I’ve recently taken on some debt. I was on EI for a while, supplementing with my savings. Lemme tell you, trying to live off 60% of your pre-tip server income is not cute. They want you to pay taxes on your tips but are not willing to insure them. Oyyy, don’t get me started. The only way to make it through this period was to use my savings. And woah mama, was it a hard to convince myself to touch that money. But, ya know, eating, so I did.
I decided to use this period to shift to making all my non-acting money in film production. I know I will be doing more directing, so I want to get a better understanding of how the positions work together. I decided to apply for my IATSE permit status. I took the required courses ($$) and submitted my application in November.
I waited to hear back from IATSE and, after waiting a month and a half, was rejected. “Get more experience,” they said. Fair enough.
So I spent the next couple months volunteering my butt off on short films and industrial videos. “Great!” I thought. “Now I know the proper names of all the equipment AND the dirty names. I’m set!” I finish off my savings and decide to take out a loan from the bank. I feel confident about making the minimum monthly payments and I’m eager to push forward with production work. I’m determined not to go back to the serving/childcare/catering hustle.
With a shiny new resume, I reapply. And was rejected again. Alright, okay, alright, okay…So now, I’m out of savings and have taken on a loan from my bank. I had planned to be moving into production daily work by this time, but clearly that’s not going to happen.
SO. Option…what am I on…F? I’m going to get another serving job and hustle my butt off doing odd jobs. I’m going to keep volunteering on films, then reapply to IATSE, then hopefully change all my non-artist work to being in production until the point where I hope I’ll be able to make all my income as an artist. Are there any other artists out there who feel like their employment plan is mega complicated? If x happens, then I’ll do y, which will temporarily pay my rent until option z kicks in, which will tide me over until x1 occurs. I feel like I need a big board with pictures and coloured yarn connecting everything.
At this point, I’m out of savings and living paycheque to paycheque which I haven’t had to do for years. I have debt from a $6,000 bank loan. Oh, and $2,000 on a credit card, which I haven’t mentioned yet. And I’m still planning on finding a serving job…which is exactly what I was trying to avoid.
This is both a super stressful situation (I haven’t had money-related hives in a while-hello, old friends) and an opportunity for me to do this work and share it along the way. A chance for me to do an artist debt diaries. Which is kind of rad.
I’m trying to remind myself that being in debt does not make me (or you) any less of a badass. I took it on with purpose, so I feel good about that. I used the time that it bought me to make my first animated film, write a ton, and apply (and reapply) for IATSE. I have ideas for how I can make income, and even though I know I don’t want to serve, cater, and do child care indefinitely, maybe knowing that I’m using them as a short-term solution will help me maintain a good headspace. I am driven. I have the skills to dig myself out of this. And even though it feels like I’m free falling right now, I know that if I gather my internal resources (how can I make this much money? Can I realistically cut back there?), I will make it through and begin the slow journey of building back up. I am still a badass.
If you’re also on this debt repayment journey as an artist, comment. I’d love to hear where you’re at on this debt crushing journey.
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator
Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at email@example.com