And thanks for reading! So, you want to become an actor? If you are not yet familiar with the film or VO industry, consider these Pros and Cons before jumping in.
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting.
Ever thought how great it would be to be an actor? I used to think that all the time, and now I AM an actor! Let me tell you, it is definitely an awesome career choice…although not quite as “stable” as some other career choices might be. Most jobs have you apply, interview, get hired and then you work there for a few years, or even decades before either finding another, better, job or retiring. As an actor? Not so much. Sure, a few actors land gigs as recurring characters on popular shows that last for many years, but that is the exception, not the rule.
Like any other job
Well, OK, not exactly like any other job…but a lot like any other job there are pros and cons to being an actor. It’s great, but as I tell my kids all the time “If it was always fun, they wouldn’t have to pay you to do it”. Unlike other jobs there are a ton of actors who actually DO work for free just because they love it and are trying to build a portfolio. I suppose other industries also have unpaid internships; it just seems more prevalent in this industry. Anyway, let’s look at some pros and cons, shall we?
I like to get the bad news out of the way first. So, I’ll start with the CONS of acting. If you answer the question: “You want the good news or the bad news first?” with “Good news”, then you should start at the bottom and read your way up. That’s just not me, and since this is my blog, I’ll start with the bad news.
Questionable job security
Probably the biggest CON of deciding to work as an actor is the uncertainty of it all. No matter how talented you may be, there is just no guarantee you’ll book enough work to support yourself. While you definitely need talent to be successful, booking enough work to be able to support yourself also requires a fair amount of luck. No matter who you are, or how good of an actor you are, you are GOING to experience periods of unemployment…sometimes LONG periods. Acting is one of the very few career choices that will likely require you to have a second career to be able to pay the bills, at least for some period of time (and maybe forever).
Competition is FIERCE
It doesn’t happen often in today’s self-tape age but walk into an in-person audition and you’ll see 100 other actors who look similar to you waiting to audition. Generally speaking (there are exceptions) and in my experience other actors are friendly and helpful. But as an actor you have to know that there are a multitude of others all vying for the same jobs. It’s a bit of a dichotomy but what I have found is most actors are not “competitive” with other actors per se, but at the same time there is a lot of competition for a given role.
The hours are abysmal
It may look all glamorous and fun, but working as an actor means long days, early call times and long periods of just sitting around waiting. The actor may be the face of the production, but the 200 people who run hair, makeup, lights, sound, set design, photography, catering, craft services and a host of other necessary production items are the ones who “work” full time. Most of the actor’s day is spent either IN hair, makeup, and wardrobe…or waiting around for the set to be ready to shoot. And once the production day is over, the actor gets to go start preparing for the NEXT production day. Honestly, most of the work of an actor is completed away from the set.
One bad performance
In the Navy we had a saying: “One Aw-Sh*t wipes out a thousand atta-boys” and that can definitely be true for an actor. You may be cruising along booking awesome roles and knocking them out of the park and then one bad performance can crush you. Not only does it wreak havoc with your ego and self-confidence it may mean you have to (or at least FEEL like you have to) start over trying to claw your way to where you were before a bad review. If you are emotionally fragile, this can hurt you in ways a bad performance review in other lines of work cannot. You will definitely need thick skin and a pretty stable mindset to succeed in the long run.
And then, you finally “make it” as an actor. You get the recognition of industry pros that you are a solid, dependable actor and you begin to have a fan base. Uh-Oh…you have a fan base (I’m speculating here, because my fan base consists entirely of people who were my fans before I started acting: My family and friends). If you do this right, and become a well-known actor, you can kiss your privacy goodbye. Want to take your wife out for a quiet dinner? Better be able to buy out the whole restaurant. Thankfully, most of us will never have to worry about this CON.
OK, now on to the good stuff. While there are certainly some downsides to being an actor there are even more PROS. Of course there are…or no one would want to do it! I’ll try to briefly capture a few of them here. There are a lot more, but I try to limit my word count.
Well, fame is a double-edged sword, and it’s not very likely as I have mentioned a number of times before, but it is a perk if you manage to achieve it.
Again, not as likely as we’d like it to be, but you can earn a decent living even if you don’t get rich once you start booking consistent union work.
Enjoyable work environment/fun work
Contrary to the CON mentioned above about abysmal hours (which can definitely be true) and sitting around a lot (also true) you get to work behind the scenes “making the magic happen”. On top of that, all that sitting around gives you time to meet and get to know some very interesting people.
Opportunity to collaborate
Are you creative? (If not, why are you an actor?). This career not only gives you an opportunity to meet and get to know some pretty interesting people, it ALSO gives you a chance to collaborate with them on projects you’ll enjoy.
Exploring new places
Face it, it’s not likely there are going to be any movies shot in your backyard, or even in your city (unless you live in LA, NYC or Atlanta anyway). So, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll get to travel to some cool new places as an actor. You may not have a lot of time to explore those places (see abysmal hours above), but you should get to experience some of the culture and may even work in a day off here and there,
It’s never boring
Despite all the sitting around (that is really networking) being an actor is never really boring. Each project and set are different, and there are always new people to meet. On top of that you get to portray a different character each time. It is fun and a learning experience to explore new characters as well as your own emotions.
And there it is
Some PROS and CONS about becoming an actor! Pretty sure you can think of more, and if you do, I’d love it if you popped them into the comments below!