Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's in YOUR Way?

I had intended to blog about my "Wizards of Waverly Place" experience (which was AWESOME, by the way), but something else hit me first. Creative Career Coach, Michelle Ward, Tweeted about a post that Havi Brooks wrote on her blog, The Fluent Self. Someone asked her (also a career coach) why she charged so much for her services, and she gave a very eloquent, heartfelt answer, and it struck a chord with me.

Most actors get into this business because they LOVE TO ACT. I'm not talking about wannabe celebrities, I'm talking about ACTORS. In fact, we usually love it so much that we immerse ourselves in the craft to the point that we ignore the fact that if we hope to make a living at it, we HAVE to become business savvy as well. We have to charge.

Back in either 2004, a friend of mine (Freelance Writer, Beverly Aarons) told me to "stop working for free." Of course I WANTED to, but I kept doing free projects. I "just wanted to act." After taking a look at my reasons for doing free projects, here's what I discovered:

  • I didn't "just want to act." I wanted to act for a living (which implies payment).

  • I didn't believe that anyone would pay ME (a newbie with no credits to speak of) to act. I believed that I had talent, and that I had great training, but I didn't see why someone would hire ME over a more experienced actress.

  • I was afraid that if I was right and nobody hired me, I would NEVER get to act.


  • So I did project after project for free, just for the opportunity to act, and that's what I got.

    Now, there's something to be said for doing free projects to learn how to work in front of a camera, or to help friends who are producing something and you want to help them build. I get that. But I was making choices out of fear, not out of excitement. I felt like I was ready to move to the next level and couldn't figure out why nobody wanted to pay me.

    It was simple business: They wouldn't pay me because I was willing to work for free, and the fact that I was willing to work for free showed how little I valued my 'product.'

    So I took a deep breath, kicked fear out of the driver's seat, and started planning. I decided that I would launch my business early the next year, and that I would ONLY do work for free if I really WANTED to. There had to be something in it for me so that I could not just give, give, give all the time, but so that my cup would be refilled as well. I had long believed in the importance of putting one's own oxygen mask on first, and it was time for that 'belief' to move into being.

    In January of 2005, my tools were all ready, and I declared my business 'open.' In March of 2005, I had a great commercial agent. I wasn't going out as much as I had hoped, so that summer, I took more pictures. In November of 2005, I shot my first commercial. it made me SAG eligible. In the spring of 2006, I received my first stack of residual checks at a time when I was broke, broke, BROKE! I calculated and cried at the same time. Somebody had paid me to act. 3 years later, I've done 12 (paid) commercials, and 10 different (paid) TV shows. I have some truly awesome people on my 'team' and I now have enough experience that I am able to give back. Heck, this blog chronicles my journey, so if you want to know where I've been, feel free to look around. And once I was prepared, all it took was for me to get out of my own way.

    My "Wizards of Waverly Place" recap is coming! I promise!!


    XXOO,

    --Nicole

    9 comments:

    Ryan Rorie said...

    After our lunch the other day, I rushed home to write down everything you told me so I could refer to it as i prepare to open my own business. Thankfully, it's all right here in case i forgot anything. You have convinced me that my goal is achievable.

    Nicole J. Butler said...

    Hey Ryan!

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog. It was great to see you, and I'm so glad that you have been convinced. You are truly talented - now just get out of your own way and see what happens. ;o)

    I am looking forward to watching your growth.

    Minou said...

    You are so right! It encourages me to read about your struggling and your dealing with the circumstances. I do have the same problems - but I know I'm not the only one.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the problems being or becoming an actor. That helps so much!
    All the best, Julia

    Nicole J. Butler said...

    Julia--

    I think I called you "Minou" before - sorry about that, and thanks for linking to my blog on your website.

    I'm glad you are encouraged by my blog - that's why I choose to share it this way as opposed to just writing in my journal (which I do as well). Instead of 'struggles' and 'problems', I try to think in terms of 'challenges' and 'obstacles'. It just helps me if I think of them as temporary circumstances to be overcome.

    When I start thinking about struggles and problems, I want to get back in bed and pull the covers over my head!

    Minou said...

    Hey Nicole,
    Minou is also okay, it's my nickname.
    It's really difficult to express myself in english 'cause I miss so much words and expressions. So I apologize for sounding kind of rude or imprecise in my comments.
    I think you corrected me very well - "obstacles & challenges" were the words I was missing:-)

    Nicole J. Butler said...

    Hi Julia--

    Oh, you weren't rude at all! I should have taken the language barrier into account.

    "Struggles and problems" (which you used) are the same as "challenges and obstacles" but sometimes I find that changing which word I use makes my mind look at it differently.

    What does "Minou" mean? From your website, I would guess "kitty." (Am I right?)

    Elliott Morgan said...

    Hi Nicole,

    I read your blog whenever I can. It's awesome. This post, in particular, is fantastic. The others are great too, of course, but this one deals with a lot of the fears I have about moving out to L.A.

    My wife and I will be making the leap in the Spring/Summer of 2010, and I'm insanely excited because I know that acting is all I ever want to do, but I'm also extremely apprehensive. I'm currently in the library at the University of Florida waiting for my Physics class to roll around -- so if that doesn't spell f-u-n, I don't know what does :).

    I feel sort of silly wanting to move to L.A. with a Zoology degree, but when push comes to shove, I know there's really no choice.

    Would you recommend doing a ton of non-union work once I get out there to get my feet wet? I plan on doing some training, of course. I've been in the threatre since I was six and attended a performing arts high school, but I need in-front-of-the-camera training.

    Keep posting. I love reading about your adventures!

    Nicole J. Butler said...

    Hi Elliott--

    Congrats on making such a big decision! A lot of people ask questions like "Why do you need a degree if you're an artist?" But I don't think education is EVER wasted, so no need to feel silly. Bravo to you.

    You have theatrical experience (which helps you to be disciplined), and are already planning to get on-camera training, so that's good. I do recommend getting on a set as much as you possibly can. Yes, you'll pick up some credits, meet other actors, and perhaps nab some SAG vouchers, but more importantly, you'll become comfortable on a set. You'll come to understand what is expected of you, what certain terms mean, and what you can expect without the pressure of knowing that any mistakes you make or any gaps in your knowledge are going to cost tens of thousands of dollars (on a big-budget production). Do whatever acting work someone will hire you to do, as long as it doesn't offend your sensibilities.

    Once you honestly feel you have a marketable "product" (you), get your tools in order and open your "business."

    I wish you the best! Keep me posted, and thanks for reading my blog. Glad you find it helpful.

    Minou said...

    Hi Nicole,
    yeah, Minou is french and means Kitten. It's the nickname my wonderful BF gave me:-)