The 98% is a podcast by actors, for actors. In each episode, Alexa Morden and Katie Elin-Salt explore what life is really like for actors and performers who are juggling day jobs with auditions. Listen in for advice from industry experts mixed in with some toe-curlingly embarrassing anecdotes. We caught up with Alexa and Katie to talk about getting the podcast started, their best guests and recording in a cupboard!
Why is your podcast called The 98%?
The 98%: A survey was published a few years ago that said that only 2% of actors earned £20,000 the previous year from acting work…which, in London, is the living wage! And we thought it probably wasn’t that much different this year. So we represent the other 98% of actors who are trying to get by and do all things actor whilst trying to keep our heads above water – another startling fact from that survey is over 75% of actors earned less than £5,000 from acting work that same year! Yikes!
How did you two meet?
The 98%: It was like a cheesy romcom. We met in an audition waiting room. We were both auditioning for a part in a commercial and we recognised each other from being with the same agent and being part of an online feminist group on Facebook! We got chatting and exchanged numbers and the rest is history.
What led you to start The 98%?
Alexa: I was in a bit of a rough patch last year, I hadn’t had an acting job for longer than I’d like to say and I was feeling increasingly frustrated at the lack of control over my own creativeness. As an actor you can get auditions, or write something to get yourself work, but then whether or not anything goes further than that is never up to you.
I wanted something that meant my hard work could amount to something and I was in charge of what happened with it. I listen to a lot of podcasts and thought: if they can do it, why can’t I? You just need a microphone and something you’re passionate about. And I had a lot of passion – fuelled by love, but mostly frustration, hah!
I thought of starting one about being an actor, but what it’s really like being an actor. I thought that there must be other actors out there who felt the same. Katie and I had talked a couple times, so I sent her a message asking her what she thought. As an impartial person who knew the industry, I thought she would give me an honest opinion on whether or not she thought it sounded like a good idea, luckily she loved it! I couldn’t imagine a better person to start the podcast with. When we started meeting up to plan it we said so many times “I have a story about this but I’m going to save it for the podcast!”
What’s it like working together? Have you built up a working dynamic?
Katie: Working with Alexa is the kick up the ass I never knew I needed. The wonderful thing about Alexa is that when she says she’s going to do something, she actually does it straight away. Which is why this podcast exists in the first place! We have a great working relationship. I’ll have ideas and then Alexa will… do them! She is generous and patient with me and explains all things to me because she’s a genius. I love working with Alexa!
Alexa: Katie is the funniest person I have ever met and because our podcast is so relaxed we basically just plop a microphone between and talk about things we would talk about off air, so it’s more of a friendship than a working dynamic! She has become one of my closest friends over the past few months and The 98% would be severely lacking without her. I hope listeners have enjoyed hearing our friendship grow as much as I’ve enjoyed it happening!
What’s the response been like from actors and the industry? Does anyone ever fan girl/boy over you at castings?
The 98%: The response from the industry has been overwhelmingly positive. We were a bit nervous when we set up the podcast because we are very honest about the industry and we talk about the good, the bad and the ugly and we worried people might think we were having a whinge or being negative. But I think people have found it quite refreshing. We’re not Beyonce so I wouldn’t go so far to say we’ve been fangirled over, but we have been in a few castings where people have said how much they enjoy the podcast and how refreshing it is to have a realistic insight into our industry.
Where do you record and what equipment do you use? Do you need to be a tech whizz to get through the recording/editing of a podcast?
Alexa: We record all over the place, mostly it’s at our flats but when we have a guest we want to make it as easy for them as possible so we’ve recorded in an office, in an empty room with the mic resting on a cardboard box, in a casting studio, even in a clothes cupboard!
We use a Blue Yeti microphone, we each have one but we only use one at one time because they are so good it picks up sound from everywhere, hence being able to hear Sir Tom Cat Jones’s appearances so well! It connects to my Mac and I use Garageband to record and edit. I do all the editing and producing. I’m not a technical whizz at all, but I just spent a while reading lots of articles and watching YouTube demonstrations on how to use it. I found it quite straightforward because I found it similar to editing things on iMovie which I’ve used for home/holiday videos, self-tapes and showreels. Because our podcast is very laidback, chatty and relaxed it’s not overly difficult to edit but it would be a lot harder if you had a storytelling podcast that used backing music/sound effects/recordings etc!
Do you have any advice for other actors interested in starting their own podcast?
Alexa: A general piece of advice I’ve seen a lot in podcast forums is to make sure you are passionate about the thing you’re podcasting about, which I totally agree with. One, so that your content is interesting and engaging and two, you don’t lose the will to live whilst editing and promoting it! I can’t stress enough how much more hard work it is than I originally thought. Editing takes on average three times the amount of time as recording an episode. So if your episode is an hour long it’ll take at least three hours to edit. And then there’s writing all the episode descriptions, keeping on top of social media, trying to get your podcast out there and so on!
Did you have any thoughts positive or negative about the podcast impacting your acting careers?
The 98%: Yes! And dealing with anxiety means all those thoughts were definitely negative! We felt strongly about starting the podcast because we think that you only ever hear from actors sharing stories when they’re famous, working or have worked in something prominent. And it sets this precedent that actors are only important when they’re part of the 2% when actually the majority of us aren’t on the red carpet, with one of the massive agencies or going from acting job to acting job.
Alexa: I can’t tell you the number of times I have turned to Katie and said “I’m really scared about saying that.” “What if people think I haven’t had a job recently because I’m not very good?” “I shouldn’t have said that…” and she has always been the voice of reason saying that those feelings of doubt are exactly why we are doing the podcast in the first place and that every actor has those worries and by vocalising them we are helping others!
What’s been your favourite episode/guest?
Alexa: Argh, I can’t pick favourites of anything! Except food. And that would be pizza. Oh God I’ve been sat here for ages trying to think of an answer!
Ok I can’t pick a favourite one Katie and I have done because I have laughed so much and enjoyed them all. But I also felt acute worry about talking so openly about some stuff for the first time ever, my experiences with mental health issues, my time at drama school and so on.
So the episode that left me with no anxiety and made me think “that was so great!” was Episode 12 when we chatted to Michael Cox from Hammond Cox casting.
I was excited for graduates or people who have just entered the industry to finally hear accessible information and insights into something that seems out of reach – actually booking a commercial! It felt like we were kind of lifting the veil off of a massive shared experience of actors previously shrouded in mystery!
But I love all our episodes! Especially episode five and our special guest who makes my heart burst!
Katie: My favourite episode was probably the mental health episode, because it felt very important to talk about it and at a time where we are starting to talk about mental health in our industry. I love all the episodes for different reasons, but I think that one was my favourite because we had some beautiful responses from people who felt encouraged to tell their story without feeling ashamed about their mental health troubles because we had talked openly about it and got rid of a bit of the stigma. I felt very proud of us. It’s hard to pick a favourite episode but that one is the one I’m most proud of.
Which episode has had the biggest response from your audience?
Apart from our very first episode the episode that has had the most downloads is Episode five. I think because the content of it is useful and relatable for everyone, not just actors. Our very, very, very special guest – I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t listened yet – shares some amazing tips and advice that can be used endlessly as actors but also in general day to day life. It also relates a lot to our episode on mental health which was a very important episode for us and one that people really responded to. It was kind of a follow up to it and therefore helped a lot of people practically, not just audibly.
Can we get a sneaky preview of any future episodes?
Alexa: Well seeing as you seem like such a fab group of people and want to help other actors too, go on then! The episode with award-winning director Matt Holt is going to be over an hour long which I know some people might find off-putting, but there’s just so much good stuff in it, particularly towards the end, I just couldn’t cut anything out!
What is your dream future for the podcast?
The 98%: To reach more people and just broaden our community with open and honest discussion about life in this business! Also, to make a million pounds! Haha, joking… but also not.
Logistically it would be amazing to get a couple sponsors and therefore make a little bit of money from making the podcast. We really enjoy making it and it would be great to have more time to make it even better!
For now we are just really enjoying making the podcast and hearing from listeners and we just want it to continue! We love reading tweets and emails and iTunes reviews from listeners who have found the podcast funny, helpful or comforting. So in the future we just want more people to find us! Which is helped by people spreading the word and leaving a nice review.
Will you consider releasing an album of every episode’s unique intro jingle, ‘cos I’ll buy it.
The 98%: We love doing our different jingles! Find us an interested music producer and we’ll make a parody album all about life in The 98%! This is definitely not something we’ve already daydreamed about doing… no, definitely haven’t…
You can download and listen to episodes of The 98% here!