Kiwi stars forced to go moonlighting

Hip-hop artist Ladi6 waited until the end of our interview to drop the bomb.

Before the release of her third studio album Automatic, she was on the benefit.

"I'm really busy now but it's better than last year. I was on the dole for a week," the lady, real name Karoline Tamati, admits.

After that she came to her senses and got back on with the job.

Spilling drinks on unsuspecting diners or forgetting to ask if you want fries with that is all part and parcel of growing up and entering the workforce. But for a chunk of our drama and music professionals, there is no end in sight to the minimum-wage jobs which put bread on the table.

Describing herself as ultimately lazy, last year Tamati grew tired of slaving away in the studio, writing lyrics and recording with her producer/partner Brent "Parks" Park. She says she was homesick for their 10-year-old son, Philly, who otherwise has to travel with the pair to Ladi6's Berlin-based studio, to the United States, Brazil and everywhere else they have been touring.

"I didn't want to do too much, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum, you know?

"The mum who makes the lunches and gets the kids ready for school. But that lasted about six months and then I was like, ‘that's enough of that'."

She's not the only local success who's struggled to make ends meet.

It's a catchcry that has long rung out out through the New Zealand entertainment industry.

Actress Rena Owen, best-known for her gritty role as battered wife Beth Heke in cult Kiwi film Once Were Warriors turned to the dole after earning just $15,000 for her efforts and then struggling to get subsequent roles, it was reported at the time.

But Kiwi actors are optimistic the tide is changing.

Benedict Wall, who features in TV One Radio Hauraki docudrama Pirates of the Airwaves, left our shores for the greener pastures of Sydney's acting industry, where he found work in feature films and shows such as Underbelly.

He had previously had a stint on Shortland Street and is now part of Sydney's hub of expat Kiwi actors.

"The rules around tax rebates have changed again so hopefully it will encourage productions back into Auckland, like Spartacus and Power Rangers," Wall says.

"[Post production and visual effects company] Digipost was doing great things here. It was a great place for young actors."

He and his band of ex-Kiwi Sydneysiders such as Sara Wiseman and Craig Hall take every opportunity to come back. The latter are said to be on their way here for a project shortly, while Wall jumped at the chance to star as radio pirate Rick Grant in Pirates of the Airwaves.

"When I left it seemed there was more work in New Zealand. I was lucky to get cast in the role but then I knew most of the people working on it. It's always nice to go home."

Actress, comedian and feature director Jackie Van Beek has had her fair share of odd jobs as she's got herself off the ground.

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Although she loves writing and directing her own work, she also does it out of necessity to earn a crust.

"I'm sure I won't get rich off this - I won't be able to buy a yacht from making a low-budget art-house film."

It's nice work if you can get it. Van Beek, of all people should know.

"I have been very poor in the past," she says. "When I got a mortgage I thought I better do something else so I became a pizza delivery driver, but then I quit after three weeks.

"I also freaked out and got my taxi licence so I could be a taxi driver, but I never drove a taxi."

That wasn't the worst of it. A stint with an improvisation group while she was a student was particularly painful. It was at a Wellington Telecom conference that she decided she couldn't do it any more.

"I spent an hour in makeup, completely green faced and they attached this lettuce to my head. There was a hole in the buffet table, I had to climb under it and stick my head up through the hole and when they all broke for lunch I had to make jokes as a lettuce. I was so young and the money was so good but I just remember thinking, ‘I can't sustain this. This isn't my future'."

And even in seemingly greener pastures, there's still no let up.

Hope and Wire actress Luanne Gordon, perhaps best known for her starring role on TV drama The Strip, found herself in an embarrassing case of life imitates art while living in Britain recently.

In between acting gigs, the Kiwi actress worked in her flatmate's North London sex shop. She lasted only six months, during which time she was recognised by customers for the steamy soap she starred in back home.

She's considering turning the hilarious experience into a short film.

Meanwhile between playing doctors on Shortland Street, actress Ria Vandervis is up to her eyeballs co-running an apparel printing business and dabbling as a marriage celebrant. She was inspired to do the latter while out of acting work when she became engaged to her now-husband Chris Ashton.

Struggling to find someone fresh, young and relevant to perform the ceremony and with little else to do, Vandervis applied for her licence. She now performs a handful of weddings when recording for Shortland Street lightens up over summer.

Fellow Shorty Streeter Teuila Blakely also famously worked her way through the retail sector before gaining steady work in media.

Pregnant at 17, the Sione's Wedding star had to work hard to provide for her young family. For 10 years she moved through flipping burgers at McDonald's and assisting customers at Glasson's and Just Jeans.

She's hoping she doesn't end up back there again, recently announcing she was leaving the soap to pursue the film she's writing based on her play Island Girls.

- Sunday Star Times


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