There were two key take-aways at the recent ‘Tell Your Story’ event organised by the New York Television Festival in association with the SAG AFTRA Foundation.
- You are in charge of creating your own opportunities
- You have to build a strong network
The event featuring actors, creators and industry professionals, dug into how we can benefit from creating our own projects.
The panel was:
- Ana Fabrega: Comedian and Actress @anafabrega
- Catie Lazarus (Event Moderator): Writer and Host @CatieLazarus
- Cole Escola: Actor and Writer @coleescola
- Conan Smith: Head of Comedy & TV at Don Buchwald & Associates
- Daniel K Issac: Actor and Writer @danielkissac
- Josh Poole: VP Development @AboveAverage (Broadway Video’s digital studio).
On those take-aways …
You’re in Charge of Creating Your Own Opportunities
We’ve given presentations at Google Campus and Freelancers Union where we bang on about the importance of keeping busy. Not in the sense that you’re filling your time with mindless activity; but busy in the sense that you’re always working on a project and therefore have a project to talk about. We’ve interviewed hundreds of people who claim to be really passionate about the industry but when asked what they’re working on the response is “Nothing at the moment as I’m in between contracts”. That’s when we say, next! Both Conan (Agent) and Josh (Studio Exec) noted that they are always looking out for passionate people. This business is tough, so if you really do need to love doing what you’re doing.
Here are a few more reasons to keep yourself busy:
In the case of Mozart in the Jungle Actor Cole Escola, staying busy led to him getting a TV deal. Cole started writing to diversify the roles that he could play. He then made them into videos that he posted to You Tube, and caught the attention of someone over at Viacom, landing him a deal with Logo. Agents and networks are proactively looking for projects that can transition to broadcast TV. In a previous we attended earlier about a month ago, Sundance TV’s John Cooper noted that there’s a burgeoning independent TV market. So, it makes sense for you to make your own stuff and just get it out there.
Billions Actor Daniel Issac’s break-through came after he started documenting the conversations he was having with his deeply religious Korean American Mother. She aspired for her only child to become a preacher, and in his own words Issac proudly states “Instead I’m a gay actor”. He started sharing what he called ‘ridiculous’ exchanges with his Mother on Facebook and Instagram. The warm reception to these updates led to him developing a web series. He raised money for a pilot, which went on to win Best Drama and Best Actor at the New York Television Festival.
Side note – The quickest way to a life full of constant disappointment, is by believing that the hustle will deliver you quick and easy break-through. It won’t. For example, Issac spent a solid month raising the funds for his film. We believe that ‘luck’ is a series of strategic moves being played and adjusted over time. An opinion supported by Agent Conan Smith who said:
Cole and Daniel are living proof that if you want something to happen, you’re the best person to put things in place to effect a change. Don’t wait for opportunity, create it.
Your Network is Your Net Worth
Our recent Production Salary Report (available for free here), shows the largest single source of TV Production professionals getting work is their professional network. In fact 83% of us get work this way. So, if your network is weak, then your bank balance, and chances of improving it in the future, are probably weak too.
The panel collectively spoke of the important of having a support groups and strong network. Many of them run their ideas by their trusted inner circle early on in their development process. Cole was able to pull favours from within his network to get his shorts made. Daniel crowdsourced $28k (almost $10k more than he’d set out to raise) from his network, in order to fund his short film.
But if none of this is proving strong enough to convince you to work on developing your network and strengthening those ties, then maybe Conan Smith’s response to the question of how he handles pitches will:
… and for the curious he rarely, if ever, reaches for the bottom of the pile. So, if you’ve set your aspirations above being at the bottom of the heap, you know what you need to do.
*** Event Announcement ***
In the coming weeks we’re presenting a bite sized seminar ‘Personal Branding in a Digital World’. We’ll post deets on our social feeds as soon as they’re available so keep watching there.