11 06 2017

Preface:  I want to be sure as you read this, you know it is meant in an informative and warm way. I’m not angry about this at all – but a few things that happened at a con recently inspired me to write this post.  So think of a sunny, smiling face when you read this. ☺️

It happened again yesterday. A man and his daughter stopped by my signing table to say hi and tell me how much they love The Walking Dead. I always talk to everyone – regardless of whether or not they pay for an autographed photo or selfie. Then, the father said, “Can we take a picture with you?”  My manager chimed in, “Of course, that’ll be $15.”

There was a pause. The man cocked his head sideways. “I have to PAY for a picture even if I take it with my OWN PHONE?”  My manager lovingly explained that he could do a selfie for $15, get an autographed photo for $25, or do both for $30.  He was pissed. As he walked away he said to his daughter, “No, NO we are not paying $15 for a picture.  Come on.”

Full disclosure:  my prices at this time always range from $25-40 for an autographed photo, $15-20 for a selfie, or $30-$50 for a combo. 

What I totally understand: folks who attend cons pay for their tickets, which I know can get quite expensive, and also have to pay to travel, and stay in a hotel sometimes. 

As a guest of the comicon, what I receive to appear at the con is usually this: a flight, hotel room, and per diem. SOMETIMES I have a guarantee, meaning, there’s a set amount of money I will make regardless of how many autographs and pictures I sell.   But a lot of times, I do not have a guarantee, so what I take home is solely based on pictures and autographs that I sell.  

I have two kids, a mortgage, a car note, and some pending college tuition for my little kids that already scares the shit out of me. There is an assumption that because you are working on TV or in the movies, that you must be ridiculously wealthy. I know I have said this before, but you need to understand that only the top 2% of actors in the world are making ridiculously large sums of money.  The rest of us? On a good year, we might make as much as a nurse in a small town. In a rough year? We make less than a schoolteacher does.   So, believe it or not, many of us go to comic cons because they are part of what we have to do to make money to support our families.   Bonus is that we get to meet all the amazing fans out there who love the show, and that is always a thrill.

What you need to understand is how much money has gone into creating a career where your signature is now “valuable.”  I am 41 years old, I started on stage at 10 years old.  I went to college on a full scholarship, that I earned by having a very high GPA and being in every single stage play at my school, and competing nationally in speech and debate.  I went to a Louisiana public school, no fancy private school – we couldn’t afford that – so I pushed through that system to get myself into college. I got my BA in theater arts with a focus on acting.  Although I had a full scholarship, I still came out of college with a bit of debt.

I then went on to graduate school, also on a full scholarship, again based on my high GPA and a rather rigorous audition.  I graduated with my MFA in acting, and immediately moved to New York City.  

To live in New York City, and try to be an actor, is rather expensive proposition. But I poured every dime I had into auditions, networking events, new head shots when I couldn’t afford them, and eventually decided that New York was not for me, and moved back to New Orleans.

Over the 31 years I have been acting, in particular since I begin studying acting in college, there have been many “oh shit are we going to have our lights shut off” moments.  Many, “Should we pay the electric bill OR the internet bill?” conversations. There has been much eating of Ramen. There have been hundreds of auditions year, with only a few bookings. There have been jobs at wine bars, catering companies, wedding event companies, shoe stores, and any other work I could cobble together in order to pay the bills.

Then, The Walking Dead happened. I was 38 years old when I booked that show.  Married, with two small kids, a mortgage, a car note, and some rather impressive air-conditioning bills because, hey, I live in New Orleans. 

31 years, and now my signature is meaningful enough to people to have them pay for it. My image that I worked on for all those years in school, in films, on the stage, is now worth enough to charge for it.  At Cons, I am asked the same questions over and over again, but I don’t mind at all. To me, I feel so blessed that someone cared enough to come all this distance just to meet me and ask me that question.   I engage each person, and try my best to be cheerful all day long, because, frankly, that’s my job!

 I realize to an outsider, this may sound like “first world problems”.  And believe me, I know that my life is an embarrassment of riches. Unfortunately, so far it is not an embarrassment of riches to the point that it makes any difference in my financial life!!!! 🤣🤣🤣

So when you go to a comic con, and you step up to someone’s table, remember all the blood sweat and tears that went into that person getting to the place where their signature, and their image, is valuable.   And remember that this is our WORK. When we go to cons, we are going to work.  

Usually when I’m at a con, there is something very specific I’m trying to fund. In this case right now, I have to finish paying for my kids summer camp. So I can work.  At one point, I was at a con making money so that I could finish paying my daughters school tuition.  Again, so I can work. (There is no free preschool in New Orleans.)  Even though the profession we have chosen seems quite glamorous, many of us have the same struggles you do trying to provide for our families.

Thanks for listening. ♥️

Hope to see you at a con some day!