Well-meaning coaches everywhere are telling actors to treat their careers like a business. We’re told to be the “CEO of our own Company”. We’re expected to spend a minimum number of hours working hard at our business. But working towards a bottom line “at all costs” is a prescription for anxiety and depression.
All of my life, I’ve been so devoted to my career that it would take me by surprise when I’d see some actors not do obvious things like submit for auditions or mail the headshots they just paid hundreds of dollars for, or even trying to learn about the business. They never understood the value and the payoff of “planting seeds”.
For instance, when I was working in Chicago, a theatre director called me in for a lead in a show I never submitted for, and was ultimately cast. My roommate, a fellow “actor”, said, “Hunh – must be nice.” Her tone implied how “it must be nice not to have to do anything and still get a called in”. I was speechless. Had she not seen me bust my butt over the last several years, auditioning, auditioning, doing staged readings, auditioning, performing, auditioning, doing free work, performing, etc? Did she not see how it made perfect sense that my name would come up for this kind of role, because I had already worked so much around town? I mean, we’re talking years. (Truth is, she never submitted for anything.)
So what I’m saying is, it’s vital to plant seeds. Yet doing activities that are supposed to get us ahead when they have no immediate result, is the hardest thing to do. So we don’t, and we’re back to where we started for another day . . . another week . . . another month . . . another year.
This is why I hold Action Groups. This is why my programs do the things that actors just can’t bring themselves to do. Even if you don’t work with me, do something that will hold you accountable. Do something that will make the tasks easier for you. Just don’t do nothing. Nothing grows from nothing.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard this term before – holistic marketing – but it fits for me. When I work with actors on their marketing I find that they have a very limited view of it. Most likely, they’ve attended a seminar or webinar bombarding them with lists of things that they MUST DO NOW! Perhaps they’ve listened to a panel of “experts” who more than likely competed with their fellow panelists over who had the best answers. Holistic Marketing is exactly what it sounds like – considering the entire artist. I believe that the best answer always lies within each person. No expert can tell you what is best for you. My job is to shine a light on the artist’s own inner wisdom. I never tell anyone what they must do.
Considering the entire artist involves three areas for me: ACTION, SUPPORT AND PRODUCT. As I mentioned in my recent interview (start 44:56), actors can go anywhere for postcards and mailing services, but they’re not going to get one-on-one guidance providing them with the next best actions. A printer will hand you your postcard order and wish you good luck. They won’t advise you on address lists and schedules. They can’t tell you which photo or message best communicates your essence. Younger actors tend to limit themselves to on-line marketing, while older actors stick to snail mail. And neither group makes strong efforts towards in-person meetings. When an actor is left alone to make marketing decisions, the overwhelm often leads to no decision.
I went solo to the theater last week. Going solo is easy at a movie theater, but not for L.A. stage productions where everyone is checking each other out in the bright lights of the lobby, trying to figure out how they might know you, or looking for someone semi-famous to show up. I took my seat next to a young man and his wife. We were introduced by a third party who immediately walked away. (Probably to see if anyone “important” had shown up.) I was curious, and asked questions like “How do you know so-and-so?” and “What kinds of projects did you two work on?” I really didn’t know too much about his end of the business, so I couldn’t contribute much more than questions, and inevitably the conversation began to wind down. Then – with one of the most obligatory tones I had ever heard – he said, “So what do you do?” I hate this question in general, but his blatant I’m-just-asking-to-be-polite tone made me hate it even more. I suddenly began blathering about my business to which he reacted with the “eye glaze”. I tried to save the conversation by adding something more familiar, like ” . . . and I’m an actor.” That was his cue to ask me what time it was, because he “needed to check on something”. He left me alone with his wife who, thankfully, was much more pleasant.
It drives me nuts when I forget to do what I encourage my clients to do: Share your enthusiasm with others. It’s the one, immediate thing you can do to market yourself that requires no money or materials. If I had chosen not to let this guy’s tone affect my energy, I could have shared my love of working on actors’ self-promo and how rewarding it is to see them light up with inspiration. Instead, I came off apologetic (the ultimate sin!) and reduced my business to nothing more than “marketing”. As an actor, I could have mentioned I was there to support a fellow actress while exploring new plays – instead I proclaimed my profession with about as much enthusiasm as if I were announcing my credit card debt.
I know better, right? And so do you. Have you ever found yourself talking about a project apologetically? If you know that there’s just got to be a better way to marketing, then come join me in November’s SMART Action Path Program. It’s four weeks to finding your marketing voice that will catapult you into the New Year with fresh marketing materials. You will discover what holistic marketing is, just how enjoyable self-promo can be! Sign up by October 30th, because it starts Monday, November 3, 2014.
I think it was in college when I fully embraced the busy lifestyle. I went to a theater conservatory, held a full-time schedule, had nightly rehearsals, and hostessed on the weekends. I loved it – the ever changing rotation of shows, schedules, and jobs fueled me. I continued this pattern after college as I pounded the pavement creating a career in Chicago theater. Explaining my artist’s path was exhausting, so it was easier to prove myself with projects. I kept doing and doing and doing, and saw my results as markers of my worth in the entertainment field. I was so focused on results that I never stopped long enough to see why I was doing what I was doing.
I believe, the 17th century philosopher, Blaise Paskal, said it best: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Today, when I sit in silence (a practice, practice, practice), I am able to sense what is important and what is not. I am able to sense that my True Self can never be validated by results and outside recognition. That while advertisements insist that “more is better”, I understand that the differences I make in the world – no matter how small – are enough. I understand all of this, because silence reminds me of why I do what I do. So when I first speak with a potential client, I simply listen. Inevitably, they call me to find out how they can solve a problem. The truth is, even if I tell them the “how”, they will never follow through until they know the “why”. So I ask, “Why do you want to do XYZ?” – and this is where the silence begins.
They say (“they”?) that our minds have on average sixty thousand thoughts a day. There’s nothing wrong with thought. I love thought (I love algebra for cryin’ out loud). Goals, dreams and problem solving tend to emerge from thought. But I believe that vision, self-compassion, and solutions are born in silence.