I recently received an email from the lovely Unscripted reader, Maria! I thought I'd share a bit of our exchange on the blog and get you all in on the conversation. She asks:
"I would like to be a performer but I would also like to make a decent living. I am a freshman at college and I am unsure what path to take. Is it indeed possible to be a performer and have another job on the side that isn't waitressing or the like? How do you use your marketing degree to your advantage? Thank you so much for your time."
A toughie, but not uncommon - anyone who has pursued acting has had their parents ask them this question at some point. Can you be an actor and not be a waiter?
It boils down to what you define as a "decent living." Do you mean being able to support yourself while making art? If that is your pursuit, then yes, you will certainly be able to do that. While starting up a professional acting career, many find it necessary to have a part time job(s) to supplement their income. The most important thing about that part-time job is finding one flexible with your schedule; that will let you take time off to audition or for rehearsals.
And thus: the actor-waiter was born. :::ta-da!:::
I know other performers who do temp office work, retail, teach, walk dogs, write, and pretty much any flexible job imaginable. I can say from personal experience it is difficult to have a full-time career that will "share" you with the full-time pursuit of acting. Offices prefer to hire someone who is committed to one career instead of dividing their attention across several passions. Even though I have an undergraduate degree in Marketing, what firm is going to hire someone who needs flexible enough hours to leave at 2pm on a Tuesday if an important audition comes up? You are a lucky duck if you find an office that will support you, full-time, in dual career paths.
Once you build your acting career, hopefully you will find acting jobs with a high enough paycheck to cover your expenses. Joining the various performance unions can help you with salary protection, health insurance, and other incentives.
It is possible to live humbly yet comfortably on an actor's salary. I do not want for anything, but I do keep a careful eye on my spending. However if your goal is to lead a more luxurious life, you may want to seek another path. Geoffrey Soffer, CD for Ugly Betty said in a recent Backstage article
, "...Also know that this business is not for everyone, and not everyone can remain optimistic and focused. So if there is something else you'd rather be doing, do that."
It is a highly competitive field for little monetary gain, but you make up for it in personal satisfaction.
Any advice for Maria?
(photo courtesy of Tara Welch)
PS: Happy Hanukkah!