Terrance's Adventures in Day Jobs for Actors & Artists

It's an unfortunate fact: most actors and artists will need to have a day job — hopefully just for a while, but potentially for a looooong while. But what are the best day jobs for artists? Or is every day job just a day job?

Join author Neal A. Yeager as he reads a series of short stories which make up chapters of the novel non-Hollywood, wherein we follow one of the main character's adventures in day jobs for actors and artists.

It's a bit of a ride.

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Day Jobs for Creative Types

Chapter 39: Day Jobs for Creative Types

Nineteen years, one month and eight days before being stabbed while acting on the set of a vampire movie, Terrance, 25, had, over the course of the previous two and a half months run through a series of very short-duration jobs, none of which involved performing in a movie.

An older man he knew from acting class had gotten him a few days work with a company that built sets and even though his job was just as an extra hand to lift and carry things, his utter incompetence at the construction trade was so obvious that it was unlikely that he would ever be invited back (he had actually heard some of the guys calling him “pretty boy” behind his back).

He was given a one-day tryout at a chicken grill which hadn’t worked out primarily because it had taken him several minutes to open a giant can of tomatoes using — and he felt that this had been sabotage by the guy currently working there — a wobbly can opener that barely worked.

He had worked one night at a dive bar, and Melanie had insisted that he not return to that one as during that one night a young man who Terrance suspected to be a gang member had threatened to disembowel him with a pool cue.

The longest gig he had worked was passing out flyers on the Santa Monica Pier. He had been told that he would be paid weekly and in cash, but after three weeks of not being paid and being dodged by the man who was supposed to be paying him, Terrance had stopped making the drive to Santa Monica.

So it really wasn’t a surprise when Melanie, 24, had told him that she would start looking for a job (Melanie had a Business Administration degree) nor was it any great surprise when a few weeks later she had announced that she had landed an office job with an okay salary and more importantly for their situation, a good insurance package.

And so it was that Terrance became a stay-at-home dad. Obviously he and Melanie both realized that something would have to be worked out in order for Terrance to go to auditions. Luckily they knew another couple about their age who had small kids and could probably step in during that event. Of course Terrance hadn’t been called in for an audition since the religious film almost three months ago, so it didn’t seem to be anything worth worrying too much about at the moment.

Another benefit of Melanie working was that Terrance would be able to go back to his acting class. He had stopped attending as they didn’t have the money. But Melanie insisted that she would now pay for them, as they both felt that the networking opportunities alone were well worth the cost. She also signed him up for a class on auditioning for commercials, which Terrance had previously thought out of the question. But he did know from his books on the acting business (which had also all been purchased by Melanie) that commercials could be a good source of income for an actor between the film roles.


They had been in L.A. for quite a while now and Terrance could not understand why he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. He understood that it was a competitive business and all, but it seemed odd to him that with the incredible amount of roles that he had submitted himself for, he so seldom even got called in for auditions. Surely there weren’t that many actors around. Were there?

He figured that he must be doing something wrong. Yet he felt sure that he was doing everything that the acting books had advised him to do.

One day as he was changing diapers an idea occurred to him. He had always wondered how many submissions a producer would receive when they placed a casting notice in Dramalogue. So he thought why not place his own casting notice and see what happened?

He had always noticed that there was a phone number listed for the placing of casting notices, so he picked up the phone and called that number. He hadn’t really thought through what his ad would be and the first question that the voice on the other end of the line had asked was the name of his production company.

Terrance hung up.

The next day he and the baby went to the nearby P.O. box rental place and paid for one month of service under the name of a production company which did not actually exist. He then composed his casting notice, being sure that one of the roles that he was pretending to cast was a role that would be perfect for himself but also listing other roles so that the ad didn’t look fake. He was also sure to set a submission deadline two weeks away. He then called and placed the ad without incident.

A few days later he checked the box and it was already not only full, but so full that a slip was also included telling him to pick up more at the window. He took the submissions home and opened each one, removing the photos and resumes and placing them into piles.

Each day the piles grew and grew. It was actually quite shocking how tall the piles were getting. He set them up as sort of an obstacle course for his daughter to crawl through, though he later abandoned that idea as he felt the stacks were getting high enough that they might actually hurt the baby if she knocked them over. So then, over Melanie’s protestations, he moved the stacks to the kitchen table. By the time the two week deadline had arrived the headshots had basically swallowed up the table.

What particularly amazed Terrance was the number of photos of young men who looked a hell of a lot lot like him. Where he had grown up he had been the only guy around with his look, but here on his kitchen table were dozens whose pictures even their mothers would confuse — which wasn’t even counting the hundreds of other guys who had submitted for ‘his’ role and were very different physical types — this was just the guys who looked a lot like him. Looking at the photos on the table was like looking at a gigantic family reunion.

Even after the deadline the submissions kept coming in. Until finally his one-month of box rental had expired and he closed the box. By that time he had received nearly 2,000 photos.

Now he understood.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 42 ]

Day jobs for actors present their own challenges

Even the best day jobs for actors present their set of challenges. And most jobs are not the best jobs.

As Terrance experiences, there is often a bit o the revolving door syndrome when it comes to the pursuit of day jobs. He experiences brief little runs working in some not-so-great day jobs after day jobs.

It's certainly not uncommon for those who are pursuing their acting dreams to struggle with the whole concept. After all, the type of job that most people would consider a "good job" usually completely conflict with the factors that it takes to make it in an acting career.

For instance, a big issue for actors is that they need a flexible career. After all the many audition opportunities often require that the actor drop whatever they are doing and head for that casting session. And then if they get the role, which of course is the actual goal, then they can't have a conflict with their day job.

Which makes most good jobs out of the question for aspiring actors and artists.

So what type of jobs are the best day jobs for actors? The obvious one is the old cliche of waiting tables. It's flexible and at the right restaurant the money can be pretty good. But as Terrance discovers in another chapter of non-Hollywood those server jobs in LA are pretty darned competitive for that very reason.

Even other jobs in the film business are less than ideal for an actor. After all, if you are part of a crew or a member of a production team, then they need for you to be there when they need you to be there.

Career choices have been limited by following an acting career path. But maybe there is hope. There must be, for every day there are actors and artists plodding through day jobs in an attempt get to their dreams.

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Dreaded High School Reunion

Chapter 42: Dreaded High School Reunion

Sixteen years, four months before being stabbed while acting on the set of a vampire movie, Terrance, 28, was reluctantly attending his 10 year high school reunion. He had told Melanie, 27, over and over and over again that he had absolutely no desire to do this, but she had insisted and he had finally given in. The reunion was being held in early summer which was the time of year when they would usually come back to Indiana so that Holly, 4, could spend some time with her grandparents — meaning that he had no real excuse not to come.

So Terrance had acquiesced. But he wasn’t happy about it. And now that he was here at the reunion it was turning out to be even more miserable than he had thought it would be. Unlike most of the people there, he had no good, solid answer for the question, “What do you do for a living?” The only person he felt that he was doing better than was Todd, who had just gotten out of prison after serving a few years for a dealing a whole lot of marijuana.

From the outside it basically looked like Terrance was an overgrown teenager, playing pretend, working an occasional part-time job but basically mooching off of his wife.

How could he explain to these people exactly what it was that he was trying to accomplish and exactly why it was taking so damned long? At present he was talking with Scott, who from the fourth grade right up until graduation had been Sean’s best friend. And even with someone who he had once felt so close to, there was a distance.

“When I joined the practice I knew that Dad wanted to start thinking about retiring. I just didn’t know that he wanted to do it so soon!” said Scott, “He’s been working six days a week for as long as I can remember. I just assumed that he liked it. But he said no, he wanted to turn it all over to me so that he and Mom could travel.”

Terrance, feigning interest, said, “So that’s what your six-year plan is about?”

“Yes. The idea is that each year Dad works one fewer days a week. He doesn’t take on any new patients and his slow retirement gives his older patients a chance to get to know me and get used to the idea that Dad’s not going to be their doctor much longer. We’re on the third year now, so he’s only in the office three days a week.”

“Your dad’s not that old is he?”

“No. In fact, we’ve timed this so that he’ll retire on his 55th birthday.”


“Yeah, he and Mom want to see the world so they figured that the best thing to do would be an early retirement. Travel before they get too old to do it.”

Terrance continued feigning, “That’s great for them. And great for you. You’ve got your own practice before you’re 30. And you’re here in your hometown. That’s great.”

“It works out for everybody. Though I’ve got to say that I never expected to be back here. You know that. I always expected to move to a big city like you did. L.A. or San Francisco, something like that. I’m pretty jealous.”

“Oh no, it’s not that big a deal,” said Terrance.

“I think it’s pretty neat. You wanted to go and you went. And here I am, back in the town where I grew up… But it’s good.”

“Yeah, good for you Scott. Sounds like it’s all working out for you.”

“Thanks. Yeah. Of course I’m sure my life’s not as exciting as yours. In L.A. and all. I’ve always wanted to go to the Sunset Strip. Do you go party there like, all the time?”

“Oh no. I’ve been to the Strip many times of course, but no, these days it’s mostly staying at home with Holly and going to acting classes and trying to get something going. Not a lot of partying.”

“Well that’s good. Family life is good.”

“Yes it is. I like having a family,” said Terrance.

“And you’re still in great shape,” said Scott, “Most everybody here’s put on at least a little weight but you still look cut. What’s your secret?”

“Secret? No real secret there Scott. I work out six days a week and I try not to eat junk food very often. You kind of have to stay in shape if you want to be an actor.”

“Well, it works.”


And there the conversation just sort of ended. Though the two had once known each other very well, these days they really had nothing much to talk about. After a few awkward moments Terrance said, “Oh, hey, I need to go check on Melanie. I saw her over by the door there.”

“Oh sure. Of course. We’ll talk more later. Good to see you.”

“Yes good to see you too.”

But Terrance did not go find Melanie. He didn’t even attempt to go find Melanie. Instead he went out the door and found a good spot where he could light up a cigarette.


When Melanie located him a good while later he was still in that same spot. “Are you smoking again, babe?” she asked as she approached him.

“Yeah. Sorry. It’s just that it’s either that or I beat myself to death with a baseball bat.”

“Oh, it’s not that bad is it?”

“Yes, Mel. It is exactly that bad. ‘That Bad’ is exactly the right term for it. I’m talking to Scott, who wanted to be a professional motocross racer, but now he’s taking over his boring-assed father’s boring-assed medical office. Theresa is an insurance agent with 5 kids. Our cross-country champ Darren has to weigh at least 300 pounds…. I mean, who are these people? I know that it’s only been 10 years but I don’t know any of them. They’re all strangers.”

“People go different paths.”

“Yeah no kidding there. And apparently my path is somehow pathetic. I tried to explain to a couple of them the whole process of going to classes and going to auditions and doing the occasional student film, but… Nothing. There’s just nothing there. They don’t get it. They just know that they’ve never seen me in a Steven Spielberg movie so they don’t get it.”

“So they don’t get it,” said Melanie, “What’s the big deal?”

Terrance took a long drag of his cigarette, sighed and said, “Well they all think I’m a bum.”

“No they don’t.”

“Yes they do. I can see it in their eyes. And worst of all I feel like a bum… I mean…. Hell, maybe they’re right. I’ve been at this for almost five years now and I’m getting nowhere. The best I’ve done is two embarrassingly bad student films and a couple of things that basically amounted to background extra work. I already feel like a loser most days and tonight is just pounding it home.”

“Terrance,” began Melanie, “you’re pursuing your dreams. Not many people have the guts to do that. So things haven’t gone the way you want. So what? You’ve got a beautiful little girl and a wife who is fully behind you. What else do you need?”

“Fully? Are you sure about that Mel? Fully?”

Melanie put her arm around him and said, “Your wife is fully behind you. Though if we’re being honest, she is getting really tired of giving you pep talks. She’s not going to be able to do that much longer,” said Melanie. And she smiled.

Terrance smiled. He put out his cigarette, took her by the hand and headed back toward the reunion.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 45 ]

Why acting is a bad career choice (maybe)

The High School Reunion. For some it is a chance to get together with old friends and have a good time remembering the good times. For others, it is a night of anxiety.

For Terrance, it is definitely the latter. Having spent several years in LA he still has very little to show for it on the professional front. He is not yet a professional actor, but instead is simply an acting hopeful who spends his days working the traditional types of day jobs for actors.

But should he care? Should it matter to him that his friends seem to have gotten on with their careers, becoming doctors and real estate agents? Should their career paths matter to him? He is going for a career in acting, so why should he care about the career paths of people he went to high school with?

He shouldn't.

But he does.

And though it could be said that just by being in LA. and attending classes and going on auditions that he actually has made some career progress. Maybe his acting career path is not such a bad career path at all?

But his mind objects and he struggles to get through the evening. And back to Los Angeles.

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Happy Friggin’ Birthday

Chapter 45: Happy Friggin' Birthday

Fourteen years, two months and eleven days before being stabbed while acting on the set of a vampire movie, Terrance celebrated his 30th birthday on a film set. This was both good and bad: Good because being on any film set was a good thing and Bad because it was a student film and, well, he was 30 years old and still only getting student films. And not many of them at that.

Also, this particular student film wasn’t looking to be too good. The script was bad and the so-called ‘director’ had absolutely no idea what he was doing. Terrance idly mused that the kid would probably be president of a studio one day in the not-so-distant future.

To top it all off Terrance had been cast in the role of the father of the main character. Said main character was supposed to be 18. Unless the backstory included his character becoming a father at the age of 12 these student filmmakers obviously thought he seemed much older than his 30 years.

For the first time since he had started down this road he wanted nothing more than to not act. He wanted to just walk off of this film set, go home and never deal with the headache of acting ever again. He was done.

But he couldn’t quit. He knew that he couldn’t do that. So he put in the filming time in the same way that he would put in the hours on one of his many short-lived minimum-wage jobs. He also took a couple packs’ worth of smoke breaks.

And then he went home.


He had told Melanie that he didn’t want anything for his birthday and certainly didn’t want a party. Luckily she had respected his wishes on the ‘no party’ request but she did bring home a cake and she did give him a new VCR as the old one wasn’t cutting it any more.

Terrance then stayed up after his wife and daughter had both gone to bed. He was in a definite funk about this 30th birthday thing. Not so much that he had turned 30, more because he had turned 30 with nothing to show for it. No career. No financial stability. Nothing.

After a bit he told himself that this skulking wasn’t accomplishing anything. He grabbed the remote and turned on the TV.

“Aw Hell,” he said as the picture flicked into life, “Not THAT movie.”

What Terrance had referred to as THAT movie was one of the big summer blockbusters from a few years past. The star of THAT movie was an actor who had once been in Terrance’s acting class. An actor who once had made Terrance bark like a dog to earn the privilege of being part of his on-screen entourage (which had resulted, by the way, in exactly 1.5 seconds of screen time for Terrance). An actor who had brought Terrance along on that shoot and then had never returned to class. An actor who had then ignored Terrance’s phone calls. An actor who had, a little over a year after that experience, catapulted to fame and was now a HUGE MOVIE STAR.

Oh yeah. THAT movie. Exactly what Terrance needed tonight.

Terrance turned off the TV. Then he turned off the lights in the room.

He sat there in the darkened apartment, thinking about his miserable 30 years.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 48 ]

How to deal with failure (or not deal, whichever)

For some the 30th birthday is no big deal.

For some.

For others, the 30th birthday can be a very big deal. Especially for an actor who is still stuck in "day job" mode rather than being a professional actor.

Such is the day for Terrance. Although he finds himself on a film set on this day, it is only a small student film and not really enough to pull him out of the funk he feels at his sense of failure on the 30th anniversary of his birth.

And a complication to not succeeding with an acting career is when you know others who have. And he is reminded on his birthday of a former actor acquaintance who has managed to reach that top that Terrance has never attained, just struggled with the day jobs for artists.

For some the 30th birthday is no big deal.

For some.

Day jobs for actors and artists