Acting vs. Being an Actor: The #1 Reason People Leave LA

Sep 20, 2012 by     24 Comments    Posted under: Attitude, Los Angeles, The business

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for three years now, and I’ve noticed an incredibly important distinction: Acting is not the same thing as being an Actor. In fact, they can be worlds apart.

Allow me to clarify. “Acting” is the actual performance by a human being on stage or on screen. “Being an Actor” (and here I mean a professional actor, one pursuing financial gain from acting), means not just performing, but marketing to actually create acting opportunities and jobs. This means marketing, networking, researching, taking meetings, self-producing, and myriad other business endeavors. Being an actor also includes acting (and here I include auditioning and class), but honestly, if you’re pursuing a professional career as an actor, the percentage of your time spent actually performing is relatively low.

This distinction, in my opinion, is the #1 reason I see people decide to stop pursuing acting as a career. Particularly for those of you who went to college (even more those who majored in theatre, or even did a lot of plays), your experience in school was probably dozens if not hundreds of hours of rehearsals and performances, maybe two hours of auditioning, and zero time doing business, marketing, or financial work. We’re looking at a foundation where 90% of your time is spent acting, and maybe 10% was being an actor.

In LA, the percentages are close to the opposite…10% acting, and 90% being an actor. So what does that mean? I think the key is that if you’re thinking about, or currently are, pursuing a career as an actor, then you must find a way to love the actor part of everything. That also means being proactive about finding ways to be creative. Making the time to nurture your creative side.

But I just want to act

If you just want to act, then don’t move across the country and work to pursue a career in acting. A career in acting (i.e. being an actor), means you don’t just want to act…it means you want to get paid to act. Two very different things. If you truly just want to act, that is AWESOME. Seriously. Stay in your hometown and do community theatre. Perform for children. Act all the time! There is absolutely no shame in that. In fact, for me, I admire that love of the art. And lord knows our communities can use you. Would that all cities were filled with people dedicated to artistic expression. Moreover, you will perform more than any movie star.

If, however, you do want to get paid enough to pay your rent through artistic expression, you get to think like a business person. You get to market, and find the joy in being an actorpreneur. Building any business takes time–normally far more time than we initially anticipate (believe me). The reward, though, is like nothing else. Tallyho.


Ben Whitehair is the Los Angeles contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view his materials on his website, or read the rest of his blog posts.