I NEED TO BE A WORKING ACTOR!
Say this to yourself every day. First thing when you wake up. Last thing before going to bed. “I NEED TO BE A WORKING ACTOR!”
Q: How many actors in this town find themselves rotting away behind a desk, slaving with a tray in hand or otherwise paying the bills in a way that has little to nothing to do with why they moved to New York in the first place?
A: TOO MANY!
WELCOME TO DJA – Day Job Anonymous.
“Don’t waste your twenties with a tray in your hand.”
“Hi, I am Walter. I am day job free for 4236 days. 14 years ago I almost became manager at Chucky Cheese. The day I was supposed to start, I booked Fiddler on the Roof at Gateway Playhouse. More recently I almost went to Starbucks for the benefits, but I stayed strong…”
“I NEED TO BE A WORKING ACTOR!”
I am not here to brag. I am here to shed wisdom and convert more over to the world of artist full time.
We like to spend money. Most spend more than they make in all walks of life. Its not just us. Any economist will tell you “It’s not what you make, but what you save.”
If you currently have a day job, don’t quit yet. Think about a few things first…
- If you quit your job today, how long can you eat and pay rent before being homeless?
- How much can you cut out of daily, weekly, monthly expenses?
- What jobs could you be dong that use your talents?
- Did you move to NYC to wait tables, sell shoes, whip up frappacinos, answer phones, etc etc etc???
Becoming a successful actor means different things to different people. I have yet to sing on Broadway or at the Met, things I moved to New York to pursue. BUT since moving to NYC in 1997…
- I have performed professionally at regional theaters and non-union tours.
- Every so often I will make a stipend to sing an opera or perform a festival piece (NY Fringe etc)
- I have built a successful company performing/teaching Improv Comedy 2-10 times/week and get paid – public shows, corporate events, K-12 outreach, colleges, etc
- I sing at a church for a stipend.
- Sometimes I host private students at my house in NJ (Yep finally bought a house last year because 8-14 years ago I lived in a room, allowing me to reinvest/save almost every penny). I have professional experience in acting, singing and comedy.
- I have a growing TV, Commercial, Film resume and getting some pretty cool auditions thru a manager.
I did not start working full time as an actor till I was 30+. I spent 10 years working in restaurants. I worked as an actor and singer during that period, but two thing happened.
- I could not keep a day job if I disappeared for gigs.
- I was exhausted at auditions. I nailed an audition for Troika’s Cats. When it came time for call backs, the day after working a double Sunday shift, I had nothing. The voice was pretty but had zero power.
If you are 21-25, just got to the city, eager to start working, let me give you some advice. It is much sexier to be bohemian at 25 than 35. Don’t waste your twenties with a tray in your hand.
Now one of two things happens in my life at any given time.
- I’m working as an artist – performing, rehearsing, teaching, auditioning.
- I’m at home finding work – emailing/calling manager, agent, casting directors, clients; researching the industry, building websites and social media profiles; etc etc etc
Almost everything I do either pays my bills using my talents or developing opportunities. I did know anyone in 1997 when I moved here. I had talent. And it took 5 years to learn everything I am discussing in this blog.
Two things happened in 2001.
September 11 – Nothing in our lifetime has been so life changing. It made me rethink EVERYTHING in my life.
I sang at my cousin’s wedding. It was pretty, but I was miserable. It had been so long since I had sang in a show or even with a great teacher. My whole body was shaking. It was all wrong.
I was a waiter, not an actor. I think I went almost 3 years w/o auditioning because I was so busy paying the bills. I gained weight because I was depressed.
“I NEED TO BE A WORKING ACTOR!”
I gave up my one bedroom apartment. I moved into a room. I think it was an illegal rental. An entire family lived in the next room. Remember Tom Hanks in BIG? This was worse.
But I reduced my expenses in half. Perhaps more.
I stopped working at restaurants. Instead I took promotional jobs. I used similar skills to selling drinks and food, but NO SIDEWORK after a 4-8 hour shift.
I started singing. I booked an Opera. Stipend. But that lead to my first NYC Press – NY TIMES loved me. I was rebooked on the same show when it did a minitour.
I had different problems than many. I was already married. Now I was working as a performer. In 2002 I booked Gateway Playhouse and National Tour of Pimpernel. Now my wife and I never saw each other. We decided to do a showcase to try and get some agents to notice us. That’s where this Improv thing comes in my life. By 2003, we were doing our first paid gigs. By 2005 we were performing 6-8 shows/week off Broadway. Around 2008 I met my manager. Two weeks later I filmed my first SAG Commercial. etc etc etc
So take inventory of your life.
- Make a list of all your expenses.
- Make a list of all your talents. What jobs can you do that use those talents?
- What other jobs could be doing in the business that might better network than carrying a tray?
- Set some realistic goals.
It will not happen over night. It may not happen this year.
Before you spend another penny on classes, go to some auditions. Get your self out there. Get your self on stage and on camera. Get your self DOING! I promise when we DO as artists we grow. There are no plateaus. We are moving forward or backwards. What appears as a holding pattern is slipping backwards. If you are “STUCK” change something in your life. MAKE A BIG CHOICE!!! OWN IT!!! GO FOR IT!!!