According to statistics published by the Bureau of Labor, there are more than 56,500 professional screen actors in the United States.
Forbes magazine reports that acting superstars earn huge amounts of money: Johnny Depp, $75 million; Sandra Bullock, $56 million; Ben Stiller, $53 million; and Tom Hanks, $45 million.
According to TV Guide, top TV actors are paid handsomely for each episode. For example, Hugh Laurie (House) earns more than $400,000 per show. Law and Order stars Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay earn $395,000 each. David Caruso (CSI: Miami) receives $375,000 per episode.
If these paychecks seem high, the acting profession isn’t a bed of roses. Most actors have to accept long periods of unemployment, there is intense competition for the few available roles, and there is a high rate of rejection at casting calls. The Hollywood Reporter suggests that 80 percent earn less than $10,000 a year. Only 3 percent earn more than $50,000 a year. TV actors often earn less, since many of them lost their jobs with the rise of reality TV shows where the contestants don’t receive payment for appearing on the show. Given the fact that there are far fewer roles than actors looking for work and that many TV shows are canceled after a few runs, the chances of making a comfortable living as an actor are very slim.
When looking at the top moneymakers in the entertainment industry, it is fair to ask why they get paid far more than top CEOs. For example, Johnny Depp’s talent created a $2.5 billion entertainment franchise. Last year, Depp earned more than $75 million. Let’s compare that to the compensation of a CEO responsible for $2.5 billion in sales. According to Forbes, Paul D. Finkelstein, CEO of Regis Corporation (which sold close to $2.5 billion in hair products) earned only $4.4 million last year. That’s $70 million less than Johnny Depp.
On the surface, the answer is simple: Johnny Depp’s face is recognized all over the world, and comparatively few people know what Paul Finkelstein looks like. The more intriguing question is, what do top entertainers have that makes them stand out and be recognized by people around the world?
The answer: personality. Entertainers sell their unique personalities, which offer predictable and pleasing experiences to the consumer. Webster's defines personality as the personal traits that make the person appealing. In today's world of selling and marketing, the word “personality” is in.
Millions of marketing dollars are devoted to personality research. Companies want to learn more about the product personality, the personality of the latest advertising campaigns, and, of course, the personalities of their sales and service staff. Smart companies align sales and customer-service personalities with the personalities of their customers. Red Bull is sold by people who look, feel, think, and play like their customers.
Most people agree that personality sells. Yet the big question is, what can we learn from the top money-earning personalities that everybody admires on the big screen?
1. Genuine personalities sell more.
None of the screen actors, TV actors, or hip hop artists are earning as much as Oprah, who earns more than $350 million a year. Why? She isn’t acting, she doesn’t follow a script, she doesn’t sing, she doesn’t pretend. Oprah is authentic and genuine, and she exhibits integrity and optimism. She enriches the lives of all those who come in contact with her.
2. Positive energy and true passion sell more.
In this hectic world, people tend to run out of steam by the end of the day. That’s when they want to relax and watch other people who display great energy and true passion in their roles. That’s how Hugh Laurie tops the charts, and that’s how Sandra Bullock earns fame and fortune.
3. Positive personalities build bridges; negative personalities draw bridges.
When people meet Bill Clinton for the first time, they tend to be surprised by his engaging personality, willingness to listen carefully before speaking, and ability to articulate his thoughts with uncommon clarity. His personality has been instrumental in getting commitments valued at more than $63 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative, which has improved the lives of nearly 300 million people in more than 170 countries. Contrast this to the personality of a wealthy person who is greedy, petty, and talks at people instead of with people.
There are many books written on the subject of personality, and there are many theories. One is illustrated in this hilarious video:
Behind every personality is what computer programmers call the source code. George A. Kelly wrote in A Theory of Personality: The Psychology of Personal Constructs (1963), “William James was fascinated by the currents and eddies in the stream of consciousness. Sigmund Freud waded into the headwaters of that stream in a search for the underground springs which fed it.”
Solomon described the source code of human personality in Proverbs: “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he”
Bottom line: The way we manage our thoughts today determines how we manage our fortunes tomorrow.