You Make Your Own Luck

In Professional Advice on September 13, 2010 at 2:43 am

"When I'm not being paid to act, I pay to act" - Karl Urban studied the Meisner Acting Technique with Michael Saccente in Auckland, when not building his impressive resume

When you’re not being paid to act, you pay to act. That can mean you pay in money, for classes or workshops or actually financially funding a co-operative theatre production or short film. It can also mean you ‘pay’ in time; that you volunteer your time and energy to projects; scene study groups; practice in front of a camera or with a monologue, etc. In both cases, you pay to act.

The profession of acting is both an extremely challenging and rewarding enterprise. Challenging, because only five percent of actors will be employed at any given moment. Research from Creative New Zealand’s 2006 census of the nation’s artists revealed that the average wage of New Zealand actors was -$3,000. Yes, that’s right – negative three thousand dollars. Most New Zealand actors shell out more money for their passion and artistry than they make in a year.

While some lucky few break into the industry early or relatively easily, most actors will have to experience an enormous amount of rejection and/or lack of opportunity. In order to survive financially, you will need to find some sort of flexible employment. But this need is secondary to finding some way to both sustain and feed your creativity and growth as an actor.

Keep this mantra at the forefront of your mind: every actor must be a producer. In some capacity, if you want to act, then you must find a way to produce opportunities for yourself. Whether that be actually producing and writing your own material and then performing it onstage, or developing a short film, or producing a network of collaborators and opportunities that will assist you in generating your own projects.

If your belief as an actor is always, “I am responsible for creating my own opportunities”, then whatever other prospects are given to you, through your agent, social or professional network, or outside influence, are just icing on the cake. You cannot be disappointed and forlorn, because you will always have your own work that you are creating.  This state of being will attract more of what you want than doing nothing and feeling negative about your lack of opportunities.  I’m not suggesting that you not aim high or dream big but that you adopt a philosophy of “creating your own luck” and not waiting for the phone to ring or others to recognise your talent. 

Working actors work. The habit and the discipline you have from creating your own work and of keeping your acting muscle warm will generate more opportunities. You’ll grow and gain confidence as a performer, strengthen your professional network, and others will also get to see more of your work.

So if you want to act, then act. Here are some ideas of how you can do that:

  1. Get together with some friends to create a weekly play-reading group
  2. Organise a more intense scene study group
  3. Work with one other friend to practice auditions on a video camera
  4. Sign up for acting classes or workshops
  5. Put yourself forward for unpaid short films (as long as there is a professional approach by the filmmakers).
  6. Sign up to The Wellington Actors Studio Facebook page.
  7. Contact the New Zealand Film School and other film programs around New Zealand and ask if you can audition for their student short films,
  8. Regularly visit Bats Theatre to find out about up and coming plays that might be in need of actors (the noticeboard at Bats Theatre is a great place to find out about up and coming plays as well as other opportunities for other actors)
  9. Also make contact with the other theatres on the off chance that they will be having open auditions for any of their productions this year
  10. And, as mentioned in our last handout, all of this activity is a reason to keep in contact with your agent, giving them positive feedback about whatever activities or projects you’re involved in.

All the very best, and good luck!  Remember, its your own luck… so make it good.

Barbara Woods

The Wellington Actors Studio

For information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio go to


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