7 Ways Survival Jobs Can Make You a Better Actor

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Sure, there’s the gig behind the counter at Starbucks that can you help you pay the bills. Folding clothes at an area retailer will also do the same. But there are also those survival jobs that, in addition to putting food on the table, will also help you as an actor.

Find a gig in the industry.
“One of the things I’ve come to realize is that working in the industry you want to be a part of is key, even if it’s not in the specific capacity you’re pursuing. You want to act. You want to do it professionally. As an actor, your job is to create characters, be involved in worlds and stories that say something. So on your way up the ladder and between acting jobs, why not considering getting a job in that same world?

“Sure, you can be a waiter or bartender— many do. But that sort of work doesn’t really help to forward or contribute to your career. The world of film and TV is your arena. It’s your goal. It’s where you belong. And working in it will not only enhance your skills, but also put you in the position to be rubbing elbows with others in the same field, with future friends and colleagues who also want to learn and grow.” —Sevier Crespo, producer and Backstage Expert

Video editing can earn and save you money.
“Your friends are actors, right? Help them with their demo reels! If you have a Mac, go take a free iMovie seminar at the Apple store, and become a master video editor. It will come in handy for the rest of your career, and someone always needs footage edited.” —Matt Newton, acting coach and Backstage Expert

Cruise ships are a breeding ground for talent.
“Many cruises offer entertainment to their passengers during long voyages. This often includes the need for actors who can sing and dance. If you have these talents, think about applying. Not only will it give you steady work for a time, but there are a lot of perks with this kind of acting gig. You’ll see places you’ve only dreamed about and experience different cultures, both of which will help develop your craft and give you ideas for future characters.” —Charis Joy Jackson, actor, casting director, director, producer, and Backstage Expert

Theme parks are an acting opportunity, too.
“The most successful performers are the ones who treat this as an opportunity to learn. There aren’t many performing jobs where you can work for four or five different audiences in six hours. So if you go out and mess up, you can go out again an hour later and fix it. In another job, it could be a day or more before you’d be able to do that. You also get to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, and how to read the audience. Not all audiences want the same thing. I think that expedited learning experience is a huge benefit for those who want to make a career in performing.” —Shane DeLancey, Events Manager for Six Flags Over Georgia

Those who can do, can also teach.
“Teach acting in schools. Start with a job at a summer camp, an after school drama program, a community center with a Saturday class, etc., then apply for a longer-term position at a school. Teaching is acting—you’re communicating with personality plus you get to read great plays and show younger actors how it’s done. Fun!” —Gwyn Gilliss, marketing mentor for actors and Backstage Expert

“Playing doctor” is helpful for actors.
“There are many teaching hospitals and medical schools across the country that hire actors to play the role of a patient in order to help doctors and medical students get more practice with exams and patient care. The actor will be given a background history of the character: medical issues, symptoms, and other problems.

“Typically, the actor doesn’t need to memorize a script but they do have to be extremely familiar with every aspect of their disease and history. The actor is also responsible for evaluating the exam and pointing out the overall effectiveness of the doctor/medical student’s work.

“The fees will vary depending on the location and the actor’s experience, and most standardized patients get paid by the hour. But this can be a truly fascinating and rewarding part-time job.” —Aaron Marcus, full-time actor and Backstage Expert

Hone your improv skills as a tour guide.
“My tour is very personal. From the moment the door closes [to when it] opens, it’s kind of a show. That’s the best way to think of it. You have to know your set [and] your lines, but more than half of it is improv. Audiences are different. Their questions are different. I think it makes you a better performer because of that.” —Brian Donnelly, Hollywood historian and tour guide

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