No More Bush League

What’s this?  Another sports reference?  But what can you do when sports are so much a part of our lives?  Deal I guess.  The term bush league comes from baseball and means amateur, unprofessional, unsophisticated.  I recently came back from a gathering of voiceovers that happens not quite annually but often enough to merit attending.  This time I came back with a different perspective, one that had started building a few months ago but was solidified at this gathering.  A lot of my friends and colleagues were there along with a lot more newbies and wannabees.  In attending all the various meetings and addresses at this conference, I realized that I had started to top out with what I could learn at any given workshop or symposium.  It was a funny realization.  When you get started in any venture, you are a sponge soaking up as much knowledge and expertise as you possibly can.  You read every book, take every class, listen to every podcast, join every online group, practice every moment you can, seek out any coach that could possibly teach you something.  Anything to get you closer to expertise and success.  This stage exists for quite a while until it feels like this is how it will always be.  Not so.  After a while, all this new found knowledge gets absorbed and settles in and becomes your new default position.  You continue to add to your knowledge and your expertise level continues to grow.  You think this will go on forever, that you’ll be learning things about your craft and it’s business ad infinitum.  Until you pay to attend something and you realize that the meetings you went to and actually learned something new were few and far between.  That you actually learned more from hanging out with your fellow professionals and pals.  Wow.  Is that a jolt.  You suddenly realize you are on par with these professionals and have to rethink how you see yourself.  And your training.  You’ll have to be more selective about who you give your hard earned dollars to in hopes of furthering your craft.  It’s a whole different way of living in your dream but an equally as exciting way.

First time for everything

With every new venture we undertake in life, we learn new things.  And as our proficiency grows, we add new skills and new accomplishments.  As our competency grows, the confidence we gain allows us to push ourselves even further.  We hike a more challenging trail, tackle a plumbing problem, ski a black diamond trail.  Our first attempts at these loftier levels are pretty shaky at first but as we continue to push forward, our footing becomes firmer, more directed.  As the muscle starts to remember what we did before, the task becomes less conscious, more organic.

But you have to take the first step.  I did that recently.  I was given the opportunity to audition for a pilot for a comedy that is being put together out of Michigan.  It was my first pilot audition, heck my first television audition.  The script was pretty straightforward but because it was a comedy, the words were written very specifically so the comedy came out the way the writer wanted it to.  I have a not-so-good tendency to paraphrase and make things my own which doesn’t serve the script very well.  So it had to be memorized very specifically.  I had an idea of the character as I saw her but since I didn’t have the full script, I had to take some liberties.  I didn’t really know how to break down the script so I wisely hired a coach to help me accomplish that.  Which is what I would do if I were trying to tackle a mogul field, I hire a ski instructor.  We spent an hour going over things and practicing.  Interpreting the sentences, finding the funny behind the obvious.  It was recorded so I could go back and review my progress.

I have no idea how I did.  I don’t even know what they were looking for as the information provided was somewhat sketchy.  But I felt good afterwards.  Happy that I’d invested the time and money to work with someone so I felt confident when the camera started rolling. Plus it was a lot of fun.  On top of that, I learned some good habits that I will call upon for future television auditions.  You have to start somewhere.  Just make sure you don’t blindly step in, give yourself a chance to succeed.

Not now, thank you

One of the most frustrating and undefinable parts of this business I’ve chosen to be in is the casting process.  So many times, getting cast in a project has nothing to do with your talent.  I know that doesn’t make sense because off all the training and workshops and coaching we actors continually invest in.  Those things are very important and shouldn’t be ignored.  But all that training and coaching isn’t for those who are casting but for us the actors.  It continues to inspire and inform us.  Those who are casting assume you have what it takes to do the job or they wouldn’t have invited you to the audition.  That’s something we as actors always forget.  You wouldn’t be there if you couldn’t do the job.  We need to remember that first and foremost.

What it comes down to so many times, more times than we can even imagine, is are you the voice they heard in their head or are you the face they saw when they wrote the script?  Most times the answer is no.  And that’s not easy to accept.  After all, we know we can do the part, voice the script.  We did a great job at the audition.  Why weren’t we picked?  ARRRGH!

Sorry…I digress.  What is actually happening isn’t a “no” but a “no thank you, not now”.  You just don’t fit what they need at the moment.  But that doesn’t meet that they won’t be calling on you soon for a different project.  A no in casting is rarely a forever no.  It’s just a no for now.  Eventually it will be a “Yes!  Thank you!”  Eventually.

26.2 miles

Yesterday was the Chicago marathon.  The past 2 years we’ve had freakily, if that’s a word, warm weather, in fact, 2 years ago they had to cancel the race midstream due to the heat and runners suffering severe dehydration.  This year the weather was on the really cool side, perfect conditions for long distance runners and predictions were records would fall.  Sure enough the 10 year old course record was broken by 1/100th’s of a second with the winner finishing in 2:05:41.  That time just blows my mind.  In slightly more time than 2 episodes of 60 minutes, a man ran from downtown Chicago to the Motel 6 in Dundee Road in Palatine IL.  If you’ve ever watched a marathon, the elite runners appear to be mythical creatures.  They fly by in a group and you can’t even hear their feet hit the ground.  There appears to be no effort, no strain, no difficulty on their part as they complete their trek.  It’s all in a days work to an outsider.  But the truth is in what you don’t see.  These people train daily, watch every single calorie they intake, analyze every aspect of their stride and improve the minutiae that will enable them to take 1/100th’s of a second off their time.  That’s what a professional does.  They labor in obscurity for months and years perfecting every aspect of their chosen craft until they burst on the scene in a blaze of glory.  The proverbial 20 year overnight success.  So many times we see a person on the screen, or in an arena, or on the microphone and think “I could do that, it doesn’t look that hard”.  To achieve the appearance of ease while attempting the impossible makes one elite.  It’s something I struggle with all the time.  I’m smart, competent and trainable.  It just frosts my cookies when I don’t master something the first time.  Pretty arrogant of me.  I fall prey to that nasty vice of instant gratification.  Keeping the long term goal in mind and continuing to put one foot in front of the other, do one more audition, learn another monologue will keep those baby steps adding up and someday I’ll be proficient enough to run my marathon effortlessly.

Brand U

Since this is still a relatively new endeavor for me, I’m not quite sure the direction it will be taking.  Self produced content?  Aggregator?  Pu Pu Platter of all of the above?  I subscribe to many e-blasts and newsletters.  One which I’ve read for a very long time is Cynopsis by Cynthia Turner which is broadcast media based publisher of several daily newsletters.  This one came from their Cynopsis Classified edition which is edited by John Cox and is reprinted with permission.

“Success used to come from self improvement, now it comes from self-packaging.”

Snide? Yes. False? Not entirely.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines branding as “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” Personal branding goes one step further – having your target audience see you not only as the best person to manage their needs, but as the only reasonable choice to solve their needs.

  • Determine your strength, what is it that you do better than anyone. This can include any number of skills.
  • Be proficient enough at your chosen skill to be seen as a leader within your community. Answer questions, look to help others, offer your wisdom freely.
  • Write, write, and then write some more. Submit your writings everywhere. Set up your own website and blog as often as possible.
  • Get on panels and offer to make speeches at industry gatherings. One really good, original idea/speech can serve many occasions.
  • Syndicate your ideas in a unique manner. You can’t say the same things in the same ways as others and get noticed.
  • Your ideas should be seen by as many people as possible. Social Media – Facebook has 45 million daily users. Set up a business-centric account that allows all to read but set up privacy so no one can tag you in an image. Twitter often and follow many. Become an expert in LinkedIn and answer as many questions as possible. This will also enhance being perceived as a leader.
  • Present a consistent image of yourself. Use the same photo in all social media, blogging, business card etc.
  • Be approachable. Do all interviews, answer all questions, return all emails.
  • Be visible. Go to trade shows, conventions, any industry gatherings. Talk to as many industry leaders as you can, but more importantly, listen to them.
  • Be patient. This process is not a quick one. It can take months to see results.
  • You must have a positive public persona. Your public persona will be tied to the ideas you are expressing. If you are a hothead, you and your ideas will lose credibility.