The Costs to be an Actor
Most everything we choose to do costs money. Runners invest in good running shoes and a watch. Parents of kids who want to participate in an extracurricular activity, such as soccer, have to pay for shin guards and uniforms. Even a fun night of mini-golf costs money for the use of the course and putters. Acting is no exception.
It costs money to be an actor, whether you choose acting as a hobby or a career. The only difference is your intention. Chances are, acting is a hobby for you if your sole intention is to creatively express yourself for the sake of art and emotional freedom without the need or desire to get paid for an acting job. But if you want to make money from your acting skills, then this is a career. Regardless of your reason to be an actor, plan to invest your hard-earned cash and plenty of time.
1. The INITIAL INVESTMENT. This is the basic cost to be an actor. Your costs will include acting classes, workshops and seminars, photo shoots and printing for your headshots, creating and editing your demo reel, annual online casting sites, a personal website and perhaps business cards. Your total costs can easily add up to $2,000 and up (give or take a few hundred bucks), and that’s on the conservative side. Multiply this amount by a minimum of two in Miami, L.A. or New York.
Union membership and dues aren’t factored into my calculation of expenditures, because most beginning local actors don’t need to worry about Union status. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. Wardrobe/props also aren’t included in expenditures. There’s absolutely no need to bring props to an audition unless you know for a fact the casting director demands it. As for clothing, use what you already own.
2. THE BIGGEST EXPENSE IS TIME. You’ll need plenty of time to organize and attain your INITIAL INVESTMENT: regularly attend acting classes, schedule photo sessions for headshots, build your experience to create a resume and demo reel, as well as network and market your services.
If you have a “day job”, you’ll have to routinely ask your boss for time off from work (which probably means you won’t get paid for that day) to go to an audition that you may or may not book (you were chosen for the acting job). You might even have to ask for a second and third day off for callbacks (second or third round of auditions) and the booking. It helps if your work schedule is flexible and you have a supportive boss.
Parents, if you have to sign-out your grade-school kid from classes for an audition, a possible callback and a booking, how much school work or how many tests will be missed and have to be made up? Does this put your child at an academic disadvantage? These principles of thought also apply to college students.
And remember, a missed audition is a missed opportunity. It’s part of an actor’s everyday life.
3. TRAVEL. Consider the amount of miles you’ll be driving roundtrip for auditions, agency or production meetings, rehearsals and bookings. If you’re lucky, some may be local trips while many more will be out-of-town. Plan to travel to Orlando, Tampa and Miami for most of your auditions and bookings in FL. Savannah, Atlanta, Tennessee, Louisiana and the Carolinas are also common audition spots.
Sometimes, traveling by air is a better choice, but don’t forget ground transportation once you land at your destination. If you’re traveling for an audition, you will not be paid or reimbursed for gas, mileage, airfare or car rental.
4. HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS. If my out-of-town audition or shoot is early in the morning, I personally prefer to drive or fly the day prior and stay the night at a nearby hotel. Again, if it’s for an audition, I know this will be a personal, out-of-pocket expense. I will not get paid or reimbursed for this cost. If you have friends or family who live in the area, ask if you can stay with them overnight. However, if it’s for a booking, many times (but not always), the client will either pay or reimburse me for my hotel stay.
5. INCIDENTALS such as meals, tolls and parking. During your drive, you may get hungry or thirsty or have to pay for tolls, especially if you’re accessing the FL Turn Pike. I usually bring a large water bottle, a quick and easy meal like grilled chicken plus a baggie filled with snacks such as sliced fruit, nuts or a trail mix, when I travel to Orlando. But if I’m driving down to Tampa or Miami, I usually stop for a meal break. And I always have some cash and lots of quarters in my car.
Many downtown areas charge for parking, even here in Jacksonville. Be prepared to have plenty of quarters to feed the meters. You might want to keep in mind that you can’t ask the casting director in the middle of your audition if you can run out and feed the meter. In Miami, you’ll definitely pay for parking most anywhere (meters accept debit or credit cards), and that includes self-parking at a hotel (about $25/night; valet is about $30/night).
Acting may sound like an expensive hobby or career, but if you consider the start-up costs of your other hobbies or a store-front business, the costs to be an actor isn’t too far-fetched. Find ways to cut costs wisely without sacrificing quality. And most importantly, determine if you are truly ready, willing and able to spend the amount of time necessary to achieve your goals as an actor.