For the last six months, actors in my group called "The Art of the Biz" met once a week to play around with creating & articulating their own uniquely personal art-business. Actors, I call this the business of YOU. We've experimented with biz names, titles, tags, quotes, vision/ mission statements & values & goals.
Why? As an actor, you are the product AND the person who sells it. We all love making the product. Most of us hate having to sell it. I think attending to the business of YOU as a creative entity all its own fortifies your product. It gives you a kind of freedom to make up the rules / call the shots / feel active rather than than passive / define yourself as more than just a cog in the wheel of the industry. Besides, if you are not already incorporated, one day you will be!
Articulating your vision, mission & values serves as a template for how to make decisions: who you want on your team / what you say yes & no, to / what to spend your precious time on / what career growth looks like. For most of the actors, this excercise is for internal use only -- though I wouldn't be surprised if certain people in the group ended up hanging out a shingle one day.
If you want to try this for yourself, go for it! Consider that:
Your VISION STATEMENT = the WHY. It's what success looks like & feels like now & down the road. It's a vivid picture of a specific destination, a desired future. It doesn't fluctuate from year to year. It's an enduring promise you make to yourself, the people who work for you & your customers.
Your MISSION STATEMENT = the nuts & bolts. It's about what you DO. It describes your company's activities.
Your VALUES = What do I think is important? What is crucial to my integrity? What will & won't I do in order to succeed?
Most likely, there is an abyss between your vision & your current reality. Running a successful business requires seeing clearly where you are now in relationship to where you want to go. If you focus solely on either the abyss (i.e. "My agent never calls.") or the vision ("My creative work is a force for good in the world") -- you're sunk. The idea is to be present to both of these, every day.
Here's some excerpts from the work we've done, ending with my own manifesto for THE WORKROOM. Remember these are all still works-in-progress. The group is taking a hiatus for the rest of the summer -- we'll be back at it in the fall. oh, & btw -- what a cool / hot group of artists I got in this thing!
BIZ: Make Something Productions
TITLE: Classy Bitch in charge.
TAG LINE: Sassy, Sarcastic & Slightly Sweet.
QUOTE: "I’m selfish, impatient & a little insecure. I make mistakes, I’m out of control & at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best." ~ Marilyn Monroe
VISION: I attract the next generation of female driven powerhouses within the entertainment industry: Fellow actors, writers, producers & directors who don’t need permission to “Make Something.” If you don’t like the look of the garden, plant your own tree. As an actor & a writer my seeds are rooted in family & faith. The healing power of humor is an asset I soak up to fuel my growth as a performer. As an actor, writer & collaborator, I make every performance intimate & authentic while illuminating the strength & vulnerability of women’s stories. In conjunction with my driven representation team we achieve financial & critical success that allows us to be selective with projects, choosing content & quality over financial necessity; & breathing room to cultivate creativity & foster new growth.
MISSION: Make Something Productionsgathers together like-minded actors, writers, producers -- people who don’t want to talk about it, but wanna make shit: who believe in collaboration & actually creating a tangible product. Like me, they value humor. Passion, drive & fun are the requisite qualities for membership in Make Something. Not everyone is a jack of all trades, & where one person falls short another person’s expertise welds the gap binding the creative product. Quality Standard: “Make Something” is our customers' first choice for honest, witty & relevant entertainment.
BIZ NAME: Open Creative
TITLE: Revolutionary Creative Warrior
QUOTE: “Without wonder and insight, acting is just a business. With it, it becomes creation.” Bette Davis
VISION: We believe theatre has the potential to radically alter thecourse of people’s lives. We believe that when we feel & empathize for acharacter in a play, we open our hearts to others, to the world & to who we are supposed to become.
MISSION: The Open Creative is a group of artists in the business of making art that is revolutionary, exciting, & challenging. We perform in theatre, film, TV & radio, using the various mediums to inspire radical change in ourselves & the world around us. We are committed to being of service to our community; nurturing & developing young artists & cultivating new young audiences. Our work is both accessible & ground breaking.
We are highly trained professionals creating a high quality product & an environment where talented brave artists want to collaborate. We don’t strive for perfection; we allow our artists the freedom to risk failure. We foster bold choices & the kind open environment that encourages them. We want to remove the judgment & competition that can kill the spirit of an ensemble
BIZ NAME: Boundless Virtuosity
TITLE: Chief Executive Artist (CEA)
QUOTES: “Ye live not for yourselves; ye cannot live for yourselves; a thousand fibres connect you with your fellow-men, and along those fibres, as along sympathetic threads, run your actions as causes, and return to you as effects.” ― Henry Melville
“If [you] do possess talent, value it ... Take pride in it ... know [you] have aresponsibility to exert a civilizing influence on [others] rather than aimlessly hanging out with them. And be fastidious in [your] habits...” ― Anton Chekhov (in a letter to Nikolay Chekhov, March 1886)
“Actors are athletes of the heart.” ― Antonin Artaud
VISION: I create and foster the creation of boundless, virtuosic performances in all mediums that push humanity forward both socially & artistically.
BIZ NAME: Commūn
TAG LINE: There is no other.
QUOTE: “We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.” --Henry Miller
VISION: Commūn performances, readings, art viewings will bring forth openings/illuminations in at least one audience member that spurs a new connection or a deepening of an exisiting connection with another person. Common. Commune. Community.
MISSION:Why? I want a steady platform for myself on which I feel safe to risk. I want my audience to walk away from my work relating to a part of the world they hadn’t considered before.
Sustainability: There are as many stories as there are beings in this world, each one is an opportunity for mycompany to illuminate a heretofore unseen part of this world.
Who? My audience will, through my work, experience an empathy for the heretofore unconsidered. This will allow them to return to their lives able to feel more connected to others.
Image: I want my company to be seen as warm, relatable, reliable, effective, illuminating and awe-inspiring.
How to convey: Warm colors, inviting demeanor, stellar work.
Nature of products/services: Me. Acting. Performing. Writing. Photographing. Showing you a person / story / image / moment that no matter how far removed you see yourself from it, there will be a part of it that you can feel yourself experiencing.
My service is at the top of its craft. My heart & mind work together to polish my work into a shine so vibrant that you could chose to focus on the mechanics of the shine...but would be unable to avoid your own reflection.
I am chief conduit & my representatives are transmission lines. I’m unable to reach all of my intended audience without them.
Pricing: Union rates & supply/demand plus personal worth evaluations in consultation with my representatives. Quality is up to me. My company will grow based on reputation & the quality of my customers experience of my work.
BIZ: Soul Searching Actors
TITLE: Catalyst for Acting with Purpose (CAP)
VISION: I pursue & create no-compromise work that honors my need for deep & challenging roles. Why? Discussing deep-seated issues, unrooting the secrets is salvation. Salvation = enlightenment to the audience, to the world -- & to me. But enlightenment, talent, artistry is not an easy path; therefore the struggle, the fight, the hustle, makes the result of freedom & salvation that much sweeter.
I require work that feed my soul & at the same time teaches me about myself as a person & artist. I want to know why people to do the things they do, I want to be the best I can be -- For what purpose? -- by example, by being the best me & the best actor I can be, others can see how to do it for themselves. My job: TO KEEP ASKING WHY? TO WHAT PURPOSE? I enjoy asking the questions!
TITLE: Chief Creative
TAG: Through acting, producing, writing directing & filmmaking I change the world.
QUOTE: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” - Joan Didion
VISION: I create content, seek out creative collaborations built around play & challenge encompassing, ceaseless curiosity.
We tell ourselves stories to live. When we endow experiences with narratives, we feel them more deeply. We engage in storytelling to learn, to understand, to feel, to escape, to dream.
I believe that stories have the power to engage us more deeply with the world we live in. In storytelling, we find a collective language.
I tell stories as a means to engage. I want to tell stories that open hearts & minds to new ideas. I want to write, to make films, to act, to promote stories & projects that should be heard.
VISION: I collaborate on creative stories and events that enable me to connect with people from all over the globe. I build new spaces and create opportunities for people to meet and find inspiration to overcome their struggles. Wit, laughter & a realistic grasp of the world without becoming pessimistic are my tools.
BIZ: Driven Destiny
TITLE: Vessel of Artistry
TAG: Dream, Live, Embrace
VISION & MISSION: I engage with material that speaks profoundly to me, & via my acting instrument relay this to an audience creating an emotional connection. I’m open to my destiny & the process by which it comes. I want to work with actors who collectively create a safe place to be vulnerable. I learn from those around me & hold onto to these lessons throughout the journey. I trust my journey even when it doesn’t make sense. I always allow others to positively influence me & to be open to the unknown.
I make a postive impact on others through material I engage in & the characters that I portray. I teach a powerful lesson to my audience & uplift them through my work. I truthfully portray characters to the best of my ability & deliver dialogue without judging the character. I respect all work that is given to me & constantly seek out projects that resonate with something that matters to me.
BIZ: Harness Humanity
TITLE: Creative Catalyst
VALUES: Playful, Joyful, Present, Perceptive, Curious, & Dynamic
TAG: Innovate = Generate + Excavate
QUOTE: “Anything you do deeply is lonely. It’s the long quiet highway.” Natalie Goldberg
VISION & MISSION: I work in diverse mediums: performance art in museums, theatrical events, straight plays, dance theatre, independent film & unique television experiences. I enjoy the spirit of change, I like what’s asked of me in these different mediums. I collaborate with all different kinds of artists.
Change creates momentum, a feeling of moving forward. I reach beyond myself into the unknown. I like being challenged & inspired by colleagues, & feeling valued as a co-creator in the process. I like gathering knowledge & being asked questions. I enjoy the opportunity to fill in the blanks & use more of myself creatively. I expect my CV to be broad.
I consult for artists, bring groups together, acting as a catalyst for innovation & exploration. I work best with a long lead time for preparation. My soul needs to settle in deeply before expressing. My creative projects become best friends, pages of a book that define my artistry. I turn the leaves over to appreciate how far I’ve come & to sit with the potential of the emptiness of the future.
VALUES: To trust the emptiness & depth of my vessel as well as the security of its container. To resonate, to emanate. To trust that I’m worthy of working, that I’m of value to myself & others. To refract back my experience of the world. To be influenced by my surroundings & constant in my roots. To express from a place of love & generosity. To leave the shackles of the world behind, knowing also that I’m tethered for my safe return. That I am a creative home of my own making. I make my own validation. Inside, I always have the last word & knowing that gives me great peace & freedom. Creative work is what I do & a deep part of who I am, but not the only part, or even the most important part, but an equal part.
BIZ: The Workroom
TITLE:Artist in Charge
TAG: All things acting + creative process + theater art
QUOTE:“Make Voyages! Attempt them! There’s nothing else.” ~ Tennessee Williams
VISION & MISSION: The Workroom = a space for artists to grow the capacity & appetite for creative work: specifically in film & theater acting & the process of making theater. We come here to collaborate, to teach, write, learn & perform. It’s a gathering place for purists / a respite from the “industry” / an inner sactum that offers the atmosphere, the tools, the resources & the people necessary to empower, grow & strengthen craft & inspiration.
We come to The Workroom to realize our full potential as artists. With this power, we thrive creatively, spiritually & financially by engaging via joy & discipline the work we love most.
Enter The Workroom with the expectation of challenges & breakthroughs in a space safe for risk-taking. Valuing collaboration, discipline & excellence, The Workroom manifests a vibrant energy. It’s a place both luxurious & minimalistic, it exists to serve the individual artist & as an opportunity for the artist to serve a higher purpose.
The Workroom in its real form holds everything an artist needs for an experience that is wildly, freely, optimally conducive to creativity: access to music, art, a library, computers, a yoga studio, a raw theater space & a space to make & view film. Food & drink. Classes, salons & readings. People to mentor you & for you to mentor. Walls to scribble on, paste, paint, collage. Costume pieces. Persian rugs on polished cement à la Peter Brook. Good paper, sharp pencils. Dylan & Chopin. A high ceiling (--several pairs of large, feathered wings!) A trampoline. A view of the sea.
Here, we come to ask: What makes for great work? How do we stay true to our vision & connected to our values? How does what we do make a difference in the world?
As Artist in Charge I lead by example & others lead me by their example. My strength = making connections: between a play & an audience, a text & a vision, between who you are in the work & who you can become. My goal = to create a virtual / real space full of what emboldens you to claim all your promise as an artist. As I strive to focus the conversation on what matters & nourish my own resources as an artist, I seek to find & work with others who help me in the same way.
Many of the actors here have written about their journey here in THE ART OF THE BIZ DIARIES. Take a look.
I'll be starting "THE ART OF THE BIZ" group up again in the fall -- it's free for anyone who coaches with me minimum once a year. If you've been coaching with me -- or want to -- shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
for occasional emails re:
ideas / inspiration / ticket offers / classes / community