Let’s face the facts: most artistic endeavours don’t lead to fame, fortune and flashy cars. A lot of the time, when it’s your first production or first mounting of a new piece of writing you’re ahead of the game if you just make it to the finish line ( i.e. a live performance for theatre or a final cut with sound, score and a credit roll). And without that first finish line you will never get to your second, third, fourth, fifth and eventually find your success in a steady creative career that pays and maybe even create that masterpiece you dream of making which is why you got into this industry in the first place.
Many productions never make it off the ground and out of the ones that do only a small percentage actually make it to a fully realized production, be it a play or a film. I have lost count of how many readings I have been in that never went beyond a reading, or how many independent and student films I have been in that never made it through post. Then there are the ones that were completed and never went anywhere: the films that never made it to festivals or got distribution, the plays that came and went and left no lasting impression on both the audience and the critics.
The only thing you are guaranteed when you get involved in a production, is the experience of doing it; of creating, of putting a team together (or being part of a team), of lifting words off of a page, of sculpting a world, of breathing life into a character and ultimately adding something to the universe that did not exist previously. If you are not turned on by the creative experience alone why do it? You won’t always get paid but you will always learn something and you will always grow as an artist, no matter the outcome of the project. Is that enough? From my almost 20 year experience as a writer, performer and producer I can say sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Do you love the script? Do you love the people you’re working with? Do you love the role you are playing or your job on the production? If you don’t love it, why do it?
Producing is hard work, stressful, aggravating at times, time consuming, life engulfing even; you will make many sacrifices and it takes months/years to see a production through completion. As the producer you set the tone – you are the captain of the ship and your crew will fall in line. They will feed off of your attitude, your energy, your stress, your passion, and your enjoyment. No matter how many hours you have been slaving over script changes, coordinating schedules and chasing funds, you have to have fun with it, you have to enjoy it. Because that all trickles down into the attitudes of your cast and crew.
As a performer you will spend more of your life out of work and trying to get work than you will ever spend on stage or on set. But if you love it, you will find ways to stay in process every day so when those few and far between opportunities come your way you are in shape and ready to go. Many performers don’t realize class is the acting gym and if you take time off for extended periods of time you get stiff and out of shape. Are you in class? If classes aren’t accessible to you at the moment are you reading plays and scripts regularly? Are you part of a community that keeps you inspired?
It is easy to love it when you are backstage with a full house, or sitting in your trailer going over your lines for a guest star role on a TV series, or when doing a Q&A after a festival screening. But the key to success is this: you have to love it in the wee hours of morning when you are scrambling to meet deadlines and struggling to stretch your shoe string budget even further than you already thought impossible…You have to love it (your creative work) even when you get nothing out of it if you ever expect it to love you back.