Thursday, July 26, 2012

Take a deep breath and stretch

Some days feelancing, like many careers, is more stressful than others, mentally and physically.  I’m much better now than when I started at letting little inconveniences go, and doing so quickly.  Don’t sweat the small stuff, as they say.  Still, challenges exist. 

VO talents might have to postpone recording because of thunderstorms or construction, which can get frustrating and increase time pressure. because I can’t know when it’ll be quiet again. Technology may not cooperate.

When I'm fortunate to get a lot of projects at once (I've had five VO jobs this week, only one at a recording studio), cramming in extra hours hunched over a computer can take its toll.  I have an ergonomic setup--under the desk keyboard, adjustable desk chair sized for a short person, etc.  Some may have back or neck pain, and so sit on balls, kneel on stools or even get a standing desk.  I’m susceptible to forearm pain similar to carpal tunnel. 

To deal with job stresses and frustrations,  I:
--focus on gratitude and all of the great things about being a feelancer 
--make sure I take frequent, short breaks to rest my eyes 
--do arm and hand and body stretches
--switch between my laptop and my PC
--take deep breaths in through the nose and let them out slowly through the mouth
--look forward to and enjoy relaxing get-togethers with friends.              

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Working Networking

Authors and actors need to get their names out there.  We need to meet industry professionals.  But the plethora of in person and online networking opportunities and ways to best utilize them and time can overwhelm any feelancer.  There's social media from Facebook to Twitter.  Sites such as Goodreads.  Actual networking sites such as LinkedIn.  Alumni and industry events, some free, some not.  Friends connecting other friends. 

How many sites should we be on? Should we blog, comment on comments--and what's a good balance of self-promotion vs. contribution?  Should we worry about how others perceive our online personas?  How much time should we spend online and at events?  What are the benefits of each opportunity?

Take LinkedIn.  People often ask if creatives can benefit as much as corporate types seem to.  Recently I've heard good things about LinkedIn Groups.  I'll investigate.  I'm already in assorted author and actor groups, and will assess the pros and cons of even more emails to read.  But you never know when a gem of an opportunity or information snippet will pop up. 

Some things to consider about networking:
--Time and money spent vs. value obtained.
--The enjoyment of reading interesting posts and getting comments on your own carefully crafted contributions vs. allowing social media and events distract you vs. getting actual work done.
--Providing something useful vs. constant self-promotion.
--How much is too much? 
--What's appropriate vs. aggressive.  Example:  I was talking to an editor at a luncheon.  An author came up to us, and without even introducing herself launched into her pitch.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

What is a Working Actor?

My definition of a working actor includes getting paid fair wages for your time and skills...most of the time. 

Many Chicago plays and films offer no monetary remuneration, not even reimbursement of expenses. Some offer a stipend, but that can end up being minimum wage or less per hour.  Often indie and student films at least offer food and a copy of the work (if you can actually get it).  Actors can end up losing money on the deal if they have to pay for parking, gas (or public transportation), and some self-costuming. 

But they choose to spend several nights a week rehearsing and performing for the joy of it.  For the experience, resume credit, chance to work with well-known/up and coming production staff, and hope of good reviews and/or that agents and casting directors might see it and take note.  Those things can make free or low-paying work worth the effort.
I hope actors who work that hard for others also work as hard for themselves...self-marketing for additional opportunities.  Which is why I give workshops on that topic.  Actors are entrepreneurs and thus need to keep putting irons in the fire to increase chances for a steady stream of opportunities.  My many years of sales experience have helped with that.  Some weeks, it really pays off...with multiple auditions (both on-camera and VO) and several jobs. 

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Here's the Story

On Sunday, July 1st, I had the honor of being a featured storyteller at Here's the Story, at Stage 773 on Belmont. 
HtS's mission  is "to bring together Chicago’s various creative communities, to connect with one another, to foster the art of telling and listening, to provide a platform of support for the work of known and developing storytellers, monologists, and solo performers."

The program opens with each audience member turning to someone he/she doesn't know and sharing a two minute story.  Five featured tellers, who get 10 to 12 minutes, alternate with five walkups, who get five to six minutes each.  The audience gets 50 points to vote on the walkups. Whoever gets the most points is invited back as a featured storyteller the next month.

I've given many workshops and performed at numerous venues.  I was on National Appellate Team in law school (we came in second nationwide out of around 150 teams) and speech team in high school.  So I assumed telling a story would be fairly easy. 

Storytellers at some other local events read word for word from printed pages.  But HtS prefers no pages.  Not even notes.  Preparing turned out to be more challenging than I'd expected.

My topic was "The Most Rejected Person in America," because as a writer and actress (who also collected many rejections during 15+ years in sales) on any given day I could be rejected by, among others, casting directors, editors, clients and/or producers.  I wrote a synopsis of the things I wanted to cover, and felt attached to the written page. I didn't want to go out of order or miss a key point. 

My friend Darren Stephens was also a featured teller.  We got together the night before to rehearse and critique each other's stories.  That proved very helpful, revealing things that needed clarification, and where to elaborate, add or make cuts.  We still didn't feel quite ready, so we rehearsed and critiqued by phone on Sunday.  And then again later in the addition to individual work.  We smoothed out our tales, tied sections together with good transitions and developed an emotional ebb and flow intended to keep the many audience members on the edges of their seats. 

The preparation paid off.  Both of us (and other storytellers) got laughs--in the right places--and compliments afterward.  Listen to the podcast, which will be available soon, to hear the final product.