Friday, June 26, 2015

Death of the Career Actor

I was seated at my usual 'perch' during my shift.  Working at Jinky's Studio Cafe in Studio City, sitting in the end chair at the bar spinning the phone on the surface.  I was hearing a group of two actresses behind me talk about their 'survival jobs'.  "I hate waiting tables, but I'll get out as soon as I get my big-time role!"  "I know!  I know!  God!  How long do we have to do this crap?!"  They were regulars, came in once a week... talked once a week.... complained once a week.  But they highlight a real reality that so many of us have to live: dealing with having a miserable survival job.

That's the trade off... Right?  Slaving away bringing kale salad after kale salad to customers too busy texting (or instagraming their food) to even give you eye contact?  What's years of that get you?

Here's my thought: It won't get you what you expect.

I was a uber driver for a while after my stint at the restaurant.  Lots of different people from all walks of life.  One rider really struck me.  She was a actress, been here for years and years.  Here's what she said:
You know...It's really changed here.  Man, like 15-20 years ago, you could come here to Los Angeles and pretty quickly get to the point of doing a few national commercials to live on while you worked building your credits....  Those days are gone.  I don't envy what you have to go through.  I don't know how you make it work now.
When you look at where you (or your profession) was at 15-20 years ago, and compare that to now, you'll see what path you're on.  Where does that path take you, what's the outlook 15-20 years from now?

Frankly, the outlook I saw doesn't look good.

I did a national for a major cheese brand..... and you guessed it: it was non-union.  Something unheard of 15-20 years ago happens now on a day to day, project to project basis.  During lunch break I chatted with the director about the major move towards non-union, if he could shed some light on it....
It's a lot more simple than you're thinking.  It's all money.  You're a good actor, good fit for this spot.  Why would [cheese company] want to pay some union actor $85k when you'll show up and do just a good of job for $500.  They talk about how their actors are better, but we find fantastic non-union actors all the time.  Why are we wasting money on union people when there isn't any real value-add.  It's a business decision.
And their production company does features and other passion projects, and they are moving over to do more and more non-union.  Doing a union project is starting to make less and less business sense now, huge change from 15-20 years ago.

So that's the past and present.... What's the future look like?

I broke this down into the following statement, a extremity of the cheese commercial chat:

  • Myself as a non-union actor, I would consider any part on any project (regardless of budget) and would accept the role for no pay.
What does that precedent look like 15-20 years from now?  Future producers knowing that there will always be someone that will accept the role for no pay.  What does that world look like for someone trying to be a career actor?

It doesn't look good.

After seeing this I started looking for alternatives to build my life into something that might be a viable option 15-20 years from now and onward.  I think we're going to enter a era of acting where we all will continue to have 'survival' jobs.

Then I thought, why couldn't I have a 'thriving job'?  What does that look like?

And because the universe provides......  A friend of mine contacted me and introduced me to network marketing.  It was just what I was looking for:  Actors thriving right here in LA.  Going to event after event I was stunned, many are married, have children, pay a mortgage (yes... in LA).... all from network marketing.  Oh and being a thriving actor.

They have the life I want.  They found a path that took them from starving-artists to thriving-artists.  And it's a path I'd recommend to anyone looking for a better way.

To those girls probably still complaining in Jinky's.... You can stop waiting tables, prep for the future... thrive AND be a actor here!  I found it: 


Have a awesome day,
--Paul Jacob Evans