LONG POST but a MUST READ for newbies!
There has been a lot of questions about moving to LA and NYC lately from some of our new posters. I would like to clear up a few things and put things in perspective about what is really needed from you, financially and emotionally in this business. This info is from an LA perspective but I imagine NYC is very similar.
Some of the necessary things you will absolutely need just to survive are as follows-
place to stay $700-$1200
food $300- $500
gas $200- $400
electricity $50- $200
miscellaneous $200 +
So, just to survive at the barest minimum if you have roommates, a LOW gas mileage car and IF gas stays low cost-wise and you never use an air conditioner, sit at home on Saturday night and eat very minimally- $1450 a month.
NOW that is just to live, acting aside. For your acting you need this- (to do it right if you actually want to stand a chance, that is)-
acting classes $800 for 12 weeks at my school
on camera class $200+ a month
improv classes $300 or so for 8 weeks
headshots $400- $600 every six months
reproductions $95 for 300 +
postcards $50 for $200 cheapest
mailings $3.50 for a pack of 25 envelopes
stamps $1 or so to mail a headshot?
ink for printing $60 or so for refills
paper $5- $10 for 500 sheets
reel editing $150- $350
duplication $300??? for a few hundred
and labels $????
Submission sites $68 for Actors Access
$120 or so for NowCasting depending on which package
$140 for LACasting
$175 for Backstage + Ross
These are all yearly.
$12.95 a month for IMDBPro
Membership $95 a year
Women in Film $110- $210 a year
Australians in $125 a year
fee $1300 + dues
So, without any union fees and without including the price for DVD mailings etc, the amount for that first year would be around $14,000, give or take. So that and your survival money is around $30,000 for that first year. Now, the next year will fluctuate and you may or may not continue with ALL the above mentioned classes but you will hopefully need to join the unions and that is when the extra $3600 will sting. And the on-going classes are absolutely essential. Very few people are instantly ready and most need developing. You constantly need to be training and working on your craft to stay in practice and to be able to compete readily in the game. There are literally 100,000's out there trying to do this and you need to bring your A-game at all times. I can't stress the need for classes- really. It prepares you for the day when you finally get that big audition and ensures you do not fall apart from nerves and BELIEVE me it happens to everyone!! Nothing worse than getting a shot and not being ready. You only get one chance to make a first impression- don't kill it with arrogance, ego or an idea that you are so much better than everyone else as the truth is- you're not. But what you can be is prepared, professional and ready. Training will do that.
Now, about the memberships etc. One of biggest part of this business is marketing and selling your product- that is YOU. It doesn't matter how good you are (or think you are) if noone knows you exist. Gotta meet and greet and put yourself out there. Not the time to be shy. But running around getting blind drunk at parties and harassing executives etc on their night off is not my recommended plan of attack, especially not for girls. The legit and classy way to mix with other like-minded individuals is at screenings etc, such as the ones held by the above listed groups I mentioned. There are also breakfasts with guest speakers and these are golden opportunities to attend and just LISTEN. Don't walk aprund with a greedy look and a gimme- gimme vibe. Waste of time. Be the quiet one. Just listen and observe. A few weeks of this and seeing the same faces and they will want to talk to YOU. Have a little mystery but be YOURSELF. Everyone in this town wants something. Be the one who doesn't and see what happens. Talk about anything, whatever comes naturally and force nothing. If you simply relax and act like a friendly and open human being anywhere in this town, you would be amazed who you meet and what can happen. Really. I worked as a demo girl at a supermarket in some very good neighborhoods ages ago and there I met producers and personal managers. To this day we are in contact. I didn't suck up or say gimme gimme- I teased them, argued and debated with them and they loved it. When you are in a position of power and everyone is kissing your ass because they want something from you, you know what turns them on? People who tell them they are wrong and keep it REAL. So, MARKETING and NETWORKING is the point of joining those organizations.
Submission sites- I listed all the best ones and yeah, you need them all. They all have different projects and serve different purposes. The best up and coming actors out there have them and so should you. At first.
And NO SNAPSHOTS IN YOUR APARTMENT TO BE ON YOUR ONLINE PAGES EVER!!! NEVER!!! PROFESSIONAL SHOTS ONLY!!! Let me say it again for the cheap seats in the back- 100,000's of people doing the SAME THING as you!!!!! Make your headshot count!!!NO SNAPSHOTS!!!!!!! No half-naked, implied naked poses (girls- no bare shoulders or pouting like Playboy centerfolds, air-brushing). For the guys- no flexed muscles, oiled-up and "Damn, I think I am sexy" shots- NO NO NO and NO. We are actors. We are not models or porn stars or strippers or trying to do Calvin Klein underwear ads. If that's your thing, by all means go for it and God Speed. Just know where it belongs and where it doesn't. Don't put a sexy picture online and wonder why you attract the freaks. This ain't Kansas, Dorothy!!
About AFTRA. I for one, WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend anyone with the money who wants to be SAG Eligible as soon as possible, join AFTRA TODAY no matter where you are in the country. Period. Let me explain. One of the ways to become SAG eligible is to be a member of a sister union for a year and get just one speaking line in an AFTRA project. Just ONE. I for one think that if you submit your GOOD headshot off like crazy to all the soaps- this is very possible and the best way to get SAG- IMO. Extra work for vouchers? Ugh. Shudder. Why WOULD you!! You didn't move here to be someone's bitch for $60 a day, okay? Bad idea. You can wait for a Taft- Hartley, yes possible- but imagine if you are living where you are and saving up to come BUT you are AFTRA and as the year goes by in a snap. That means as soon as you get to LA, you get just one itty bitty line on an AFTRA show and BAM- you are SAG ELIGIBLE!!! Awesome. Now after a year or so honing your craft and getting your reel together, you are ready to submit to legit agents and not look like a green and inexperienced fool. SAG-E will make you much more attractive to agents. JOIN AFTRA NOW!!!!! But not SAG. Not until you HAVE to. Build that reel!! By all means submit to agents if you must before you have these things. But beware of who you attract with no credits, unions or training. The sharks are fierce and there are MANY!! I would highly advise only commercial agents in the beginning stages. And it is expensive to do mailings these days. Best to wait until you have something better to bring to the table- IMO. To sum up-
- A reel
- A GREAT headshot
- SAG Eligible
That way you might have a shot. Instead of 100,000 to compete with maybe now only 99,000!!
Finally, survival jobs. This was my Achilles Hell and still is. I can't even stress how hard it is to land even a meager server job in LA. Again, 100,000's of people. It is no wonder, really. And with this economy and recession which we CANNOT deny, I can only imagine the pain for many this year. With people cutting back on spending- i.e. eating out and with the likely strike, there will be even fewer jobs as partially working actors who previously got speaking parts are forced to beg for extra shifts at their day jobs. FYI- I do fully support the strike. But if you are planning a move here, be patient and stay home and continue to save your money HARD and learn a new skill as it could come in handy for when you come out here. Learn anything that you think could give you an extra edge over others and an opportunity to make money from. Sit tight and see what is happening with Hollywood first. No point in coming out here to struggle and agonize with everyone else. If they strike- LA will be a shit fight. Period.
I know there is SOOOOO much more but I am exhausted after this and besides- I am not revealing all my secrets!!
I hope this has been of some help to anyone and whatever you do- rememeber this is s BUSINESS. This is not a game and those of us in it for life take it very seriously. Focus, work your ass off, be professional and do your research, never lose sight of your goal and be realistic about how long it will really take. It CAN HAPPEN. I promise you. Best of luck and God Bless.
I forgot!!! Theatre is a must!!!! Join a theatre group. Some require dues! That is %50- $75 a month. Make sure they are reputable. A theatre actor is a GREAT actor. Period.
this is great advice
If you have
and good training
you are not competiting with 100,000, you are competiting with more like 10,000. The better you make yourself, the less people you have to compete with. Eventually, the odds go in your favor, and something happens. Keep in mind though that it's a LONG road to get to that point.
It is a LOOOOT more than 10,000!!! There are that many in the city just doing extra work- LOL!! LACasting has something like 30,000 + members and NowCasting has many more. You have to remember people around the country are all putting their photos etc online and submitting for the same atuff as you. Honestly, there are so many it is crazy. I WISH it was 10,000. I would own the city by now! Don't fool yourself. It is that brutally competitive.
I just got this off the NowCasting site-
"There are 163893 actors currently in our Now Casting database."
let's do a number game
so we have 160,000 aspiring actors in the now casting database
We can assume that probably half that number are still actively pursuing their career. 80,000
Lets say they release a breakdown, and only 15% fit the type for the breakdown. 12,000
Out of those 12,000 maybe 1/3 of them were disciplined enough to submit themselves within the first day (which you have to do if you want a serious chance at getting called in) 4,000
out of the 4,000 people, the CD likes maybe 10% of their headshots. 400
Now they look at resumes, only 25% meet the qualifications they want. 100
100 people are called in for the audition. Maybe 10% of them can actually act worth a damn. 10.
So if you work hard and have your ducks lined up you're really only competiting with about 10 people at an audition. Over time, if you continue to be in top percentage like this, industry people will begins to recognize you and stuff will seriously start to take off.
Of course we are talking about nearly a decade of work to get to this point, so this is making it out to be a lot easier than it seems, BUT what I'm saying is that I believe that someone who gives 100% every day has a good chance at success.
Typical. I spend half my night putting together this helpful post and YOU have to nitpick numbers. Whatever..... Fuck your number game. Not the point of this post.
oh come on, i liked your post.
I just question the status quo. That's not a bad thing.
Hi Miss Stone,
This is an excellent post that I think will benefit newbies or even those that have experience in outside markets and are on the next step of moving to a bigger market.
From a NY perspective the costs are pretty much the same the only difference being that you can take advantage of Mass transit and buy a monthly metro card for 81 per month.
Also rent can range anywhere from 900-2500. I worked with a girl that had roommates and paid 1600 for a room because the apartment was so expensive. Of course you can always live outside of Manhattan in either Queens or Brookly, but rent costs are going up in those areas as well.
In situations like these, it's always better to over prepare and save as much as possible. It is also difficult here to get bartending and waitressing gigs, because there are a plethora of young attractive people trying to make it as actors.
The only numbers to focus on are the ones accumulating in your savings account.
Once again, your advice is golden. The only information I question is the need to get headshots every 6 months. Here's what I learned at a very informative acting seminar.
A new actor was getting called in on a regular basis by several casting directors. He booked a few jobs and started making money, so he went and got new headshots. After uploading them onto LAcasting and Actors Access he stopped getting called for auditions. Several months went by before he finally decides to go and speak with a CD who used to call him in to audition and find out why he stopped getting called. The CD told him he hadn't seen his headshot being submitted. The actor got online and showed the CD his new headshot. The CD didn't recognize him from his new headshot. He was used to seeing a certain image and when he didn't see it anymore it was, "out of sight, out of mind."
I always tell actors who are getting new headshots to actually go and visit CD's and show them your updated shots. This also becomes a legitimate reason to get a face-to-face with the CD's.
"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." -
-- Benjamin Franklin
Thanks!!! Let me say that again, Thanks!!! Is there a way to force all aspiring actors who say they are "ready to move to LA/NYC" to read this thread?
What you have presented is very sobering information. I am sure it was not meant to discourage anyone from following their dream, but just to make sure they are properly prepared to make the move. There are too many people who think it is just going to happen over night. They are going to come out to LA or NYC and suddenly make a lot of money. I think I recently saw a post from someone who said they have saved up $6,000, so they are now ready to move to LA??? I am sure that this person does not realize that there are lots of costs that need to be incurred to do this correctly. You have very nicely enumerated them for everybody. They need to realize that it is going to take time to make the $30,000 or so that is needed to survive in LA or NYC by acting alone. And their are a lot of people are already out in LA or NYC who are not making that kind of money in acting so they will be competing with them for the "day" job.
Again, Thanks for posting it.
Lol, what is this all about, I thought this was about an educated idea on the expense in L.A. or N.Y., and advice on how to do well in it.
Not a calculation
I have a personality. Don't care if it's a fallacy.
miss stone, thank you so much. This is awesome info! That bit about AFTRA was very helpful. If you could do a similar thread to this on commercial acting I would offer my first born child to you. Thank you again!
Every six months is more for the girls. Some of us are obsessed with changing our hair all the time!! LOL.
Yes, but it seems to me the film industry values youth a whole lot. If you wait out ten years in Iowa you might be too old when you get here.
The bigger the nest egg, the better, but I wouldn't wait forever.
There are always low level jobs in NYC, it's getting something that pays a living wage that's the problem. And if you share an apartment in Brooklyn or Queens the rents are considerably lower and all you need is a metro card (bus & subway), not the expense of a vehicle.
Be warned, no one is kidding, this is a dangerous City. But it becomes less so if you're careful, watchful, and don't act like an easy mark.
I agree with the advice about theater actors. They're the cream of the crop.
I think acting is something you have to want for itself. If it's about money, or fame, or having your picture taken, I'd stay home. Acting is an art. And in my opinion, if you're an artist, NYC is the place to be.
The whole point is if you can't do it right there is no point at all. As long as you can afford to do it right, it's better than doing it when younger and flat broke.
I guess I'm both... artist and desiring fame (trust me I'm an artist; if you knew me in real life *knowing Miss_Stone is reading this* you would think I am complete different person on this forum; like completely; like split personality; like i have six personalities; like woah she's not the same here, is that even her?)
Anyways....that's why I decided college is not for me (4 years of youth vanish) when I could just go to an acting school, and get to the heart of it all. I have like a huge plan already, I can't wait.
I have a personality. Don't care if it's a fallacy.
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