Life

Best Job in the World: 'No' Means 'No'

...They were genuinely surprised by that information. 
National Film Board of Canada / Contributor via Getty
National Film Board of Canada / Contributor via Getty

Acting is one of those weird creative jobs that takes you to very weird places. If you’re an actor looking for work, you could find yourself in the strangest situation of your life at any given time, and, if you’re a booked and busy actor, you’re cool with that.

I should know, I was a child star.

I was in exactly three advertisements as a kid, after being scouted getting Macca’s at Victoria Gardens. The weirdest opportunity was a fathers’ day advertisement for Kmart that saw my siblings and I all giving an ice-cold prop breakfast in bed to our dad and some actor hired to replace my mum, at a stranger’s house, in a stranger’s bedroom, over and over again, all day ‘til they got the shot.

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The other weird one was a Metcard advertisement, a 10 hour day that involved my brother and I – decked out in merch, flags and all – pretending to be at the footy, seated on a block of stadium seats that were mounted on a trailer, which was slowly being pulled around the CBD by a truck. We had to stare straight ahead and try to act normal, sometimes we’d simulate cheering.

You get the picture. What i’m trying to say is: Acting, much like most creative gig work, is weird.

Welcome back to Best Job in the World, the series where we ask people all about the weirdest and wildest of worstest job experiences.

Some jobs make you want to die, while some jobs make you question your reality. Some jobs force you to reckon with unreconcilable truths about the patriarchy, and the way Australia’s system fosters an environment of abuse, while encouraging an ideal of violence.

Some jobs force you to learn the truth against your will.

Someone’s gotta do it right? Yeah???

Mick: “No” means “No”

I’m an actor. As an actor, I’ve worked many part-time and casual jobs through the years to keep the dream alive. I’ve sold jeans in retail and wine from call centres. I even went through a brief stint at the Red Cross taking peoples’ blood (nothing quite like the look on a donor’s face when they’d ask “So, how long you been doing this?” and I’d respond, “I’m an actor”, then stick a needle in their veins). I can honestly say most jobs I’ve had for the past ten years have been soul crushing, like being a concierge/valet at Bondi Junction Westfield (ever had a set of Aston Martin keys thrown in your face?), but there’s one that stands out as just bizarre, depraved and completely WTF.

Funnily enough, it was an acting job. Sitting in a pub one afternoon with some mates, an actor friend of mine called me telling me that they’d had someone pull out at the last minute, and was wondering if I was available to come to a four-hour rehearsal, then perform the next day. I jumped at the chance. 

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The gig? Loosely improvised role-play to educate an audience on certain issues. The issues? Domestic violence and sexual assault under the influence of alcohol, to be precise. The audience? One of Australia’s premier sporting teams.

The messages we were to convey seemed a little on the nose for me: “domestic violence is bad” and “don’t have sex with someone who’s too drunk”. 

Myself and two other actors improvised the scenarios for the rest of the afternoon – I think there were three in total. I won’t go into too much detail regarding the content of the scenarios, but the idea was that we’d run the scenarios in front of the team, then a moderator would have a Q&A with them, asking what they saw, and what the right behaviour would have been in those scenarios. Then, we’d redo the scenarios considering the team’s appropriate suggestions.

The day of the performance was where this became the “worst job” I’ve ever had. Being a bystander during the Q&A was like watching grade sixers in their first sex-ed class. The players smirked, jeered, and laughed at each other’s answers. 

To be fair, some did their best to take it seriously, but you could tell they were sacrificing some clout by doing so. You could almost smell the toxicity of the room, and it was pungent. At one point, a player gave a great answer, but his wording was a bit off, so the entire team laughed and jeered at him.  That was the final straw for the moderator, who exploded: “HOW DARE YOU” etc. etc. 

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Seeing the “bros” with their heads hung low after being scolded by a woman in their 60s was, by far, the highlight of the day. 

But, in addition to my amusement, I was bewildered. 

Before the day had begun, I’d asked myself, “Is this really necessary?”

After the performance and Q&A I realised, with a whopping thud of cursed enlightenment, that yes, this is absolutely necessary. Here was a group of (mostly) young, incredibly fit, wealthy men in a male dominated and driven culture, who were all, essentially, celebrities. 

It occurred to me throughout the day that while they did, on some level, know they shouldn’t be behaving this way, they didn’t necessarily know why

I heard answers like “it could make the team look bad”, and “you could be suspended”, all consequences and negative things that could happen to them. We were there to teach empathy, and more importantly consent. It was certainly an eye-opener for me to see the cogs turning in the eyes of these men, as they began to comprehend that when a girl messages you on Tinder, it doesn’t mean, when she’s passed out at 3a.m. from the drinks you paid for, that you have carte blanche with her body. Apparently for some, this isn’t a given.

I think education through acting is incredibly important, and I’ve gone on to do more gigs with this company in more corporate and educational settings. 

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I don’t want to come across as though this job was the worst I’ve ever had because of the nature of the work, or the people I worked with, but because I had to teach a group of grown-ass men that “no” means “no”, and they were genuinely surprised by that information. 

Got a weird or worst or wildest job experience? We’d love to hear it. Contact Ari at arielle.richards@gmail.com or via the social links below.

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