Okay you’ve seen Daniel Kaluuya’s Oscar speech and have BAFTA’s EE Rising Star award on your moodboard as a goal for 2025 but for a moment let’s forget the red carpets and flashing lights and dive into some keys about what it’s actually like being a working actor.
- Auditioning: The Heart of the Hustle
Auditioning is a central aspect of an actor’s life. Landing roles is not only about talent but also about resilience and the ability to handle rejection. You can face countless auditions before securing a role, but remember each one is an opportunity to learn and grow.
‘It’s not you… It’s my direction’’
You know what’s peak? It’s not all about your talent! One of the most misconstrued reasons for getting the role is your performance doesn’t match how the director wants the role to be played. Now if you’re not a mind reader cut yourself some slack and move on (even have an ice-cream) and live your life (whilst auditioning).
The process demands dedication, continuous improvement, and the capacity to bounce back from disappointments. Can you handle being told no? Get used to it.
- Financial Struggles
While actors get paid very well, the financial reality can be challenging, especially for emerging talents. Many actors take on side jobs or freelance work to support themselves between gigs (Michael Salami worked at Amazon before landing his life-changing role and Tom Moutchi worked at Costa… While he was very popular and well-known). It’s a delicate balance of pursuing passion and meeting financial responsibilities. Building a sustainable career often involves perseverance during lean times. A job is fine… You haven’t failed.
- Uncertain Job Security
Working actors face an inherent lack of job security. Contracts may last for a few days or several months, and there’s no guarantee of consistent work. This uncertainty can be emotionally and financially draining, so you’ll need you to develop resilience and financial planning skills to weather the times when you’re a series regular and when you’re in the audition cycle. Don’t lose hope though, there’s room for everyone… Who sticks at it.
- Building a Brand and Networking
Many would disagree but In the age of social media, many actors are not only performers on screen but also brands in themselves. Building a personal brand and maintaining a positive online presence are very helpful and somewhat essential as your career is growing. It provides a space to showcase clips of your talent, recent work and also provides a space for agents and casting directors to find out about you.
Networking also plays a pivotal role, and sooooo many agents, casting directors and other creatives have publicly shared they’re happy for people to hit up their dms, drop them emails etc. (check out our ‘What agents really need to see’ panel here).
Don’t be afraid to use your socials to build these new connections, and foster relationships with people you want to work with in the future.
- Balancing Artistic Integrity and Commercial Viability
Emerging actors often find themselves at a crossroads between pursuing roles that align with their artistic vision and accepting roles for financial stability or career advancement. Here Sheyi Cole mentioned that the first 4 roles you do tends to shape how the industry views you and a balance between artistic integrity and commercial viability is a constant challenge. Navigating this balance requires careful consideration and a clear understanding of personal values. Don’t stress yourself trying to get it perfect though!
While the life of a working actor may involve its fair share of challenges, it’s also a journey filled with passion, creativity, and the pursuit of a dream. As emerging actors you must embrace the realities of the industry, from the audition room to financial uncertainties, and find strength in the process of growth and self-discovery. Through dedication, resilience, and a love for your craft, you can carve out a fulfilling and meaningful career in this rollercoaster of an industry.
See you on set!