When my kids were younger, they would endeavor to build tall Lego towers on top of one tiny brick. My husband would constantly talk to them about the importance of taking the time to build a strong foundation. They would continue to try it their way only to have the towers come toppling down each and every time. How many times do we find ourselves doing the exact same thing, trying to build a career tower without taking the time to secure a strong foundation?
Now, foundations aren’t sexy and they tend to take longer than anything else to build. Yet, their importance cannot be denied. They are what working actors spend years building in order to become an “overnight success”. Once you make the decision to see yourself as a business, it is worth examining your foundation to see where it needs “shoring up”.
So, what does this even mean? Well, I think it means several things. I work consistently with actors who believe they are more ready than they actually are to move to the next level. They are ignoring their foundational needs because of their overall wants. I believe that a strong foundation ALLOWS you to get to your wants in a more successful way. So, what are foundational needs for an artist? Well, they are things like strong training, understanding the landscape and how to fit into the market (i.e. brand), research, creating and working a business plan, obtaining professional marketing materials, building relationships and (most importantly) taking care of life needs (tending to your personal relationships, saving money, securing flexibility in a job, creating plans to be able to accept auditions/travel etc. In other words, making sure that your basic needs are secure enough to support the growth of your artistic career).
I realize checking your foundation can be hard. We might find some things we don’t like and introspection is rarely easy. It takes courage to look at ourselves truthfully. Addressing any holes or cracks may take time and we really just want to "get to it". We also often believe the lie that artists aren’t good at business management. And this part of the work can feel boring and unnecessary….or may feel as if it’s killing rather than supporting creativity.
And yet, the world is filled with artists that succeed because of their business acumen, and is just as full of incredibly talented artists who will never work at a true professional level because of their unwillingness to understand the business. And just to be completely clear, Film/Television/Theater is a business and pretending that is not….well, simply means that you may not be ready to progress into it at that level. That it is a business is not up for debate. It is an industry that supports many families around the world (including our SW region) and claiming it's legitimacy goes a long way to claiming your place in it.
But, what if you don't feel you need to check your foundation? I mean, it looks fine from the top. In fact, your tower is rather beautiful and well cared for. Isn't that enough? Here's the thing...even the tiniest of cracks have a habit of catching up, and can turn from miner to major repairs. Nothing stinks up an audition room more than the smell of desperation. And desperation occurs when your tower is in danger of not holding its weight. So, if you are swaying at the top of a beautiful, but fragile tower, I urge you to pause to examine your foundation. It is your best strategy to make your dream a reality.
Sometimes, we need to slow down to speed up. Rebuilding is not failure. Introspection is not breakdown. It is the opposite. It is, in fact, your best preparation for success. The next busy production season will be here in mere weeks. What are you doing today to address your foundation?