I was reading back over your old column entries and I was pleased to see that you had published my letter asking about books such as yours for the NYC market. I bought one of the books mentioned and it has definitely helped.
Well I’m here in NY. (Yea!) I’ve managed to get a temp job (happened fairly quickly) and an apartment (took three months and at the “low” rent of $1200/month for a 1-bedroom). I’ve had some good acting success with a number of indie films and TV pilots so far and I’ve even had the lead in an NYU student film (and I’ve only been here a couple of months). I can feel my confidence increasing and opportunities opening up. I feel it won’t be long before I start making some money with my acting, in spite of all the input from everywhere about how limited opportunities are. I have just ignored all of that and moved full steam ahead into my work. So here is my question.
The temp job that I’ve been working is looking to hire the position I’ve been in permanently. They’ve been flexible with me as a temp to take whatever time I’ve needed for moving and acting but I’m worried that if I take a permanent position with them I’ll lose that flexibility. On the other hand, I need to make that $1200/month just to cover my rent. I’d like some input from people out there who are working actors. Is a bird in the hand really better than two in the bush? Do I opt for a more financially secure position knowing that the loss of flexibility could possibly cost me work?
Thanks for any input. And as always, thanks for the great column. You are an incredible resource for all of us.
Congrats on making it to New York (and making some really great headway in such a short period of time)! That’s awesome!
When I first moved to Los Angeles right out of college, I landed a temp gig that was flexible, wonderful, high-paying, and filled with interaction with amazing entertainment industry folks. I was loving this job and I could still go to auditions anytime I wanted to. Perfect job! Then they hired me permanently. Sure, I could still go on auditions. (But when would I have time to do a show, shoot a film, anything? I was working 60 hours a week!) And even if I had taken a strict approach to the 40-hour work week, I still would’ve had trouble working acting gigs in there (and now that the company was paying for my Cadillac health insurance coverage, how could I treat them poorly by leaving right at 5pm on Friday? I could stay ’til 7:30pm and still get to a show at 8pm, right?). Worse, I really loved the job. It was awesome. It was in the industry, so I could convince myself that I was still “in it.” But somehow I stopped buying Back Stage West and submitting myself on indies. I stopped doing CD showcase nights with my prepared-scene showcase and networking group. I went from being a pretty decent “new to town actor” to being a fulltime employee at a great company who happened to have headshots collecting dust.
So, it’s risky. And I’m not just saying that because it’s how it happened to me. I know many actors who lament “the damn day job” when they get a call from me to audition for a project or be a part of a staged reading for investors. Opportunities that most actors would love are often turned down simply because of the job-job. And, I can only assume that you moved to New York to be a professional, working actor. So, why would you risk having to turn down work that is integral to your future as a professional performer?
I know why. Rent. I hear ya! That is why, the second time I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, I crashed with a roommate and refused to go permanent with my temp jobs (and they all asked; they always do, when they find someone responsible and easy to work with). I did not like living with a roommate (and I hadn’t for years, so it was an adjustment for sure), but I saved a load of money until I could get my own place (and then, that place was a studio I rented for $500/month). I walked everywhere that I could, drove my decade-old car (with low insurance, since it’s old), had no “luxuries” like a microwave, cable TV, high-speed Internet, or gadgets beyond the pager. My friends and I would take turns buying Back Stage West and envelopes and stamps, and we’d group-submit on projects. And I worked ten different survival jobs.
You read that correctly.
I had read an amazing book called Survival Jobs and decided to try about half of the jobs listed in its pages. I taught standup comedy traffic school for the Improv, I tutored math and taught SAT prep courses to high school students, I taught grandmothers how to use their scanners and email their grandkids, I spent weekends pet-sitting and house-sitting, I modeled my hands, I designed web-based shopping carts for small businesses, I worked as a paid audience member for low-attendance live shows, I participated in paid market research studies almost weekly, and I transcribed interviews for a local paper. Now, juggling that many jobs isn’t for everyone, but I loved it. It allowed me to never have the same day twice (which was way cool; and it’s part of why I love casting so much, now) and none of the jobs required the kind of commitment that I’d feel bad about bailing on, if I got an audition or booking.
Making rent was not a problem, nor was being able to afford acting classes or new headshots. But I had to trust that I was going to be able to make a living, because there is no guarantee that you will, when you choose the freelance lifestyle. I had done the “job security” thing the last time I had moved across the country for this crazy career. I was not going to fall for that again! They’re called golden handcuffs for a reason. The job takes care of you and you get used to living a certain way. And then you’re stuck. And you’re not pursuing acting anymore. Or if you are, it’s like a hobby you barely have time for. And that’s not why you moved to a major market, right?
So, my advice is to stay on the temp status and cut your living expenses if at all possible. Finding the balance between earning a living and funding the pursuit of your dreams is a struggle for most artists. And, as you’ve requested, I’m going to turn it over to other readers now, to find out what working actors recommend you do! Yeah, I pursued acting while juggling a bunch of survival jobs, but it was the freelance gig writing a weekly column on casting directors that led me to my current career: casting! So, yeah, it worked for me, but it certainly didn’t turn out like I thought it would. In all those years as an actor, I never once considered casting as a possible job for me. Who knew?! But it was meant to be, obviously. And I have one of my temp jobs to thank for that.
All right, readers who juggle survival jobs and acting careers, let’s hear from you! What advice do you have for “the bird in the hand” dilemma? Shoot your answers to me at the email address below and I’ll follow up in a future Your Turn. Thanks in advance!
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Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000656.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.