The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

The Social Network October 6, 2010

I went to see The Social Network last night. Why not, right? It’s a movie about how Facebook got its start, and Facebook is a huge part of my life these days.

But this post is not a movie review. Nor is it a discussion about how much of the film was fact and how much was fiction.

For me, the story begins on Friday night, when Aaron Sorkin, the film’s writer and director, appeared on The Colbert Report. Sorkin confessed that he doesn’t use Facebook, and then said I think socializing on the Internet is to socializing what reality TV is to reality.

Click on the screenshot for the link to take you to the video

I get it. Facebook has certainly changed the way we interact with each other. The question is, is it for the worst?

Certainly, there have been tons of stuff in the news that might support this. Here in BC, there was a recent incident where photos of a young girl who was being sexually assaulted were posted on Facebook. The question that needs to be asked is, how did the person who posted those possibly come to the conclusion that that was cool?

Are we exchanging quality relationships for quantity? Is it better to have 2,000 friends on Facebook, or 200 with whom you are able to adequately interact with?

I have been really vocal on my position on this. As a single parent, and someone who works alone, Social Networking is a life-saver. I love to interact with people, I need it, in fact. But because of the nature of my work and life, the folks I get to see the most are my son and my cats. I get to “check in” with my friends in a virtual way.

This week I had a very powerful expereince. I got to meet Kate Foy in person. I’ve know Kate for two years, and we met via Twitter. We have worked together (virtually) on the World Theatre Day Blog, and had many, many conversations via email, Twitter, and Facebook about theatre and the life of an artist. On Saturday afternoon, Kate and I, along with Lois Dawson, had that conversation around my dining room table with coffee and cupcakes.

That is a meeting that, without Twitter, and without me being on Twitter, would have never been able to happen, and it was an amazing experience.

So, what do you think? Do you think that social networking is making our relationships more superficial? Or is it exactly the opposite? I look forward to continuing the discussion with you in comments below.

 

Hoopla and Heartache over Reviewers August 23, 2010

The theatrosphere has been buzzing the last few days with controversy involving reviewers and what their rights are.

It all started out with this blog post that was published on August 17th. Mack D. Male’s friend, Sharon Yeo, who writes what is primarily a foodie blog called Only Here for the Food, had been asked, in a not especially nice manner, by the Artistic Director of a company who was producing at the Edmonton Fringe this year, to no longer attend or review any of their shows.

You can read all the posts and all the comments that come after for yourself. But for me, this brings up lots of interesting questions. The joy of the blogosphere, for me, is that anyone with a WordPress or Blogger or TypePad account can write about whatever topic they choose. I love that we have the power to create our own content. However, just because you have a blog, does that make you a reviewer? Or should we leave that job to the people who get paid to write reviews?

The second question this brings up for me is about addressing what is, essentially, a personal issue in a public forum. I’m not saying that Jeff Halsam was right in doing what he did, but I do think it was foolish of him to do it in such a public way. If I were his company’s publicist, I’d be freaking out, because this has all the makings of a PR nightmare.

As a publicist, I would never, ever turn down any kind of possible publicity, whether it’s from someone who gets paid to write reviews or not. A great example is Miss 604. If Rebecca writes a post on one of my clients, I know that post will be seen by thousands of people that day. Rebecca doesn’t get paid to write her primary blog, but her popularity is such that, even though she’s not a formal reviewer, I still welcome her to write because I know it will be excellent exposure.

What do you think? Do reviewers, formal or informal, have too much power? As a producer, do you have the right to tell them to sod off? (sorry, I’m in Australia right now).

As ever, I look forward to reading your comments below.

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Who’s the Boss? July 21, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Future planning,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:59 am

The other day, I was driving down the street, and I saw this woman on the sidewalk wearing the most amazingly put-together outfit: dress, shoes, hose, accessories, she looked like she was straight from the streets of NYC. I remember thinking it was the kind of outfit Carrie Bradshaw would have worn.

But despite her incredible outfit, there was something about this woman that looked not quite right. It took me a while to figure it out: it was as if the outfit was wearing her, rather than the other way around.

I’ve been thinking about my business in this way a lot lately: who’s the boss? Me or my business?

I often bemoan my inability to have vision to the members of my small business group. I often feel like my business is running me, rather than the other way around. Having said that, it’s running pretty well: I have more work than I know what to do with, and I’m taking on an office and expanding in the fall. I’ll be teaching a course on social media for artists at Emily Carr in the fall, and I just got invited to go to Melbourne to do social media workshops with the indie theatre community there.

Maybe it’s enough?

Maybe torturing myself over my lack of a 5-year plan is ridiculous. Maybe I should look at all my successes and be grateful (I am!), and leave it at that, roll with the punches, see what’s over the next hill?

Yes, books like The E-Myth and lots more urge you to have a plan for your business, and I did, when I started out. I guess the advantage of having a business plan is that you have a final goal in mind: you have a vision for what success looks like. And then you create the plan to get you there. But even the best laid plans sometimes need to shift and change sometimes.

So, what do you think? is it enough that I am doing fine, things are going well? Or is it time for me to hire a small business coach? Those of you out there who are running small businesses, do you have a plan?

Photo by Pink Monkey Studios

I already hired a stylist, so watch out Carrie Bradshaw!

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Now is the winter of our discontent July 19, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:52 am
Tags: , , ,

I must confess, motivation to get work done has been a bit of an issue for me lately.

Maybe it’s because it’s summer, and the weather is good, and I’d rather be outdoors than chained to my computer.

Maybe it’s because I had a really busy summer, and am feeling burnt out and like I need a break.

Maybe it’s the 7-yr-old I’m hanging out with.

Whatever it is, it seems like it’s harder to get myself to focus and “put my nose to the grindstone,” as my dad always says. (what kind of an expression is that?? Hmm… research for a future blog post…)

Sometimes lack of motivation can have a deeper meaning. Like, you’re not motivated because  you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, even though you have been passionate about it in the past.

Many creatives will move from one art form to another, or be constantly seeking out new forms of expression. It’s just who we are. We like new challenges, and once we feel like we’ve “been there, done that,” our interest in that topic can wane and we’ll start to look for the next thing. It’s at this point that your motivation drops.

My friend, Carla Reiger, wrote a book that looks at change and reinvention through a work of fiction (it’s a great read, and has it’s origins in a true story, but this isn’t a book review post!). Last week she wrote this great post for her blog, and I wanted to share it with you.

It’s about that transition time in our lives when we are inbetween worlds: with one foot still in our old life (because of finances, for example), and not still entirely in our new life. It’s a tough time: awkward, often painful, but ultimately neseciary, and so rewarding when you emerge on the other side.

People are reinventing themselves at a rate never before seen in history–and it is growing exponentially. As the world changes, the way you belong to the world keeps changing, too. Yet, few of us have had a role model for reinventing ourselves over and over again. Just a generation or two ago people tended to stay in the same job, career, home, and relationship their entire life.

As a result, there exists a huge proportion of people perpetually in transition and entirely challenged about how to deal with it. Transitions are especially uncomfortable when you are between two worlds. You can’t go back to the old, but you haven’t yet found your way with the new. It’s like the winter of change when the old harvest is now gone and the new one needs time before it can manifest.

Carla has developed a tool for helping you to go through this change process, and you can read the rest of the blog post, and find out more information about her Art of Reinvention white paper here.

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The E-Myth July 12, 2010

Ah, summer’s here. My schedule is slower, I’m only working a couple of hours a day. After that, I am mostly pool- and park-side with my 7-yr-old son. There are certainly worse ways to spend a summer.

While he’s doing his thing, I’m doing mine: and that often means that I’m catching up on my business book reading. This week, I finally finished The E-Myth. More about that in a sec.

In a not-unrelated segue, I also went to Canadian Tire last week to purchase a chair for my patio. It’s one of those ones that folds up into a little bag, so it comes with me to the pool, the park, or camping. While I was in Canadian Tire, a young, clean looking young woman came up to me and asked me if I’d like to collect a boat-load of extra Canadian Tire money, and if I’d like to continue to collect extra money on all my Canadian Tire purchases. It took me maybe about 5 seconds to realize that she was really trying to sell me a Canadian Tire credit card.

I thanked her, told her I already had all the credit cards I need, and went about my business.

But as I walked away, I felt a mixture of emotions. First, I felt bad for that girl. Bad, because I’ve been in University and had to do crappy sales jobs, too. Bad because she was just doing what she was trained to do, and was probably pretty good at it, but it wasn’t working on me (maybe making me feel bad was a sales tactic? I’d apply for a card out of pity?) I also felt a bit angry, which is how I always feel when I’m being “marketed at” either in person, or by phone.

Back to The E-Myth. There’s some good stuff in there.  For example, I really love how Gerber talks about how you should run your business, not have your business run you, and this little gem: “your business is a means rather than an end, a vehicle to enrich your life rather than one that drains the life you have.” I will probably write more about the parts of the book I really enjoyed at a later date, once I’ve had time to digest it all and implement some of the practices Gerber talks about.

Having said that, it has taken me a long time to get through this book, and here is why: Gerber’s model is based on franchising. The whole goal of any business, he says, should be to franchise, OR to build their business to a place where they can sell it and retire. A great idea in theory, but it feels outdated to me.

In the Chapter 18, he talks about selling methods, and guess what? His system is exactly the system that that young woman at Canadian Tire tried to use on me!

Why doesn’t it work?

Franchises and sales strategies are based upon a couple of things: first off, each client should have exactly the same experience. So, if I walk into the Starbucks around the corner from my house, or the one on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, I should basically have the same experience in terms of decor, service, and menu. Our young woman’s sales pitch was based on a script that her bosses know will not work the majority of the time. But based on sheer volume, they figure they can get enough profit, anyway.

What’s missing for me, in both of these scenarios, is the personal touch. The individual, getting-to-know-you stage. I can walk into any Starbucks and order an Americano Misto, and know what I’m going to get. But I won’t know the person behind the counter, like I do at the smaller, independently-owned coffee shop on Commercial Drive that I like to frequent (their coffee is also way better than Starbucks, but that’s another post). If that gal knew me better, she’d know that I am a staunch believer in having only 2 credit cards: one personal, and one business. I’m not her target market.

For me, this book felt outdated, and the tone of it, honestly, was a bit condescending. However, there were some good things in it, as well, and I will devote another post to the things about it liked.

In the mean time, feel free to disagree with me….

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Why we need award shows like the Jessies June 23, 2010

Monday night, here in Vancouver, we celebrated The 28th Annual Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Vancouver cultural landscape, The Jessies are our answer to Toronto’s Doras or Broadway’s Tony Awards. They honour theatre excellence over the past year.

You can say what you like about awards shows: that they don’t really mean anything, that they are shallow, that the same people are nominated and win every year.

But what I witnessed Monday night was none of those things.

What I witnessed was unbelievable support for each other, and rallying in the face of some really, really dark and difficult times. I saw a lot of love. I saw a note of glamor in our otherwise “I wear Stage Manager’s blacks” lives. I saw us not take ourselves too seriously.

@SMLois and I clean up pretty good!

Let’s face it, since the first round of arts cuts in August last year, our community has been reeling. A conversation I had with Bill Millerd, Artistic Managing Director of The Arts Club, indicated that they may need to turn to programming smaller shows: 2-3 handers, instead of the bigger-cast, bigger-budget stuff they have been doing. Deb Pickman of the Shameless Hussys joked (seriously) that they can only afford to do one-woman shows from here in, and Ruby Slippers Theatre has put a list of shows that have been canceled on their blog.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year from these arts cuts, it’s that we have the ability to come together and make a lot of noise as a community. Our whole is indeed greater than the sum of our parts. And part of what the Jessies are about are celebrating that community and the strength we have when we get together.

We only really get to do this once a year. All the other times, we see each other in our shows, on stage, or at openings or workshops. But this one night of the year, we get to come together and not work and hang out and laugh and celebrate.

For me, the acceptance speech of the night belonged to Anthony F. Ingram, for Shameless Hussy’s Frozen. “I’d like to dedicate this to my dad Gary who fought so hard for me not to do this, and over the last few years has become one of my biggest supporters. He thanked me for showing him that theatre can open your eyes to the world.” He added, “This is not a community–it’s an industry. Maybe if we start calling it an industry, the government will listen to us.”

The full list of the nights winners can be found on the Jessie Awards website.

I’d like to especially congratulate the producers of the shows I got to work on: Touchstone Theatre, Presentation House, and Leaky Heaven Circus.

You can read  Miss604’s LiveBlog of the event here.

And, remember a couple of weeks ago when I said that Laara Sadiq was my favorite in the best actress, small theatre category? Well, she won.

Here is her acceptance speech:

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Being and artist and a parent June 9, 2010

At Babz’ memorial service a couple of weeks ago, it was mentioned many, many times how, “her kids were her life.” Babz had three children: Aviv, Orpheo and Jordana, and I think, at times, their lives were a little crazy. Babz was a singer with a band, and her kids went with her.

Babz' family at the memorial service. Wendy D photo

It started me thinking about those of us that choose to be artists and parents. What we sacrifice for our kids, and what we can’t…

I have a deep admiration for Christine Willes. I first worked with this talented actress a few years back when she directed a production of Metamorphoses that took place at Pacific Theatre. I was very happy to hear that Christine is going to be in a production that I am doing publicity for that opens Friday at the PTC Studio: Herr Beckmann’s People. When I first met Christine, I was adjusting to my new status as a single parent, and we had some really great conversations about parenting solo and being an artist. Christine made the choice to continue in the arts and to raise her two children. And she did it–by securing quirky character roles in cult series like Dead Like Me and Reaper. Her kids are now grown, but she is a real inspiration.

I am also very inspired by Rachael Chatoor, someone that I met through Babz, but have become friends with on another, deeper level. Rachael is a singer, performer and mother of two children, 6 and 10. Rachael says:

Rachael Chatoor

My life changed when I had a child because I was no longer living for myself.

I did sacrifice for a few years, and as my children grew as I spent every waking moment seeing to them, but later, I learned that I could honour them best by also living my best, most creative life, by chasing my own dreams and leading by example. I do feel that we may sacrifice too much when we only live to serve our children. If we don’t stop doing this then once they are grown and are out on their own, they will wonder “Why isn’t the world serving me”? and they may not be fully able to chase their dreams. If they are never left alone to fill their own time you rob them of the need to create, they just sit there waiting to be told what to do.

How does she manage as a single parent who is out gigging on weekend nights?
I have a great village, there is one free room in my house and I have given it away to a room mate who exchanges child care for it. I also am lucky to have lots of family who will take the kids if I have out of town shows.
For a slightly different (ie: male!) perspective, I talked to my old friend Bart Anderson. Bart is an instructor in the acting program at VFS, and will star with his old Ryerson buddy, Eric McCormack, in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Arts Club opening July 22. He is also dad to Louisa, and his wife, Hillary, who also works at VFS, is pregnant with their second child. Congratulations, Bart and Hillary!
Here’s what Bart says about parenthood and being an actor:
Life has changed dramatically since Louisa was born… to the degree that I’ve forgotten almost all of it!! Gone are those Friday nights home alone, exfoliating, snackin’ on Doritos, watching a movie and wondering when I’d meet that special gal. My life was ready for an overhaul and I welcomed all of it!!
The struggle to keep alive, financially has amplified, and the focus quickly shifted to creating stability (or the illusion anyway). And the love… there is so much joy and love in my life. That changed how I see it all: a bit more compassion and clarity of purpose.
I don’t do as much of the non-paying work I used to before having a family. I would get involved in things knowing there was no money, for all the reasons we do as actors. I’m more selective now. I love collaborating with friends and the students at VFS, I do these kinds of projects when there is time. Hilary is an actor, director and works in wardrobe as well. and we make sure we continue to do projects we feel passionate about.
How do they juggle childcare? Creatively!
We have Louisa in daycare Monday to Wednesday. Hilary has Thursday off, and I get Friday  off from VFS… we have our weekends and our weeknights to play!!
It can be tough being an artist and having kids. But every single person I spoke to echoed the same sentiment: it’s worth it.
How about you? For those of you out there that pursue an artistic life and have kids, how do you manage it? What have you sacrificed? Do you have regrets?

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