Actors work with producers and directors to bring ideas, concepts, and images to life in creative ways; they entertain, instruct, or inform an audience. People often envision actors as glamorous and rich, working in New York City or Los Angeles. However, the vast majority work for local and regional studios, theaters, and film production companies, for unpredictable (and often low) pay. These smaller companies (non-profit or private) put on local shows or broadcast cable programs, make commercials, and more.
Some areas where actors find work include:
- Performing on stage
- Radio, television, or motion picture productions
- Commercials and voiceovers
- Acting in instructional/educational videos
- Teaching or coaching
- Screenwriting, directing, production
Most actors struggle through their entire careers to find steady employment and pay, and competition for even the lowest-paying bits is fierce. Only the most talented and persistent actors are successful. A passion for acting is absolutely essential to one's career survival.
Formal education, in fields such as drama, communications, and broadcasting, usually gives an actor a leg up because they now have the confidence and skills necessary to approach professional acting. Continuing education workshops and/or working with a drama coach can also be helpful. Actors with a wide range of skills (such as dancing, fencing, or modeling) are more likely to find roles.
A wide salary range exists, but minimum salaries (as well as working hours and conditions) are guaranteed under agreements between actors' unions and producers. Unions also negotiate health care and pension plans and ensure that actors receive royalties for re-runs and foreign showings of the film or broadcast.