If you saw a businessman on a corner, dressed in suit and tie, desperately begging for work, you’d ask yourself:
“Why doesn’t he do something more effective?”
The standard actor dream seems to be: do good work, get discovered, become famous.
Believe it or not, the toughest part of the equation is actually the “do good work” part – simply because most actors don’t have the faintest clue how to really land the work that will get them discovered.
As actors (at least in the traditional sense), we often feel at a loss… we can’t do our art until a script exists, a director is attached, and a production is in the casting process… that’s a lot of steps before the actor is ever involved (and an oversimplification at best). And once a project is at the casting stage, we’re stuck competing with the ba-jillion other actors (and wannabe’s) who want the same part we do.
So what’s an actor to do?
Stop Acting Like an Actor & Act Like an Entrepeneur
An entreprenuer is a person in business for him/herself – that’s the simple definition.
I would go even further to suggest that a TRUE entrepeneur is a business person who recognizes opportunity, and uses opportunity for business… the best entrepeneurs also recognize when a business is failing, and move on.
I’m not saying that you should quit acting!
I am suggesting that you treat your acting career the way an entrepeneur would – the old system is failing… time to try something new.
Something more effective.
Think Small to Win Big
The entrepeneurial spirit involves innovation, risk, and the allure of the new. Right now in our society, in our time, innovation, risk, and “the new” are happening through niche markets. A niche market ignores what the masses of people want (network television, major motion pictures, etc) and focuses on what a select few people want… and provides something tailor fit for those few.
Perfect examples for actors?
- The Guild – http://www.watchtheguild.com/
(and actress Felicia Day – http://feliciaday.com/about)
- The Battery’s Down – http://www.thebatterysdown.com
(starring a whole host of Broadway folk)
- Hey It’s Fred – http://www.youtube.com/show/fred
(which Nickelodeon picked up – http://www.nick.com/shows/fred)
Niche markets seem insignificant at first… until you realize how many people can fall into a niche.
The Guild is targeted only at people who play MMORPG’s (massive multiplayer online role playing games). If you only targeted World of Warcraft players, that’s over 10,000,000 people. That’s 10 million, folks. From one game (and there are many, many more).
Do It – Now
Creating content like this isn’t easy… but most good jobs aren’t easy… they involve hard work, dedication, and the pursuit of excellence.
So get started!
All you need is an idea. Find people to do the things you don’t know how to do. If you write, write. If you don’t write, find a friend who likes your idea and will write with you. If you direct, direct. If you don’t direct, find someone who will collaborate with you.
See where this is going?
And it doesn’t have to be online either… you can apply this same theory to live performance too!
The key is getting started.
And once you’ve developed a niche market following (which is much easier than trying to develop a mass market following), chances are one of the bigger fish will take notice.
Bone Up on Business
Personally, I agree with Jim Hart at The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN) – actors and other artists should learn some business development skills in their BFA programs. And I’m not talking about “how to send out postcard and 8×10 mailings” (although that’s important too).
Artists are self-employed, even when they are working for NBC or CBS. But most don’t treat their careers like a true, entrepeneurial small business. Because they don’t know how, or the benefits.
And if they have a degree in their field, I feel like that’s the fault of the university. Can you imagine graduating with a degree in finance with no business classes or career placement services? That’s what universities do to artists every year.
So don’t wait for the universities to come around. Learn for yourself.
Start with people like Seth Godin, who preaches originality, innovation, and catering to niche markets. Start finding business mentors and read their materials.
It’s just as important as reading American Theater Magazine, and a billion times more important than reading TMZ.
Cast Teammates in Key Roles
Since there’s going to be a lot that you won’t know, you’ll need help… and you only get help by helping others. So find collaborators. Work on their projects. Help with their material, and find people who’s perspective clicks with yours.
Create art together.
Avoid juding that art for now… it’s all about creating it, and getting it out the door… worry about making it perfect later, when you’ve learned better how to make it “perfect”.
Make your art messy, for the sake of making it, and make something you love… that’s aimed at a niche market that loves what your idea is all about.
You’re going to need all kinds of people… and non-artists might provide some of the support you need (building Facebook pages, websites, acting as producers or money managers).
Right now I’m excited about working with an actress to support her show about talking to mops.
Yes, she talks to mops. For real.
It’s hysterical, strange, and completely original… and that makes for a great niche.
I’m also working with an actress on a tongue-in-cheek companion series to an existing cable network show.
Also hysterical, also completely original, and only people who know the (very successful) show will get the inside jokes.
And when it comes time to work on my own projects, I know I’ve got some support.