Everything You Need to Know About Relocating for an Acting Job

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Congratulations! You just booked a series regular role on a show that has “Hit” written all over it. That’s an impressive accomplishment, and you should be proud. All those years of struggle have finally paid off.

Under these circumstances, your first concern should be what kind of Champagne to buy for the celebration. But there’s something else you need to start thinking about: relocation. Oh, did you forget? The show shoots in a city you don’t live in, and they want you there in three weeks. 

I’m betting you have a lot of questions and concerns. Well, don’t sweat it. That contract you signed has several provisions designed to make the move easier. They’re standard deal points; everyone in your situation gets them. 

The first thing you have to understand is that relocation isn’t permanent. You’re not actually moving. They just expect you to live where they’re working for the duration of the shoot. If it’s a network show, that’s about nine months; less if it’s cable or streaming. So, don’t give up that rent-controlled apartment you love more than life itself. You’re going to need it when the season wraps. And all your stuff is there!

Naturally, if your current living situation is unbearable, this could be the ticket to a brand-new life. One of my clients booked a series in Atlanta and fell in love with the city—and the caterer. I haven’t seen the guy since. 

The moment you book the job, start studying the location online. Try to get a sense of the place. See if you know anyone who has spent time there. Gathering information is an effective way to make yourself comfortable with such a major change. Think of that city as the beach at Normandy, and you’re coming in hot!

Now, let’s talk money: As per the agreement you signed, you will receive a relocation fee of $5,000–$7,500. That’s all yours. Alas, agents aren’t allowed to take 10%. The smart move here is to apply those greenbacks to your new accommodations. These days, most of my clients who are relocating find long-term rentals through Airbnb or other services. If you need a helping hand, the production might be able to get you a deal at the hotel they use, but that would just be for your first week there so you can transition smoothly. The cost of staying at a hotel for the entire season, even at a discount, would be absurdly expensive.

Naturally, $5,000–$7,500 isn’t going to cover your rent for the duration of the shoot, especially if you’re moving to an expensive city like New York. So, let’s assume this is your first series. That means you’re probably making between $20,000 and $30,000 an episode. That adds up to some major coin, even after taxes and commission, so that should help cover the rest of your costs. And you can always save money by eating on set, even if you’re not working that day. (A lot of actors think this is tacky. I say it’s smart.)

Community Answers: When Is the Best Time to Move to L.A.?

Another important part of relocation is transportation. The contract allows you one first-class, round-trip ticket each season. That covers your flight to the location and your trip back for every season the show is in production. That sounds straightforward enough, but there are some options you should consider.

Most productions will allow you to exchange that fancy first-class ticket for two coach seats. If you choose to do this, you can use the first ticket to make the move to your new home, and you can use the second one however you wish. Some actors bring their significant others with them; others save the second ticket so they can fly home during a break in their schedule. 

I always tell clients to go with the two coach tickets. I understand first class is impressive, but it’s really not that big a deal if you’re flying cross-country or up to Canada. Having the flexibility to go home halfway through the season to take care of “life stuff” can be very appealing. And if you’re in a relationship, it might be nice to fly that person in for a visit without having to pay for their trip. If you do decide to go with two coach tickets, keep in mind that you have to use them or lose them. This isn’t your cell phone plan, where you get to carry over unused data to the next billing cycle. Those tickets are per season only.

Then, as your travel date approaches, give some thought to your packing plans. This might be tricky, because the seasons will probably change while you’re on location. Not a big deal in Atlanta or Los Angeles. Definitely an issue in New York or Vancouver. Plan ahead and consider making some purchases now while you have time.

When you arrive on location, make sure you drop by the production office so you can meet and thank the travel coordinator. This is the person who handles everything when you’re relocating. The odds are that you’ve already spoken, but getting some face time is smart, because the travel coordinator is in a position to make your life much, much easier. 

I remember this one client who was a smart lad. He sent the travel coordinator flowers with a thank-you note. In return, when my client needed to use that second coach ticket to fly home during a break, the travel coordinator bumped him up to first-class. Why? Because she liked him. 

I’ve given you the basics about your relocation fee and travel options. Those deal points are usually non-negotiable—that means your agent won’t be able to get more money or tickets. That only happens when the actor is a star, a child, or is living with a disability.

Now, here’s one last piece of advice: If you don’t have a passport, get one. I’m serious. Get one now. There are lots of acting opportunities in the Great White North and a few other countries, so it pays to be ready for them.

So, there you have it! Congrats again on your amazing accomplishment. And you can start dreaming now about the next time you’ll have to relocate. Over a 10-year period, one of my clients booked three shows in three different cities. She had the time of her life, and you will too. Cheers!

Looking for remote work? Backstage has got you covered!Click here for auditions you can do from home!

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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