Acting requires about as much faith as religious fanaticism. Performers rely on directors and editors like zealots rely on God; both of them are just doing their best and hoping that the higher powers don't make them look like an idiot in the end. Actress Rosalind Russell once said, "Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly." The point being, actors have to play pretend so earnestly that an audience is willing to forget that it's really just someone standing in front of a green screen, reacting to a water weenie.
As an actor, you also have to trust implicitly that writers, directors and editors have your best interest at heart. And generally speaking, they don't. Actors have an arguably deserved reputation for being kind of shitty people. Anyone making a movie, particularly a low-budget or non-union film, will try to interact with the talent as little as possible for fear that they'll want something. In addition, a director has a thousand other things to worry about than whether or not an actor looks completely ridiculous. The consequence, however, is far more severe for you than anyone else. You are the one immortalized on camera with a crying face that looks eerily similar to a pooping face, or while wearing nothing but a dress that is subtly but irrefutably see-through under set lights.
Even if you luck into a film, commercial or show that does well and of which you are proud to be a part, the saddest truth of all is still to come ...
Among the miniscule number of actors who actually book jobs, there is an even tinier fraction of people who manage to make a living doing it. First, there is the matter of digging yourself out of a hole of expenses. The costs surrounding a struggling actor can seem almost like a malicious scheme to take money from naive, handsome people. I've already mentioned that headshots cost hundreds of dollars, but you'll need one for commercials, and one for dramas, and one for vampire movies, and one for sports stories. Ultimately, you will have around five different headshots of which you will need to print hundreds. On top of that, you can expect to do the whole process over again in three years when you no longer look like the person in the picture.
You can also prepare to sink around $60 a week into parking tickets. This will obviously vary from city to city, but in Los Angeles, there isn't a reliable public transportation system to get you everywhere you need to go for auditions. Driving is the only option, and metered parking is ubiquitous. An audition can take anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours, so you never really know how much time you'll need, and you can't run out in the middle of an audition to feed the meter. So be prepared to collect at least one parking ticket a week.
"Hahaha. Fuck you for following your dreams."
Lastly, when you do finally get a job that pays you actual money, you will owe around 15 percent of that to a manager and 10 percent of it to an agent, all before taxes. These are the people responsible for getting you auditions and, ironically, ensuring that you aren't screwed over once you book a job. Add actual taxes to that and your take is less than 50 percent of whatever dollar amount appears in the contract. So, assuming you are doing a SAG Ultra-Low Budget shoot because you aren't a member of the union yet, you will probably be paid around $100 a day, of which you will actually take home about $40, or roughly the price of a Greyhound ticket back home.
For more soul-crushing columns from Soren, check out The 8 Most Misguided Attempts at 'Sexy' Videos on YouTube and My Ill-Fated Attempt to Save a 'Suicide Girl'.