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Side Hustle Spotlight: The Actor/Blacksmith Who Makes Things That Last

Side Hustle Spotlight: The Actor/Blacksmith Who Makes Things That Last
Photo Source: Courtesy G. Paul Salvetti

Welcome to another weekly edition of Side Hustle Spotlight where I interview actors and filmmakers at different levels of their career, who have used their other passions to capitalize on a fulfilling side hustle. These folks no longer or have never had to do serving work that drained their energy and made them miserable. Be sure to check out the original article for inspiration on discovering your side hustle. Just like Harrison Ford made custom furniture and worked as a carpenter, this week’s actor has a unique skill he’s passionate about and was able to capitalize on.

Name: G. Paul Salvetti

Side Hustle: Blacksmith for the Red Mill Museum Village in Clinton, NJ

Years acting: 7 years

Favorite acting credits/opportunities: The Rat King in “April Grace.” I’m particularly proud of a four-part mini-series of music videos I did with singer/songwriter Ben Lorentzen last year.

Have you ever felt like your side hustle was in jeopardy because of acting? How long did it take you to feel like you had security at this side hustle, even if you took time off for an acting project?
My blacksmithing schedule is planned out pretty far in advance. The Red Mill Museum Village hosts thousands of visitors every year, but I’m there primarily for school field trips and other planned events. I can ask for coverage from one of the other blacksmiths if an audition comes up. We all kind of fill in for each other, just like any other job. There have been a few times that I thought I was putting my blacksmithing job in jeopardy, but I’ve always found a way to balance things out. My manager knows how important both of my jobs are to me, and everyone at the museum has been supportive of both my acting and blacksmithing careers.

What skills or talents did you need for this side hustle? How long did it take you to qualify or complete training for your side hustle?
As far as training for blacksmithing, there’s nothing official out there. There’s no course, no certificate, no rubber stamp that makes me or the next person a certified blacksmith. There are courses or lessons you can take (I’m even giving lessons these days), but there’s no governing agency that determines who is and who isn’t a blacksmith (just like acting.) The learning never ends. I try to learn as much as I can. I read, I watch tons of videos, I attend hammer-ins, I belong to a blacksmith association, and I’m starting to give lessons.

How does this side hustle fulfill you?
Acting and blacksmithing fulfill me in a similar way. Sometimes when I make a project, it starts to “appear” just like when you’re practicing your lines or camera is rolling. You start to know when it looks and feels “right.” Like there’s nothing more you can do to make it better because doing any “more” to it will ruin it. As an actor, you and the director know when that last take was the one. The same thing happens in blacksmithing: put the hammer down and step away from the anvil, just move on to the next scene.

Do you feel like you’re helping people/society/humanity in a tangible way?
Sometimes I do feel like I’m helping people. People come to visit the museum and see how nice the town is and they’re usually in open and receptive moods. Walking into the forge takes some people back in time, especially the senior citizens. Some of them remember visiting a blacksmith or remembering where the town blacksmith shop was located. The smell of my coal is something they always remember, usually fondly. The young people come in and they’re always wide-eyed like something magical is about to happen. My favorite is when multi-generational families visit together. I like to tell stories, people enjoy listening. I hope to make lasting memories. That’s how I help.

Has your side hustle made you better at acting or achieving your acting goals?
Blacksmithing has most certainly helped my acting. The museum forge location actually worked into a spec commercial in which I played a blacksmith, and that little bit of footage then made itself into my reel. I’ve had more than a few directors tell me how much they loved that little piece in my reel and booked me as a result of it being in there. Working right in front of people and answering their questions while working keeps me on my toes, kind of like improv training with hot consequences. Directors have relied on me in the past to make unique props. It’s just a little something extra I can do for the right project. I make edged weapons, knives, and other things out of metal that have been worked into the films I’ve been a part of. The other thing this job has helped with is my voice. Speaking up, addressing people in a confident and informative way over the noises in the forge. I’m even the voice of the museum’s guided DVD tour which plays almost continuously in the gift shop.

Why did you choose to do this side hustle instead of more stereotypical acting side hustles like serving?
I’m not sure how I would do with a more conventional side hustle like waiting tables, and I‘m not sure I have “the look“ for it anyway. Before blacksmithing, I was a mechanic and tow truck driver. I’m actually pretty content making the most awesome bottle openers you’ve ever seen and then selling them to my actor/bartender friends.  

Do you have any advice for actors who aren’t sure what path to take while they are waiting for acting to pay all the bills?
Blacksmithing has been great for me physically, mentally, and spiritually. It allows me to be creative, work through problems, and create lasting beauty, just like film. The things I make in both my careers last a long time, whether made of steel or captured and stored digitally. They’re all legacy creations and they’re going to be around for a long time after I‘m gone.  

I’m always impressed to know what my actor friends do outside of acting. We all know so many talented people, right? Isn’t it kinda neat to find out what else they do? I don’t know if there’s an easy answer to any of this. Paying the bills is something we all have to do. Striking a balance between acting and anything else going on in your life can be a challenge for sure. Achieving the balance and paying the bills puts you ahead of a lot of other people and even more if you love what you’re doing. So find something that you enjoy, and pays you, and it won’t even feel like work! 

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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