Friday, 29 November 2013

Do Nothing or Go around in Circles

It seems to me that we creatives get so busy busy busy its hard to slow down and appreciate what we've achieved, done or even are doing.

I'm suffering from a surplus of stress, anxiety, and general busy-ness right now. So after listening to a particularly inspiring lecture earlier this week, I decided I needed time to 'do nothing'. Right now.

As Oscar Wilde says "To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual"

If we take a step back in time, and think of all great artists (when I say artists I mean all creatives) you begin to remember that time, space and thought are provided for creative inspiration.
Too often in this day of connectivity 24/7 and fame orientated mind sets its easy for the creative individual to get lost and forget that nothing is a part of our creative process. Nothing, or rather time spent doing nothing in particular is crucial to fuel our creative fires.

As when the fire goes out dumping fuel on it will not help in the slightest. Or rather coffee can only get you so far!

Writers need to fantasise
Actors need to feel
Painters need to think
Directors need to watch

We all need this crucial time to just sit/walk and let the world go past.

Recently I was wonderfully surprised at the Paul Klee exhibition happening at the Tate Modern. It was fantastic, to see this artist who I had no idea about (yep I called him kl-ee not kl-ay). His method of work though, was inspiring. He would meditate on his paintings, smoking, watching and thinking. He'd spend hours watching and 'inner listening' then would add a touch of colour here, a pencil line there....

Meditating, taking time to think and let the inspiration come? Well, I'm terrible at this! I agree its the hardest thing to do. Make time to do nothing. But what about my list of 10 million different things and projects that were due last week?!

I have realised that a lot of what we do as creative people is fuelled by this idea of "busyness". This affects not only me, but when I think of my industry friends and contacts we all are so busy all the time we can rarely meet up for a chat!
What is the point of all this busyness? Are we just running in circles and avoiding whats underneath?

Dr Burton, who wrote a wonderful article called "Why its so Difficult to Do Nothing", which I highly suggest you read. He described the difficulty as stemming from Manic Defence. "The manic defence is the tendency, when presented with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, to distract the conscious mind either with a flurry of activity or with the opposite thoughts or feelings"

As Dr Burton writes: "Indeed, the essence of the manic defence is to prevent feelings of helplessness and despair from entering the conscious mind by occupying it with opposite feelings of euphoria, purposeful activity, and omnipotent control. "

Interesting. Being a creative makes us vulnerable to being out of control (especially actors), we cannot plan our career, we cannot be rewarded with a pay rise. Very often any brief success can easily become a distant memory which we continually strive to reach again. In the same token continual striving can mask our inner feelings of inadequacy, unfulfilled ambitions and hopelessness.
So in some way to gain control over our lives, gain a sense of purpose, and direction in our careers, keeping busy makes us feel like we are "getting it done", "working hard" when the opposite might be true.

I took up a challenge earlier this year as part of my New Years Resolution to MAKE TIME.
Now I can tell you that it didn't neccessarily involve countless jobs, auditions and work coming my way. But the upside was that suddenly I was free to enjoy my life that had previously been passing me by in an eternal check list of things to do and people to meet with.
I felt more grounded and happier, and was able to get perspective on my life, where I wanted my career to go and make decisions that turned out to be career and life changing. Then of course time, months and busyness got the better of me again.

So whilst the busyness can serve a purpose, I feel that I'm a little bit wiser about why it happens and what I'm doing that makes this happen.

So my advice and my resolution is to make time to just be, just sit, watch, ponder, walk, and let the world turn. Because after all, each minute you waste in busyness is another minute of your life that you'll never again relive.

Look forward to any comments or suggestions you might have!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Good Things come to those who Create!

Hi all,
Its been a busy few months working up to my latest project A Perfect Soldier.
For those of you who might not know, I've been crazily promoting and pulling together wonderful sponsors to help finance the project.
We've now finished the Indiegogo Campaign and hit just under our £5k mark. (Although quite a few donations didn't go through Indiegogo!).
Check out our campaign video:

Check out our website as you can still help us out via paypal donations or skills. We like skills.

Anyway this post is about creating and empowering.
As you might have seen from my last post a few months back, things were a bit depressing. This was due to a number of factors, lack of good work, lack of good auditions, misunderstandings with my agent etc etc.
It all combined to make me unhappy and thereby unsatisfied with my work and career (although are we ever really satisfied?).

So fast track a few months forward and I've a lovely new agent Nancy Hudson Associates (a goddess send), beautiful new headshots courtesy of Helen Murray (check them out on my site) and  have an exciting new sci-fi project to throw myself into with some talented & motivated people.

Things are good. But its hard to keep this enthusiasm going and harder still to stay inspired. Especially when, as an actor you rely on others to get the project up so you can act in it, and even after weeks of rehearsals that can go pear-shaped. As it did with a project I was working on recently. Luckily its only delayed shooting a few months and not cancelled entirely.

So I wrote 7 Steps to Empower your Career, an article for actors who might be feeling the same way I did a few months back. Something to inspire and get you back on your feet walking in the right direction.
As Buddah said, 'There are many roads up the mountain' and there is no one path that will lead everyone to a desired destination.

Also its to remind us that to be truly satisfied with our careers, we need to get out there and satisfy ourselves. No one else will do it for us!

I'd love to hear your comments on this and any successes or cautions you might have! So please do comment.

Read it below or here on the ActorBase site.

7 Steps to empower your work and career

Jade Alexander is a London-based actor/producer with a special interest in genre films, her latest project, A Perfect Soldier is currently in pre-production.

The film industry has traditionally been made up of many people working in different roles with very specialized skill sets. However as budgets are being cut, we are having to expand our skills to be able to compete in this already overcrowded market. So how do we stay true to our creative dreams and achieve the career we’ve always aspired for?

Step 1 : Don’t be afraid

“So what do you do?”

The inevitable question. There I was, at some-or-another networking event, surrounded by industry people.  One group worked for the BFI, another for Paramount, and another for Hanway. Needless to say, it was a little daunting.

“Well,” I began, “I’m an actor and producer, I work freelance in both, and produce commercials and corporates for a company, as well as running my own production company that creates genre films”. Silence reigned for a second and I really wasn’t sure if they were stunned or a bit put off. Then someone said: “But how can you be on both sides of the camera?”

“Well,” I said, “I love having the chance to bring a great story to life and work  with talented people. Getting to choose the script, work with the director as a producer is great, and then once I’m on set I switch into actor and leave everything to my line producer. As long as there are great people involved it works fairly smoothly, and I get to create the work that I’m passionate about.

This is what I see more and more young film creatives doing these days: we’re becoming the self-sufficient generation, imagining, producing, marketing and distributing ourselves.

Step 2: Do it yourself

Gone are the days of waiting by the phone for your agent to call in the next ‘big job’. Every serious actor out there is like a shark searching for blood, or ‘hustling’ as the US actors say. Welcome to the hustle!

It’s no different for the other creatives: filmmakers, editors, even motion graphics guys are expanding their skillsets crossing over disciplines which not only makes them more hire-able, but also able to pursue their creative goals.

Besides I was never very good at waiting around for a phone call.

Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, wrote wisely: “Often it is tenacity, not talent, that rules the day”.  So now we have what a friend terms the “slash” generation: actor-slash-producer-slash-writer-slash-musician. In our overcrowded industry, people are fulfilling their creative dreams by expanding their skills. While it is a still considered a big leap in our industry, the most talented people are making the shift from a very systemised process in which each person focuses on one discipline, to being involved in all aspects of film production. Think Gareth Edwards: a talented visual effects artist turned director, or newcomer Ruari Robinson (Last Days on Mars). You might have heard of actor/directors Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck, Angelina Jolie, and Drew Barrymore. The list goes on.
We work in an industry so overpopulated and oversaturated, that we need to stand up for our creativity, stand out from the crowd and remember to love what we do. We are creative beings (or else we’d do something sensible, like banking!), and need to express that in whatever way possible. Creativity is not going to stand around while I wait for my great role, or the director to spot me.

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain,
All leading in the same direction
So it doesn’t matter which path you take.
The only one wasting time
is the one who runs around and around the mountain
Telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.
Hindu Teaching

For my own part, ‘Acting and Producing’ was something I fell into. I had no idea I was going to be a producer and sometimes I look back and wonder how I got here? Working on both sides of the camera wasn’t even the plan, if indeed anyone can have a plan in this industry.

Step 3: Understand what moves you

I started off as an actor in Sydney, at age 8 in a telemovie and moved onto theatre and film. All did not go to plan as I found myself looking at endless dismal scripts clich├ęd characters that I wouldn’t choose watch as myself.  Coming from Australia, there aren’t a huge amount of films made to begin with and sci-fi genre films are very scarce. As one funding body said,  “We don’t do genre, Hollywood does it better, with more money.” This statement spurred me on towards a path that I’d never even considered, creating the project, also known as producing.

It all happened fairly organically. One night at a film party in Bondi, I’d been speaking about getting a new reel when another actress I just met chimed in that she needed a new reel as well. The filmmaker I spoke to later on revealed he was looking for his next project, and a sound recordist next to him was keen to help. Realising we had an opportunity here I grabbed everyone together at the end of the night and pointed out we could help each other! It was the defining moment for me when I realized I could bring people together to create collaborative and meaningful.

So it was  that my first film(Platinum Chisel) came to be, before I even considered myself a producer! The experience of bringing together diverse talents with a shared goal to make a great film was hugely positive, and paved the way for my interest in production.

Since then I’ve had many adventures in producing, from large scale 4D projects, to shorts, an Adidas commercial shot in Rio and an award winning feature film as well.

 “I never set out to be a businessman…”
Richard Branson

Step 4: Read between the lines

Twin roles are complimentary. I’ve used insights gained from acting in my role as producer on many occasions. During one memorable project I was asked to source a casting director. Of course there are many out there, and while I did make a list of the most suitable candidates, the lead producer wanted my direct input regarding people I had worked with personally. Our ultimate choice (who turned out brilliantly) had actually given me my first big commercial acting role. I’d had a long relationship with her and felt confident in her professionalism, and ability to find the right actors for the job. After getting that big commercial from her, I don’t think either of us ever expected that I’d return the favour a few years later!
As my favourite writer says: “The wheel never stops turning”.

Similarily I use my acting skills in the producing, I’ve produced quite a few corporates & talking heads. Business types are always a bit wary of the camera so I draw on my experience to understand how they are feeling and make use acting techniques to help them give their best.

Step 5: Use everything you can to get there

Both careers help me achieve my goals. I’ve always been an actor, and always will be: its something fundamental to my soul. On the other hand producing is addictive, and when I am involved in a great project on both sides of the camera it’s double happiness! I started my company, Little Jade Productions, to promote up-and-coming talent, and have since created collaborative projects in all different mediums; cabaret, film, shorts, and immersive theatre. The one thing that connects all of them is my love of genre, sci-fi, fantasy and action. My belief is the only way to get noticed and be fulfilled is to keep creating, honing your skills and ‘just keep doing what you’re doing’.

‘Perseverance, secret of all triumphs’
Victor Hugo

Step 6: Collaborate
Whilst its all very well to say go off and create your dreams, the reality is that we cannot do this alone. We need to gather teams around us that support our vision and dreams, as we support theirs. We don’t exist in a vacuum, and I’m sure no one has ever received an Oscar and said ‘Thanks to me”. So gather together your tribe of like minded people who support, inspire you and collaborate with you.

My latest project A Perfect Soldier grew organically from a simple love of sci-fi.
I was pitched the original idea, after doing an interview for an online channel, in the interview I expressed my love of all things sci-fi. Sam Seal, Writer/Editor then mentioned his sci-fi idea and the script was born.

Through the initial idea we managed to gather a formidable all-female production team including Executive Producer Christine Hartland, my Co-Producer Leena Salmela (asst to Noah Baumbach on Frances Ha) and AP Chloe Cronyn as well as a brilliant and passionate director Chamoun Issa.

The collaboration and team input has been invaluable, without them I’d be facing a mountain of obstacles. Having these talented, passionate people on board, contributing their support, takes the project onto a whole new level.

Step 7: Be fearless

On a final note I urge you to explore that artistic unconscious desire, whatever it may be. If you are a ‘slash’ waiting to happen, then take that writing course, put paintbrush on paper or produce that film.

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”
Martha Graham

Hope you enjoyed this article, if you have any comments, queries or would like to read more please go to Jade’s website
Support the latest project :

For information on Little Jade Productions:

Thursday, 25 July 2013

My Dark Night of the Soul

So its been a turbulent couple of weeks, which is why I've neglected to post. It was difficult coming up with something as everything was a bit doom and gloom for a while.
But luckily the storm has now passed, and yesterday I started to see the sunlight trickling through.

Living a creative lifestyle gives you high highs and very low lows. And as I get older & wiser, I start to see that this rollercoaster can be quite addictive - especially to those who like to live life exhuberently and dramatically! (not pointing any fingers ; )

As actors or anyone in the creative industries it can be so difficult to keep faith in what we do, how we do it and in why we are doing it.
We all have the 'dark night of the soul' as Julia Cameron calls it in The Artist's Way, but when we do, how do you emerge from it with new intentions, new goals and new thoughts?

Well I faced my 'dark night of the soul', last week in fact on top of preproduction for a short film that I'm producing and in between auditions and all sorts of other things.
Not fun.
Questions arose - fundamental basic ones such as 'Do I still love what I do?', 'Do I believe in it and in myself?', 'Why is this happening now?' and the biggie - 'Why cant I reach the ridiculously high goals I have in mind for myself?'*
*This question seems to change as you move in your career, in short you will never be satisfied as what you feel will satisfy you only keeps moving out of reach. That carrot dangling just out of reach.

This year I've started to be faced with the idea that being happy with where you are, is actually more fulfilling than continual striving. After speaking to my partner who is a psychiatrist, there is this constant cycle of striving, failure, disapproval which is a self fulfilling prophecy, keeping us from the success, approval, satisfaction cycle.

Then we get sick of the cycle, but instead of rewiring it to the positive, its easier to say 'well, I should get a real job', or 'I should try to work harder', or really 'I would have 'made it' by now if I was talented so just better to move on'.

Yes its a struggle, but faced with that dark night of the soul, I realised that for me, it was a shedding of the old and welcoming the new.
I left my old agent who was lovely but we weren't seeing eye to eye.
I renewed my commitment to classes,
took back control of my career and refocused on what I really want to work on

And suddenly.....

Auditions came pouring in!
Projects started to move forward (see
I've got an interview with another agent!

Its very exciting to feel like I've turned a corner, so if you feel that anything is holding you back, I urge you to let it go. Shed the old skin, take back control of your life and where you want to go!

Here is another inspiring blog about Self Doubt :

So let me know if you have any doubts, any old things you want to shed, or any amazing stories of what happened when you did!
I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, 21 June 2013

All I've got.....

"The tax man's taken all my dough,
And left me in my stately home,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.

And I can't sail my yacht,
He's taken everything I've got,
All I've got's this sunny (!) afternoon...."

So I’ve just returned from Rio and an amazing journey with a commercial project for a big name sports brand.
We had clients, marketing agency, and the event agency plus the actual client and the shoot was a great success. Everyone was enthusiastic, excited and very happy with it all…..

But I’ve come back now and now the exhaustion and emptiness has hit me. Yep that’s right. Exhaustion is obvious as we’ve been working for 3 months up to this point and that’s to be expected.
But emptiness?
Whats that about?

It took me a couple of days to really understand why suddenly I felt so empty, like you’ve spent the last 3 months living someone elses life and suddenly you come home to an empty nest.
Like finishing a run of a great show, where you’ve lived the character and put everything into it, and suddenly…its over.

Similarly my sole focus, my goal has been to produce this project, get it shot and in the can and get it back to the UK so my postproduction team can work on it. And now they are. And my part is almost done……leaving me with a gaping hole where I once was filled with emails, schedules, meeting and more budgets. (oh the budgets).
Now I turn around and my actor self says – ‘hey, where’s my creative fulfillment?’

So I’m throwing myself into my upcoming projects. Yes I’m exhausted, empty but filled with a creative yearning to really get out there and create!
I’m sure you’ve felt this before, an almost insane need to BE CREATIVE whatever that means! From wearing different coloured shoelaces, making lists in different coloured pens, wearing head to toe blue, dancing crazy for no reason, writing or sinking into a fictional world whatever it is – that creative urge is asking to be acknowledged and will drive us crazy until we do!

Now of course this commercial was creative in its own way and very exciting and a real coup for my producer personae. But ultimately it is unsatisfying as my heart needs the creative outlet.

So if you’re feeling this too here’s my advice after several days of feeling blue:

Re-energise: Read, watch, listen whatever your creative consumption is – do it. Go for long walks, watch films, go to an art gallery, experience an immersive piece, listen to music….

Re-envision: where do you want to be in 3 months time? What are your upcoming goals?

Re-boot: What projects have you discarded because you got busy? Can you pick them up again?
Pick up that project you were going to film or make and start it again. Enlist help, and reach out to your networks – you never know what people will bring to the table or what they will surprise you with!

Re-new: Go out, mingle with new people, find new events to attend and get out there. You never know what a chance encounter will bring….

And just B.E.G.I.N – which can be harder than you think.
So take small steps.
Make a small list.
Tick off one item.
Tick off the next.
Repeat until all items are gone or the list is no longer necessary.

On that note, I’m going off to take my own advice.
Continue writing my story of girl named Providence, who needs to find the courage to stand up for her people, after losing her father and being on the run from the law. 

And Reboot my short film A Perfect Soldier and find some exciting collaborators!

See you in 2 weeks time.

And please if you have any thoughts please comment below – I’d love to hear how you manage your work!