“The mark of an educated man is one who gets paid to play.” ~ Alan Watts
In 1986, Dire Straits released, Money for Nothing, a song that compared the easy life of musicians to the working class. “I should have learned to play the guitar”, whines the manual laborer in the song. It’s a perfect lyric articulating the myth that artists don’t work. Really? An artist’s life is actually so challenging that most humans would rather dream about it than live it. Yet, our work can be easy if we play the game full on.
I was shooting a scene with two movie stars last month. The production was HUGE, and they’d already been filming for five months. While I was excited to work with these famous actors, I had an entirely different feeling once rehearsal began. I felt no awe when we and the director were playing, I simply felt at home. Even the scripted scene was playful. It was very “meta” to see four artists play in order to create a scene about….playing.
Why we get paid to play.
I got this particular job without an audition, which pleased me, but then I kept questioning why I got hired. Anyone could have done this simple role. Why me? Then it hit – I got this job because I know what I’m doing. My years of experience assured them I’d be comfortable working with stars. (Trust me, not every actor can do that). I know camera set-ups / on-set lingo, and my comedy skills guaranteed that I’d know exactly what the scene needed from me. It takes a lot before an actor can play in front of an entire crew while cameras are rolling. Yes, our job is to play, but it’s built on education. So yeah, pay me.
Alan Watt’s quote, “The mark of an educated man is the one who gets paid to play” has been modernized into “work smart, not hard”. But his phrase isn’t about working, it’s about play. I think we get paid to play as soon as we live life like a game. What I mean by that is, if we just “roll the dice” (try stuff), wait our turn (be present), “pull a card” (explore), place a bet (take a risk), etc. while knowing there are no real consequences – because we always get more turns – then our lives will overflow with delight. We educate ourselves on how the game of life works only when we play, and inevitably, we get better. So get in it, win a few, lose a few, and keep playing!