I spent a lot of time in my earlier days hoping for one thing or another. Or pinning my hopes on a singular idea. Honestly, I don’t blame myself much for this. I think we are sold the idea of an acting career as a magical unicorn of a lifestyle…and so much is left out of that portrayal.
Of course it’s quite amazing to get to play pretend for a paycheck. And there always exists that 1% chance that today may just be the day that things change. But also…things like financial planning and personal responsibility are still requirements of the human condition, so like, we gotta do those too. Some examples of things I thought would save me:
1. Making a big chunk of money.
In a shock to no one: I thought money would fix all my “actor problems”. I could finally take an extra class which would maybe mean I could advance my acting career a bit more. Or I could get new headshots. Or get a real VO demo. Or, actually, maybe I could afford to move, now that would change it all! Omg — and new clothes to wear to auditions, let’s go!!!!
See the problem here? I was just wishing for a magical solution to my financial situation. I made zero plans about what I would actually do with a big paycheck (and at the time, a big paycheck meant like one thousand dollars. No shade, I love one thousand dollars, but… after taxes and reps and all that it’s not even enough for half of most LA rents). What I could have actually done, and now do regularly, was to have a true money plan for times of excess so things have a place to go that truly benefit me. Sure, sometimes after putting aside a percentage for taxes (and only if all my day-to-day income has stayed well above paycheck-to-paycheck level), I will buy a new shirt. But a lot of times I dump it into my Acorns stock account or to my high yield savings accont for a trip I have next year. And guess what? It did not take a magical booking to get me to the place of financial stability that I am currently at. Could it change in a few months?? Sure! But I now know how to manage my money better than I ever did when I wished for one big fat check.
2. Getting an agent.
Oh boy. I have written and spoken at length about this and I talk about it so much in my workshop, but bringing a team member on board is no cake walk. It can be the death of so many acting careers. And you will need an agent eventually as you level up your career to audition for roles that are released on Breakdown Services (which are all the bigger and well known shows and films).
Your agent also needs to have a very pushable product…aka you. And “she is going to be so great and has so much potential” will not get you in a lot of doors. So what can you do instead of investing all of your dreams into a rep? You can invest them in yourself. Meaning you can make a project on your own. Or find creative ways to keep putting yourself out into the world. My friends…my current theatrical agent found me from this exact platform — from One Broke Actress — the thing I created and control. How crazy is that?! So it also may not look like what you think it would look like. But reps are attracted to people who are doing things for themselves because it shows how great you will be as your own advocate in this career. Go take charge!
3. Joining SAG.
Listen, joining the union is a privilege and a thrill. It is also a requirement to work real paying jobs, get a pension, and eventually earn healthcare, among thousands of other rules and requirements created to standardize and shore up a safe and successful actor life. And yet…a lot of actors join (like me, hi) thinking it will open some magical door to success.
You have to join the union eventually (and save up cause that first $3k to sign up hits hard) and when you do, it will put you in a mix of actors who are all playing professional ball. Everyone in the union is a professional…which is not true of all the actors auditioning for non-union work. So when you hit the Olympic floor — you better be ready to sprint with the big boys.
…I was not. I saw this as yet another checked box and, after joining, my audition numbers decreased. I went out for big-name stuff (yay!) but rarely booked (boo!) and the reps I had were also not up to that challenge. I went through a big period of stillness and sadness. And ya know what else I didn’t do? I did not use all the resources that the union offered to new members like free classes, workshops, networking opportunities, and committee meetings (aka help) to get me out of my non-union circle and become informed and educated to work at the next level. Did I mention they were all FREE?! Ugh Sam. *smh*
So as I continue to learn these lessons (again….and again….and again) I will continue to share them with you. But to repeat myself: no one can “save you” in this career. You are in charge of you. And you can dream BIG! …while also having an understanding of what you’re capable of now.
If you are looking for a leg up in this process, the Working Actor Workshop is rolling out its last class of 2022 in October. I highly suggest you attend if you’re thinking about it, shoot me an email if you have a question on whether or not it’s right for you.
Hi Sam! So you joined SAG in 2017 (from your other blog entry). Are you saying in hindsight, you would have waited a little longer that year or next year to join so you can get yourself/your reps ready for it? Great content of sharing your experiences, BTW.