September.

So I’m back. Properly back – applying for castings, dialling up old contacts and hitting the streets once more to fight for my place in the great market of creatives. I have already secured a new showing of Alice in Wonderland with my long-term collaborators at Rough Magic Theatre and am waiting to hear on a few other potential opportunities that have drifted my way.

I had my first new headshot photoshoot in many, many years last week with the BRILLIANT Ania Pankiewicz (https://www.aniapank.co.uk/) and will be sharing the results very soon.

And let’s not forget The Secret Keeper, which continues to bubble away as we re-submit funding for the pilot, which will be back in the hands of Arts Council England some time next week.

This is where I’ll be updating you on my progress and sharing my insights as I move forward – it’s very exciting to me and I hope that you’ll find it equally interesting.

Subscribe to the blog, follow me on the ol’ tweets and I’ll see you all again soon.

Stay frosty!

Tim

https://www.spotlight.com/8218-3497-0502

https://www.mandy.com/uk/actor/timothy-austin-1

https://www.thetalentmanager.com/talent/157692/tim-austin

Tim is currently seeking representation and casting opportunities. If you like what you see on his showreel and gallery, he welcomes approaches from casting professionals.

Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

4 Days To Go – Clueless and Wuffles are Heading to Glastonbury (and other BIG news)!

glasto

Rehearsals for Clueless and Wuffles: the Case of the Missing Jewels are now complete, with a dress and tech rehearsal dusted over the weekend.  Now it’s just a waiting game before we head down to Worthy Farm for the festival itself.

Wuffles Poster

In case you didn’t know (or you’ve lost the ability to scroll down to the post underneath this one), I’ll be performing as DCI Clueless – a hapless and unbelievably vain detective who, along with his faithful Sergeant, DS Wuffles, must hunt down the stolen Crown Jewels.  The show will be performed at the Panic Circus Big Top on the Kidz Field from Thursday the 26th until the close of the festival.

If you’re at Glastonbury this year, keep an eye on the hashtag #wuffles for show times, pictures and all kinds of random micro-blogging goodness.  I look forward to seeing you there!

I’ll be writing up my experiences and thoughts on the festival for Frost Magazine upon my return.  Keep a weather eye out for that.

In other news, I’ve recently been cast in “Justice”, a site-specific theatrical event being held at Lancaster Castle over the Summer this year.  Work has already begun on the show, with showings taking place on weekends through July and all week through August.  More on that in my next blog post.

Plans are progressing on a funding application for a big show in March 2015.  The project, which I’ll be keeping under wraps until things are a little more firmed up, has a producer, director and musical director attached, with work due to begin on the script and music in August/September.   We’ve finalised an initial budget and our first funding bid goes in this week, with a further GFA bid emerging in July.  I’ll update you on details for the show once we know that it’s definitely happening (fingers crossed!)

And, to round things off, I’m continuing my work as a medical role-player and enjoying it immensely.  It’s a fantastic team of actors to work with and a marvellous team in charge.  I’ll be jetting back up from Somerset for another performance the day after Glastonbury (I know!)

Until next time, stay frosty!

Parklife

So there I was, stood beneath a tree with a cup of tea in my hand. To my left, a great wizard was muttering to himself with an almost insane look on his face. To my right, the Green Knight had just taken his head off and was standing around like a decapitated topiary figurine. He then began texting on his mobile phone. A woman then came jogging over from a Milk Float and nicked King Arthur’s sword and,… no, wait,… wait,… let me explain!

No, I wasn’t at Tim Burton’s birthday party and I swear that no strips of paper went anywhere near my tongue. I was actually on set with the great cast and crew of The Dukes Theatre’s latest show in the park; Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur.

Having missed out on the opportunity to join the cast earlier in the year, I e-mailed Joe Sumsion, the director of the show, and asked him whether I could look in on rehearsals. He kindly agreed and I joined the team on set in Williamson Park for an afternoon on Tuesday the 5th of July.

I was immediately reminded of why I love being an actor: there was a tremendous, warm-hearted ensemble feel to the rehearsal. Even amid the pouring rain, actors and technicians were chatting, sharing idea’s, helping each other with their lines and pulling together to bring the legend of Camelot to life. I came across a couple of old friends (including Ian Brown, the actor who had sadly been forced to pull out from Theatre Uncut) and made a couple of new acquaintances (including the incredibly talented Cristina Catalina). Everybody seemed so dedicated to making this the very best show they could.

Which made it all the more painful to hear that Merlin will be the very last of The Dukes’ famous plays in Williamson Park. Due to heavy funding cuts, both from the local council and from Arts Council England, the theatre can no longer afford to produce plays on this scale.

To me this represents a serious blow to both the cultural wealth of the region and the local economy. The annual Play in the Park has become a nationally-recognised piece of event theatre which brings in audiences from all across the UK. To many, it was the only piece of theatre that they would go and see in a year and it was one of the few large-scale theatrical family shows left in the North West. There can be some consolation in hearing that funds will be diverted into producing a greater number of smaller-scale in-house shows at the Dukes’ main theatre spaces but the cultural impact of such a move cannot be understated.

Once more we are seeing an element of our cultural heritage sacrificed at the expense of the numbers whizzing hither and thither in some unnamed and soulless Whitehall computer. For that’s what we are talking about; numbers. 1’s and 0’s. Ethereal and ephemeral computer code based on guesswork and traded as a government commodity on stock markets far away.

It seems almost perverse that audiences of hard working and, indeed, unemployed everyday folk in Lancaster, who will never see this “money” or feel its benefit, should be deprived of a piece of quality event-theatre to satisfy the needs of such markets.

Enjoyable days out, moments of escapism and entertainment to cherish; these things are needed more than ever during a recession. That these things are targeted first in the drive to “cut costs” so that “the numbers will balance” is truly a tragedy of our times.

Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur will be showing at Williamson Park in Lancaster between the 8th of July and the 13th of August. For more information and to book tickets, please visit http://www.dukes-lancaster.org

Tim Austin is an Actor and Theatre Dramaturg working nationally and internationally from his base in the UK. You can find his Spotlight CV here; http://www.spotlight.com/8218-3497-0502 and read about his work as a Dramaturg here; http://dramaturgtim.wordpress.com

A Very Public Mugging

A Man for All Seasons

 

Welcome back to Actortim! Take a pew.

Now, you may have noticed the comic at the top of the page and, if you have, you’ll probably have a fair idea of where I’m I’m going with this week’s post. If you’re of a nervous disposition you may want to go off and read something else. Something about bunnies or kittens or clouds. Maybe listen to some whale song while you’re at it.

Still with me? Good.

Engage rant mode.

There is a strange rumor going about. Apparently, we’re skint. Oh yes, apparently, the government hasn’t got two farthings to rub together.

Except for the £4000-a-piece missiles it’s shooting at tanks in Libya. But apart from that they’re skint.

Though no-one told Vodafone who have just persuaded the government (who are skint, let’s not forget!) to let them off from paying a multi-billion pound tax bill.

And the government kindly, out of the generosity, kindness and fairness of spirit that we’ve come to expect from them, allowed Barclays Bank to pay tax on only 2% of the profits they made last year; because the government obviously doesn’t really need the multi-billion pound income that this would provide. No, that would be silly; it’s not like they’re skint or anything. Except they are. Or so they say.

All well and good, you say, but what has this got to do with acting?

Well you see, because they’re “skint” the government can’t afford pesky things like paying for public services. They can’t afford to keep all those Police on the streets or to fund school renovations, sustain current levels of nursing or, indeed, pay us actors to “prance about on stage in tights”.

And before you all go running off to the Daily Mail to bemoan “another fucking woolly, liberal thespian crying because his funding has been cut!” just hold your horses; I am not for a moment suggesting that theatre and arts funding should be lauded or protected above and beyond other, potentially life saving, public services!

Of course arts funding isn’t as important as nursing or childcare provision. Given the choice, of course the money should be spent on front line public services to help the disadvantaged, the disabled and the infirm! But my point is this; none of these cuts are necessary; not cuts to nursing, policing, schooling and certainly not the arts!

The current financial situation wasn’t caused by us (and by us I include every man, woman and child in the UK who is suffering the effects of the banking collapse) and yet, breathtakingly, we are the ones who have been told to pay the price. Not asked; told.

And with that in mind, what I witnessed last week, where truly brilliant and inspiring theatre companies like Chol and Red Ladder were either wholly or substantially cut from the National Portfolio of Regularly Funded Organisations (NPO) by the Arts Council in England, was truly heartbreaking.

These companies, with inspiring outreach services that took theatre into deprived areas and spoke up for silent minorities in society, became the victim of a collective mugging. A mugging for money that the government doesn’t need.

Y’see, there’s a silent truth that stalks the halls of Whitehall. It is so dangerous and inflammatory that no one ever discusses it outside those hallowed halls. And here it is (hold on to something!);

If the government collected all of the tax that it is owed by the multinational corporations and banks based in this country, we could eradicate the public debt instantly. Not next year, not 5 years down the line; today.

Take a second to think about that. Let it sit in your mind.

Greedy, irresponsible and immoral banking practices got us into this mess. They effectively stole trillions of pounds of taxpayers money when the bubble burst. But has the government chosen to recoup this money from them? Has it placed significant taxes on them to claw some of this money back? Has even one UK banker gone anywhere near jail for this?

No.

I’m not here to second guess why the government would prefer to make the society that it’s supposed to serve pay for rich bankers to remain rich. I’m not in a position to guess why the profits of Vodafone come before local bus services in rural areas. And I don’t have the training to question why the Arts Council in England was forced to take away £100,000,000 from theatres, galleries, directors, actors, stage hands, arts administrators, puppeteers, musicians and dancers across the country.

All I know is that peoples livelihoods and careers have been put at risk this week. Theatre companies will have to close, outreach services will be struck down, kids who would otherwise have had access to the arts that we have, until now, taken for granted, will no longer get that chance.

And that stinks.

Tim Austin is an Actor and Theatre Dramaturg working nationally and internationally from his base in the UK. You can find his Spotlight CV here; http://www.spotlight.com/8218-3497-0502