Photos of Conan in Movies

Before You Start Acting Be Prepared For The Real Life Of An Actor

Monday, 09 October 2006

Think of the lifestyle of an actor and you think of fame, fortune and fans. You think of glitz and glamour, fabulous parties with interesting people, red carpet and money, you think the life of an actor is all apples.

Well if this is the case you need to read on, if you are considering becoming an actor, you need to prepare yourself. The real life of an actor is very different...

Think scrounging, budgeting, practising, learning, meeting as many people as you can, always keeping your spirits up even when you feel like crap inside, always putting on a brave face.

As a beginning actor you will have to take most any role you can get, often you won't even be allowed to audition for an acting part, and will get 'parts' where you are brought in on the cattle truck with 100 other extras. If you do see yourself in the finished product it will probably be the back of your head as you sat in the background sipping coffee as the movie star walked past a coffee shop.

Years of doing this, gaining small bits of acting experience and industry contacts along the way, until the day you get your 'big break' - usually a no/low pay acting role in a no/low budget video production that will only be seen by friends and family... BUT you now have that all important piece for the acting puzzle - a real acting role to add to your showreel, which you must then learn to edit together yourself as you don't have the money to pay anyone else.

So now you have been acting for a while, you might make enough money from acting to pay for your lessons, great you are no longer losing money - just time..

You are working a regular job but your boss has warned you that if you take any more "sick" days off work then you are fired. Everyone knows you are taking the days of to work as an actor.

The phone rings, it is your acting agent, she has a real actors role in a real movie... that actually pays! It is only a small part but the director saw your audition and they want you. What are you going to do? Lose your job and take the 3 days acting job for maybe $2000. Or do you stay at your regular job and keep that nice regular income so you don't starve?

If you are a serious actor you toss your job and take the role. Now you work a crappy part time job as a waiter or a casual construction worker where you can work the days and hours you want

This is where it gets interesting, your "big role" fizzled into nothing after the job, you got an additional credit for your Biography and some footage for a showreel will be available next year when the film, after much waiting, finally comes out. You are working part time, living in student like accomodation, even sharing a flat, possibly sharing a room. Living in cheap rented apartments in a cheap neighbourhood, running around all over town at your own time and expense going to actor audition after audition.

Many actors get most of their experience initially from castings. Do three years of castings and you should be at least a reasonable entry level actor.

Your next job lands you in a decent paying movie production, say you make say $10,000 for 4 weeks filming.

Ah working on set - here comes another surprise. How do you like getting up at 4.30am every morning? Walking around in a holiday clothing on the beach in the middle of winter, huddling under a small piece of canvas during a thunderstorm because the equipment gets priority over you in the rain. How do you like missing meals and getting cold, soggy meals because you were filming while everyone else had lunch. How do you like getting a 11pm call to get up, you are shooting in 15 minutes. How do you like sitting around for 12 hours staring at the walls of a tiny green room with nothing but instant coffee to keep you company for 12 hours, only to be finally told that they are not shooting your scene today, come back tomorrow at 5am again. Welcome to acting.

I have heard that actor John Goodman said "We don't get paid for acting, we do that for fun, we get paid to wait around the set all day". This is a fair indication of what you will be doing on set 70% of the time, more if your character is not important.

So anyway you land a actor job with good pay, it is set in a swamp/jungle in the tropics, so you spend the next 4 weeks waist deep in water and covered in mosquito infested mud - and you thought that trip to the tropics was going to be a holiday.

But you bring home the bacon, $10,000 worth of Bacon in this case - a good pay rate for a month's acting work... or is it?

Now as you have climbed the ladder you can no longer do extra work, so you lose all those little jobs that pay a couple of hundred dollars a day. You lost your job as a waiter because you were gone for so long. No matter, you now have enough to live on for a while.

The first month you go out and buy all those things you have not had for the last 2 years - new shoes so you don't get wet feet through the holes in your old ones, new socks and underwear, new jeans, you can even afford to start dating again. Life is pretty cool when you are a successful actor.

3 months later you haven't landed another actor job yet, that $10,000 for 4 weeks has now had to stretch out over 4 months, you are back on skid row and eating beans on toast for dinner. Things are looking bad if you don't get anything this month. you realise that a being poor starving actor is no fun.

You score another acting role, just when you are down to your last $500.

Repeat this cycle until you become well known enough to be one of the few actors (1% according to SAG statistics) that makes enough money to live a normal life with a decent pay and a  realatively normal lifestyle. Or until you burn out, or that last job doesn't come in on time and you are 35 years old and moving back in with your parents because you are flat broke.

The poor actor is a very real phenomenon. 

This is not fun, it is stressful, not knowing where your money is coming from - or even knowing if it is coming.

These situations are real, I have personally been down to the last $30 in the bank and an acting job came in to save me.

This takes guts and determination, it does not take sitting around a coffee shop telling everyone you are an actor and acting like a superstar with all your wanna-be actor friends. Many an actor will work for peanuts to do that one role that is ideal for them so they can show their brilliance - to find that role is the quest - but along the way you may starve.

Glitz and glamour? Bah! - Though I must admit you meet some very interesting people.

Oh but even at the parties you are networking and on your best behaviour so you can't really relax...  not until you are the movie star and everone is trying to network with you anyway - and then the rules tighten and become restrictive.

Fame is not what it was promised to be, people follow you around, you have no privacy, everything you do is recorded by your fans whom all now have HD cameras in their phones, you are worried about saying anything that can be taken out of context or edited into a harmful soundbyte, you can't cut lose and 'let it all hang out', you have to be on your best behaviour at all times. This is not the life you imagined.

Starving then hounded, make sure you chose this career for the right reasons, don't chose it because you think it is easy or because you want fame - you won't last the trials if you don't truly love acting.

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