I just got off the phone with a person (a working actress!!) who I was connected to through family friends. Her name is Elise Kinnon, and she is absolutely lovely. We basically had a conversation about what the profession is like right now and what I should expect down the road. When I asked her what she did straight out of school she said she signed a musical theatre contract in Japan so I don’t think our paths are exactly the same, but it just goes to show, you never know where life may take you. Elise’s mother, like mine, moved to New York around the time she graduated college. She said that this was super helpful because she had a constant support system in the city when the going got tough.
She told me was that this business is a marathon, not a sprint. I have heard this before, but it is always more paltable coming from someone in the field who just started achieving the benefits from the marathon and does not say it with a jaded “GET OUT” tone. She said that things like booking a commerical are actually super achievable if you embrace the wait, and that is comforting. She also said that, for some people, this is not true and their careers happen magically overnight. In all cases though, it is important not to compare yourself to your peers. It’s not healthy or helpful. It’s like comparing an orange to a waffle (she didn’t say this odd phrase…that was a conncotion of my own, and I am most definitely the waffle).
A question I asked her is, “do you do a lot of free work,” and her answer was, “All the time.” She told me to always say yes to it because we never know what might happen. She said the downside to this is that, often, nothing comes to fruition, but every once in a while something does so it’s better to say yes. I then began to look at free work as a life experience, rather than a burden. It is a fun adventure with new people like all of life, and the only time it is super uncool is when people take advantage.
But, in my opinion, the most important things she told me (which her mother told her) is to “keep a mission statement.” Which, I think for her, was essentially a list of tangible goals she hoped to accomplish. i.e. assistant direct a production, be a dance captiain, get cast in a commercial, etc. I am getting the sense that this industry can sometimes feel like we are all floating around in the abyss and accomplishing very little. I think this is a lovely idea because 1.) there will be an end point: an achievable accomplishment to get to through a series of steps & 2.) once an item on the list is accomplished, it feels good. The list is a physical representation of progress. I also think I am in desperate need of one because I want to do it all, but I have to start somewhere in order to do this. So…step #1 MAKE A LIST.