What It Really Costs To Be An Actor (and to put on a show)

I came across an interesting Business Insider article today on the costs associated with working as an actor; even as someone who is well aware of the small return on a huge investment (of both time and money) I was shocked by some of the numbers.

Consider the cost of training and promotional materials, for one;

School: some go the 4 year BA route, which will cost about $20 000 in total, but even if you are forgoing traditional education for workshops or conservatory programs, expect to spend thousands here.

Headshots: these are essential for any actor and can cost a pretty penny. Expect $500+ to have them shot, plus the cost of printing. It isn’t unusual to spend close to $1000 for good quality headshots, and then of course they need to be updated whenever you change your look.

Personal Website: while free avenues like facebook and wordpress are frequently used, a lot of people choose to have a custom domain name as well; add another $100 or more a year for this.

Then of course there is the cost of any additional training you do along the way, things like haircuts, makeup etc. to keep you looking pretty, expensive dance shoes – you get the idea. It’s not cheap. And there is really no guarantee of a return.

It was the author’s salaries in the article though that really caught me by surprise; even at the high end, performing at Madison Square Garden in a multi-million dollar performance, the author was only making $527/week. $527/week for 52 weeks in a year is a whopping $27 404 annual salary; not exactly a celebrity lifestyle. Plus, consider the fact that not only do most actors not get big gigs like that, but the majority of actor’s contracts are not for a full year. So even if you’re raking in big dough for the duration of your contract, you may need to stretch 2 months of pay over an entire year.

The author was only making $527/week. $527/week for 52 weeks in a year is a whopping $27 404 annual salary; not exactly a celebrity lifestyle

Our upcoming production of Rope is certainly small budget compared to the shows mentioned above, but it’s still a considerable amount of money for those of us who are funding it while working minimum wage jobs. Our overall budget is $4500.00, and that does not include paying the actors. You can see a detailed breakdown of our budget on our FWYC campaign page.  As someone who is certainly used to working for no pay (I put hundreds of volunteer hours over 6 years into theatre work on campus before finally getting a paid, part-time position this year) I went into this knowing I likely couldn’t pay anyone involved, but still feeling really guilty about it. So that’s why we started a Fund What You Can Campaign.

Our goal is to raise the entire cost of our production – $4500.00 – so that any money we make on the show itself can be split among the cast and crew. Of course there is no guarantee of ticket sales, but if we were to sell out all of our shows we could potentially be paying everyone about $380; not a Broadway level salary, but it’s a start. To put that further into perspective, all of actors are putting in about 14 hours of performance time plus 40-60 hours of rehearsal time. So let’s say that they are working a conservative 54 hours and make at the very most $380; that’s still only $7/hour. Considerably below minimum wage.

Our goal is to raise the entire cost of our production – $4500.00 – so that any money we make on the show itself can be split among the cast and crew…that’s still only $7/hour. Considerably below minimum wage.

As a producer it is important to me to put on a successful show and to compensate those involved. As an artist and student myself, I do not have the money to do that on my own. That’s where you come in. By making a donation to Rope you will be helping to further the careers of 8 talented actors, our wonderful stage manager and Bygone Theatre itself. Every little bit counts and gets us one step closer to realizing our dreams while earning a decent wage.

Check out our Fund What You Can Campaign for Rope to make a donation to the production.

-E.

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