Business of Being an Actor PART I

The beginning of the year is a great time to do a self assessment.  A time to review, make plans and set goals.

In our classes at The Actors Workout Studio, we spend time in the beginning of the year on goals, actions, and discussing the actor’s business model.  Painfully, a lot of actors don’t want to talk about it, they just want to do their art. I even have a number of students who leave and return when we get back to the craft. They don’t want to deal with it.

With Covid upon us, many actors have more free time and are looking to stay productive and move forward. I’ve gotten many calls and requests for this conversation that am repeating this from previous years and doing it in several parts.

Part One – You are a business

Yes, it is true, you are a business. You are self employed and like it or not, an entrepreneur.  You are selling a product and you have to have a business plan, with a marketing strategy, budget, staff (which might just be yourself at first) then execute it, and sell it. Actors tend to avoid this conversation relying on the excuse “I am an artist, if I wanted to go into business then I would have gone into my family’s business.”  They prefer to study their art, by taking classes, maybe doing a play once in a while, sending out headshots, and wonder (bitterly) why nothing is happening for them.

The greatest tragedy I see after working with thousands of actors for nearly 30 years is this:  I’ll see a great actor not get any work. They are excellent, trained, professional, talented, true artists, and don’t get any work.  They become great “classroom” actors, might do some theater once in a while, but no real career to talk about. The other sad thing to see are mediocre actors who have great success. I am actually happy for them. They may not be as talented yet get work. It almost seems unfair to these passionate artists. They see this and feel helpless and turn bitter.

The fact is, you are a business, and most of an actors’ job is to be looking for work, networking, and setting up the next job, or interview, or audition.  90% of actors are unemployed 90% of the time. It’s a fact. But that 10% can make it all worthwhile.

Consider this. If you are a trained engineer and looking for a job, you get your resume, solicit companies, look at want ads and listings and put yourself out there. If you are trained and have some experience you may go out on 10 to 12 interviews.  Then you might get a job.  Once you do, then you are probably set for a few years if it all works out. Your employer also goes through this process once every few years.  In our business, you go out, have 10 -12 job interviews (auditions in our language), say you get one, work a day or two, and guess what?  You are back to doing it all over again. So, you are in the business of seeking employment, constantly.  The good news is the employer, (casting directors) are also looking to hire on their next project. So, there is good news. If you don’t get that job, you have an opportunity to move on to another and not wait 2-3 years until that engineering position opens up again.

My point is, you are constantly looking for work, and, you need a plan, a structure and discipline.

Next month I’ll cover setting goals and how we do them at the Actors Workout Studio.

Stay positive.

Fran Montano