Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back To SHOW Business

Hey there folks

So, it's been while since I posted anything (though not as long as some of my previous silences...). As most of you know, I was in Tucson and Pittsburgh on a traveling gig with the National Institutes of Health, but now I'm back with my boots on the ground - and like most of the actors reading this, I'm looking for work. Oh, I've got some stuff lined up for the coming year, and meetings with directors on the books, and irons of various sorts in the fire... but as I've said before the only way to make this business work is to keep the schedule full; to line up the gigs, work 'em, and move on to the next one... all the while rolling with the punches and adjusting to changes in plans and schedules (as you know, I've had some experience there, too...).

It takes a lot of work... but no one ever said that this business (or any business) was easy. I know we'd all like it to be; we'd love to be that one-in-a-million actor who gets "discovered," or who "arrives" and has the world at his or her feet. Well, there's a reason those actors are one-in-a-million: it's the fact that 999,999 other actors are working their butts off to manage and build their careers (and lets by honest - most of the 999,999 other actors have sustainable, long-lasting careers; the one-in-a-million actors often have a couple of projects, and if they're really lucky and smart they can turn those into careers. Then again, they can also end up bankrupt and working as security guards within ten years.)

When I do private business counseling for actors here in Portland, I often hear "I just want to work." What that phrase tends to mean is "I just want someone to call and give me a job." Sadly, this business doesn't work that way... NO business works that way. No one called Henry Ford up and said, "Hey, you know that new automobile idea you have? I want to buy one." He had to work at building his business before he could start making money at it. No one calls a plumber and says "Hey, I don't know you, but can I pay you to fix my sink?"

Well, ok, someone might call a plumber with that request... it's unlikely - most people want to know how long the plumber's been in business, who s/he's worked for, what kind of recommendations s/he has... but hey, yellow pages ads can work. They won't work for long, though, if that plumber doesn't bill for the work, keep his/her books (so s/he can pay for that yellow pages ad), and MOST importantly - do a good job so the customer refers him/her to other potential customers. Lets face it - without more than one customer, s/he's not in business (unless that one customer is Donald Trump and he needs a LOT of plumbing work - again, one-in-a-million).

That's just what we actors have to do - especially in small markets like Portland - if we want a successful, long-running career. I know, a lot of artists get bent out of shape when I compare them to plumbers, but think about it: we have to audition. We have to get the gig. We have to manage our books. We have to get paid, and we have to invest in the tools that help us do that job (and get the next job). We have to be good at what we do, gain referrals from our customers (be they directors, producers, or whomever), and turn those referrals into the next job. Oh, hey Portlanders, we also have to RETURN PHONE CALLS and EMAILS !!!

It's a lot more complicated than just waiting for the phone to ring. Any other business person has to work full time to make his or her business thrive - the realtor or carpenter or financial advisor doesn't just go into the office "when s/he's got the time." Not if s/he wants to succeed at being a realtor/ carpenter/ financial advisor. We actors can't have that attitude about OUR businesses, either - not if we want to succeed at being actors.

Which brings me back to where I started... I'm getting back to business - looking for the next several jobs to put on the books, keeping in touch with my contacts, investing my money (and looking at how to save where I can) and building my business. Oh - and I'm looking to take you with me.

See, this post is the beginning of a weekly series (well, I'll try and make it a weekly series... you know how well I do at these things). Every Monday I'm going to write a post about the business of "The Business." I'm going to talk about how I do it - my approach, my daily routine, what I do to make my career as an actor work.

Got questions? Email them to me (or, send them via Twitter) - every Wednesday from here on out will be a "mail box" day, where I'll respond to a few messages). Some of your messages will probably spawn new Monday "back-to-business" posts; but don't be surprised if your question ends up on the blog some Wednesday (don't worry, I won't re-print your name or contact information).

I'm not holding myself up as the be-all and end-all of business advice... but I've found a few things that have worked for me over the years, and I'd like to think that one or two of you might find them useful.

Next week, we'll talk about Taxes - because I know it's on everyone's mind... and because IRS rules determine a lot about how we do business. Besides, a little work NOW, while you're getting ready for your 2009 taxes, will make the 2010 tax season a lot easier.

Hope you're all doing well...