Go to any restaurant or coffee shop in or around Hollywood and you’ll find that your servers lead double lives, ‘I’m really an actor’ one will say with pride while pulling out a shiny business card with his/her headshot on it.
When people outside the industry think of actors their mind instantly goes to famous actors. They think that every actor gets Millions of dollars for every movie.
With the hopes of being ‘discovered’ and become the next superstar, thousands of people come to L.A. every month and become actors, at least in paper.
In reality, as anyone in the theatre or film industry in L.A. knows, actors are a dime a dozen!
Actors, especially the ones just starting out, really have a hard time getting paid for acting and end up taking a regular job to take care of their living expenses while they make it.
Nothing wrong with that, L.A. ain’t cheap and you gotta do what you gotta do.
The problem I’ve seen many of my friends fall into is that most them end up stuck in that job for waaaaay longer than they would’ve need to and never actually get their break in acting.
Even though I’m not an actor, several friends have asked me for advice. So here’s what I tell them:
Make sure you actually enjoy acting
I know it sounds like common sense, but if you want to be an actor, make sure you actually enjoy acting.
I don’t have hard data on this, but it’s fairly common knowledge in the industry that less than 1% of the people that gets into acting actually end up making a living off of it. Making it as an actor takes hard work, dedication and luck. If you don’t enjoy the process you simply won’t work hard enough or stick to it long enough to make it work.
Those numbers may seem grim but not all hope is lost as long as you really love it and you’are convinced that this is what you want to do. The reason 99% of the actors never make a dime off of it is because at least 80-90% aren’t in it for the right reasons!
They either want to be an actor because they think chicks dig it, because they want to be a celebrity or simply to ‘be cool’, well, good luck with that.
Don’t be part of the fluff and chase something you actually like!
Decide what kind of actor you want to be
Most people outside the industry don’t realize that the famous A-list actors are really a small minority. Of course the majority of newbies wants to be in films and TV shows, but there are many actors that have no interest in fame or movies.
I know many actors that love the thrill of acting on a stage in front of an audience and dislike the waiting and hassle of working with a film crew. In some cases film acting is their ‘pay the bills’ job while theater is their real passion.
Also, there’s a big number of actors who make a decent living without ever being famous. They’re the ones you recognize every once in a while when you’re watching TV or a movie but never know what their names are. They’re what we call ‘working actors’, for them acting is their regular job.
Keep your overhead low
It takes time to get good at acting. And if you have a full time job it’s not easy to make some room to rehearse, go to lessons, etc.
I know, sometimes it might be tempting to get a nicer car or TV. But trust me, having to work two extra days a week for 36 months to pay for it, is not worth it. You could spend all that time on a new class or making a passion project of yours. Not only that would make you much happier, you’d also have a better shot at making it.
Audition, audition, audition!
This is the advice actors probably hear all the time. But it’s vital and I couldn’t leave it out.
Someone said you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and it’s true. In acting, you’ll never get a callback on the roles you don’t audition for.
All the books (or blog articles) in the world won’t expose you to the people you need to know to make it as an actor. So go out there and expose yourself, even if you think you’re not ‘ready’.
Get a job in the industry
Lastly, try to get a job closer to where you want to end up. Sure, you could meet a big producer that will discover you at Starbucks, but it’s very unlikely. If you work for a production company though, your chances improve a lot.
This sort of goes in line with the previous tip in the sense that you get to meet people that can help you in your career. But it’s even more than that:
You get to meet people in the industry AND you get to learn how everything works AND you get paid for it (barely anything at the beginning, but the other benefits make up for it).
I’ve met people who started out as somebody’s assistant, office managers, etc. And I went to this event a few years ago where J.J. Abrams said he started out by organizing Steven Spielberg’s home movies.
It can have some drawbacks. For example, if you work 9 to 5 at an office it can leave you with little time to actually practice acting, and the pay can be small. So make sure it makes sense for you.
You have a long road ahead of you, but I hope these tips help.
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