Wednesday, April 01, 2009

City Life

Acting Through The Hard Times
By Alyssa Schwartz

Entertainment is often seen as recession proof. Even in bad times, people still want to watch their favorite television shows and see the next big movie. However, with big companies, such as NBC Universal and Disney cutting their budgets and laying off people, it’s easy to see how college students pursuing an acting career believe they are entering an extremely risky job market.

According to, NBC Universal is cutting $500 million from next year's budget and Viacom's Paramount Pictures is shrinking its slate from 25 movies a year to 20. Even if one is fortunate enough to book a paying acting job, there are many factors that make an acting career increasingly difficult.

Like most college students, actors leave college with a significant amount of debt. If they want to jump into their acting careers, they will often be required to move to a big city, pay large amounts of money for a talent agent, get great headshots and look fabulous, always. So, how does one manage these expenses, while still paying off college debt?

Rachel Cohen, an acting major from Boston University says she has a plan to succeed. “I will not sleep for the next 10 years,” She says. With the cost of living in a big city such as New York or Los Angeles on the rise, Cohen’s plan includes a lot more than just not getting sleep. With graduation rapidly approaching, Cohen has calculates she will have to pay off almost $40,000 in student loans.

Rachel Cohen wants to move to New York
to pursue acting in the theater

“I am worried about it. I’m going out, hoping to book a job in this unstable economy and I already have this huge burden on my shoulders,” Cohen says. The debt will affect Cohen in many ways. She plans to make the move to New York City to try a career as theater actress.

“Realistically, I understand that my ultimate dream of getting a job on Broadway is probably not going to happen right away,” Cohen says. “So, I want to find a job in which I can work at night; therefore I can go on auditions all day.”

Getting a job as a waiter is a tip that Cohen received from friends and peers who have graduated before her. The pay is good, the tips are better, and it would give her the time to go on auditions without missing an opportunity to bring in money.

Cohen is not the only actor who has been hit by college debt. Ariella Klein, who graduated from NYU last spring, continues to struggle to make it as an actor living in New York City. “It sucks, but there are ways to make it work. We’re [actors] creative people; we should be able to find creative ways to succeed in the business,” Klein says

Ariella Klein is a struggling New York actor.

One of the ways in which Klein has been able to get around the costs of being an actor is by through her contacts. “At NYU, I had a friend who was a photography major. She took my headshots. It saved a lot of money because I didn’t go to some industry professional. They look just as good, if you ask me.”

According to Cohen, using the resources you have at your disposal is not only a great skill to have in life, it will also help save a lot of money in the beginning stages of your career.

Peter Allas says despite hard times, actors
should follow their passion.

Peter Allas dealt with all of these concerns when he graduated from Fordham University in 1983 and now with the current economy, he is dealing with similar issues all over again.

“After graduating I lived in New York and worked various jobs as a waiter and a chef, which was a large source of income,” Allas says. “I paid off debt slowly as money came in. It’s tough at first, but worth it.” Allas believes that becoming an actor now is harder than it was 25 years ago. And it was hard then.

“The Screen Actors Guild is now debating a strike. There would be thousands and thousands of actors out of work. It would be real bad for the industry. I mean, look at last year’s writer’s strike. It cost the industry millions and so many jobs were lost,” Allas said.

The problems with the industry combined with the fact that students will need to pay off loans and pay for their career needs in the midst of a recession makes the road to acting success much more difficult. But Allas offers beginning actors a word of advice.

“If acting is your passion, nothing should or will stop you. You have to push through. It will be hard, but it will be worth it in the end.”


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