I got this email from an actor in the UK, about a thorny issue that we all face as actors and VO performers.
It’s about work sometimes interfering with what you love.
I found your website after searching for more Bob Fraser on the web. I have one of his CDs and it is like my friend I go back to for support when I need it. I miss Bob, do you? (I do –David)
I want to ask you this question: I am an actress in England, I started making my own theatre work a couple of years ago creating my own shows and it is beginning to be quite successful and it makes money – and creatively and artistically it is important to me and potentially could really take off.
But this requires a big commitment to make the company successful. I am finding it difficult to balance this commitment with the ‘business’ of being an actor with an agent and running off to auditions and jobs whenever something comes up. Running a theatre company involves committing to future plans with producers and venues six months to a year in advance and they can not be put to one side for an audition or filming dates or whatever at the drop of a hat – well not if you want to carry on doing business with them anyway!
At times I have been able to do both but for example last year I spent six months hard work putting on a new show in a great theatre for a couple of weeks and of course as luck would have it, those two weeks clashed with two great jobs I was asked to do but couldn’t. This year there were a couple of possibilities of work that fell through and now I’m trying to get the momentum going on the theatre company again. It feels like it’s pulling in opposite directions, but I think I haven’t figured out how to make it work as both should compliment each other.
I look at a lot of successful actors – Emma Thompson for example who writes and stars in her own film adaptations etc but has an agent for her acting work and does both successfully. I left my agent (for a whole host of reasons she wasn’t the right one) and concentrated on the company for a while and continued to get work as an actor through my own contacts but now I want to have both things going on to maximize my potential but I don’t know how to juggle the one requiring the long game commitments, the other requiring one to be able to pick up and go whenever opportunity knocks.
Any wise words that might help me to take this forwards rather than treading water, feeling like I’m unable to really go for it in either form. I am wondering whether to step out of the Spotlight (the main casting organisation for actors here) for a while and commit one hundred per cent to the company and taking that to the next level, or whether I try to find a different agent who sees my own work and my production company as a welcome and complimentary addition to my freelance work…? Any thoughts you may have on this subject would be most welcome.
PS. I love your work & your generosity in engaging with actors journeys just like Bob did.
Here’s what I wrote back:
Ultimately, you have to follow what really excites you if you want to be completely engaged in your work.
Emma doesn’t do it on her own – she has a team that helps her handle the business while she’s off being Emma.
Do you have support staff that can take over productions should you get work?
Or are you saying you’re starring in the productions and that’s the issue?
If so, you have to balance commerce with art, and I do that by being very clear up front with my students that if I can’t reschedule an important audition (and I teach what that means in class – network TV, equity theater or studio-based film) or get booked on work, the class simply gets rescheduled. I know you can’t do that with a theater run, but, again, do you have to be there for everything?
If it’s a theater vs nicely paid acting gig conflict, welcome to the world of being an actor in demand. Your choice depends upon what you really truly want.
If you’re constantly yearning for those on-camera jobs while you’re on stage, maybe the theater company isn’t such a good idea for you right now – or maybe you can use your skills in that area to help another company where you don’t have the same constant demands.
I know it’s hard, but following what you truly love to do is the key – and if you love them both, place one over the other as a matter of policy. See how that feels for awhile. You might end up changing your policy, but then, at least you’ll know what’s most important to you.
Hope this helps.
What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks, David! I thought that was spot on advice! Following what one is truly passionate about is the key ingredient to happiness in my book.
So glad to see articles like this!
As a complete outsider, my advice is worth exactly what you are paying to read it right now.
That said, I’d ask whether your on-camera career has a shelf life. If it does, that should come first–as long as you’re reasonably confident about being cast in roles where you’re comfortable.
You can manage a theater company when you’re 88 years old. That may not be true for your on-camera roles.
I constantly create my own productions, using the same members in the crew time after time, because the thought of waiting for an agent to ring, would have driven me to madness long ago. That’s resulted in 50 episodes of Yoga Time with Marlon Braccia, which became a DVD series that’s sold 1 million copies and continues to stream today, as well as 18 or so episodes of The Enlightened Cook, a published cookbook, a pilot for the historical costume drama, St. Mary of the Angels, 5 VO demos, a handful of audiobook projects I contracted and hopefully more every year. (Whew!)
My crew and I have an understanding, as most people in the business in Hollywood do, that if a big paying gig comes up, we all reschedule so that person can further their career and get paid that better rate. That is true with my 2 fabulous camera men, my editor, my DVD author, my colorist, my photoshop guy and me. Then when we work on my projects, there can never be any resentment that another opportunity is missed. What we are left with is the joy of what I think of as being my favorite days in life–days on set and on-camera.
Amanda, if days working in the theater are your “thrill days”, do that! If not, juggle, juggle, juggle!
Love David’s reply here. The other thing to think about, which is in line with David’s question of “do you have to be there for everything”, is perhaps finding a partner with a similar situation to help with the theatre piece. This way you’re sharing the work AND the schedule in the event that either of you books out on a more commercial project.