“A jack of all trades and a master of none” has always been a bit of negative, a way of describing someone who is OK at many things but not particularly talented at anything.
I used to believe I was a bit of a 'master' but actually over the years it wasn’t that helpful. As an actor you never have a guaranteed income, you have to be a jack of all, you have to diversify; you endlessly diversify.
You start with the classic of working in a bar or restaurant and then slowly you manage to find slightly better ‘B Jobs’ - not the rude kind but the job that is secondary in your life and ironically the one you will do most of the time. I then found new and improved B jobs…photography, property and teaching workshops; everything and anything just to be able to keep on going.
It’s a huge effort and a logistical challenge to earn a living and yet stay completely available for when the phone rings. Every single actor will know this. It’s a challenge that sadly often pushes people to give up and walk away.
To potential employers you are a nightmare, unable to commit and very flaky and this is fair enough. Why would an employer want someone who could just drop them the next day to go and play a female Hamlet in a church hall in Milton Keynes?
All artists have to be a 'jack of all' to survive and only a lucky few will eventually have the luxury of being a master. But the pandemic has done something to us all. So many people from all industries and walks of life have had to diversify. Mothers and fathers have become teachers, sons and daughters have become carers, many have become DIY kings and decorating queens, or so they think!
Perhaps it has made our slightly disposable attitude or ‘money can fix that’ culture go back to basics a bit and go back to looking at ourselves to solve the problem rather than thinking, ‘who can I pay to solve the problem?’. It’s good to become a bit more practical and perhaps that is one of the few good things to have come out of the last year.
With the majority of artists being told their careers are not ‘viable’, with planes being grounded and restaurants closed this is certainly a year to be adept at more than one thing! I think this saying has very quickly become out of date and that in fact if you can adapt and grow and reinvent yourself, you are a master and my god there have been many masterclasses this year.