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Hollywood's young actors see career dreams deferred by strikes

Hollywood's young actors see career dreams deferred by strikes
Acting coach and actor Jessica Payne (C) goes over scripts with actors Yssamei Panganiban and Loren G. Woods during a self-tape coaching session at her home in West Hollywood, California, US, Aug 18, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters

LOS ANGELES — Serena Kashmir has always looked at her acting career as a "spiritual, loving and joyful thing," but after the Hollywood actors' strike began last month, she is taking a big step back from the craft.

Hollywood is experiencing its first dual work stoppage of writers and actors in 63 years, forcing the halt of most productions across the United States and even some abroad. The lack of work has inflicted deep economic damage on the people who depend on the industry.

"I felt really drained being in LA," said the 20-year-old Kashmir, who has decided to move to Colorado and make acting a hobby rather than a career path.

"Moving to Colorado was a really big decision, because it felt like giving up in a way," she added.

While Kashmir still plans to audition for roles occasionally and fly to Los Angeles if needed, she doesn't have a lot of hope that acting will be able to offer her any economic stability.

She began acting as a teen, took classes and eventually booked TV, film and theatre roles and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting.

While she still loves acting, the "peace of mind" of being able to afford an apartment, pay bills and stop going into debt now comes first.

For Kashmir's former acting teacher, Jessica Payne, there have been many similar stories of students and rising actors who have had their dreams deferred by the ongoing dual strikes.

"We are finding out as an industry right now that with the strike, everything is completely at a standstill," Payne said.

The actor said that she has former students who have landed major roles that have been postponed due to the strikes.

"They're in the middle of the first steps of their career and it's a complete pause," Payne said.

Out-of-work actors discouraged

Acting coach Natalia Castellanos quickly noticed a slowdown after the strikes began, including in the number of students she had coming to class.

"There was no coaching and people coming into class a lot less because if they're not actively auditioning or making money, then they can't really pay for class," Castellanos said.

While acting has been a historically difficult industry for people to get into, the strikes have added new obstacles for unknown actors.

Arriving in Los Angeles about 15 years ago, Castellanos established herself as a private acting coach where she has used her experience in commercials, voiceover work, television and film to guide aspiring actors.

With no more students and revenue from residual payments dwindling, the actor, who had a recurring role on the streaming series Bosch, is looking for a new job to help make up for her lost wages.

She joined the negotiation committee of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) to work toward a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). So any new job must fit around the hours she dedicates to that commitment.

Also feeling the impact of the strike on her emerging career is Castellanos' former student, Krystal Alvarez.

The 32-year-old model turned actor has seen many peers grow discouraged by the lack of opportunities.

"I have friends that have been really down right now, saying, 'I don't know what to do,'" she said.

But her personal commitment to acting is unwavering.

"The goal has always been acting, it will always be acting," Alvarez said.

ALSO READ: Late-night TV hosts join on podcast to help striking writers

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