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
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