More than 75% of actors earn less than £5k per year – survey

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More than three-quarters of actors in the UK earned less than £5,000 in 2013, according to a new survey by a castings website.

Research revealed that of the 1,700 respondents, 46% made less than £1,000 last year from acting jobs and 30% earned between £1,000 and £5,000. Just 2% earned £20,000 or more.

The investigation, which included respondents who were mainly based in London (57%) and the south-east (14%), found that nearly a fifth failed to secure any paid acting jobs in 2013. Just over 60% worked on between one and five jobs paying at least the national minimum wage. Nearly 70% took up to five low or no pay jobs in the year, with 14% working on more than six.

Almost two-thirds of actors taking part in the survey said that their acting work only represented up to a quarter of their total income for the year. However, while many said they took other work to supplement their acting wages, 16% said they had taken no extra jobs in 2013.

Nearly half of the survey participants claimed that getting seen by casting directors, agents and employers was the most challenging aspect of working in the profession, and more than 50% of actors answering a question about wages said they found low pay or unpaid jobs beneficial to their career. More than 60% agreed that this type of work should be advertised.

The research, which was carried out by casting website Casting Call Pro, follows a survey in 2013 by actors’ union Equity, which found that about half of its members undertook unpaid work in the previous 12 months, with a similar proportion earning less than £5,000 over the year.

Phil Large, CCP chief executive, said: “The results clearly demonstrate how difficult it is for professional actors to make a decent living in this tough industry. In particular the fact that 75% of actors earned less than £5,000 from acting in the last year.

“However, I doubt this will come as a big surprise or a deterrent to actors, who are more aware of the realities of the industry than ever before. In fact I’m encouraged to see that 40% of respondents are over 35, which shows that CCP is helping many actors to sustain long-term careers.”

A spokesman for Equity said: “Both the CCP survey and Equity’s most recent survey, while coming up with slightly different findings, demonstrate how tough it is to survive as a professional in the entertainment industry.

“This puts all the more importance on Equity’s industrial work of negotiating up minimum rates of pay and its legal work of challenging those employers that wish to exploit performers by not paying them at all.”

The union recently voted at its annual conference in support of a motion that called for 2015 to become the ‘Year of the Fringe’, aiming to encourage producers and venues to adopt a minimum wage agreement for actors working in the sector.

CCP’s research included 60% of respondents who were aged 18 to 35. About 45% of these said they had less than five years’ experience in their acting career.