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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The (un)Glamorous Side of Acting

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(Disclaimer: I happened to have some recent shots from our fabulous feature film, Out of the Darkness.  The following is not about this production, but about the industry in general.  I LOVE working on this film and am so thankful for the opportunity to work with the marvelous Danny Carrales.  What a gift!)

Waiting; that's what it all boils down to.  And that as an actor you are on the bottom-most rung when it comes to producing a film/commercial/etc.  You're a trained monkey -the one who the show is seemingly all about, but when it really comes down to it, you're just there to perform on command.  I'm beginning to warm to the idea of being in production instead...

I love acting; it's great!  The challenges, the novelty of being in front of the camera, being "the talent," it's fun and I'm not dogging any one experience (particularly the current film I'm working on.  It has been a JOY being a part of it.)  But there are things that most folks don't know that are everyday parts of being an actor.  Things that I'd have liked to know in high school when the dream began.  And things that make living this flexible lifestyle hard on anybody, particularly a family and your "other" job.
I'll expound.

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Lately Austin has been inundated with commercial work.  Yay!  I get an email from my agent.  Double check if I'm available for the audition date, potential callback and the potential shoot dates (which they usually have 3 of, though you'll only be used for one.)  You have to have an open schedule for all of those dates in order to accept the audition.  I move my schedule around, make sure babysitting is taken care of, then say I'm available.

An audition usually takes up half my day.  For less than five minutes in front of the casting director.  The drive time, allowance for bad traffic, getting ready (hair, wardrobe, directions, printing scripts, memorizing,) babysitting.  It's kind of an ordeal.  Arrive at the audition, wait sometimes up to an hour if they're running behind, do my thing for a few minutes, then head back home.

If you get a callback, it may be the night before that you hear, "Congratulations, you're callback is at 9:20am..."which means -CRAP!- I need a babysitter!  Who can I call at 10:30pm to watch the kids at 8am so I have ample drive time?  You get it figured out, go to your callback, then wait.
You won't hear if you didn't get the job, but you still have to have those dates available just in case the producers/client changed their minds last minute.  So don't make any plans.  But, statistically speaking, you didn't get the job.

The good thing?  When you do book a job, you normally get paid more for 4 hours of work than you would for 2 weeks/1 month at a normal job.  It's kind of like gambling.  You never know if you're going to win, even if you feel lucky or you rocked your audition.

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(Pictured: Mike Gassaway)
Acting is tough on the ol' ego, as well as your schedule.  Constantly putting yourself out there, doing your best, occasionally booking a job but mostly simply not hearing anything while you keep your life on hold, just in case.  And if you do seize other opportunities when you should be holding your schedule, your agent won't see you as reliable and will cease submitting you regularly for projects.

Am I griping?  I don't mean to.  Well, maybe I do... On top of all of this juggling, when you do book a job, you may not see your paycheck for months.  I finally got paid for a voice over I did in June 2010.  Last week.  Still waiting on payment for a project I did the last week of December.  I'm seriously considering starting an actor's-collections-slash-bounty-hunter agency.  Gas, wardrobe, babysitting -all of that requires finances directly out of my pocket.  The truth is that actors are pawns in the chess game of production.  Not a complaint, just a fact.  If I want to change that I should get into producing my own work -and I like that idea.  But I do wish a few simple changes would be made to how the current system operates.

1) Casting Directors should post when a project has been cast in order to release all of the potential bookers.

2) Agencies need to get paid within 1 month of the project shooting so the actor can receive compensation in a timely manner.

What a relief it would be if those two things were ironed out!

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(The penthouse set built at Omega Studios hangar for "Out of the Darkness."  Amazing how fancy and solid sets look on screen when they're really, well, plywood.)

So you want to be an actor?  To make it as easy on yourself as possible so you can fully pursue a career in the limelight: live with your parents, marry someone with a well-paying job so you aren't required to bring in any regular income, be a trust-fund baby, have your life revolve around acting (not a bad thing), and don't have kids.  See, it's simple!

It's a fun, fun job but it comes with quite a few challenges and sacrifices that not too many folks are aware of.  I truly am thankful for the chance to pursue what is available in the Austin/Central Texas market, thanks to having Brian home 5 days a week for the kids and being self-employed.

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(Director of Photography, Michael Cano, talking with director Danny Carrales.)

Maybe I'll create my own show... It can happen.


I AM JOE PESCI said...

Who knew!? I certainly didn't know how difficult/time consuming it all was. And waiting for a paycheck. I'd go insane (insaner than I already am).

So, I guess I can now understand why actors get paid the big bucks - even if they're getting paid a YEAR after they do their work.

Thanks for the realistic look of it all.

Kelly Cameron said...

Roccy, you only get paid the big bucks in Austin if you're doing commercial work (for the most part.) And even then, projects range from about $300-$1500. From the folks I talk with you're lucky to book 4 jobs a year. Doing the math, acting is basically a hobby unless you're like a few other friends of mine who live, eat and breath it -traveling between New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to audition and work.
BUT, thank goodness there are opportunities! The sky's the limit if you network, promote, create and are tenacious!


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