From Charlie's Desk > About Salaries


Reader: "I know that acting can be very lucrative from reading about the salaries that movie stars make, but how much does the average movie or TV actor make?

Charlie: When I'm asked to speak to a group of aspiring actors, I usually ask the question "Why do you want to be an actor?" As I go around the room, pin-pointing different people to answer, I'll get responses of "Because it's fun" - "I want to be recognized" - "It's exciting" - "It makes me feel special" - "I want to make a lot of money" - and many others. All are valid reasons, but let's take a look at that last one...."I want to make a lot of money." Certainly millionaires are made in "Show Biz", but I know no truly successful actor who's intention for becoming an actor was to "Get Rich". The money they've made was simply a by-product of a need or desire to perform. Think about it; why would anyone in their right mind want to go into a profession that has 97% unemployment at all times? For example, there are approximately 100,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild. Sure, there are a few Stallones, Demi Moores, and Jim Careys who make $10 or $20 million per picture, but less than 5% of the SAG members make as much as $50,000 per year. About 80% make less than $5,000 per year. Most of those in between are at what the government defines as poverty level! Now, don't let that stop you, because lightening does strike; people do get "discovered" - usually after years of hard work and study. I usually tell people "If there is anything else that you can do and be happy do it instead." However, if you have what I call that "defective gene" that robs you of your senses, if you are only really alive when you're on a stage or in from of a camera, then go for it! You'll never be truly happy until you at least try... I wasn't.



Reader: I'm sure that eventually I'll have to Hollywood if I want to make it. Can you give me some Idea of what my odds are? I've done some extra work, but I don't have my SAG card yet.

Charlie: The best week ever in L.A., when all the TV series are in full production, when there are lots of movies being made, tons of commercials, and the usual handful of industrials and stage productions , there are about 700 acting jobs, and that includes the series regulars and actors who are already working. About half the members of SAG live in the Los Angeles area; that's around 50,000. In addition to the union members, there are thousands of non-union actors also seeking work. Not very encouraging odds, are they? Of course, I didn't let that stop me! Hell, half of them were women, so that cut my competition in half right there. Most of them are 20 to 40 years old and good-looking, so that increased my chances by a bunch. A few of them are even older than I am, some simply have no talent, and are too tall, or short, or fat or skinny or.... The best thing you can do is just to be prepared when you go. Have good training, and I mean camera training. Have the proper headshot. Know how to do your resume in the proper form (there is a definite right and wrong way.) Try to do some extra work so that you'll at least know your way around the set. Personally, I think it's madness to go until you have your SAG card, but that's a tough one. As for the rest, see the question above. Hope for the best, and most of all, NEVER GIVE UP!

Charlie Holliday