Ask most people and they’ll tell you that Hollywood is a place of glitz and glamour. It’s the land of designer clothes and lavish mansions, where ordinary people can transform into stars with mountains of money, hordes of staff and legions of fans at their disposal. Making it here is supposed to be the key to happiness, to popularity and to fulfillment. Everybody wants Hollywood.
But ask the real actors and musicians struggling to break into the industry, and they’ll tell you something a little different. They’ll tell you that for every one entertainer swimming in wealth, there are thousands struggling to eat. They’ll tell you beneath the red carpets and photo shoots, it’s a place of inequality, of hard work, and of sacrifice. You’ll learn how many rejections they face for every success, and just how hard it is to actually achieve that success that makes it all worth it.
Hollywood is a place where dreams are made, where people find wealth and fulfillment, but that’s not all. There’s a dark side too, and they never tell you what it’s really like being an actor or musician who hasn’t made it big. Read on to discover what really happens in Tinseltown and just what it takes to make it.
15 You're Going To Need Much More Than Talent To Succeed
When a conversation about the entertainment industry is raised, the first thing that comes to most minds is talent. After all, the celebration of a celebrity’s exceptional talent is supposed to be why we worship them like gods in the first place, right? Unfortunately for those talented souls out there, it takes much more than this to succeed. To make it in such an audience-based industry, there has to be demand for you, whether you genuinely have a given gift or not.
An article posted on Music Industry How To revealed that to make it as a singer, in particular, you need to have many assets besides talent, some of which are plainly out of your control.
Whether or not you make it is more about how you market and promote yourself, who you know, the look and hook you have and sheer luck, rather than how many notes you can hit.
14 The Inequalities Between Men And Women Show Up Even Before You Make It Big
If you’ve been paying attention to recent movements aiming to stop the unfair and sometimes even harmful treatment against women in the entertainment industry (and other industries), you’ll know that women in Hollywood generally have a lot to put up with. The people in power are mostly men who aren’t afraid to manipulate and intimidate to get what they want out of women, and reports have shown that the paychecks can vary based on how you identify.
But think again if you thought this was a problem faced only by stars who have made it big. Jurnee Smollett-Bell, an actress appearing on Underground, told of the countless times she’s been asked to do uncomfortable things for a scene. “With love scenes, the camera angle is from the man’s point of view,” she explained to The New York Times. “All of that absolutely infuriates me.”
13 It Costs A Lot To Be An Actor Or A Musician
Since acting and singing (or playing music) are jobs, you might have thought that the idea is to make money doing them, rather than to lose money. While that’s the aim, the truth is both of these crafts can put a serious dent in your wallet when you try to turn them into careers, which is a particularly tough gig when you think about how little some entertainers make in the beginning.
Actors have to start with lessons and workshops, before forking out hundreds of dollars for good headshots that need to be updated every few years and need to be varied enough to show off your range for diverse projects.
On top of printing fees for those, you’ve also got the parking tickets that pile up while you’re driving all over L.A. to try your luck at auditions.
12 Fans Don't Mean Money: The Majority Of Artists Can't Make A Living From Their Craft
The money made in the entertainment business differs greatly from top to bottom: while there are people making millions on one end, there are thousands making next to nothing. And in between, there are people who might be doing well enough to actually make money from their craft, but a lot of the time, it’s sadly not enough to make a living.
On top of all the expenses actors and musicians have to meet just to do their jobs, they also have to pay certain percentages to managers and agents (without whom they probably wouldn’t have landed the job in the first place). Musicians, in particular, can gain thousands or even millions of fans online, but that doesn’t mean all those people are willing to pay money for their music when they could just listen to free videos on social media.
11 If They Do Make A Living From It, It Can Take A Seriously Long Time To Get There
Of course, it is possible to do very well in Hollywood, and judging by the big stars you hear about in the tabloids, it’s even possible to get there before you turn 25. But for the majority of artists and entertainers that do end up making it, it takes years and years of persistence to get there.
While you might just be hearing about an artist for the first time when you see them win an award in a New Artist category, the truth probably is they’ve been hustling at this job for nearly a decade and are only gaining recognition for it now.
Or take Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad: he started acting in 1980 and rose to global fame after the TV show in 2008, nearly 30 years later.
10 Hollywood Is Hard On Your Relationships
One thing we all understand about Hollywood is that most A-list couples have a hard time actually staying together. There are a number of reasons for this, and every single relationship is different, but the common factor applying to them all is that Hollywood is tough on relationships. It might be the place that taught us about soulmates and love at first sight, but having such a demanding job takes a toll on all of that.
An article on Music Industry How To outlined how hard it is to hold down a relationship when you’re a working musician, and this is before all the fans and global touring schedules come into the picture. These people tend to work around the clock to produce something worthwhile, are away and distracted a lot, and typically don’t make a lot of money, all of which can easily put a strain on any romantic relationship.
9 If You're Not A White Male, It's Harder To Get A Role
The inequality in Hollywood doesn’t just affect women; just about all minority groups find it harder than those who are privileged.
In an interview with The New York Times, Ken Jeong talked about some harsh truths his acting professor gave him regarding his acting potential in Los Angeles: “There’s not much of a future for you [here]. Go to Asia.”
Similarly, Grease Live actor, Wendell Pierce told of his experience as a student at Julliard, where he began to see that the industry would be a different place for him than it was for white actors. “I didn’t get any roles that weren’t 20, 30 years my elder,” he said. “We had a running joke, the black actors, ‘If you come here you better get your funny walks because you’re going to be playing all the old guys.’”
8 Rejection Becomes Part Of Who You Are
You might have guessed that working in an audience-based industry is going to come with rejection. But it’s hard to empathize with just how much that rejection stings unless you’re in that position. Neither actors nor musicians (nor anybody else working in Hollywood) can escape it, no matter how well-known they are.
Once upon a time, rejection was reserved for critics and industry professionals, but now artists and entertainers are open to criticism from millions of people from every corner of the globe. The more successful you are in Hollywood, the more online trolls you have calling you names, challenging your talent and making fun of the way you look. And even when you’re not successful or wealthy or fulfilled in your career, you still have agents, managers, casting directors, producers and critics picking you apart.
7 Writers, Producers, And Directors Don't Always Have Your Best Interests At Heart
When famous actors talk about their relationships with the directors, producers, and writers they’ve worked with, they usually speak of a positive experience based on mutual respect. But particularly when you’re not an established actor, your feelings and dignity tend to fall way down the priority list of the people you work with.
It is a business, after all, and you’ll be surprised what has to be sacrificed for the good of the project and its financial prospects.
Generally, someone like a director isn’t concerned with whether you’re making a fool of yourself on camera or not, since they have too many other things to worry about and that might be what it takes to make the project work. And the worst part about making a fool of yourself on camera, in the age of social media and smartphones, is how permanent it is.
6 Fines Mean The Movie Business Is Even Tougher To Break Into Than You Thought
Hollywood is a brutal place while you’re trying to make it, and actually making it is notoriously hard. The Screen Actors Guild was set up to make things easier for actors, and ensure they were paid equally for their work, but it actually works against actors who are trying to break into the business.
Basically, the guidelines state that movies and televisions shows have to pay a fine if they cast anyone who’s not a member of the SAG (in other words, every actor trying to break in). And how do they become members? They have to work on a SAG film in a principal role. So nobody wants to cast you unless you’re a member because they have to pay a fine, but you can’t become a member unless you’ve already been cast. To actually be cast in a SAG role as an unknown actor, a director has to be so taken with you that they’re willing to overlook the fine.
5 Sadly, It's Not A Myth: Money And Connections Count For A Lot
Who you know tends to play a factor in most industries, and the entertainment business is no different. People do favors for those they know while overlooking newcomers, and those cliques can be tough to break into.
Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin told The New York Times how different his experience was in college compared with his roommate who was backed by his parents’ money.
“It was just as hard being working class. I had a roommate—parents write a $20,000 check, and boom, he [makes] his movie,” he said. “There were people [whose] relatives were [in] Hollywood, and they get all the free equipment.”
Connections might not guarantee you success if you’ve got nothing else to offer, but they certainly give you a significant push in the right direction, ahead of those who might be working harder and longer.
4 It's Hard To Make Acting Or Singing A Career, But You Won't Get Time To Work On A Backup Career
The wise thing to do when pursuing such a risky and tough dream is to have a backup plan. If you have a plan B, it doesn’t hurt so much when you fall on your face on your way to making your dreams come true. But the thing about the entertainment industry is that chasing it takes so much time and effort that you don’t get the chance to organize a plan B.
Actors and musicians might get jobs teaching their craft or working in the service industry or in retail to support themselves, but they usually don’t get the time to study or try anything that would bring them any kind of happiness. Essentially, they don’t get to keep their options open the way they’d probably like to, by getting another degree or taking a course in another area that interests them.
3 It Might Be Your Passion, But It Ends Up Feeling Like Any Other Day Job
They say that if you do a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life, but that’s not always true. Acting and making music come along with many tasks that probably aren’t so fun, like waiting at auditions, finding new gigs and trying to land them and doing online marketing and promotion.
The worst thing about doing something like this as a job is that few people with “regular” 9-5 jobs would take you seriously.
If you say you’re a professional actor or musician, many people would automatically assume you live a dream life and have nothing to complain about, so it’s hard to find someone you can vent to about waiting all day at that audition or doing all that promotional work.
2 You'll Be Exhausted From The Sheer Amount Of Work It Takes Just To Pursue Your Dreams, Even If You Don't Actually Reach Them
This might be obvious, but it just doesn’t always hit home for people who aren’t struggling to make it in Hollywood. Getting anywhere in the industry takes loads of work, and even once you’re somewhere, you still have to work hard to maintain that position.
In the beginning, you start with classes to get your craft down. Then you have to go to all the effort of finding a manager or agent, of finding new gigs and opportunities to play, of chasing up people who won’t pay after they said they would. You have to spend hours in a studio or in rehearsal or in front of the camera. Filming can last for 12-14 hours, on top of lunch breaks and hair and makeup time. Once you do make something people are interested in, promotional tours are grueling, and you’ll realize how hard it is to get a day off when you’re in demand.
1 Big Stars And Struggling Actors Agree: Auditions Are Brutal
Auditions are necessary for actors, musicians, and dancers, and most will agree that they’re brutal. The auditions might get easier once you’re an established presence in Hollywood, but everyone has to go through those awful years where you’re just another face among thousands. Ryan Gosling explained in a 2014 interview just how horrible it was for him.
“Then you get it, you get there, you walk into a room full of guys that look just like you. You realize that you’re not the only one that wore the cowboy hat. Then you can hear the other guy in the other room auditioning, and now you’re thinking about not doing it like him,” he said.
Ryan is just one example of how it is achievable to make it, and you don’t have to give up your dreams of stardom because they’re not impossible. But before you do, it’s a good idea to know exactly what you’re in for.
References: thrillist.com, nytimes.com, cosmopolitan.com, oneworkingmusician.com, cracked.com, backstage.com, takelessons.com, musicindustryhowto.com