Before taking an acting class in Los Angeles, actors must be fully aware of the fact that the acting field is not a safe bet. As a matter of fact actors endure long periods of unemployment, there is intense competition for parts, and much rejection throughout. Because there is such little financial security in the field and earnings are so erratic, many actors supplement their incomes by taking jobs in other fields; the flip side of which is that the most successful actors make a great deal of money. Here is an overview of the economic reality of acting.
Actors work on stage, radio, television, video, or on film sets. Actors also work in cabarets, nightclubs, and theme parks. Most actors struggle to find steady work and only few achieve recognition as stars. Even well-known, experienced actors may be cast in smaller parts or make brief, cameo appearances, speaking only a couple of lines, while some actors do voiceover and narration work for commercials, animated features, books on tape, and other electronic media.
When employed, actors usually work long, irregular hours. For example, stage actors might be doing one show at night while rehearsing another during the day - they also might travel with a show when it goes on tour. Film actors may work on location, sometimes in terrible weather conditions, as they spend considerable time waiting for their scenes to be shot. Actors who work on television often appear on camera with little preparation time, because scripts tend to be changed quite frequently or even re-written moments before taping.
Evening and weekend work is a regular part of a stage actor’s life. On weekends, more than one performance may be held per day. Actors and directors working on movies or television programs, especially those who shoot on location, may work in the early morning or late evening hours to film night scenes or tape scenes inside public facilities outside of normal business hours.
Actors should be in good physical shape as many parts require the ability to move quickly and specifically under a lot of pressure, often enduring heat from stage or studio lights and the weight of heavy costumes.
Some sort of training generally is necessary to land any acting work. Actors looking at training programs should consider the following criteria:
While some actors consider four year B.A. or three year M.F.A programs, many actors attend smaller conservatories and achieve the same, if not better results in a much shorter amount of time.
Most professional actors rely on agents or managers to find them auditions, negotiate contracts, and actually manage their careers. Agents usually receive a percentage of the pay stated in an actor’s contract. Newer actors submit themselves for parts online, as well as through trade publications that list the times, dates, and types of auditions.
Minimum scale salaries, work hours, and other employment conditions are covered in collective bargaining agreements between producers and performers’ unions. The Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) represents theater or stage actors; the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) covers film actors, which includes television, commercial, and film actors; and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) represents radio and TV performers. Actors who regularly work in several media usually join all the unions.
Under a joint SAG and AFTRA contract covering all their actor members (as of July 1,2007) film and television actors with speaking parts earned a minimum daily rate of $759 - or $2,634 for a 5-day work. Additionally, studios and producers contributed to actors’ health and pension plans as well as paying actors for reruns and international telecasts of the productions in which actors appeared.
According to AEA, the minimum salary for actors in Broadway productions as of June 2007 was $1,509/week. Off-Broadway theater actors received minimums from $516 to $976 a week - as of October 29, 2007. Regional theaters that observe and operate under Equity agreements pay actors at the rate of $544 to $840 per week. For productions that go on tour, actors receive an additional $113 per-dium, or daily living expenses.
Some well-known actors earn well above the minimum; their salaries are many times the figures cited, creating the false impression that all actors are highly paid. For example, of the nearly 120,000 SAG members, only about 50 might be considered stars, with another few thousand who are well known and successful in their own right but not quite household names.
In May 2006, actors held about 70,000 jobs. Because many others were between jobs, the total number of actors who were willing and available for work was higher. Most motion pictures and television acting jobs were to be found in Los Angeles with a few small studios throughout the country. Many films were shot locally and employed some local actors for the smaller parts. In television, most opportunities existed where the networks are located, in New York and Los Angeles, but cable television services and local TV stations around the country also employed a good deal of actors.
Employment of actors is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations. Although there are a growing number of new actors entering the field, many will leave acting early because the work is hard, the hours are long, and the chance of significant success is somewhat low. Having said that, employment for actors is expected to expand to twelve percent (12%) between 2006 to 2016. Growing cable and satellite television operations, increasing production and distribution and demand of big budget, major studio and independent films, as well as quickly rising demand for films in other countries should create more employment opportunities for actors. Another factor supporting job growth is the continuing development of interactive media, direct-for-internet films, and mobile content produced for cellular telephones or other portable electronic devices. Competition for jobs, however, will be stiff. Jobs will for the most part go to the most prepared and determined actors.
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