Acting professionally involves extensive training, tremendous competition and a great deal of pure, unadulterated luck. Even if you have the look, the talent and the connections, sometimes you also need one additional commodity: location. The vast majority of professional acting jobs are located on the East and West coasts. When it comes to being an actress, the rest of the nation has traditionally been fly-over country, but the acting landscape is changing.
If you want to be a film actress, California is the place to be. Of the 70,540 acting professionals working in the United States as of May 2012, 32,300 worked in California. The reason is simple: That's where Hollywood is. During 2011, the film and television industry cranked out 284 films and 276 TV series in the state, including such blockbusters as "The Avengers," "Brave" and "Despicable Me 2." TV and movie production in the state generated more than $17 billion in wages that year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. New York is no slouch when it comes to the film industry, either: 115 movies and 113 television series were shot in the state in 2011, including critically acclaimed productions such as "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" and "The English Teacher."
New York is the center of the theatrical universe, at least in the U.S., and follows California as the second-largest employment state for the nation's acting professionals. If you want to be a stage actress, there's no better place to be or be seen than the Great White Way. 12.3 million people went to see a Broadway show during the 2011-2012 season, generating record revenues of $1.14 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While more than half of all professional acting jobs are located in California and New York, the other half are scattered around the U.S. State tax incentives, an emerging talent pool and lower costs have lured production companies to the so-called fly-over states. North Carolina attracted 24 movies and five television series in 2011, while 44 films and nine TV shows were shot in Louisiana. Texas saw 16 movies filmed in the state, and 14 more were filmed in Tennessee. Georgia is attracting considerable attention from the television industry with such hits as "Necessary Roughness," "The Vampire Diaries" and "The Walking Dead" being shot there.
You can be an actress regardless of the state in which you reside. There were 692 member companies of the American Association of Community Theatre as of 2013, with locations in every state in the Union. Local community theatre productions, local and regional television shows, touring theatrical productions, independent films, student films, commercials, and corporate events all need actresses as well.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become an Actor
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 27-2011 Actors
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Actor
- SAG-AFTRA: Getting Started as an Actor FAQ
- The Hollywood Reporter: The Hollywood Reporter's List of the 25 Top Drama Schools
- Motion Picture Association of America: State by State Statistics
- Los Angeles Times: Broadway Posts Record Revenue, Flat Attendance For 2011-12
- Entertainment Weekly: Can California Remain the World's Movie Capital?
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.