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Your site is so great, it makes researching the business sooo much easier having all the info in one place! thankyou thankyou thankyou.
Amada, aspiring actress, Sydney, Australia


Hi Tony!
Most people don’t even take the time to tell a person how to reach their goal. I want to thank you for everything and for responding to my messages. Sometimes I just test people to see if they really care about my career and you do. You can continue to send me some tips on how I can accomplish my goals, because you inspire me a lot. Thank you for caring.
Jeffrey, Dallas, TX


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9 Different Acting Careers:
A Somewhat Provocative Look

The Different Acting Careers: Recently an actor asked a question on a forum that really made me think about all the different choices actors make about their careers. What you are about to read might seem provocative to some. Those of you who have read my book Acting Career Start-Up and who have been visiting this website regularly know that I love to provoke to stimulate thought. So if you feel that I’ve touched a nerve in you, don’t take it personally. Instead, as you read about the different groups, I invite you to ask yourself some questions: 1) “Am I actually in one of these groups and which one is it?” 2) “Is that where I want to be?” 3) “Why am I there?” 4) “Which group do I want to belong to?” 5) “What, specifically can I do to move to the group where I really want to be?” 6) “When, specifically will I begin the transition?”

The Different Groups Of Actors

1. Big movie star, tv star (prime-time, late night or soap for example) working actors: make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year if not millions for each project, program, film or show and enjoy great notoriety and fame; sometimes too much for their own preference.

2. “Normal” full-time working actors: In certain acting careers, actor are able to maintain him/herself full time as an actor and actually make a living doing only that.

3. Part-time actors: The people in this group enjoy true acting careers in that they work regularly, but not enough to pay ALL the bills. They usually piece together work, an occasional commercial, commercial print job, a play, day player role on a soap, one scene (one or two day shoot) for a film, a corporate video, some extra work, hosting project, voice over and even a little background work from time to time, etc. They usually are forced to have some other means of income, because what they make from acting is not enough to live off of.

4. The specialist actors: These are people who, for one reason or another work specifically in one area/genre (theatre, prime-time television, day-time television, voice over, industrials, television hosting, on-camera commercials).

5. Background actors: I divide this group in to two sub groups. The first group consists of actors who work almost exclusively as background talent. They would like to get that big break and are hoping to do so through background work. They have been doing it for a long time and have even gotten their SAG card through waivers. Occasionally they are upgraded on set to a speaking role or a featured role, which is the way they ended up getting their SAG card. They continue to hope for the break, which come to only a small percentage. Many do not have an agent and continue to submit themselves online as background talent as it is rather easy to get, especially considering that after a while, most of the extra casting directors know them and call them in frequently. They work regularly (3 – 4 times per week) and with all the overtime, penalties, etc. can make a decent day’s pay given that they are members of the union. In addition, they enjoy the benefits and perks of working on set with the stars we see on television and at the movies. After some years of this they do one of two things. Either they break out of extra work and really try to pursue a legit acting career or they quit and do something different in life.

6. The second category of background actors are what I call the hobby background actors: These are people who do background work basically for the fun of it. They are often people who have a regular full-time job that is flexible and that allows them to be able to take a day off from time to time to work on the set of a film or television show, or maybe retirees (even those who retired early). And there are those who have a spouse who brings in enough money to allow them to be able to work occasionally as an extra. For them this makes for good conversation at parties.

(There are certainly others as well, but these are the people I hear about the most who are working as extras frequently.

7. Spurt actors: That is to say that these people pursue acting in spurts. They spend a good amount of time in a full-time job, which robs them of the time they need to concentrate on their careers on a full-time basis. They might take evening classes while they are working to make ends meet. They work to save up money to finally be able to have enough to get new headshots, reel, take classes and make other investments in their careers. There are times when they are going at it full force, auditioning a lot, working a fair amount and really enjoying being actors. Then, when the money runs out and after the big break still hasn’t come, it’s back to the J.O.B. to make some more money for the next spurt. Generally there is no solid plan for how to be able to focus full-time on an acting career. The sad thing is that there are a lot of really good actors who fall into this category and whose work we unfortunately never get to see.

8. The actors who are spinning their wheels in their acting careers: They have done very little acting work, in spite of the fact that is has been a few years if not more that they have been pursuing acting. They have periods where they are more focused than others on getting acting work. They do a lot of things and work hard, but they don’t do a lot of the right things and work smart. Many have been trying to figure out how to get an agent for a few years. Many in this group have the notion that since their families and friends have told them that they are talented and should become actors, that the only things they need to do then is to get headshots, résumés and agents, start auditioning and maybe take an occasional class or two if they study at all. They often will get side tracked with regard to focusing on an acting career, don't really have a clear plan on how to move their careers forward, don't take classes, don't have an agent, don't know how to get one and really just don't do a whole lot to create successful acting careers. BUT they call themselves actors.

9: Wanna be actors: They dream of becoming an actor and how nice it would be, talk about being an actor, would like to start, but something is holding them back. Maybe take an occasional class and maybe even do an occasional stint as an extra or a commercial, etc. They live the acting dream vicariously through someone else who is actually working as an actor, take no concrete steps to really start a career and always happy to be associated with successful actors and proud to be around them.

Again, this is my personal point of view, that is not founded scientifically. You made me think of it, so I tried to think it through.

This is the first time I've thought about it in quite this way. Do you agree? Do you not agree? I really don't want to debate it, but rather to give you and whoever else might read this, something to think about.

In the end, we all have to know what we are up against and know that if we want to be in the first two or even three categories, that we have to work REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HARD, be professional and be really good at what we do (even though not always the best actor gets the job) and not only that. We also have to know ourselves and know what we bring to the table that is unique, be creative to promote ourselves in ways that are different from most, know EXACTLY what kind of career we want so that our efforts will be targeted and focused, have a PLAN so we have a better chance of getting what we want, be highly motivated to achieve it and to work on it each and every day and lastly to be business savvy and treat our careers like a business.

Good luck!

There's more where that came from about how actors make choices about their acting careers or whatever else you need to know. Just look at the menu on your left!

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