It All Comes Into Play

Working in the entertainment world in a secondary market means that you will work with and come across a lot of people who eventually move to either New York or Los Angeles.  Sadly it’s kind of a given as there isn’t enough work in a secondary market to financially sustain most people full time.  So most will make the move to the factory town, either New York if they are interested in theatre or Los Angeles if their goal is film or television.  Even voice artists may have to make the move.  While being able to work anywhere due to advances in technology, if you wish to pursue voicing animation, gaming or looping, you kind of have to be where it’s being created and that means LA.

What it means for me is I have a lot of friends and colleagues who now reside in LA.  I had the chance to catch up with one recently.  She made the move 2 years ago after graduating from college and was living the stereotypical actors life, waitressing to sustain herself while pursuing auditions and meeting with managers and agents.  You know the drill.

She updated me on what was going on in her life as we hadn’t spoken for quite a while.  She’d just left a long time waitressing job at a chain to move to a different restaurant.  It was a difficult decision as she truly felt like her co-workers were her family.  But this chain didn’t support her idea of living responsibly which included only eating what you really need and not serving huge portions that either go to waste or to waist.  Instead she found a place that supported her lifestyle choices of sustainability.  Even then, it wasn’t an ideal situation as she was being over-scheduled and she hadn’t as yet established many solid relationships with co-workers.  But she felt this was a temporary situation that was getting better every day.

It made me think about my last corporate job I held.  I was there for 12 years which is almost unheard of these days.  I stayed for various reasons, first because I liked and respected my co-workers.  Then because the environment was so healthy.  After all there weren’t many places that actually treat you like a grown up and let you do your job without second guessing every move.  Finally I stayed because once I started acting, I realized that my longevity and seniority gave me the flexibility I needed to pursue this new passion without sacrificing the quality of work I did for my day gig.

Hearing my friend discuss her decisions helped me to realize that everything we do, every choice we make about how we live, work and even eat, comes into play with our careers.  If we have a good paying but toxic job that sucks energy and passion from our quest, we may pay the rent but our progress will be slow or maybe even stalled.  If we work at a place that encourages overeating, you may find yourself being not so camera ready before long.  Taking care with all of the choices we make, even the seemingly non-important or non-related ones will serve us well as we go forth.

Paying It Forward

Several days ago I mentioned an encounter with an actor who is consistently working in film and television in Los Angeles.  I found myself in the same elevator so the poor man had no choice but to endure my conversation.  At the time I didn’t realize who he was as I wasn’t the target demo for the shows he’s previously been on, I thought he was a sports anchor on a station I’d previously sold.  Anywho, he most graciously put up with my request to pick his brain and answered my questions for about an hour and a half.  The topics were all over the board from what he felt when a series was cancelled to are there any normal people in Hollywood and how do you tell if they like you for you and not for what you can do for them?  It was truly one of most seminal moments in my career to date.  The information he shared, the inside tips and the encouragement were early Christmas presents delivered at a time when I needed to receive them.  I had a smile on my face the remainder of the day that no lack of sleep from a red-eye flight could erase.

I don’t know if someone had done this for him early in his career or if he was just in a good mood and felt like talking.  I’m sure when he left to catch his plane back to LA he had no idea of the impact he’d left on me and of the ripple effect his words would produce.  I’m sure once he hit the terminal floor our encounter was forgotten as he moved into getting home mode. But I didn’t forget and I won’t forget.  I’ll think back to that conversation many times over the next weeks and months as I go forward.  And that’s the way it should be.  There is a saying that when the student is ready the teacher will appear.  I learned many lessons that early morning and am most grateful for the generosity and kindness shown to me by a fellow actor.  It was pretty amazing.

Generosity Plus Plus

This post has been noodling around in my noggin for several weeks now.  I’ve been struggling with what to write and how to write it.  You see, I recently returned from the first FaffCon, which was a voiceover unconference.  I’d never been to an unconference before and due to a scheduling conflict, wasn’t originally planning on attending this one.   Fortunately I was able to rework my schedule and get to Portland for the event.   I wasn’t sure what to expect even though I’d helped to organize it.

What happened during those 2 days was absolutely unbelievable.  Let me back up a bit.  The structure of an unconference is different in that the attendees create the topics to be discussed and the expertise comes from within.  So if I want to learn about accounting software and there’s someone in the group who’s a wiz at it, they offer to lead the discussion.  Or I may know a ton about marketing that I think would benefit the group so I’ll lead a discussion about that.  The physical structure is such that you sit in a loose circle or something close to that and move chairs around as needed to accommodate the group.

So here we were in this new structure not really knowing what to expect.  Which was great because the sharing that was done and the knowledge that I gained blew me away.  You know when you see someone who seems to have all the answers and you wonder just how they found all that out?  What was the secret key they used to open the door to the success they’ve gained?  You know it’s there; you just can’t seem to get it for yourself.

This was the type of stuff I learned during those two days.  People were really letting down their guard and showing me the way to grow my business and exceed my goals.  It was truly life altering.  I’m so glad I was able to attend and so honored that those in attendance trusted everyone else with their secrets.  I hope FaffCon continues for a long time because; to borrow a line from the organizer Amy Snively, this is the conference I’ve always wanted to attend.

Golden Nuggets

A very valuable resource and mentor in my transition to my acting career has been Kristine Oller.  I’ve written about Kristine before and the guidance she’s given me has been so invaluable.  She’s the kind of advisor that doesn’t tell you what to do, she helps you lead yourself to what you want to accomplish and where you need to go.  Networking is a big part of her success formula and it’s an element that so many creatives overlook.  They think that if they do good work, the world will come knocking at their door.  Why wouldn’t it?

Well it’s not that easy.  I share Kristine’s fantasy that when I go to an event the cool group with all the mojo will take me under their wings, introduce me to the people that will catapult me to the stratosphere of my career and give me all their client contacts.  <SIGH>  It just doesn’t happen that way unfortunately.  It’s work to get to know people.  You have to put yourself out there.  Make connections with folks.  Having been in sales for so long I’m very comfortable at meeting people and making acquaintances.  And I’m great at selling someone else or their product.  But when it comes to selling myself, the wheels come off the bus.  I had the same problem when asking for a raise but that’s a topic for another day.  One of the things Kristine taught me was her Golden Nugget game.  She says that when you go to a party or an event, she tells herself there is someone there with a golden nugget of information for her and she has a golden nugget of information for someone else.  She doesn’t know who she’s giving it to or who she’s receiving it from or even what the information is but she just knows it’s her job at that moment to find the giver and the recipient.  This helps take the pressure off of that first face to face meeting and the awkwardness that ensues.

Keeping this thought in the back of my brain has really helped elevate my encounters with people.  Sometimes I give out more than one golden nugget and others I get far more than I give.  It really makes an evening enjoyable and takes the strain away from connecting with people.  I’m still hoping for that elusive E ticket to the top, but while I’m waiting, this makes the A, B, C and D tickets so much more fun!