Why the Job Market for Actors is Weaker than Ever

Photo from Jakob Owens via Unsplash

Why the Job Market for Actors is Weaker than Ever

By Movieguide® Contributor

While Hollywood is back in full swing after last year’s dual strikes, actors who did not already have projects lined up are finding it harder than ever to land roles.

The entertainment industry has undergone an immense overhaul since the end of the writers and actors’ strikes last year. To comply with the new rules concerning actors’ pay, studios are bringing on fewer actors as regulars on shows.

“Fewer series regulars, more pressure to cast actors in recurring guest roles without series options, casting more local actors if the show is shooting in Atlanta, New York, Chicago or Canada to save money,” a casting director told Deadline.

“In many cases, when the series spends a lot of money for their series star(s) who anchor the show, that leaves very little money for the rest of the ensemble cast,” the casting director continued.

This has coincided with the decision to create less new content in general to further address budgetary concerns. With many projects delayed by the strikes, studios now have a backlog of content that has already taken up much of the slots through 2025.

With less pressure to create content for the next two years, studios have become pickier with the actors they choose, offering them subpar pay, knowing that they are easily replicable if they pick a fight.

The tighter job market is the yearslong culmination of trends that have made it harder to be an actor. Even before the strikes, studios were moving towards less content on a smaller budget for years. This is largely the reason for shorter six to 10-episode seasons rather than the 20+ episode seasons of the past.

“Nothing is set in stone but 10 episodes has emerged as a threshold — a ‘sweet spot’ as one agent put it — for season length during the strikes-impacted 2023-24 season,” Deadline reported previously. “A shorter order is not considered very feasible given the expenses involved in getting production up and running and then winding it down, making episodes more expensive when the overall cost is amortized across the season.”

While the strikes have certainly made the acting market worse, it is not the sole cause of the sudden shift.

Movieguide® previously reported:

2023’s WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are still impacting the TV industry, and a new report has found that the number of shows that premiered last year dropped drastically. 

“Data firm Luminate’s inaugural year-end film and TV report shows that a total of 1,784 TV programs across all genres and platforms — premiered last year,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote. “That’s a huge amount of programming, but it’s also 21 percent fewer premieres than in 2022 — a drop of 480 totals.”

2023 saw fewer shows premiere than in 2020 when productions were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Luminate’s analysis shows that in the third quarter of the year — when premiere counts typically spike with the start of the traditional TV season — fewer than 450 programs had premieres, compared to just above 600 in 2022 and a five-year high of 678 in 2021,” The Hollywood Reporter continued.

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