This tree was the only thing left standing at ground zero. It defied logic, yet made so much sense. When I arrived in L.A., I only had theatre credits and two co-star roles – I had neither connections nor representation. I did, however, acclimate very quickly. The weather, the driving – I never owned a car before – and the possibilities! Unlike Chicago, I could meet dozens of casting directors face to face and no one had a preconceived idea of who I was or who I should be. That first year I booked three network TV shows and a national commercial with no agent. It defied logic.
I have always loved living on the edge, not knowing how things will turn out. I love it, because deep in my soul I know everything will always turn out fine. And now I am determined to love my way of living more than others fear it.
“The key to happiness is not to make yourself into a different person; it is to let yourself be even more of who you really are.” – Dr. Robert Holden
I work all day with actors who are stuck when it comes to their marketing. They are sincerely puzzled as to why they never get around to it. Some reasons they give are: “I don’t want to brag”, or “I don’t think it will do any good”. But I know it’s something more.
The biggest reason why we’re not doing our marketing is because we are stuck in the futile effort of trying to second guess what “they” want. To remedy this, we attend branding workshops where they hand out lists of adjectives for fellow attendees to label us. We listen so intently to what others are saying that we start to believe them. Yes, you’re right – I AM the Latina single mother who has a secret! We push to come up with something cast-able, so we settle on a brand that is not quite us. Our materials smack of subservience, pleading to be called in. As a young actor in Chicago, I was told that I would get more work if I wrapped myself in my Latin heritage. Speak the language, look the part. This confused me. I wondered how I was supposed to do that? I grew up in a Lithuanian neighborhood, my family never spoke Spanish, and I have no hips!
What we really want to say is, “This is me – take it or leave it!”
We admire people who unapologetically march to their own drummer. They are truly the most successful. So how do we find our drummer? Pay attention to the details. When we see the connection between the roles we most want to play and the ones we’re usually called in for, we begin to hear that drum. When we identify that “thing” we bring to every role, the drum gets louder. When we observe how uniquely we navigate life, we bear witness to our authenticity.
If you haven’t noticed by now, this is not just about marketing. It’s about life. If we’re bending over backwards to be more palatable to someone, or if we’re hiding parts of ourselves to fit into a group, we’re not living fully. Be authentic. Be happy.
As I write this, I am between my fifth and sixth day of doing the Master Cleanse. For those
unfamiliar, it is a fasting ritual that cleans the colon and other major organs over the course of several days. Each morning begins with a saltwater flush (good times!) and every evening ends with a cup of herbal laxative tea. Nothing – absolutely nothing – is eaten the entire time. A homemade organic lemonade with maple syrup and cayenne pepper gives the body all the nutrients it needs. Sound crazy?
When I first moved to Los Angeles from Chicago, I had no plan, no agent, nor any connections. Within the year, I booked three major network co-stars and a national commercial. I tend to “jump off the edge” so to speak, exhilarated to see what happens next. Hence my love for improv.
for my theatre company’s fundraiser, and it brought down the house. I had the movements, the music, the voice and the outfit – none of which I had the month prior. A veteran company member stared at me backstage and softly said, “I bet you put 110% into everything you do.”
My career coach has a saying: “Part-time actors produce part-time results.” In 2015, I was years into a dry spell that left me financially dependent on my boyfriend, and sadly, the relationship was no longer working. Not knowing where I was going to live or how I was going to support myself, I ended the relationship. I hired a coach. I fully committed to my career, and showed up to the world in a way I hadn’t before. In eighteen months, I added five more network credits, two national commercials, and signed with a better agent.
If we circle around in our heads, trying to figure out the “how to’s” of this and that, we create obstacles that weren’t even there before. Nowadays, everyone is trying to sell us the “Top 10 Secrets of How To – (fill in the blank)”. We know people who collect these “secrets”, who have a personal library filled with “how to” instruction manuals, but it doesn’t bring them any closer to their goal. The truth? Solutions appear when we go all in.
|The Greek Theatre|
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.
If you’ve never seen the holiday film, A Christmas Story, I apologize for all of the references here. (Seriously, you’ve never seen A Christmas Story?)
During my recent participation in a business webinar, I botched an opportunity to talk with one of my favorite authors. I love this woman – I’d been listening to her for 7 years – her business and life coaching always gave me something meaty to chew on. (High praise from a vegetarian.) Since my business flow had become stagnant, I felt I needed help. They opened the phone line for questions. I didn’t really have a question, so much as I wanted to talk with her. I thought it’d be kinda cool. Like “touching a rock star”, ya know? I had it all planned out: I’d listen to her other callers first, and formulate my question based in theirs in time for my turn. But I ended up getting through. The screener immediately asked for my name and my question, which I didn’t have. Really – I didn’t think I’d get through! Suddenly, I was about to be “face to face” with my hero, but I never really expected that. This is where I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he finally gets to sit on Santa’s lap: Put on the spot, I squeezed a lame business question out of my butt. Something about overcoming overwhelm in a sea of competition? What? Whatever – I thought I could reformulate it into a better question before they got to me, right? Not a chance, because not only did I get through, I was also the very first caller! Before I could think, “What was I thinking”, I was on the phone with this world-renowned, life/business coach. When she asked me for my question I, like Ralphie, blurted out the equivalent of “football”. She snatched that up like a single woman diving for a wedding bouquet. This was her cue to launch into old advice I’d heard her give at least a dozen times before. I mean, I was such a big fan that I knew virtually all of her tips. As she went on about something completely irrelevant to me, I felt myself desperately trying to climb back up the “slide”, in an attempt to rephrase my question. All I heard was “blah blah blah” until she finally asked, “Is that true?” No it’s not!! You got it all wrong! is what I wanted to scream, but it was now too late to defend or explain my true situation – the boot had touched my forehead. I simply replied, “If that’s what you hear from my voice, then it must be true.” Not what she wanted to hear, which prompted her to move on to the next caller. My mic got cut off, and down the slide I went. From somewhere in the “cotton pit”, I heard her say to her partner, “Well, I’m not a mind reader!”
I felt gypped. I felt like I had finally gotten my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring and all I got was a lousy commercial! She gave me old advice. It was a template – cookie-cutter – advice. I was sooo angry and frustrated . . . and embarrassed. I knew it was the wrong advice; it was so clearly the wrong advice – based on the wrong question! So I started to think, well what did I want her to say? What I wanted her to tell me was . . . Wait! This is when I realized that I knew all along what the right advice was. OMG – It wasn’t a matter of me needing her or any other expert’s opinion. It was a matter of me just doing what I needed to do! The hard truth: without accountability or support, I had cycled into over thinking, fear and procrastination. This “Doh!” moment propelled me into action. I immediately dug out a list of objectives I had begun in January and began with my most difficult task: reaching out to people I didn’t know. Scary.
A month later, I still know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m committed. I’ve been told that real progress – more often than not – is made with just ten seconds of outrageous courage. Not only do I believe it – I know it.