No, I have never lived in L.A., New York, or even Chicago.
No, I have never had an agent.
No, I have never been part of an actor's union.
Have I been paid to act? YES!!!
There are many variables that go into performing positions and many people have different end goals. I have had the privilege of performing live, in films, and in commercials. Did they all pay a living wage? No, not all of them, but there are definitely opportunities for people who want them. Now, I write about opportunities and experiences that I have had. Your path may not be the same.
First, you need to decide what an acting position is to you. If you have read my "Best Job Ever" post, you have heard about a position where I was able to perform for a three month contract in relation to a promotional position. I have also had an opportunity to learn a script and perform shows live that most people would label a sales position. Most acting work is one gig at a time whether it is the length of filming a movie or a fun job I had working on a series of commercials. One position I particularly enjoy is working as a standardized patient where I act like I have certain conditions and follow a scenario(improv experience helps here) to help train a variety of students in the medical field. There are also traditional acting positions in stage productions, tv, film, or even web series.
Next, you need to figure out how far you are willing to travel and what compensation you will require. This is totally up to you if you are freelancing and have no union or agent, so decide what you want. You may also want to consider what experience you have. You may be willing to work a few gigs for copy, credit, and concessions if you are working to build a reel.
Then, practice, practice, practice! Acting classes, improv classes, memory work - you need to build up your skills and be prepared to learn quickly and perform. This work can help you expand your abilities. You never know when you will need a British or Irish accent...(Yes, I have performed with both). Any skills that you can add to your resume could help you be cast, and don't be tempted to add things you've never done unless you are prepared to master them quite quickly...(Don't do it!)
Now, it is time to look for positions. I keep profiles on a variety of job sites that help me submit for jobs and get booked. Yes, you need a headshot and a resume for this. Some of these sites include IMDB, Backstage, and even CraigsList. I cannot underestimate the importance of safety here. Make sure you have back up. Make sure people know where you are, ask for portfolios, do your research to make sure you are not put in a dangerous position! Another great place to look for positions, if you are building a reel, if to check out local colleges and look for student film postings. There are also a plethora of acting groups on Facebook that you can check into depending on your region. Most importantly, never underestimate the power or networking! I can't tell you how many positions I was awarded because I knew someone who knew someone.
Finally, be ready! I have had last minute gigs come up, like same day last minute. I have needed to have a monologue in my back pocket. The more flexible you are and the more ready to perform, the more you may have the opportunity to book.
Enjoy your hunt!
As you can see, I've had a little experience in many different fields. There are reasons that I have not continued in many. Sometimes the position was no longer a viable option because I chose to have a family. This was the case with touring for both theatrical and promotional purposes. There were times that I loved my positions, but the contracts ended. Again this is a problem with working long term promotions, theatrical work, and even some educational positions. If the position is discontinued, you will just have to find another. Other times I moved on for other reasons. I left banking to pursue my education in education as well as spend more time at home with my then nursing baby. The position I had working at Target ended because I returned to college for my senior year.
There is one position that I walked away from and never looked back. What was it? Telemarketing.
That's right for one and one-half days I trained and worked making calls for a charity to businesses. It was for a good cause and it was kind of like acting. I mean there was a script, right? It just was not for me. To be perfectly frank, during my calls on my second morning, a gentlemen started yelling at me for calling and asking how I had gotten his number and I had to be rescued by the floor supervisor. I was in tears. They asked if I wanted to take the rest of the day off and I did.
The next day, I called and formally quit the position. I don't like to give up on things and I definitely don't recommend quitting anything, but I knew no amount of money was worth continuing in a position that would make me miserable. You know what? It all worked out. A few days later, I was offered a completely different position. It was one that had some benefits, I excelled in, learned a lot doing, and, most importantly, I enjoyed.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is know when your happiness and your sanity is worth more than a position. Know what you are worth. Happy job hunting!
There are so many options for positions these days that you can really focus on what you love and where you are appreciated. It is not like our ancestors where they signed on for one position and it seemed like a death march until the end. We really have been presented with the ability to explore. That is just what I have done.
The best job ever...at least that I have gotten so far, was this: I was hired by a promotional marketing company for an acting gig! I was so excited. Even when they booked my plane ticket out, I was a little suspicious. Would this really be a performance position where I actually made money?
Now, something that makes most promotional marketing positions so lucrative is their timeliness. This position was a tour, but it only lasted for the summer(Yup, three months.). One of the amazing caveats was that the fourth of July was in the middle of tour and the staffers were afraid that if we went on break that we wouldn't come back. To keep that from happening they paid us to stay on over the holiday.
So, other than being paid to stick with a company, what made this position so wonderful? Well, being well compensated for one's time always helps. Having great benefits is perk too. While this wasn't a long term position that allowed for insurance benefits, I did receive per diem, a phone allowance, and even a stipend for doing laundry (since we had to clean our own costumes). There were many other great perks. While working this tour, I had access to a rental vehicle. Also, we were traveling, which I love! The program paid our hotel costs and also lent us extras(like breakfasts). We were provided a certain amount of reimbursement for our uniform costs, too.
This tour was one of my favorites because while we had a difficult schedule and had a lot of physical labor to support our goal, we were truly appreciated and got a great deal of joy out of educating our audience and working with our peers. We were able to do what we loved! We were all able to perform. We also taught those around us. With the time on tour, we experienced many diverse events as well. We traversed the St. Louis arch, swam with manatees in Florida, and tasted Phillies at Primate Bros.
If you think these things sound amazing, check out touring options now! Good luck!
Or as my mother would call it, How I Ran Away with the Circus.
I have had the opportunity to tour under a couple different job titles. I had a theatre background, but I got my first touring job through a marketing company. I had been working in promotions consistently for about a year when I got an interview for a performing position. A marketing company was looking through their pool of promotional models for those with acting experience to help a company do some internal training. I applied and was thrill to be the youngest selected to be one of four touring trios. This was a short term position, but helped me to put "touring experience" on my resume.
It all happened very fast. I got the official call and the next morning, I was on a plane to Duluth to learn a new position and join the tour. I was able to be a "plush cart operator" for the remainder of the tour, so I sold toys and lights to little kids. In my downtime, I would try to watch the show load in and learn from the technicians. I made a little money and a lot of friends and headed home five months later with a greatly enhanced resume and a focus on spending as much time learning in local theatre as I could.
Never underestimate the power of networking, flexibility, and a drive to learn.
When on tour, your aren't magically transported from one venue or one city to the next. There is travel time. Also, no matter how efficient the schedulers can be there are a million reasons that there could be great distances between one stage you are playing and the next. This leads to: day stops.
Drivers of tour buses(or the trucks carrying your equipment) are limited by how far they can travel in a day. They have to stop to rest, which I am grateful for. Who wants a tired driver conveying them? So, if there are long distances between cities, they have to stop part way. For example, when traveling from Tupelo, MS to El Paso, TX, one might stop at Fort Worth, TX for the day(which reminds you how vast Texas is).
Now every tour is a little different, so I can only attest to my experience with my company. When we would have a day stop, it would most often occur on a Monday, after a weekend of shows. We would drive part way overnight to the next city, then, the drivers would all stop to get some sleep. Meanwhile, each bus would have access to a hotel room for the day to get cleaned up. Buses can hold up to twelve people, but the number actually living on them can fluctuate. It is up to the people on the bus to share the room for the day.
Twelve people can't stay in one room all day though, can they? No! Especially after working a crazy schedule together all weekend, absolutely not. So what do you do?
After grabbing a shower and passing the room key off to whomever is next in line, there are plenty of options for what to do on a day off. Some people like to take the opportunity to sleep in, read or catch up on tv shows in their bunk, utilize the hotel gym, or, my personal favorite, explore the town. You never know where you will be on a day stop and you know that it will only be for, you got it, one day, so you might as well go exploring.
Many take this opportunity to walk around and explore area shops, sites, and restaurants. You may want to stock up your snack and beverage stash for the next week. An option I always enjoyed was to take advantage of the fact that we were off on a Monday and have a nice relaxing meal out(Yes, this was during the time when T.G.I. Fridays was doing endless apps. Bring your iPad to play Monopoly, a couple of tour mates, and order a drink or two for a relaxing afternoon.). I have always appreciated getting into food and entertainment venues when there is no one else there and Mondays are one of the best days to do this. No waiting!
Day stops are great because you don't have your own hotel room to be comfy and complacent in so you are more likely to explore. If you know where you will be ahead of time and have a few minutes to research activities in the area of you stop, this can be a great money saver too. The best deals are almost always during the week. On a day stop, you could be sightseeing in Seattle, Good Willing in Glendale, beer tasting in Biloxi, or rock climbing in Rutherford. (Pics or it didn't happen. ;) ) Just remember, Cinderella, you have a curfew.
Bus call time is just before the drivers have to get on the road for the night. It is usually between 10pm and midnight, but again, can fluctuate. Make sure you are on the bus by then because if you miss it, you have to find your own way to the next city. Not a cheap mistake to make. So keep one eye on the clock and the other on a fun-filled day. Happy exploring!
Love to work hard, travel extensively, and can run on caffeine and no sleep? Then being a touring theatrical technician may be your dream job. I had the opportunity to work with one company as an Assistant Electrician and Assistant Rigger on a live theatre show. It is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything, but it is not for the feint of heart. While in the U.S. (Excitingly, I did get to travel to other continents with this show, awesome bonus!), this tour was called a Bus-and-Truck Tour.
The "normal" schedule looked a little like this:
Friday - Panama City, FL: 2 shows
Saturday - Jackson, MS: 3 shows
Sunday - Tupelo, MS: 2 shows
Monday - Day Stop: Fort Worth, TX (I'll describe this in another post.)
Tuesday - Day Off in El Paso, TX
Wednesday - Day Off in El Paso, TX
Thursday - Day Off in El Paso, TX
Of course, there can be plenty of variations. You may be in a popular location and have shows in the same spot all weekend. Occasionally, there could be a day off between shows. Once, I even recall five days in a row of shows in four different cities.
A work day, say Friday, would run a little like this:
4:30AM - Wake up, shower, get in your gear, pack up everything, check out of your hotel room.
5:30AM - Bus Call: Make sure your luggage is loaded and you are on the bus.
6:00AM - Load in begins at the venue.
8:00AM - Coffee Break (Mandatory in union venues)
8:15AM - Continue Load-In
8:30AM-11:30AM - Breakfast is served. Work with your department head to find the best time to take a break. This could be when your department is done or if you have a lull in work. For example, an audio technician with all his equipment in place might take a break earlier in the day and come back while most of the rest of the crew is at breakfast to set levels. This is dependent on if this is a union house, which will have a mandatory dark time (when no one can work) about five hours after the beginning of load in.
1:59PM - Load in should be completed by this time, unless something has gone terribly awry.
2:00PM - Doors open for guests to start coming into the venue and finding their seats.
3:00PM-4:30PM - First Show of the Day
4:31PM - Reset everything for the next show.
4:32PM-6:00PM - Check with your department head and find time for lunch.
5:00PM - Doors open for guests to start coming into the venue and finding their seats.
6:00PM - Second/Last Show of the Day and also the Load-Out Show (As many props, costumes, and set pieces as possible are packed up and sent toward the trucks as quickly and quietly as possible while the show is going on. And yes, a great crew makes it possible.)
7:30PM - Show ends and breakdown begins backstage while the venue clears. When the last guest is out, the music turns off, the stage lights are doused, and load out goes into full swing.
10:00PM - If we had an efficient day and knowledgable local help, this is when the truck doors are closed, ramps strapped in, and the crew released.
10:01PM-10:30PM - The crew searches the venue for available showers, gets cleaned up, and heads to the buses for a bite to eat and to climb into their bunks.
10:30PM-4:59AM - Get as much sleep as you can while the buses are on the road.
5:00AM - In the next venue, ready to do it all again.
You have to learn fast, work hard, be safe, and it helps to have a great attitude, which is very difficult living and working in such close quarters, getting no sleep, and being ever prepared for a last minute change. So grateful to have had the opportunity to meet a plethora of interesting and talented individuals from around the world through this venture.
Rayna Moore -
© 2021 by Rayna Moore