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TOMBUDSMAN: Time to Stop, Pregnant Pause

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Dear Tombudsman:

First of all, I'd like to thank you for taking an interest in helping actors who have questions but can't get straight answers. I've been acting for almost eight years and I've been in many circles of the industry. It always surprises me that there is so much wrong information out there. This is the only business where even if you study your craft, you might never get work. If you study to be a lawyer or an accountant, you'll get work in those fields. Acting is so subjective and there are no guarantees. I don't mean to sound bitter, but at the rate I'm going I could have gotten my Ph.D.

I've talked to many actors who have given themselves a time limit. I finally got my SAG card after doing an under-five on "Days of Our Lives." I thought, "Now, I'll be able to get work in movies." But I find there are more jobs for non-union than union members. When should one consider throwing in the towel and maybe pursuing a career that actually has a future?

Alicia

Via the Internet

Dear Alicia:

I really feel for you. What you're going through is something nearly every actor struggles with at some point in their career. You're absolutely right. It is unfair that actors can devote their lives to this beautiful craft only to realize they have to give it up because they can't pay the rent. Sure, a famous actor sitting on The Tonight Show telling Jay how tough it was in the old days might make for entertaining stuff, but the reality is for every success story there are hundreds of thespians who'll never make it in the business. What can I tell you about giving it up. Is it at age 30, 40, 70? Is it if you haven't made more than a few thousand bucks in 10 years? Truth is, you have your own acting career timeline, as do all of your fellow thespians. You'll know in your heart when, if ever, it'll be time to move into a different field.

Everyone has their own life needs and whatever path you choose to get them is the right one. It's painful to even consider leaving the acting fold after spending years preparing for professional work, but let's be honest, not everyone can make a living in a business that has far too many employees and never enough job opportunities. We all know how subjective the hiring process is as well. You can be the finest actor on your block and never land a dayplayer gig in Hollywood. Here are some considerations.

If you cannot think of anything other than being an actor, then it's probably not a smart choice to stop pursuing your career just yet. Maybe a small hiatus to clear your head might help. It is not uncommon at all for an actor to take some time off from the acting rat race and then come back full-tilt and often with much more success. I'm not telling you to do a Gloria Stuart and disappear for 30 years, but maybe some time off will help you make a better career decision. Keep in mind, you needn't leave acting if you do change careers. There is always non-professional opportunities which could give you that creative release while you are working in some other business and building an economic future.

If you love show biz, but have truly had it with acting, maybe you can stay in the field and find another avenue within it. Production personnel with talent can really do well. You'll have to pay your dues, but a future, as in "getting paid" is a lot more likely on the other side of the camera. Naturally you can consider other creative areas in film and television from writing to directing. Of course, these areas are as tough as acting, so don't do it just to give it a shot. You may leave the business altogether and find a wonderful career doing something you're not even aware of just yet. Follow your instincts--they never let you down.

Dear Tombudsman:

I have not had much luck finding out what types of acting work are available for "showing" pregnant women. I've called SAG and have not gotten much information. I would assume that anyone could possibly hire me for extra work, theatrical principal, and commercial work. Are production companies afraid to hire pregnant women?

I am also looking for a new agent and plan on doing one of those dreaded mailings. Do I tell agents in my letter that I'm having a baby? Perhaps there is a need for pregnant women and I'll be more likely to get a response. Should I send a regular head shot or a three-quarter showing me pregnant. I do need the work.

C.S.

Los Angeles

Dear CS:

You certainly have every right to go out and find work as a pregnant actress. Realistically though, I doubt you'll find many job opportunities in film and television during this time.. The amount of energy you'll need to expend versus the roles available to you doesn't equate to a high probability of finding consistent work. I don't think you'll get much agency attention marketing yourself as the "pregnant lady." Especially since it's a temporary situation. Even if an agency did want you, there would be very little work to submit you for. Yes, in commercials they might be more likely to use a "real" pregnant person as opposed to films where they prefer to use the old pillow routine. Either scenario, there just isn't lot of work opportunity. If you elect to move forward with this, you'll have your work cut out for you.

No, I don't think production companies are afraid to hire pregnant women, but they likely find it easier to get an actress who can play pregnant instead of being so. Whatever you choose, I think I'd stay away from those three-quarter pregnant photos. Good luck.

Regarding the recent letter from J.D. about the suspect information seminar being hawked to actors over the telephone (Back Stage West/Drama-Logue, 7/9/98), we received quite a few similar tales:

I am responding to the letter involving "Melanie." She called me too and had that vacillating accent. I asked her to speak slowly so that I could understand her. She told me I was referred by a New York regional theatre. She told me for $65, I'd be auditioning for speaking parts in films.

Wendi

Los Angeles

Just wanted to let you know that I was also contacted by the same information seminar people a few months ago. The actor's story is strikingly similar to mine; first woman calls and says she's returning my call. Later the British-sounding woman calls back. The two women spoke so quickly I could barely understand them.

E.D.

Via the Internet

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