Actors, Don’t Give Yourself A Short Timeline


I’ve been pursuing being an actor for a long time. I moved to LA in 2001 to attend college, but I was also auditioning for commercials and tv and taking acting classes outside of school. After being in the creative life for almost 15 years, I’ve seen a lot of friends “make it” and have incredible success. It’s awesome seeing someone’s dream come true and knowing how much hard work they put into it. But I’ve also seen dozens of friend quit the industry for various reasons.

Some of the people who have quit have done so because they got married or had kids and either wanted to focus on their personal life or moved away from LA to be somewhere else with their family. Some of them found another career that they enjoyed as much or more than acting and they went to do that. And some people just decided that it wasn’t for them. Those people tend to be pretty happy with their decision to quit and I don’t have any guilt or weird feelings talking to them about my career.

But some of the people I’ve seen quit were people who set what typically are unrealistic expectations and give up when they don’t happen. I’ve seen people who said they are here for 1 year and if they don’t make a living from acting they are going back where they came from (and they refused to get a day job to extend how long they could live in LA). I’ve seen people who gave it a single pilot season even though they had never lived in LA before or had an agent. And I’ve seen people who have a set dollar amount (like $10,000) and once they spend that money they give up.

I understand why people set these timelines for themselves, but it’s really not realistic if you are moving to LA (or any major market). It takes time to get settled into the city, to find an acting class, to find representation, and to start auditioning and booking work. And when you start booking work, you might be working non-union or unpaid student films. Those jobs can be less money than a day job but you need the footage or connections. These are not things that typically happen within a year.

And if you are moving here during pilot season without representation, it’s almost unheard of to audition for a pilot as they are usually only auditions that agents can submit your for. And to land the very first pilot you audition for is probably unlikely too. And to have that pilot get picked up is not a guarantee. So to be expecting to be a star of a new tv show within a month or so of moving here probably won’t happen. There is always the one in a million person where it happens, but it’s much better to move here with a realistic idea and be surprised than to have high expectations that don’t get met.

As far as moving to a city with a money deadline, you have to keep in mind how quickly that money will go. There will be rent (I’d say in LA, with a roommate or in a studio outside the city it would be about $1000 a month), utilities (another $200 a month), gas (this is a sprawl so you drive a lot), headshots ($500), printing headshots ($100), acting classes ($400 to take an improv class or about $200/month for an ongoing class), union dues ($3000 to join and $200 a year in dues), and whatever things you like to spend money on in your free time. $10,000 can go within a few months if you are busy getting yourself set up here.

I’m not saying this to discourage any of you who might be thinking of moving to LA or to another big city. I just have seen so many friends give up on their dreams when they are amazing actors because their dreams didn’t become reality in a timeline they wanted. I’m glad that many of my friends who moved here with a timeline quickly realized that was not the way to live here and worked on finding day jobs so they could be here for the long haul. And some of those friends are now making a living just on their acting careers, but it took 10 times longer than they thought it would. But even with the extra time it took, I don’t think they are any less excited about being a working actor now than they would have if it happened instantaneously for them.