This post was inspired by something that happened in a Facebook Group this week (March 2017). It’s a group ostensibly for actors that also attracts production people looking to hire actors for work.
But what happens time and again is that people asking for actors want them to work for free, and sorry but it winds me up.
When I saw Joe’s post (I have run this past him and he’s happy for me to both tell the story and use his first name) I had to dig in.
He has set up a crowdfunder to pay for his acting course in New York, that as a Brit he was part way through when he ran out of money. It triggered me to want to explore why it’s fallen to the general public to fund someone’s professionally training, and to explore if any is the give-back.
Having spent more than £30k on my own training over the last 13-yrs, it stirred me up, and I’ll come back to what happened next shortly.
Are you valuing your talents?
Despite being fabulous at what you do, I see lots of performers undervaluing their talents, because of two things:
- They look to others for their opinions
- Their sensitivities make them vulnerable to those opinions
This can be a Catch 22 black hole of where people accept work on too narrow a criteria, and either forget to ask the right questions, or they haven’t systematised their creative practice enough to take into consideration the unforeseen that may happen somewhere down the line.
This is especially important when it comes to creating appropriate channels of communication
You know how it goes, you’ve got one vision such as wanting more experience to put on the CV, but then it turns our your collaborative partner in crime had a different agenda. Things turned icky quite quickly and knowing how to handle that made you incredibly anxious, worrying about finding future projects, maintaining your reputation, etc.
Taking work just because you like the sound of a project is in effect too loose of a cannon, especially when you’re setting out on a new voyage of creative discovery together, not having tested the working-together-waters or fully know if | how you’ll rub along over the projects entirety.
You may be overly sensitive and when a person is getting the wrong end of the stick, or misreading a situation that would ultimately affect the quality of the outcome of the project, ensuring you have a certain understanding beforehand is supremely helpful. It’s a weight off when for example, you have a pre-agreed fallback into how you’ll resolve any creative differences that arise.
What happened with Joe
Someone on his thread got upset about the negative comments he was receiving, advising people not to comment if they had nothing good to say, so for balance I got stuck in with:
Thanks for posting that xxx, and I agree with xxxx that posting in a public arena will automatically court comment.
It’s fascinating that people are resorting to a funding resource that was set up to compensate for health and social issue lead charities that the governments no longer provides for.
It’s more than unfortunate that young people (mostly) find themselves in a position of taking on colossal student debt to fund their education, and even harsher that they won’t have to repay unless they earn over a certain cap, a disincentive to do well if ever there was one.
I’m fascinated by the wider impact it does to a fledgling actor (and an established one where work has dried up) that they are being trained into believing they have to work for free.
It must be crushing to someone’s self confidence to say nothing of the impact it has in other areas of their life, because someone, somewhere in their life is picking up the tab.
The wider implications for this can find someone stuck in a disempowered position inside a relationship with a parent or partner, because they can’t afford to live life on their own terms. But living an independent life is a vital condition for the performer, in order to have a broad range of life experience to feed back into their work.
As for only posting nice comments or not speaking up, how would anything ever change if no-one spoke out? Life is bitter-sweet, and personal growth comes through adversity. And Joe I wish you all the best and hope you find a way of getting on with what will make things happen for you.
Joe thanked me for my support and was sorry if he’d offended anyone, but he took it all in his stride, and responded with this among other things:
…I also have a play that I wrote being staged in various different places throughout New York that is donation based, it’s a profit share, so the two other actors will receive some money through it and all the money that I receive from it will go to my school…
I continued to support him with other comments along the lines of:
Don’t think anyone’s offended Joe, I love that you’re valuing your actors, I’d encourage you to own your successes more and build on them. There are some very deep pockets in your industry, and you’re already positioning yourself. Instead of thinking of your needs from the language of begging, etc, be a bit more creative about what you bring to the party, that a backers investment could benefit from going forwards, and be a bit cheeky.
He took the comments on board and said he would tweak some things. He was pretty set on the crowdfunder, and having checked with other creatives of a similar age, it seems this is the norm these days. However, he continued receiving questioning comments in the thread that likely think along similar lines to me.
When you put the project first
For what it’s worth, I happen to think that putting the project first without building in some kind of reward system for the participants is harsh on a number of levels. It’s not about the-money it’s about valuing everyone involved.
Valuing yourself and your talents, means that you get to make less knee-jerk decisions. For instance lots of people find it immensely difficult to say NO. Yet, being clear to prospective collaborators in what interests you and what doesn’t will help bring in more of what you want and help anyone you say no to, to recognise that it’s not personal.
And let’s face it sometimes you just don’t gel with someone and that’s okay too. But you can cover yourself first in order to establish whether you’re reading them correctly as first impressions can deceive us:
We’re all programmed from childhood and sometimes we pick up a wonky vibe where none exists, through the airwaves of past experiences or the beliefs you’re inherited from someone else
In order to ensure you are on the right wavelength with someone having a pre-agreement process is enormously helpful. That’s something you can work out on your own, or through having a quick chat with me with someone like me to explore your next steps.
Are creatives business-like
More often than not performers and creatives are not business-like and often wanting the work or the experience can swiftly turn your enthusiasm into being taken advantage of, and/or feeling vulnerable.
But this is not the only industry that suffers with these sorts of misgivings, people are often funny about money and it’s simply due to what you’ve observed and absorbed in regards to money while growing up. Here are some of the themes you may have heard, as a kid, that have lead to you feeling awkward around money now:
- money doesn’t grow on trees
- do you think I’m made of money?
- we can’t afford it
- you can’t expect something for nothing (that’s one I probably need to do more work on for Joe)
- name yours?
Your family may have been frugal with money even when they could easily afford it, for whatever reasons they presented to you, and even those they didn’t.
But whatever internal programme you’re running in regards to getting your creative practice firing on all cylinders gains in perspective, once you convert the impact of what’s not working into the long-term stress results that show up in your; unwanted health disruptions, poor habits, and/or behaviours.
And if the way you work keeps bumping into unwanted patterns of responses once you’re further into a project, then there’s likely an internal programme that you’d not realised you have, where only you can step up and make the decision to change it.
Setting the bar
Earlier in the week, I came across a film company that are funding their film project through an arts council grant and they are paying everyone on set. Now that sends all the right messages in terms of believing in the outcome of the work and it values everyone concerned.
It’s not necessarily about money, because what people intrinsically receive from having their time and talents noticed in this way means that it’s about lots of things, including raised self-esteem, being involved in something bigger than themselves, and as some of my group mentioned recently when they worked on value, feeling appreciated.
And if you’ve experienced these two contrasting scenarios, you already know the difference it made in how you felt about the work, and how different your personal investment was in the project. Quite naturally a person working for travel expenses and lunch will care less than someone who is perceived as an asset to a project.
Changing what’s not working in your creative practice processes makes an enormous impact in taking charge and ensuring that any bumps-in-the-road are avoided from the outset.
It’s why I created a series of workshops that run at The Grand in Folkestone, Kent, in what they call The Drawing Room (and yes they did set the room up weirdly, but we revamped to suit our needs) Ramp Up Your Talents, which is a rolling programme, that people join at any stage. I’m loving the progress that these wonderfully talented creatives are making, as their mindset changes around certain areas that had them feeling trapped before.
If you want to join, locally here in Folkestone, or online (starting 21 March) the introductory half price offer finishes this Sunday 5 March. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a billy-bonkers price, but I wanted to try it out first and make it a no-brainer of a decision from the offset that would expand through word-of-mouth.
It also includes daily accountability through a private Facebook Group, in-between the 4-workshops, that keeps you motivated and on track to support your personal ambitions and (as is said in my creative practice) get you out of your own way.
If on reading this you’d like to support Joe in his acting, writing, and directing career, then I’d be happy to put you in contact with him.
NB: I wanted Joe to read this before sharing widely, and he advised that he’d been approached with the offer of a loan towards his fees, through his fundraising page. Initially he said no, but the guy insisted, so they’ve come to an agreement whereby Joe will do some coaching in an English accent, as an exchange. And he’s applied for a job in the college library, he’s being creative and the crowdfunding page seems to have served him in an indirect manner. High five Joe!
Step up to the mark
PS – Directing your own destiny begins by arranging a quick 15-min chat which kick-starts having more energy to develop what you really, really want.