As I was mindlessly scrolling through the endless hole that is Instagram one day, I came across a post by a talent manager I was following. She had posted screengrabs of a conversation she’d had with an actress who politely asked if the manager was looking to sign anyone new. The manager responded with the typical Hollywood mindset answer: yes, but only if you have a strong resume.
What does the term ‘strong resume’ mean to an agent or manager?
It means studio films or network TV credits.
The persistent actress responded back, asking if the manager would be willing to take a chance on someone who doesn’t have a ‘strong resume’, but is skilled, well-trained, a hard worker, and reliable.
This is where the manager started to get impatient.
She responded saying absolutely not, because ‘developing talent’ takes a lot of time and work, and she just doesn’t have the time to spend right now helping someone build a career. Go out and get some jobs, and then come back and resubmit.
The actress pushed back, asking how she’s supposed to get network credits if nobody will sign her? The ol’ catch 22. The manager responded basically that it was none of her business and to stop harassing her.
She wrote a caption underneath saying that she can run her business however she wants. No actor should be telling her how to run her business or be pushy and try to get her to sign them.
I can run my business however I want.
And, that’s true.
She can run her business however she wants. In fact, this is how most agents and managers run their business. They sign actors who have ‘strong resumes’ because they want to piggyback off of the actors’ former agents who were up to doing the work it takes to get unknown actors into auditions. This kind of Hollywood mindset is incredibly common because it is assumed that actors with strong resumes already have relationships with casting and producers. This way, the agent can just press a submit button instead of having to pitch an actor that casting might not know. It’s a brick wall that many actors find themselves up against when seeking representation.
A few months later, I was scrolling through the endless hole that is Facebook.
I came across a post in one of the industry groups I follow written by an actress who had accidentally missed the due date of a self-tape audition. This sparked a rather enthusiastic response in the comments section, but I just scrolled past it. However, the next day the woman who runs the group posted an angry rant calling out the actress who had posted the day before about missing her audition deadline. Apparently she had kicked the actress out of the group for being unprofessional and wasting everybody’s time.
Amateurs vs Professionals
Then, she went on to accuse ‘amateurs’ of rejecting any ‘professional’ advice they are given. She defined amateurs as actors who have never booked a job on a ‘real episode of TV’ in their lives. She wrote that only guest star roles, recurring roles, or series regular roles count towards being a ‘professional’. This was to the exclusion of people who have booked co-star roles on network TV, professional theatre, and commercials. I guess those actors can’t be professionals also?
Her next point was that if your day job is a hindrance to your acting career, then you should go and find a different day job. This was a rather ignorant statement, not taking into account the fact that acting is not at all a lucrative business for most and that auditions are not at all easy to come by. This is alongside the implication that paying your bills comes second to an audition that, statistically speaking, you most likely will not book.
Next was a relatively small section about growing a thick skin and not taking anything personally. As she put it, if you get offended or your feelings hurt, “Who cares?”. Actors go through so much genuine emotional and mental abuse almost daily, and yet they are told to grow a thick skin. But, should actors grow a thick skin, or should people simply learn to treat them with respect?
According to her, money should not be an obstacle. She stated that you need to ‘figure out how to make money’, suggesting that we read books, watch videos, learn how to invest, and so forth. This is, of course, a blatant disregard to the socio-economic status into which many actors may have been born, in addition to the fact that LA is one of the most expensive cities in the US. Add in the ongoing COVID pandemic and you’ll be broke in a matter of months. It’s also in contradiction to her former statement about not letting your day job get in the way of your acting career. How are we supposed to make enough money to support our acting career if we can’t get a well-paying job?
Because, obviously, making money is as simple as that.
The comments section was shameful.
Actors, acting teachers, and people who consider themselves industry professionals were littering the comments section with insults and contempt, vilifying the actress who had missed her audition submission deadline. While what she did was indeed unprofessional, it did not deserve the vitriol that was spewed about her. This group revealed itself in one fell swoop to be a vicious conglomeration of bullies.
Some of the comments written were about how needy and self-absorbed actors can be. Others were sarcastically saying that they wished they could care as little about their career as this actress seemed to care. A handful thanked the woman who had written the post, including some actors who were transparently groveling. One commenter’s approval-seeking even went so far as to say that money ‘should never be an issue’ if you decide to be in the entertainment industry.
And, that’s the Hollywood mindset.
The bad rap that actors constantly have to fight against is a war that has been waged for centuries.
Actors have always been paid very little, to the point where, throughout history, they have often had to resort to prostitution in order to make ends meet. This is why many cultures to this day think of acting as synonymous with prostitution.
We are expected to go broke for our careers. This is one of the most backwards expectations in the entertainment industry. A career should fund our lives, so why are we expected to use our lives to fund our careers? I can’t count how many friends I have who were homeless at one point, living out of their cars, because they gave everything for acting. I’m constantly reading stories about actors who finally got their big break with a series regular role on a network TV show, but are still, years later, paying off their debt that they accumulated before they ‘made it’. This is not only expected, but encouraged by many industry professionals. This is an unhealthy and completely unacceptable mindset in Hollywood that is not normalized in any other career; just in the careers of performers.
This Hollywood mindset, unfortunately, is one that many actors are brainwashed into believing.
Everyone around them is reinforcing it – their acting teachers, representation, friends… They give everything up in favor of a desperate attempt at making a living through showbiz. The desperation is contagious, as well. While industry professionals other than actors are drilling this into the minds of actors, actors are also perpetuating it by believing it and spreading it to others. The comments section in the facebook post described above is proof.
The two situations above exemplify why actors have never been able to break through this glass ceiling, save for the small handful of celebrities who are actually able to comfortably pay their bills with their work. There is no respect for actors. Seriously. Fellow actors out there, raise your hand if you’ve ever been scoffed at for telling someone that you’re an actor. Everyone’s hand is raised? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
According to a 2019 study…
only 2% of actors are able to make a living off of acting, while 90% of actors are unemployed at any given time. This was before COVID, so I don’t even want to imagine what the numbers are now. What should this tell you? To get a day job. And, not just a day job, but one that you enjoy, and one that pays you well. This is not copping out or giving up – this is taking care of yourself. The woman who wrote the Facebook post above suggested saving $8-10,000 before starting your career in the entertainment industry. That won’t get you very far, especially if you live in an expensive city like LA or New York. You’ll be OK for a few months until you look at your bank account and see a big, fat zero.
You need a constant stream of income, especially with how much you have to invest in your career. Headshots, subscriptions to casting websites, uploading your headshots, uploading your reels, creating your reels, taking acting classes, paying for gas to get you to auditions, buying wardrobe items… The list is never ending. This is all on top of basic expenses such as astronomically high rent, food, and other necessities. Get your day job, and get it without shame. Don’t let these people bully and guilt you into working menial jobs below your personal value.
The desperation because of the Hollywood Mindset leads actors to do crazy things. For instance, I saw this casting notice on Breakdown Services recently:
Let me break this down for you.
If the actor is a woman, she must be hot. The actor must have a social media following of over one million. It is preferred that the actor drive six and a half hours to location, but they have the option to fly into Vegas and then drive four hours. And, this is all for “just one day and just a couple of lines”. You have to ask where the respect is. And, you also have to realize that someone will be desperate enough for a job to actually agree to do this.
Actors need to be supported more.
No, I’m not saying this as a stereotypical sensitive actor who just wants to be taken care of and not do any work. I’m saying this as an actor who has worked herself to the bone for many years. The illusion of actors living in glamor is a complete facade. However, even though actors are the ones who are actually on screen, they are treated with the least respect, especially when it comes to money. Actors are the first ones asked to work for free. And, you know what? They do it because they’re that desperate.
This kind of treatment to which actors are subjected needs to stop. Actors, like anyone else, need to be treated with respect, whether on set or off. Those who choose to be disrespectful need to be called out in the same way that those who are sexual predators are starting to be: as harassers. The Hollywood mindset needs to stop. Only when we have fair treatment of everyone in the industry can it start to grow.