How I Got My Job: Actress & DJ Eva-Jane Gaffney
We sit down with this year's Shine Awards' DJ Eva-Jane Gaffney who chats to us about breaking into acting and the upsides of being a female DJ in a predominantly male industry.
Tell us a little bit about your background?
I grew up in a music mad family. My parents work in music and our house is sort of a meeting point for musicians so there’s never a dull moment. My dad plays guitar and sings, my brother’s a drummer and I play piano. I did drama when I was a pre-teen but it wasn’t long before I realised that the stage school vibe wasn’t really for me.
What did you study?
I didn’t study. I got a great Leaving Cert result but I hadn’t even applied for the C.A.O. When I was in sixth year I’d an inkling that I might want to get back into acting but the last thing I wanted to do was hide away in college for three years.
I wanted to get to know that world and be active in it. I had a feeling I might start a course and drop out so I decided not to inflict that on my parents. I went to meet a director called John Carney who I’d done a TV show with when I was younger and he gave me an intern position in The Factory (now Bow Street). The Factory was a hub for actors, directors and all types of film makers.
I worked there for free and got a part time job in Forever 21. I worked seven days a week and personally, I still think the time I spent there was more valuable than a degree would have been for me.
What exactly do you do now?
I’m an actor, DJ and casting assistant with Louise Kiely Casting.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Angelina still wakes up some mornings stressing about where her next job is coming from.
Is acting very difficult to break into?
To be honest, I don’t think it’s something you ever feel you’ve broken into no matter what level you’re at. There’s never a guarantee of work for actors, and there are a lot of actors out there.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Angelina still wakes up some mornings stressing about where her next job is coming from. It’s so much fun though, when you’re doing something you love, even the hard parts are worth it. Nothing feels like a chore when it’s what you’re passionate about.
What do you think has helped you succeed?
There are lots of factors. I work as hard as I can; I think about it all the time, I keep my brain as active as possible by reading scripts and watching interviews, movies and documentaries.
Studying other human beings is great research! You might get a few dodgy looks from people when they catch you staring them out of it as they have their coffee in Costa, but trust me, people watching comes in handy when you’re trying to figure out who your character is!
I keep a positive attitude and I’ve learnt to stop comparing myself to other people. We’re all unique and we all have our own special something that nobody else will ever have. My dad helps me a lot by being honest with me and giving me advice. He’s a creative guy too, so I value his opinion very much.
What’s it like being a DJ in a predominantly male environment?
It’s great. I think it gives us an air of mystique. People are definitely intrigued by a female DJ who knows her stuff. It’s one field where I feel there’s no prejudice, people don’t look at the stage and think ‘a man could do a better job.’ That is, of course, IF the female DJ is on the ball and knows what she’s doing. Also, we’re better behind-the-decks-dancers, fact. Sorry lads.
What advice would you give to other young women hoping to do the same?
My advice would be research and hard work. Because I didn’t go to college, I had to teach myself and surround myself by people I wanted to learn from. You have to put a great amount of work in and you have to be sure that it’s what you want to do, because then the work doesn’t really feel like work!
Save some money too, that definitely comes in handy when you’re waiting for your next job. Don’t forget to have fun and give your mind a break now and then. The most important thing though, you have to take care of yourself and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Sleep is king.
What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?
I love learning my lines and chatting to the director about what we’re going to do with the character. I also love working with big crews. Watching how everyone works together is fascinating, from hair to lights to sound. It’s great when you film something that won’t be aired for ages, I filmed a few episodes of Red Rock for TV3 in May and they won’t be aired until the end of this month so it’ll be interesting to see them, as it feels like a lifetime ago.
DJing is exciting because no two events or nights are the same. Sometimes you’ll have a particular genre that you have to stick to, sometimes you can play whatever you like. You get to hang out with yourself and play music for hours on end on a fantastic sound system, what’s not to like about that?!
What’s the most difficult?
The most difficult thing with DJing is when people may have had a few too many drinks and they’re raging because you won’t play the song they want to hear. It’s difficult to communicate with intoxicated people over a very loud speaker. It’s also amusing to watch though. Every cloud has a silver lining and all.
Acting wise, the most difficult thing is when you land a role and then it’s cut. That happens regularly with smaller roles that require one day filming.
What’s been your favourite acting role so far?
My favourite acting role is actually my most recent one. I just played Grace in a new three-part drama called Wrecking The Rising for TG4. Grace was a very interesting character to play because she had a traumatic event in her life and I got to play the before and after. It was also fantastic as it was in Irish. I went to an Irish school so I’m a fluent speaker. It was my first acting job as Gaeilge and I’ll definitely do more.
What does a day in your work diary look like?
I work from home a lot for casting. When I’m scheduling audition days or receiving audition tapes, I do that from the office in my house. I also travel regularly for casting, we work in Belfast, Cork and Galway frequently. I don’t really have any type of solid schedule, it changes every week. If I’m on set, there’s usually a very early call time and a long day. Next week I’m filming a children’s show for RTE junior – who knows what that’ll entail!
How do you balance work and a social life?
It can be full-on, but you just have to box clever and try not to stretch yourself too much. It can get really busy and plans can be cancelled last minute. Some friends will be very understanding and some may give you a hard time over it. I think that’s when you realise who you really want to spend your free time with.
Have you experienced any setbacks getting to where you are now?
There have been a few roles that I’ve gotten and then they’ve been cut from the script at the last minute due to time or funding, I don’t know if I’d consider that a setback, but it’s definitely disappointing.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d love to work in the UK over the next few years. I’d like to see myself working steadily and still being happy doing what I do.
Any advice for aspiring actors?
Do some classes. If it’s screen acting you’re interested in, go do some acting for camera classes. Screen and stage are totally different and you need a completely different skill set for both. It takes a lot of time to figure out what works for you, but it’s worth the time and effort. Watch lots of movies and read lots of scripts. Finally, work hard, stay positive and know that it’s never too late to start!
Eva-Jane is DJing at the STELLAR Shine Awards on 18th November. To win tickets to the event for you and a friend, enter here.