Chris Grady: How do you have the nerve to….?
I've just done a drop-in session for 15 third year acting students who are about to open in Spend Spend Spend at the Cockpit (26 Feb – 2 Mar). This followed a day of teaching second years about the ecology of the arts across the UK (what is the Arts Council? Why do some producing houses get 6 times the arts council funding of another for what appears the same amount of work? Who might employ actors in Cumbria or Manchester or Eastbourne? Why should they all subscribe to Whatsonstage.com?). And my day also included meeting two trainee technicians also about to embark on their careers.
How do you have the nerve to… put yourself out there and sell your self, network, find or make work, get noticed ? It’s a scary process for anyone trying to enter any profession, but maybe most for a profession where each job is likely to last a matter of weeks, and then you are once again unemployed and facing the prospect selling yourself yet again.
One person I met absolutely inspired me. Ben decided he wanted to get some work experience in theme park technical theatre. He thought Disney. He had GCSE French. He had three weeks off over Christmas, so how to get a job in Disneyland Paris. He didn’t know anyone. He looked up the name of the Chief Executive. He wrote to them. They were new to the job. They passed the letter direct to the head of entertainment. That person saw the chutzpah of my colleague. He got a three week placement in Paris and made, from what I can understand, a very good impression. Brilliant.
Now that takes nerve… but so does walking into an audition room, or going for an interview, or talking to a stranger at a party. But you have to gather your nerves, and your skill, and do it. My wife, Kath Burlinson, runs a course called The Art of Being Heard for the business world bringing these skills to the attention of workers and managers of every age, experience, and level of be-suitedness. I try to bring the same support to every emerging creative I meet. Once in a while I meet a Ben and go – good on you for taking a chance.
Three things people should remember. A) The person interviewing/auditioning you is desperate for you to be good/brilliant/perfect for the role – then they can stop sitting behind a desk and get on with their life. B) People you meet love to talk about themselves. If you find them interesting, they will in turn be more interested in you. C) Almost everything to do with presence and calmness comes from Breathing. Before entering a room take a moment, breathe, calm yourself, believe in yourself and go for it.
And if you are networking (or in a party situation) there’s a difference between “stalking” and being noticed. Stillness, listening, being interested are brilliant skills to practice.
Good luck Ben with the next stage of your career. “Break a Leg”/”Merde” to all those showing their skills in Spend Spend Spend. And remember that we as agents, producers, employers, critics, and audience members want you to be good (and believe you will be). I continue to be inspired and hopeful.