Have you ever stopped to consider why you want to act? I can’t truly say that there are right and wrong reasons to pursue a career in acting, but the question is worth pondering. Particularly if you’re serious about making a go of it in one of the most difficult professions to secure employment.
Some people are attracted to this profession because they hunger for fame and fortune. The glamour they’re exposed to in an array of tabloids promises a life filled with intrigue and excitement. TV shows celebrate the “lifestyles of the rich and famous”, including opportunities that present themselves in the form of fashion, travel, and the chance to meet and hobnob with the VIP’s of the business. All of these enticements draw many people to the business but the desire to attain all the material offerings may not be enough to sustain your interest.
Acting is hard work. Good actors are constantly working at their craft. It begins with developing a solid technique and keeping at it for the long haul. The learning process is never-ending. There is always something new to learn and people who are consumed with their art are always looking to improve.
For most actors starting out, work is difficult to find. Many of the actors that you have seen on stage, TV and film struggled before they were able to get steady work. Time between paying gigs varies but in some cases years can go by between jobs. Even those at the top of the profession have experienced prolonged bouts with unemployment. If you think I exaggerate please watch, “That guy… That was in that thing”, the fabulous documentary in which 15 character actors discuss the challenges of finding steady work and sustaining an acting career.
While you are pounding the pavement looking for work you must find a job that provides you with the flexibility that allows you to audition and work at your craft. A full-time job is not an asset. It is an impediment to flexibility. That means that you will need to find a part/time survival job that satisfies the demands of the actor’s lifestyle. When you do land a job (regional theatre for example) you will need to make travel arrangements, sublet your apartment and secure housing in the city in which you will be working. Once the play ends (unless you have a job in which you are free to come and go from one acting job to the next) you will be looking for a survival job again.
You will also need to find a place either in Manhattan or in close proximity to it. You’re going to need a lot of energy to study, work, audition, network, and commute. Long trips back and forth to the city are draining. When opportunity knocks you want to be able to answer the door. Tiring commutes will place you at a disadvantage.
Rents are higher than ever. I do not envy young actors faced with the task of finding affordable housing in this day and age, but “where there’s a will there’s a way.” It might take teaming up with 2 or 3 roommates to be able to afford today’s rentals but that is part of the journey and you will have to do whatever it takes to stay afloat.
Your first gigs may not live up to your loftiest expectations but that falls under the heading of paying dues. Your journey need not be an exhausting and painful struggle. You can abbreviate the trip by learning your craft well so that you make a positive impression on the casting directors and agents when the opportunity presents itself.
It’s going to take a bit of time to find quality representation. You can’t wait around to be discovered. You must always be looking for work. That requires that you be working on some aspect of your profession every day. You will need to learn about the business end of the acting profession. There’s a reason it’s called show business.
As you can see there are many aspects to establishing yourself in the acting profession. Even the most successful actors have to have more than a little Gypsy in them. Stability is not easy to come by, frustrations run high at times and rejection is a part of the business. Surrounding yourself with positive people is essential. Negative forces are another drain on your energy so you will want to spend time developing a network of people who are supportive and understanding. It’s all part of the process.
If you feel discouraged by what I’ve written that is not my intention. My sole purpose in writing this article is to shed light on the realities of the business. If after having read this you are still eager to proceed then I would venture an educated guess that this path is the right one for you. Be well, be positive, and stay strong. Bon voyage!