With a plethora of talent in Los Angeles, competition can be overwhelming for actors pursuing their dreams. Couple that with worries of paying bills and it could lead to a crisis for the performing artist. Finding that flexible job to help sustain lifestyles while waiting for that major break is critical.
The organization MOVE Hollywood, which stands for members organizing volunteer efforts, invited actors to attend a resourceful forum called “Survival Jobs” Strategies: Don’t Just Survive – Thrive! It took place in the James Cagney Board Room of the SAG-AFTRA building Tuesday evening. According to John Mattson, Director of the Actors Work Program for the Actors Fund, “The goal is to create a sustainable living that enhances and stabilizes one's life as available entertainment industry jobs ebb and flow.”
The discussion centered around discovering an individual’s passion and turning it into job searches and opportunities, which doesn’t have to mean sacrifice over a steady paycheck. Actor Michael Eliopoulos moderated the panel, comprised of a great group of encouraging actors, who shared heartfelt stories about their achievements and their struggles.
Each told a unique story of how they turned around desperate measures into creativity and cash-flowing income propelling them to stay focused on their game plan. From the start, Eliopoulos directed the audience to ‘use their imagination to inspire themselves to think differently.’
Michael Faulkner, a member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, earned a living from commercials and theatre. He recalled how life changed for him when he got married and bought a house in 2007. He stated, “I wanted to get a job. I sent out resumes and couldn't get a single response.” His desire for structure in his life led to different types of work. Faulkner even laid down going to commercial auditions for six months. It paid off. He finally landed a gig as the Education Coordinator at the Geffen Playhouse, which suits his acting and auditioning schedule.
Christine Robert, created opportunities from her own vision. She worked in accounting for 17 years as a temp. Now she works full-time as a Staffing Manager for Robert Half Company. She’s still able to pursue her passion of acting. “You can create time and space for auditions. The job works perfectly,” she said. Eliopoulos added, “You are going to have to make choices, but it leads to other things. Keep yourself in motion.”
Actress and singer Jen Faith Brown, co-founded Light Keeper Productions, a theater company, which tours plays and musicals to young audiences and performs at children's hospitals. Brown also has a two character play entitled "Only a Girl", which tours to Universities for Holocaust educational programs. “The more I started doing this, the more I wanted to do it,” said Brown. “It’s been an incredible and remarkable experience.”
Stage, TV & Film actor Bobby Reed has been in show business for 40 years. His credits include NBC’s Parenthood and The Defenders. Add comedian to the list since the audience burst out into laughter when he said, “I don’t want a job, I am a movie star.” Reed opened up about the jobs he worked during the span of his career, including being an agent. He said, “Life is a temp job.” Reed recommended attendees read Napolean Hill’s ‘The Law of Success’. He added, “Read it and know it. Thoughts become things.”
Nancy Daly, who’s appeared in Hart of Dixie, Criminal Minds and Scrubs, manages to mix up performing with working as a licensed massage therapist. It’s a role she’s played since 2001, bringing her steady income. “It is exhilarating and exhausting,” said Daly. “It’s flexible, but you have to be fully committed.” She’s even turned her experience as a massage therapist into a one-woman show which she wrote.
“LA is tough. It’s the only place where you have to audition for waiter jobs,” said Eliopoulos. “Actors are laborers. It is a labor of love. It doesn't mean we should undervalue ourselves as individuals.”
Performer Mike Sington, landed a dream job at Universal Studios. He now oversees the ‘tour guide’ program he created to help actors thrive. “You can leave in the middle of shift and go to an audition and get paid for the shift.”
Kevin High vouched for that. The South Carolina native got hired to use his vibrant personality and announcing skills for Universal. “I ride around the backlot of movie studios and get to do that everyday. It’s amazing. They respect us and what we do,” he said.
When Travis Parker boarded a train headed for Los Angeles, he had a backpack and enough money that lasted two months. After his funds ran out, he need to find work and quick. “My family was in the trades,” he said. So Parker turned his skills into building homes in Los Angeles. “I’d much rather be acting, but I have responsibilities. I kept working to have my dream come true.”
From building homes, he met three valuable contacts in the entertainment industry. Parker took his career up several notches by not only acting but getting into producing. He just finished his first feature film. “You have to do something and you don't know where it leads you. Keep an open mind, change your mind, it is that simple,” Parker shared.
“It's always great to find a sense of community and that room felt like a really smart, really generous group of people all ultimately looking out for one another,” said attendee Samara Bay, who is an actress and also works as a dialect coach. “It's really nice to know that although we're living through a really difficult time economically we're also all pursuing acting work in Hollywood during a time that the ‘hyphenate’ nature of a creative life is becoming accepted.”
Parker reinforced to the audience to develop a skill and make many mistakes. He said, “Get your hands dirty, feel free to explore, do the same thing in life and it will just appear.” Words of encouragement continued from High, who said, "Find something within yourself. Find it. Nurture it and the world will open.”
MOVE is a non-partisan, member-driven committee, dedicated to supporting the initiatives of the Screen Actors Guild and positively influencing the lives of actors and performers. Through trainings, forums, and events, MOVE provides member education, organizes to create more union employment and strengthen existing contracts, and promotes union solidarity within the labor community.