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Being an Actor Is Really Hard

Gina writes in:

Hey there !

I hope you’re having a great Memorial Day weekend. I stumbled across your blog today while job searching. I am an actress trying to get started out in LA and working my booty off to pay my rent. I just hate how my everyday job isn’t helping me work my way into the industry at all.

I was going to ask your advice on trying to get a front desk job at a well known agency or production company? I’m pretty fresh out of highschool and I don’t have a college degree.

Hope to hear from ya!

This is a little outside the purview of this blog, but I felt like addressing it might give my readers a little insight into a group that, honestly, it’s a little hard to feel sympathy for sometimes.

When you’re working hard on set every day, whether as a grip, a set dresser, a lowly PA, or whatever, it’s easy to look over at the actors and resent them. They’re pampered, they’re the center of attention, they’re paid huge amounts of money to play pretend.

Except…

Those are the actors who’ve made it. They’re the top 1%, and that’s including the day players and bit parts. These are the most successful actors there are.

Nobody has an easy time getting started in this business. Every time I post a PA job for my boss or a friend, I get a hundred resumes within an hour. Those are not good odds for anyone trying to break in.

That’s for a paying job, on a show that you’ve heard of. Now, go on Breakdown Express, post a casting call for a non-paying short film. You will get several hundred resumes (and headshots) by the end of the day. These people are so desperate eager to act, they’ll do it for free, on what will likely be a terrible short film, just for the experience.

Oh, and that’s hundreds of people who self-select for the physical description you wrote, something that’s illegal in every other field. (If you ever want to be really depressed, look up how many casting notices describe the female lead as “hot,” and nothing else.)

They’re not just working for free, either. They’re paying headshot photographers, demo reel editors, website designers. Not to mention the costs of gym memberships, acting classes, casting workshops, up-to-date wardrobes, hair and makeup.

And since actors need to be available at almost any time for an audition, they can’t hold down a regular job to help pay for all this shit. As a former TAPA once wrote:

There’s a reason for the stereotype that all aspiring actors are waiters and/or bartenders. You’re working outside business hours generally, and if your schedule conflicts with an audition, you can trade shifts with other waiter/actors.

A desk job is not a really good idea for aspiring actors. It’ll get in the way. We all pay our dues in a particular way; this is the actors’ cross to bear.

Just remember that, the next time you’re hauling some heavy equipment, sweating through your shirt, dying of thirst, and you see the actors relaxing in the shade. It wasn’t easy for them to get to that point.

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3 Responses

  1. I disagree.

    Being an actor is easy. As you said, it’s playing pretend. When these people are booked on shows, it’s nothing short of luck. Anyone can just as likely do what they do. As one told me, “I just stand where I’m supposed to and read the words.” Being a PA around professional actors is no different than being a PA around a dozen lottery winners. The same goes for many in the producer’s chair(s) too. They came from other businesses, they had connections through family and college (usually Stanford). They didn’t sweat out long hours on set or in a production office, learning how the whole process works. They just got lucky and now you have to fetch them a bottle of Fiji water.

    Going to auditions isn’t hard. Taking classes isn’t hard. Stuck on location in the middle of summer with no shade for 15 hours is hard. Working at a bar or restaurant is damn luxury compared to the menial stress of day to day production work. I have personally worked with some very well known and powerful people in this business and I was never left with a feeling of awe. It was all circumstantial. They got lucky breaks at the right time in their lives and didn’t completely fumble the opportunity. It could happen to you. It could happen to me. It could happen to that guy over there. Unfortunately, most crews are like gangs of whipped dogs, too broken by the stupid system to realize the bigger picture.

    Yeah. Do what THEY say in a timely and professional manner. But don’t actually respect these jokers. The size of their bank account versus yours has nothing to do with work ethic, creativity or a sense of integrity in this industry.

    1. Nicely put! I am a film student and this blog site was given to s as an assignment to get a better understanding of the life of a PA and I never really thought about actors/top management before and how they got lucky. I agree parts of their work are terribly demanding, but I’m sure being taken care of on the set makes it a lot easier. Your depiction scares me a bit about the business. but I really liked your post.

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