Why you should care

How much you want anything is measured in what you’ll do to get it.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Scott Michael Dunn
St. Louis, Missouri

It’s 3 a.m. Monday. I’m just getting home from a night shift as a bartender at the Archive. I take a power nap before waking up and heading to my second job on a food truck. I work these jobs now to pay my bills so I can pursue my lifelong dream of being an actor. I still remember my days as a corporate salesman less than a year ago: eight hours of sleep per night, benefits and a few more zeros on my paycheck.

At 6 a.m. I pack my bag and grab my clothes for two video shoots later that day. I was dragging a little today because I picked up a cold from working 40 hours at the bar and 30 hours on the truck the week before. Along with three commercial auditions, writing skits for my show and reading scripts for potential projects, I fit in some web marketing for a little extra cash, too. I was teetering between working a double with the food truck or heading to a possible commercial shoot I was gunning for. While doing my food truck shift, I got a callback for the commercial shoot and had to be on location and camera-ready by that afternoon.

Hwyd struggling actor2

Dunn doing his hare (sorry).

Source Photo courtesy of Seth Ferranti

Carrying my stuff to the staging area, my body aching from a 10-hour shift of bartending the night before and five hours on the truck, I was getting into acting mode. Folks that I’ve worked with on several different projects were there, and I said hello as I headed straight to the bathroom to shave, wash up in the sink and fix my hair before I’m called to the set. I nail my part in a couple of takes and am released earlier than expected. I use the extra time to catch up on a few things before heading to my second location of the day to film The Always Late Show, which I host and produce.

I work with the improv team to flesh out the skits when I get there. They’re mostly written in my head, but as soon as I arrive on set I start tweaking, getting feedback from my team to make the skits as funny as possible. I’ve found that I love acting and being on camera, but there’s nothing like collaborating on creative endeavors with other talented people. It’s tough having to work two jobs to feed my family while chasing my dream, but I’m all in. It’s not like I’m Batman or anything, but maybe, just maybe, I can be the next Ben Affleck.

As the other actors and guests arrive, we get ready for the first skit. Time is ticking, and there’s not enough of it for eating. I glance at the open pizza boxes on the table. My head is pounding and my stomach growling, but we have to start filming.

The assistant director pulls me in while the improv team waits for last-minute instructions. We tape the show in a whirlwind of actions, cuts and retakes. I thank everyone for coming and get home close to midnight. I start working on the next show’s skits and schedule. Before finally getting ready for bed, I visit IMDb to look for new local projects I can audition for. After submitting for a few, I read an email from my agent that I missed about a voice-over audition. Considering the following day looked like a double with the food truck and bartending gig, I knew there wasn’t any time better than now to record the voice-overs and meet the deadline.

In the past year I’ve been in about 20 short films, commercials and independent projects. I’m slowly building up my reel and becoming known as a serious actor, in St. Louis at least. It’s 3 a.m. again and my day starts at 6 a.m., again. I throw in a load of laundry, kiss the baby and wife good night and finally lay my head down for another power nap before starting all over again.

Balancing family and craft is complicated. My wife and I are both connected to fractured households, and my ability to relocate to one of the coasts and pursue my dream is both complicated and out of the question if it means I can only afford to do it alone and I lose time with my family. Plus, St. Louis is my home. I am working hard to develop a film scene here.

The digital age has also allowed for talent and production to become more accessible. Now, truth be told, if circumstances were different and I didn’t have a family to be a pillar for, I would be in the thick of things on the West Coast. But I decided to stop playing and make my own future, leave out the risk, cultivate my talent and have fun doing something that I thoroughly enjoy close to home.

OZYTrue Story

Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising -- the human.