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Career Paper

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*Aspiring actors face frequent rejections in auditions and long periods of

unemployment; competition for roles is often intense.

*While formal training is helpful, experience and talent are more important for success

in this field.

*Because of erratic employment, earnings for actors are relatively low.

Nature of the Work

Although most people associate actors, directors, and producers with the

screens of Hollywood or stages of Broadway, these workers are more likely to be

found in a local theatre, television studio, circus, or comedy club. Actors, directors,

and producers include workers as diverse as narrators; clowns; comedians; acrobats;

jugglers; stunt, rodeo, and aquatic performers; casting, stage, news, sports, and public

service directors; production, stage, and artist and repertoire managers; and producers

and their assistants. In essence, actors, directors, and producers express ideas and

create images in theaters, film, radio, television, and a variety of other media. They

"make the words come alive" for their audiences.

Actors entertain and communicate with people through their interpretation of

dramatic roles. However, only a few actors ever achieve recognition as stars--whether

on stage, in motion pictures, or on television. A few others are well-known,

experienced performers, who frequently are cast in supporting roles. Most actors

struggle for a toehold in the profession and pick up parts wherever they can. Although

actors often prefer a certain type of role, experience is so important to success in this

field that even established actors continue to accept small roles, including commercials

and product endorsements. Other actors work as background performers, or "extras,"

with small parts and no lines to deliver; still others work for theater companies,

teaching acting courses to the public.

Directors interpret plays or scripts. In addition, they audition and select cast

members, conduct rehearsals, and direct the work of the cast and crew. Directors use

their knowledge of acting, voice, and movement to achieve the best possible

performance, and they usually approve the scenery, costumes, choreography, and


Producers are entrepreneurs. They select plays or scripts, arrange financing,

and decide on the size, cost, and content of a production. They hire directors, principal

members of the cast, and key production staff members. Producers also negotiate

contracts with artistic personnel, often in accordance with collective bargaining

agreements. Producers work on a project from beginning to end, coordinating the

activities of writers, directors, managers, and other personnel. Increasingly, producers

who work on motion pictures must have a working knowledge of the new technology

needed to create special effects.

Working Conditions

Acting demands patience and total commitment, because actors are often rejected in

auditions and must endure long periods of unemployment between jobs. Actors

typically work long, irregular hours, sometimes under adverse weather conditions that

may exist "on location." They also must travel when shows are "on the road." Coupled

with the heat of stage or studio lights and heavy costumes, these factors require

stamina. Actors working on Broadway productions often work long hours during

rehearsals, but generally work about 30 hours a week once the show opens. Evening

work is a regular part of a stage actor's life, as several performances are often held on

one day. Flawless performances require tedious memorization of lines and repetitive

rehearsals. On television, actors must deliver a good performance with very little


Directors and producers often work under stress as they try to meet schedules,

stay within budgets, and resolve personnel problems while putting together a

production. Directors must be aware of union rules and how they affect production

schedules. For example, actors must be paid a minimum salary and can work no more

than a set number of hours, depending on their contract. Additional restrictions are

placed on productions using child actors and animals.


In 1998, actors, directors, and producers held about 160,000 jobs in motion pictures,

stage plays, television, and radio. Many others were between jobs, so the total number

of actors, directors, and producers employed at some time during the year was higher.

In winter, most employment opportunities on stage are in New York and other large

cities, many of which have established professional regional theaters. In summer, stock

companies in suburban and resort areas also



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