I worked in the film industry on and off in Chicago and New Orleans from 2002 to 2011 and I gotta say, it’s definitely not for everyone.
And by everyone, I mean ME.
I enjoyed my time and I made a lot of good friends during those years, but I don’t see how people can work those crazy hours (a lot of times in bad weather conditions) when they start to get a little bit older.
When I was 25-years-old? Hey, no problem!
But now…I don’t know if I’d be able to handle it…I’m not saying it’s a nightmare but I don’t think outsiders realize what it’s really like to work on movies and TV shows.
What glamorized career path is actually a total nightmare?
AskReddit users opened up about this.
1. I saw Black Swan.
Parents spend tens of thousands (or more) on training. They give up their entire teen years and schooling (most elite ballet dancers are homeschooled and a large percentage move away from home for training in high school).
Most dancers you see on stage in a ballet are paying to be there. The bottom rungs of ballet companies are pay to play. Then when you have paid to dance a few years you might be able to get a position that pays you with a dozen pairs of pointe shoes and a stipend for performances.
Then maybe you’ll be promoted to the bottom level where you get paid 20K a year and have no health insurance. All while putting your body through major t**ture.”
2. Not loving life.
“My SO is an attorney and isn’t loving life right now.
She says “You know how you did term papers in college? Well I do term papers every day, all day, endlessly.””
3. On the airwaves.
Like a lot of other jobs in the entertainment industry, it’s full time work for part time pay. Second jobs are common. Your pizza delivery guy just may be your favourite morning show host! At least, that’s how the morning guy at my station made ends meet, until he was laid off in the last round of cutbacks.
Now we’re a “hybrid station,” which is the preferred business model these days. That’s a fancy way of saying one person does everything while you run a ton of syndicated programs. 12 hour days of minimum wage.”
4. Never knew this.
Insanely competitive schooling that crippled you with debt, with a depressing debt:income ratio after graduation.
Most of your patients don’t like you, and most of the owners think you’re getting rich upselling them unnecessary services when their dogs’s exploding eyeball cancer can be cured with raw organic exotic meats/cbd/coconut oil, but you’re withholding that information because you’re in bed with Big Kibble.
High stress, stagnant wages, long hours, s**t holiday leave. Rampant depression. Lost count of how many colleagues have committed s**cide. Sometimes tempted to join them.”
“I don’t know if nightmare is the word, but my wife has finally reached her lifelong goal of becoming a zookeeper at one of the top zoos in the US.
She is very happy to have the opportunity to hand food to otters, have reindeer eat out of her hand, and brush okapi. However, she took on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and did months of unpaid work at the zoo to get the job, which is seasonal, requiring she be off 2 months a year.
She gets up at 4 AM and does farmhand style physical labor for 8 hours a day for about $9 an hour with no benefits. I am thrilled that she reached her goal, and I am happy that she is happy, but I am pretty disenfranchised with the whole thing.”
6. A tough job.
“Being a chef. Long hours, bad environment, nothing is ever good enough.
I have a friend who’s a very successful chef. He told me, “If you love cooking, just cook for friends.””
7. No way.
Most jobs in politics pay very little money and require you to work 80+ hours a week for a boss who is guaranteed to have a gigantic ego.
You also have to look for a new job after every election day.”
8. Let’s face it.
The travel is amazing, but let’s face it.
You’re a glorified waitress working in a cramped, aluminium tube.”
9. The farm life.
“Farming on a large scale.
I was living in debt up to my a** ($500k-$1 mil depending on the time of year), haggling for every input (land, fertilizer, seed, equipment), at the mercy of the weather, and got to watch the commodity markets kick me in the nuts every business day.
The real cherry on top was everyone thinking you are trying to k**l them with GMOs and copious amounts of chemicals that we dont use. Not to mention farms are passed down through generations so you’ve got a bunch of d**d and living ancestors watching your every move.
Oh and a lot of farmers work a second full time job for the health insurance. There’s a reason farm s**cides are high and farm “accidents” are higher.
There’s a million young rural FFA kids that would give their left leg for a chance to farm.”
10. Down and out.
“I’m a professional, full-time voice actor.
I’m blessed to be successful and happy, but about 99% of the voice actors I know are depressed most of the time, struggling hard to find work, wrestling with impostor syndrome, questioning if they should give up, and barely able to make rent.
Particularly videogame/anime/animation actors.”
11. Not easy.
“This is kind of niche but, scuba dive instructor. I did it for 3ish years, I can’t begin to tell you how many times people wished they had my job.
A decent portion of the job was selling. I h**e forcing people to buy things, but I had to have a certain percentage of people buy a mask, at least. The mask was about 25% of the cost of an open water course. Chances are they’d never use it again.
Dive shop politics are insane. I worked 6.5 days a week for 90% of the year. If I turned down a course, I wouldn’t be given another until there were no other instructors available. If there were no courses going on, I still had to be in the shop incase someone came in.
During slow times there would be 7 or 8 instructors hanging around doing nothing. We all lived less than 5 minutes away. My dive shop would only hire people who were attractive enough. They’d also refuse to hire people who had trained at certain other dive schools in the area. The owners would go out of their way to be charming to the customers and then take the p**s out of them as soon as the were out the door.
The amount of responsibility is huge, and nobody even thinks about it until you point it out. You’re taking 4 people into a d**dly environment and have to bring them back in the same state they went into it in. If something goes wrong you can lose your license or go to jail.
Where I was working, these were pretty exclusively early to mid 20 year olds. Not only that, but if someone you trained has an incident at a later date, you can also be investigated and possibly prosecuted.
I was diving in 30C (86f) water. I constantly had an infection. Could be from a small cut, or my ears or my throat. It was constant.
Long, very hard work days. 12 hour days were about the norm. I’d teach, be dragging around the tanks I was responsible for weighing 20kg each as well as tonnes of other gear, and putting on my ‘be happy around the customer face’ whilst keeping them from d**ng. It’s like a combo of retail and warehouse work.
It also diluted my love of diving. Even when diving with professionals now I have a hard time not constantly being on alert, waiting for someone to do something stupid, rather than enjoying the dive.
Pay is dog s**t.
It’s an amazing job, but it turned my hair grey by 25.”
Yes, you sometimes meet famous people. Sometimes they’re cool, often they’re really not. The days are 14+ hours of work with a commute of who knows how long on either end, depending where you’re shooting. You have half an hour for lunch.
Coffee breaks are whenever you’re not needed on set, so depending on your job (I was in camera, and we rarely had a down moment), it could be almost never. More often than not, someone on set is yelling. People lose their minds over making really sh**ty entertainment. You start work by 7am on Monday, and by Friday you’re coming in at 4pm and leaving when the sun comes up on Saturday.
There are no paid holidays, no paid sick days, no paid vacation. If you don’t work enough qualifying hours, the union kicks your healthcare.
And this is if you’re IN a union. Non-union, much worse. S**ual harassment is through the roof, but the kids who get it the worst are afraid to say anything or they’ll lose their jobs. I have been told some real horror stories about famous actors, some of whom I still haven’t seen get outed by the Me Too movement.
And I’m not talking word-of-mouth, second-hand stories. I’m talking about young women who whisper to each other what shows to avoid and make them swear to never use their name because if they want to work in this industry, they can’t be known as a troublemaker.
I watched so many co-workers fall into addictions, lose family, miss their children’s lives, over the dumbest TV shows in the world. If you go union, the money can be good, but it’s not worth it. It’s just not worth it.”
Now you’re up!
In the comments, tell us which career paths you think are glamorized but are actually a nightmare.
Please and thank you!