Building An Arts Community

At the beginning of the year, I talked about wanting to put together a “creative support group“.  I said:

I’d like to propose a regular get-together of creative people.  Coffee (or beer for those who drink it) at some place where we can sit and talk about theatre, or writing (or whatever) in the hopes that I can keep the creative juices flowing (and hopefully so can the other folks participating).

A few people contacted me, so we made a Facebook group, and we’ve had a couple of meetings.  Basically, its people who have a creative leaning getting together and talking about the things that they are working on, general encouragement, and just socializing with people who create.

Last night, we happened to be discussing yesterday’s post, and we started talking about the disparate arts disciplines.  The people who met yesterday were predominantly of theatrical disciplines and we were discussing how there is a distinct lack of “community”.  We talked about how the theatre “community” exists on something of an existential level: theatre folks tend to meet up while working on a project, and then go their separate ways.  One of the folks called the “theatre community” more of an underground brother (or sister)-hood.  If you extend the community discussion to include other disciplines, things get more muddy.  How many of us network with dancers, or painters or sculptors, etc?  Very few of us, we found.

Why don’t we socialize with artists from other disciplines?  And if we don’t, how can we possibly become the kind of “boosters” of the arts in general, that I talked about yesterday?

When I first started organizing the “support group for creative people”, I envisioned it as something that encompassed artists of many disciplines.  Due to the network of people I have friended on Facebook, most of those who have joined in the group have been theatre people.  But I’d love to have dancers, other performers, and artists from non-performing disciplines join us.

I have found the regular get-togethers of this “support group” to be creatively invigorating.  I’d encourage you to form your own: gather together artists of all stripes, and talk about what you’re working on, encourage each other, learn about the arts that you don’t “get”, and keep yourself inspired through interacting with other creative people.

And maybe, if we all do something like this, we’ll start building the kind of unified community that can better become the kind of arts boosters we need to be in order to help bring more audiences to art in general, so that we can all

“make the case for the case for the relevancy and value of our art”?

Continued Musings on Social Networks

I’ve been continuing my musings on a social network for entertainment industry professionals. The more I think about it, the more I am seeing that the current social networks do not serve the entertainment industry well. Sites like LinkedIn are work well for people in traditional industries, but for people like actors, dancers, and other entertainment industry professions, LinkedIn fails.

Social Networks like Linkedin or Facebook become too cluttered with other information and applications and don’t provide ways for people in the industry to properly connect. I guess the real problem is that they are not focused on what people in the industry might want or need. And why should they? Sites like Linkedin and Facebook aren’t really for us. They are for other people. People who have “normal” careers.

So, what would a social network for people in the entertainment industry be? What features should it have? A few that I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Discussion groups
  • Easily updated resumes
  • Photo gallery
  • Twitter/Google Buzz/ integration
  • Email notifications (and the ability to turn them on or off)
  • Simple way of connecting with others
  • Such a network should also be simple to navigate and use. Ideally, anyone who was familiar with Facebook or Myspace would have no trouble in using it.
  • Should be focused on network rather than the social.

What other features should a social network for people in the entertainment industry have?

Agent Search – Suggestions Welcome

Years ago, just before I “left the business” for five years, I started a search for an agent.  This was interrupted by the realization that a large scale project I produced had left me burned out and no longer passionate about theatre/acting.  So I left it, giving up the agent search and telling myself that I would never go back to it.

Five years later, I tentatively returned to acting, telling myself it was a hobby and that I would stick with my day job and just do plays and things when it was convenient (usually when people asked me), and I didn’t bother to take up the agent hunt again, because…well, why would I if it wasn’t something I was intending to do as a profession?

Of course, that couldn’t last.  The theatre bug, once it bites, is incurable.  It might go into remission, but it will never truly go away.  And once the passion for it returned, I had to admit that the “day job” I was working was not enough. Doing the occasional play or film was not enough.  And so, recently I’ve been thinking about how to do more, and I’ve had to accept that really, if I want to do more acting, I need an agent.

Its been a while since I was in the market for an agent, and during that time, I could talk about being relatively new to the business.  Now, I’m 40 and can no longer make that claim.  If you are an unrepresented actor, later in life, what is the best approach for introducing yourself to an agent?  Any suggestions how to go about this?  Any suggestions for agents who might be in the market for a..well, a me?

The club

A while back a friend of mine had a dream, in which they visited me in Toronto.  In the dream, in the course of showing them around the city, I took them to a club for actors.  Not a night club, but a “club” in the classic sense: you know like a place where people go to hang out, play cards (or whatever), talk shop, and socialize.  I told her that there was no such place, but had to admit that it was a shame that no such place existed.  And it really is.

As I mentioned before, when actors come together to work on a show, they form an ad hoc family, and when the show is over, that family dissolves.  That family will never be together in that way ever again.  During the rehearsal process, that family of actors socializes, networks, talks and acts as a support group.  It is, for a brief while, a community.  One that separates all too quickly.

What if there was a social club for actors? A place where we could get together, hang out, chat about the business, or chat about something other than the business.  A place where a community could be formed that lasts longer than a show or a season.

What’s preventing this from happening right now?  Perhaps location.  One couldn’t expect to have a designated location right away (as nice as that might be).  But what about a restaurant or bar or pub?  The place would have to be quiet enough that people could talk, it would have to have a reasonably priced food (both vegetarian and not), and it would have to be welcoming to the group.  Or perhaps, instead of that, start off with a pot-luck dinner type thing.

Either way, as far as I can see, we could all benefit from such a thing.  A place where we could form a community, where we could benefit from each others’ experiences, and where we could socialize with like minded people.