Thursday, January 22, 2015

Will I Make A Living At Acting?

Wendy Alane Wright is a Hollywood Talent Manager with WAW Entertainment. Her clients have appeared in numerous national commercials, movies, webisodes, short films, and on television networks such as ABC, NBC, Comedy Central, BIO, Lifetime, plus many more. Previous to being a Manager and a Talent Agent at Burn Down Entertainment, she assisted many high profile Managers, Agents and Publicists in the careers of Neil Patrick Harris, Johnny Galecki, Sarah Michelle Geller, The Four Tops, The Bee Gees, Meatloaf, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Guttenberg, The Cranberries Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, and Neil Diamond. Wendy is also a Recording Artist, Actress, Author and Music Producer all  giving her a 360-degree perspective of the industry.

Every day as a Talent Manager in Los Angeles I get approached by actors who either want me to manage them, or they ask me questions about the business. One very common question goes something like this:
"Hi Wendy I love performing and I know I have the talent for it. But I have a question my mom is a single mom struggling but I love my theater major even though she is not supportive. She tells me that I am going to starve, which sometimes puts me in doubt. But I do not see myself doing anything else.  I wish I could make her happy too. Wendy please help! - Cindy

Cindy - You have to live your own life. You have the power to create the success you envision IF you work very hard at it. And that will be true of whatever career field you choose. Get 2 jobs, save your money and pay for your own career. Learn about the business so you know what you really have to do to build your resume and get acting experience. 
But you have heard this probably before - only 1% of actors make a living from acting. Most actors have other jobs. Actors act because the absolutely NEED to act. They can't imagine life without it and will do it even if they only make $5,000 a year from it. 

Many actors have little money and are broke. Others have side businesses that pay better money than their acting career ever will. But YOU have to decide on the life you want to live. And you are ALWAYS able to change your actions at any time.

Well that's my answer. People don't like these statistics. So many people who go into acting think  they are going to become famous stars. But the truth is almost everyone who is an actor will NEVER be a star. .0000005% will be a star  and 1% of actors will work consistently. The rest? Well they will work at projects you NEVER hear of. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook the median hourly wage for actors was $20.26 in May 2012. If you really are interested in Statistics check out the data at the US Department of Labor:

But Wendy wait! I know there are people in the industry who make tons of money. Just read this!!

Ok, so the reality is some industry people male a fortune and that CAN be you if you meet the right people, have the right talent, don't let fear get in your way and take huge risks over many, many years. But don't let those exceptions cloud your understanding. Please don't think you will go on a couple of auditions, book a huge role and become a rich and famous star. It's possible... but highly, highly unlikely. You have more of a chance of becoming a lottery winner. The facts are income from acting is erratic.

So why do people act? Acting is for people who love creating characters, digging up emotions inside themseleves and sharing them in a public forum. Stars never had any idea they would become stars. Steve Carell was kicking around Hollywood trying to scrape up a living for 20 years before he landed The OFFICE and got famous. If he hadn't gotten lucky and booked that role, he would likely still be like so many actors just getting by and trying to land some kind of acting work. Why is it so difficult to make a living at acting or get famous? Because it is one of the most competitive industries in the world.

There are always far too many actors for far too few roles!

Where do actors find jobs? Actors perform on stage, on the radio, on television, in videos, in major films, in cabarets, in nightclubs, at theme parks, on commercials, and in “industrial” films made to train and educate. It is rare to reach the status of a celebrity because it is hard for many actors to find steady work. Actors may also commentate or narrate for electronic media, such as advertisements, animation, and books on tape. They also instruct in high school or college drama departments, conservatories of acting, or public programs. Actors have to do whatever they can to make money to pay the bills. And they often do it without anyone knowing who they are.

The actors who have any shot of becoming working actors and able to pay their bills just from acting NEVER STOP ACTING. They never give up. They keep taking whatever roles they can get, they drive limousines and wait tables, design websites and have landscaping businesses. They do theater no one ever hears of. They do roles in D films that no one ever hears of. They get a really great role that gives them 10 seconds of attention and never have a role that does that again. They do TV series that get dropped, or never get picked up. They do movies that go straight to video that no one cares about and no one will ever see. They have families who wonder if they are ever going to make it. They have friends who make more money than they do who are buying houses, taking vacations, and have money in the bank and money for retirement.

Actors usually perform under conditions with long, irregular hours. Movies actors may work in a location with unpredictable and bad weather, causing them to wait for lengthy periods of time until they can perform their scenes. Actors work in the evenings and on weekends, where they may be required to perform more than once. 

In 2002, median yearly income of salaried actors was $23,470. The middle 50 percent pulled in between $15,320 and $53,320. The lowest 10 percent earned lower than $13,330, while the highest 10 percent earned higher than $106,360. It is important to remember however, that actors who are successful can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Some even make millions.

So I tell you Acting is something you do ONLY if you can't be happy doing anything else. ONLY if you can't be happy do ANYTHING ELSE. There are easier ways to get famous and there are easier ways to get rich (Real Estate.)

SO if after you read all that, you still want to audition for an off, off Broadway play just for the opportunity to create an amazing character and perform it in front of 100 people and hear the roar of their applause...then go for it. I think performers know that there is nothing like performing. Nothing in the world that feels as a good as when you are on stage, or collaborating with other creative people, or losing yourself in a character. If this is in your blood, it will always be in your blood. It will never leave you and a part of you will always hunger for more.

If you don't understand this you don't understand what it means to be an actor. Why else would anybody put themselves through the poverty that comes with trying to be a working actor or the rejection? Why would anyone choose the stress from working under continual pressure, including the constant need to find their next production?

If you can be happy living your life without acting go do it. If not, give yourself a HUGE hug and keep going. 
Either way, I love you.

Wendy Alane Wright
Talent Manager 
 WAW Entertainment
TWITTER: wendyalane1

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