1% of the acting population is actually making a livable wage from their career.
Everyone else is unemployed, working for free or working for less than minimum wage or working two other jobs in another industry to support their acting careers (also known as paying the industry for the privilege of being an actor)
The reason is because we have so much of our self worth wrapped up in getting the job. If we get it, we’re worthy, if we don’t, something is wrong with us for not being able to make a living. We are basing our worth on a process that doesn’t value you unless you require it.
And why should the industry pay u more if it can get you for less?
For example, Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), did the theatre thing, couldn’t get arrested. She paid her dues and the industry didn’t care. Then, she started thinking about what a corporation values (which is exactly what network, tv/films studios are- corporations). They value numbers that turn into paying/subscribing customers who will pay for the exorbitant production costs for a show like Game of Thrones. She found a way to bring 20,000 potential customers to the table with her 20,000 instagram followers where she was simply sharing her love of her artist life. Her negotiating process is now 20,000 times more powerful than other actors up for the job.
She got the job over more experienced actors because she was willing to go the extra mile for her craft: she was willing to also tackle the business as well as the craft.
And before you get on your high horse about art and actors and social media is degrading, blah, blah, blah....How many commercials, voice overs, videos, radio shows for plays you’re working on have you done?
That’s an ad, not art. Ads are what keep the Entertainment industry alive bec if no one is paying for the stories you want to star in, they won’t be made. Your social media following is your ad for your career. Your content is what you get your audience excited about supporting. That’s just smart business sense. You’re showing folks why what you do is important and worth supporting and if you don’t think this step is important, why should someone spend $100 to see you?
It’s no different from the opening night outfits, hairdos you’re wearing that were created by Beyoncé & Kardashians using their social media presence to keep awareness of the brand foremost in your mind. The result is that you continue to support those brands by talking about them, posting about them, buying their concert tix, CDs, movies, tv shows, clothing, hair & makeup & signature looks.
How does this apply to you booking gigs & moving your career to the next level? You give your agent/manager a list of requirements in the negotiation process based on your experience (and time served) and they immediately give you a laundry list of why you’re not going to get those things.
Waymenent....Just because u believe ur not going to get what u think u deserve, doesn’t mean u get to tell me what I deserve.
As long as ur willing to walk away from a negotiation process, you have nothing to lose.
You get that angle by adding up how much time, energy getting the job is going to cost you: hours preparing & traveling to the audition, clothing/hair, coaching for the audition
Then after taxes, union dues, agent manager fees —-just take 40-45% off the top of your salary...
Now how much do you need to make to make this job viable? Bec If u don’t factor that in, u will be working for pennies...
Always do the math...being a working actor is actually not more important than being an actor being paid a livable wage.
You deserve that and if you don’t start requiring it, not only will you never get it, u also create an industry that continually takes advantage of actors who think the only way to survive is by working for minimum wage.
What do u deserve and how are you going to get it?
Making Your Own Work involves 3 things
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""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson