5 Awful Things Nobody Tells You About Being an Actor
"We just wanted to stop for a minute and say, 'You're welcome.'"
You Aren't Building a Real Skill SetWhen your dream is to be an actor, you don't have the luxury of simultaneously perusing a fallback dream. That's why you'll never see a struggling actor holding down a full-time job as a marine biologist. Acting is a jealous and needy career that doesn't like the thought of you keeping your options open. You'll need a job that allows you to leave at a moment's notice for auditions, usually for two or three hours at a time. Or, assuming you are fortunate enough to be cast in anything, you need a job that allows you to miss work for a week at the very least. The logical solution is to work at night at a restaurant or bar. The trouble, however, is that most of these jobs were never intended to be careers. They have high turnover rates and offer little in terms of personal satisfaction. And that will all seem fine at first -- great, even -- for building that romantic sense of humility you intend to wear once you're famous. Taking orders from customers and folding napkin fans in wine glasses is just part of the struggle that you will remember fondly while masturbating poolside to your own biography.
"Ooh yeah. Keep toiling, right there."That is, until your friends outside of the entertainment industry start developing actual skill sets that lead to raises, promotions and the general advancement of their careers. Everyone who entered the work force along with you will gradually move into better jobs because they've built up experience and because that's how nearly every other profession is designed to function. Meanwhile, there's no guarantee that you will book a role,
Most Roles Have Nothing to Do With ActingHere is an innocuous commercial for Listerine: There are three people featured for about four seconds apiece in that commercial. Each one of them is an actor who had to audition for that role. That may not sound like much, but take a minute to consider exactly what that entails: All three of them, without a doubt, started with dreams of being respected actors. They likely struggled for weeks if not months to find an agent, and paid upwards of $500 to have headshots taken and printed. Then they drove to an audition in the middle of a workweek and waited in a waiting room for an hour with 20 to 30 other people who looked exactly like them before being wrangled into a small room four or five at a time to say their names and, finally, to swish. They stood there for a few seconds pretending to swish mouthwash around their mouths. That's it. That's 80 percent of all the auditions you will go to. Now consider the hundreds of people who also auditioned and didn't get that part. All of that energy, time and money amounted to 10 seconds of moving their cheeks around for a casting director who had already seen scores of other eager young actors do the exact same thing.
"Yeah, I get it. You're doing like a crazy thing. Really nice work, there."
You Will Never Be Considered for Roles That Require ActingAny struggling actors who have never had a significant role before are not members of the Screen Actors Guild. SAG was designed as a union to ensure that actors were paid fair wages for their work. Nearly every movie and television show has to operate within the guidelines of SAG, which means that they can only hire SAG actors or else they have to
"Good luck!"That still leaves you with non-SAG or
Your Faith Will Be ExploitedActing 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.
That's Faith.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
You Won't Make Enough Money to Live OnAmong 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.
You can follow Soren on Twitter and Tumblr.
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'.