Creating a sustainable career in the arts is by no means an easy goal. If, like me, you don’t have family connections, access to vast sums of money and equally vast amounts of luck, the barriers can seem insurmountable.
They are not. I now earn a living as a professional director. I have never had a penny of public funding nor would I ever. It has happened from mixture of graft, luck, ability and stubbornness. There really is no right or wrong way, there is just experience and lessons learned from that. I am not saying this is what will work; it worked for me and it might work for you.
Access to audience and other creative talent via blogs and social media is rapidly, in some regions, giving people more opportunity than ever before to become the master of their own destiny. The gate keepers that previously existed, stopping creatives connecting with a wide public, are finally becoming extinct – even if some of them are unaware they are going the way of the dinosaurs.
Simply put, apart from fear and doubt, and often the fears and doubts of other people projected on to us, there is nothing stopping anyone from writing a play, from contacting a local venue for space, from creating a show. Here is where people normally start listing a variety of reasons why they can’t do it and what’s stopping them. I am sure they are valid reasons, but at some point the difficulties must stop, be ignored or somehow overcome. Simple, but not easy.
The worst that could happen is a venue is unhelpful or unresponsive. If so, then ignore them and find a function room in a pub or local church hall. Local councils nationally runs schemes to help create performance space, just ask them they will help you. They won’t approach you, therefore it comes down to your drive.
There are financial and time factors of course, but if this is what the dream is the issues will have to be faced and overcome eventually in order to make your start.
I dropped out of a very lucrative career in advertising, and worked behind a bar and delivered pizza – anything I could do in order to make the transition and start creating my living. There isn’t a job in a theatre I haven’t done and I didn’t allow pride to stop me. I created the right place and it eventually became the right time. Now I work harder than ever before to sustain and develop it.
If you are not getting the roles you feel you should, create them for yourself. If you want to direct, then do so. Don’t like plays that you see? Then write the play you want.
It is simple. Simplicity doesn’t make it easy, but you must be willing to sacrifice and work harder, want it more. If your holiday becomes more important than making your career happen, it’s time to quit. No-one and nothing but your own hard work will help turn your dreams into reality.
Research opportunities, and apply for funds and grants. They exist and are just a Google search away. Never stop working to make it happen – that is the only way that it will. Stop procrastination and start doing something.
Don’t worry about failure. The first time I got a bad review, I thought I was done. Turns out it makes very little difference, and now good and bad reviews I treat exactly the same. Overcoming the fear of failure is one of the hardest things to do but is incredibly liberating, It’s a case of understanding that the sky won’t fall, the higher echelons of the industry really couldn’t care less about failures at our level. Make mistakes, get it wrong and become better for it.
The key ingredient is talent. Add hard work, ambition, passion and luck, and you may stand a chance. No-one said it would be easy. I am living proof it is possible, and you know what? I am not better than you or luckier, or have more contacts. I just got up earlier. If I can do it, why can’t you?
Adam Morley has been in the industry for more than 20 years. He is now the Artistic Director of Baroque Theatre Company and Associate Director of the Canal Café Theatre. @adammorley7