The Financial Investment Required To Pursue A Career In Acting
Many of us, when considering careers, look first at how much we stand to make once our education is completed and we are employed in that field.
Some of us may also look at what it costs to get there, particularly if a university-level degree is involved.
Often this part is easier to ignore, particularly if the cost of that education can be set aside and repaid at a later date such as with the Higher Education Loan Program.
What if your dream, however, is to be an actor? There is no set path in terms of education to becoming an actor and there are limited options when it comes to financial assistance.
So what does this mean for you as a budding actor? What can you expect to spend in pursuit of an acting career? In this guide, we’ll cover exactly that and much more.
Is It Expensive To Be An Actor?
In short, yes, it can be. There are many expenses an actor will encounter across the course of their careers.
Some of these costs can pose a bigger financial investment than others and not all are required to be paid at once, but all are usually necessary.
This is not unique to acting, however, and many other career paths involve the investment of hard-earned funds into their growth and success.
Whether you view the pursuit of your acting career as expensive can also come down to your personal circumstances and how much you are willing to invest.
How Much Money Do I Need To Become A Successful Actor?
There is no set sum to save up or a predetermined amount you must be prepared to pay to become an actor. Choosing to be an actor means accepting that there will be ongoing costs throughout your career.
Speak to any actor and you’ll soon find out that they have all spent different amounts on things related to their career at different times.
Having some savings behind you can help ease the stress of covering these costs or when in between acting jobs. However, this is not a prerequisite for becoming a successful actor and plenty of well-known Hollywood actors have come from humble beginnings.
Will I Need A Lot Of Money To Get Started?
No, it’s possible to get started with minimal funding behind you, though this may limit how quickly you progress or restrict your options for certain things.
For instance, there may be some free community-based acting workshops or theatre productions you can get involved with as a starter.
Over time though, you’ll need to invest in professional acting classes to ensure a broader, more effective education as an actor and advancement of your career.
What Kind Of Costs Will I Encounter?
Wondering what exactly it is that you’ll be putting your money towards? Let’s take a look.
Without a doubt, this is the most important and non-negotiable expense for an actor. Without investing in formal training, you’re not going to get anywhere.
There are two main types of training to choose from as an actor though they are not mutually exclusive – one does not negate the other.
The closest you can get to a university-level education in acting, Drama schools typically offer Bachelor courses spanning three to four years.
Requiring full-time study and costing tens of thousands in tuition fees, drama school is not always suitable or accessible for an aspiring actor. Some schools offer scholarship programs, though competition for these is fierce.
More affordable and flexible than drama school, acting classes are the ideal alternative. Most drama school graduates will continue on to acting classes post-graduation in any case.
No matter where you start, you will continue to study throughout your time as a working actor. This makes acting classes an ongoing, but necessary cost.
Exactly what you spend on classes will vary depending on where you study, how frequently you attend, whether it is a group or private class, the prestige associated with the school and more.
Another ongoing cost is marketing. There are a few components to successfully marketing yourself as an actor, these include:
Professional headshots are essential for an actor and need updating every one to two years. Often contributing to the first impression a casting director might have of you, they’re not something you want to cheap out on.
You should expect to pay anywhere from $500 – $1000 for quality headshots with the cost largely coming down to the experience of the photographer.
Your showreel, like your headshot, needs to be the best selection of your work and edited to perfection. If you have little to no experience in video editing, it is worthwhile investing in a professional.
If you do not yet have enough material for a showreel, a professional can help you shoot this too. Expect to pay upwards of $300 for editing and at least double that if shooting additional footage for editing.
Used to find upcoming auditions, casting websites are essentially an acting industry-specific job board. You can also create a profile on most, featuring your showreel, resume and more for casting directors to find.
To access these audition postings and create your profile you are required to subscribe to your chosen site and pay a monthly fee.
Depending on which site you choose these fees range from as little as $5 a month up to $20 a month or more.
Agent & Management Fees
While not a cost you’ll likely need to navigate early on in your career or at all should you so choose, it is still worth noting.
Most talent agents levy a fee of around 10%, meaning they’ll take 10% of your earnings for any job they help you secure. So while this isn’t a fee you pay upfront, it still reduces your overall income.
Should you also have a manager on top of this, expect to pay an additional 10% – 20% to them too.
While these costs can mean less in your back pocket, if it means you are consistently employed and your star continues to rise, the investment may still be worth it.
Every working actor should be part of a union, in Australia, this is the MEAA.
You should expect to pay between $7 – $30 a year for membership with the cost varying based on your age, annual earrings from acting and other factors.
In addition to the above you should also think about:
- Travel costs to and from auditions
- What it will cost to live in a major city close to better opportunities
- Self-tape equipment for performance revision and remote auditioning
- Wardrobe items for auditions
- Gym fees if necessary
- Skin/Hair/Make-up expenses
Will The Costs Lessen Over Time?
As many of these costs are recurring and unavoidable, they usually won’t lessen as you go along. They will become easier to anticipate and prepare for.
It is worth noting too, that once you make industry connections, you may find it easier to connect with professional services at more reasonable or negotiable rates.
Additionally, as many of these costs are directly related to your job, you can potentially claim them as tax deductions.
This can be a real God send for actors come tax time, but should be done in careful consideration of legislation to avoid costly mistakes. If in doubt, speak with an account that has worked with actors in the past.
Are There Funding Options Available?
In Australia, there is a government funding option for approved diploma or advanced diploma courses run by accredited learning institutions.
Working similarly to the HELP program, the Vocational Education and Training Program or VET allows students to cover their course costs and repay them at a later date based on their income.
While a great option for some, many of the approved courses focus more on the production side of screen and media rather than acting. As full-time study over two or more years is also required this can make it unsuitable for working actors.
The Actors Pulse – The Best Investment You Can Make
At The Actors Pulse, we offer a range of course styles and times to suit your schedule and budget.
As the Southern Hemisphere’s leading school for the Meisner Technique, we deeply value your investment in our classes and are committed to supporting your success. We are well-suited for both beginners and experienced actors seeking to expand their career horizons both here and overseas.
We recognise the many challenges faced by working in this industry and understand the need for a flexible and dynamic approach to continued learning.
Our goal is to equip and prepare all our students to undertake a variety of roles on screen, stage or film while continually supporting their growth as an actor.
Investing in our classes leads to tangible progress and career advancement, helping you achieve your goals and continue in a job you love.
To learn more, contact The Actors Pulse today at 0414 475 515.
Billy Milionis is one of the few Australians to have ever studied under the legendary master teacher, the late Sanford Meisner. Billy has also studied story structure and scene analysis techniques with John Truby and later at UCLA. He has also spent several years doing improvisation in Hollywood with the L.A. Connection. In addition, he trained in the technique of Stella Adler, Practical Aesthetics and Lee Strasberg’s method.