Q: “What does the business plan look like for an actor?”

Cary Elwes, David S. Hogan, A Bit of Bad Luck, Seattle Film

A friend of mine is working on a college project, and she had some questions about the business of acting. I will see if I can answer a few. And, as always, I encourage your comments.

“Hello David,
I am working on a university service article about the world of business and marketing for actors.”

“What should the typical business plan be for an actor in today’s business world?”
Wow. A very challenging questions right off the bat! Well, first off, what is your goal? And, second, what market are you in? And, what *kind* of acting do you want to do – stage, film, television, industrial, music videos, commercials…(all of the above?). The business of acting is extremely competitive, and there is not a lot of money in the business. Most actors who make all of their income through performance will work in multiple mediums – on stage, in film, on commercials, etc. Here are a few words from the SAG-AFTRA site:

“It may take several years for a beginner to earn a living as a performer. You must have a substantial cushion of savings to fund your quest and/or secure consistent alternate work to support you during the early stages of your career.

Even the most talented performers may do everything right and still not end up with acting jobs. Success in this business is an unpredictable combination of talent, training, residence, “look”, energy, attitude, and the completely uncontrollable factor — luck!”

“When can an actor consider himself or herself a ‘Professional’?”
It depends on your definition of “professional.” For some, the term means, “a member of one or more of the unions.” For others, it is a matter of earnings. I started considering myself a professional once I made a commitment to make acting a priority in my life. The way I present myself as an actor, the way I operate my actor business (as the CEO of “David S. Hogan,” basically) the respect with which I treat the craft, and the professionalism I bring to every project and audition make me a “professional.”

“What does being professional mean to you?
See above.

“How much time do you put towards your craft?”
I am constantly reading books on the craft, I work on stage at least once per year, I work in front of the camera as often as I can, I work on my voice weekly, I work with a coach quarterly, I take (on average) one new course (stage combat, accent work, voice work, on-camera work, improv, etc.) every couple of years, and I participate in screenplay and play readings often.

“Towards networking?”
I do a fair share of networking and moderate two Facebook groups (David S. Hogan’s “Craft” Services and Seattle Filmmakers and Actors) which bring actors and filmmakers together for various reasons. Socially (off-line), I attend local networking events every few months, if not more often.

“Researching/staying up to date?
I believe a savvy and business minded actor will do her best to be on the lookout for what is on the horizon when it comes to upcoming projects. This can be done by determining when theater companies announce their new seasons, then reading those plays, finding out what roles and scripts speak to you, then doing all that you can to get yourself in front of those casting directors and reading for those parts. In the film industry, it is also a good idea to keep up with other actor friends and filmmakers (crew, directors, DPs, etc.), in order to “stay in the know” about projects coming down the pike.

“Is Facebook/Twitter a valuable source to utilize? Is networking needed in this business?
Yes, yes, and yes. Especially for the film actor (at least in this market), Twitter and Facebook are valuable resources and networking is a *great* idea. Building relationships is absolutely key in this business, and social media is a good place to make and maintain connections to others in the industry.

“How long have you been working? What advice do you have for other actors in regards to making a living as a professional?
I have been working since 2000. I have worked worked in stage, voice over, television, opera, film, musical theater, and industrial videos. I have also *always* had a secondary source of income. My advice for actors in regards to making a living is: Follow the path of an actor with the heart of an artist. Develop your skills so you can work in many mediums. Be diligent in your work and your studies. And never give up.

“What are your views on unionization? On Representation (specifically self representation versus working from inside an agency?)
I think there are many great reasons for joining one of the unions for actors. There are also reasons not to join. It is a very personal decision. An actor who wants to make a living working as an actor and is passionate about his craft and career, will, at some point, probably need to join one of the unions. As far as representation goes, to work in theater in Seattle, you do not need an agent. To work on some of the “bigger” films, television shows, commercials, and industrials, you will, most likely need representation.

“What are resources (either online or in real life) that actors should be using in this business?
The library. The internet. There are also a ton of resources in every city for actors – some one line, some brick and mortar.

“What tools should an actor have under their belt to use in selling their artistry towards a prospective job?
A wonderful headshot, and a well formatted resume’. A website and a reel (for on-camera jobs) help, too.

“What types of ‘day jobs’ are useful for those aiming for a career in acting?
Jobs that supplement your actor-income but don’t sap your energy or passion!

~ David S. Hogan
Founder, Mighty Tripod Productions

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