All future actors must deal with the fact that a career in acting is unfair. Acting costs are high; you put in a lot but you receive almost nothing. At least in your first few years. And there is no way around it — investing in yourself is important if you wish to compete on the same level with other actors. You need the training and tools that are required by industry standards.
Since these acting costs are unavoidable, the best thing an aspiring actor can do is plan out their expenses, create a solid business plan for their career and strategize in the way they’re about to start investing in the pursuit of their dream job. For additional advice on funding your career, take a look at Acting for Beginners Guide.
Disclaimer #1: Obviously, acting costs vary from country to country, and even though this website is only providing advice based on two country’s markets — United Kingdom and United States — the actual numbers will differ slightly (the rough estimates are still close, though). Not only that but the expenses themselves also differ in these two countries. For example, UK has a smaller variety of acting classes because drama school training is more dominant in this country, whereas US (specifically LA and NYC) has the biggest variety of classes in the world.
Disclaimer #2: Acting costs are based on the research of the market and what is currently (August 20, 2013) is being provided both in the US and UK, from cheapest offers to the most expensive ones we could find. Actual numbers might differ slightly.
Acting Costs in London and Los Angeles
Please note that we have excluded anything to do with drama school training, as this has already been discussed.
The following is based on how much would it cost for an actor, who just moved to Los Angeles or London, to pursue acting career full-time.
Let’s start from the regular daily life expenses excluding actual acting costs. The total of year’s expenses math has been done at the end of the article.
On per month basis, L.A. / London:
- Rent: $650-$1200 / £450-£900 (either a small room or a studio)
- Bills: $100-$250 / £30-£200 (depending on what’s included in the rent)
- Gas: $300-$400 / £N/A (depending on the car and how often it’s used)
- Transport (per month): $N/A / £120-£350 (Oyster card)
- Groceries: $300-$400 / £150-£300 (if you cook at home, no take outs)
- Entertainment: $100+ / £100+ (depending on how often you’re going out)
- Gym: $35+ / £30+ (varies significantly)
- Extra: $150-$300 / £100-£200 (any additional expenses)
* Los Angeles is slightly cheaper than London, and London is slightly cheaper than New York.
* Rent in Los Angeles varies significantly from neighborhood to neighborhood as it does in London from zone to zone.
Now, for the actual career-related acting costs.
Classes, L.A. / London (on individual basis):
- On-going acting class (per month): $200-$300 / £180-£350
- Commercial class (2 months): $350-$500 / £250-£550
- Improvisation class in top schools, L.A.: $500
- Improvisation class in London (regular, per month): £70-£250
- Screen acting (on camera) class (1 month): $300 / £150-£500
- Additional workshops (per workshop): $50-$150 / £35-£80
* As you can see, classes are much cheaper in L.A. due to the fact that this city has ten times more of them than London does.
Other acting costs, L.A. / London:
- Headshots: $100-$500 / £50-£500
- Copies (200-300 units): $100 / £50
- Dialect and accent coach (per hour): $60-$150 / £40-£100
- Private acting coaching (per hour): $50-$350 / £35-£100
- Mailing expenses: $100-$150 / £50-£100
- Demo reel (showreel): $100-$350 / £75-£300
- Website memberships (per month): $60-$600 / £35-£150 (UK doesn’t have as many websites)
- Unions (per year): $3,000 / £120-£350 (Equity doesn’t cost as much as SAG-AFTRA)
- Personal website (per year): $35+ / £25+
Totals on acting costs per month and per year
Regular expenses, average: $2,035 / £1,390 (per month) or $24,420 / £16,680 (per year)
Acting classes, average: $1,500 / £1,055 (per year)
Other acting costs, average: $685 / £435 (per year, excluding: coaching, websites’ memberships and Union membership)
Total expenses, on average, per year: $26,605 / £18,170 (excluding: coaching, websites’ memberships and Union membership)
* The math on these acting costs has been done taking into account the average cost OR the most likely price an actor would pay from lists above.
As you can see, acting is not a cheap hobby to pursue. On top of that, you also have the higher costs of living at major cities like Los Angeles and London (add a little more if you’re going to New York). Most people, if they really try, can probably slice off about 20% of the average totals, provided they will never go out, never eat out, live in the cheapest room, find cheapest acting classes, etc. However, all that considered, acting costs are still on the higher end for a regular folk but not impossible to afford.
The intention of this article is not to scare you off the pursuit of your dream but rather to make actors snap back to reality — nobody’s going to survive in this business with $300 in their pocket. You need to face the truth. Start saving up before your big move. Once you’re here, get a proper full-time job. Be careful with your spending and most importantly — plan in advance. Being extremely cautious about your acting costs and spending will help you the first few years while you’re settling down. Understanding what the situation is like in these big entertainment capitals of the world is vital for every actor coming here to pursue their life long dream.