Re: [TheCostumersManifesto] Digest Number 1253
> From: "catslave54" <zimmermanel@...>I actually BARELY make enough to scrape by working as
> Subject: Finding work that pays a decent wage
> Okay,now that I have some downtime between shows,and have
> just done
> my taxes,it occurs to me that being a costumer doesn't
> pay very
> well.Now just why is that? Is it because 'everybody's mom
> or gramma"
> can sew?
> Is it theatre versus television or films? Do they pay
> better just
> because everbody there gets paid better? Should I be
> trying to do
> more film work instead of theatre work? Is teaching the
> only other
> solution? I know my stuff well now, and want to work, but
> not if it
> means less than minimum wage. $500 to do a high school
Wardrobe Manager for an amusement park's Entertainment
Department. Compared to what I actually do, what I get
paid is slightly above a pittance, but compared to other
regular theater jobs in the area, I actually make a pretty
good wage. During the winter, when the park is closed, I
do a lot of freelancing--I've done makeup work for people,
run sound, helped hang lights for shows, and even done some
digital photo retouching to make ends meet.
You've got to look at your marketplace. If you live in an
area where high schools can only afford $500 for a show
design, and that's what is available, then maybe you need
to find a different market. The area where I live has a
huge disparity in the quality of shows done at a high
school level--and the difference is almost directly
attributable to the involvement level of parents and the
community. The schools that consistently do great shows
are only able to do so because parents and community
members will devote hours, if not weeks or even months, of
work to build costumes, create props, or build sets. Many
of them are lucky if they even get reimbursed for the
materials they get, much less get paid anything for their
Do I grudge them of the potential work they take away from
people like me? No. If they didn't do that work, we at
the park would lose eighty percent of our talent pool due
to lack of interest in the kids coming through the schools.
Nobody likes to be involved in a half-assed production,
even teenagers (ESPECIALLY not teenagers, who are
notoriously aware of their image). If those parents didn't
do all that free work, my job would effective disappear,
because our department would wither and die. We'd just be
unable to do the shows. We have learned, and are
constantly reminded, that the shows we do don't work if we
don't have kids that can sing and dance, and be comfortable
on a stage.
But you may also want to look outside the 'normal'
marketplace to see if you can build your income. When I
return to my alma mater and people ask what I'm doing now,
the most common response is, "You mean they actually have
enough work to keep you on year round?" The next most
common response is a surprised look before people realize
that, yes, there are shows at an amusement park (well, most
of them), and therefore, there must be costumes that
require some kind of care and creation. But I also have a
friend who made his living for years as a makeup
artist...primarily because he started hiring out for custom
work around Halloween (he made enough in the two weeks
before Halloween to pay his bills for the next six months).
His prices were extremely high for this area--but his work
was worth it, and you would be amazed what people are
willing to pay for their own, customized Halloween outfit.
The costume desigenr that I work with most often makes the
majority of her income doing ball gowns for Texas
debutantes or custom-ordered bridal gowns. She fits us in
between these projects, and while we pay her what is, for
us, a high premium, if you stop and look at what we pay her
versus the number of costumes she actually designs and
builds for us, she's still working pretty cheap.
However, NOBODY I know makes a great living doing theater.
Most of us just barely get by. As is often said, I didn't
get into this career because I expected to get rich. I'm
seriously looking at going back to school and doing my
graduate work, so I can start teaching at a college...just
so I will feel like I've got a SECURE job, not even a
comfortable one (plus I'm just enthralled with the idea of
doing educational theater, because that's one of the few
places where you are really expected to constantly push the
envelope and come up with something new).
As far as film work goes--I know some people who absolutely
love it. I know other people who started on it, and
decided to go back to the stage. The income potential is,
as stated, much higher...but the atmosphere is often very
different, and not everyone likes it. It's also, depending
on the area in which you work, very tough to get into.
Like theater, it is VERY MUCH based on who you know, or who
knows you...if you get into the right circles, you'll never
have a free moment for the rest of your career. But
getting into those circles is very difficult. I've already
done a lot of independent film work, where I ended up
keeping the items I bought or built because the producers
couldn't afford to pay me for them, or what I did was
outside of the budget but it was I felt was needed to make
things look right...and I did it all strictly on a roll of
the dice, that maybe the director I was working with might
someday make it to a big-budget project and remember that I
busted my butt to make his low-budget stuff look good.
Even if he makes it big, I still realize that, unless he
can sell the producers on working with me, I still may end
up standing in line to see his show in the theater, rather
than working on it.
So, my advice is, think outside the box, look for places to
bolster you income level doing stuff that may not
necessarily come to mind when people think of a theater
costumer. But don't hold your breath waiting for the bucks
to start rolling in, because I don't know anyone who's in
that state of existence (except maybe the director I worked
for who now works for Disney...but I haven't been to visit
him, so I don't know what he lives like right now).
Best of luck!!!
"Remember, the light at the end of the tunnel could be you!"
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