Yesterday, at my voice-over class, I asked my instructor about how she deals with just the mechanics of living while still pursuing her dream. You see, in the world of acting and voice-over, the actual job is to audition. We spend a lot of time trying to get the gig, much more than actually doing any gigs we might get. And since most of the auditions are during the day, and when we do get the gig, it might be days and nights, we have to have work that is very flexible. They have to be okay with us running off periodically or not working for periods of time.
The world isn’t set up this way. Most employers are not going to be okay with this. Most businesses have goals to meet. They are selling services, products, or information and they hired us to take care of some important aspect of that business. To run off at a moments notice, to take off to work for another business, is not sending a message to our employer that we are taking them seriously.
And we’re not, are we? And so we end up with the jobs that we don’t take seriously, that we can dump at anytime, so we can go chasing our dream. We often end up without a job or living hand to mouth. The stereotype of the starving artist comes in loud and clear. The only way it seems like we can have both is by succeeding in our passion. The only way we live well is by being a success in our dream. We cannot live well unless we have succeeded, and even then we have to guard our success.
My instructor said that you have to decide how important your dream is to you. You have to decide what you are willing to do for your “art”.
I started thinking, what is my art? Is acting and voice-over art? Is the fight for auditions art? Is it good art if I succeed and bad art if I fail? Are there not any gray areas? Why do art? What is the payoff? And there’s always a payoff? Is there a payoff when the art is “bad”?
I remember when I did stand-up. I used to tell people, “even if it’s bad, it’s good.” Stand-up is a high. Just getting up there in front of people, whether is 50 people or 5 people, can intoxicate us to the point of addiction. I know comics who don’t have a place to live, yet they are at the open mics, getting up there and doing their art. As long as there is an open mic, the opportunity to do our art exists. We might not always get to go up, but often as not, we are in. We don’t even have to wait for an open mic, we can just talk to people and try our work out without them even knowing it. Stand-up comics do their art by doing their art.
Other art forms are the same way. A painter paints, a sculptor sculpts, a writer writes. You would never say that a painters job is to go out and try to get people to allow him to paint. That’s just crazy talk. A painter paints, and paints, and paints, and might give work away, or show it to his friends, or even have a show and sell the work. No matter what, it does not take away the fact that he is a painter. Success depends on the goals of the individual painter and is a gray area.
The job of the actor, the voice-over artist, is to audition. Their job is to get the job. They may take classes and work very hard at the actual art of acting and voice-over, but there is no final product in doing that. The only way to have something to show, is to be in a film, commercial, or theater show. The only way to succeed is to get the gig. No gig, no success, no gray area.
Actors and voice-over artists who succeed are those who are willing to give up everything for their art. They are willing to give up everything, even though it may mean that they end up on the streets, even though the odds are completely against them. They want so much to be allowed to do their art and art not shared, or that can’t be shared, is no art at all.
I find it depressing to think of acting and voice-over this way. In many ways, acting and voice-over are the “extreme sports” of the art world. The actual doing of the art is completely radical, an encompassing immersion in what it means to be a human being. And isn’t that what art is all about? And yet, for this type of artist, getting the gig is the actual job. The art with the biggest possible payoff demands the most risk, it’s just the way this system works. Maybe that’s acceptable, it is the way economic systems work, but the loss of the potential of these types of artists is tragic.
“You have to decide what you’re willing to do for your art.” What is my art? Is running around trying to get the gig my art? Is the payoff big enough? Is there another way to pursue my art without it being black and white. Art for its own sake. Art that has value in itself.
So, what is my art? I stand here with the question in front of me. I wonder what my art actually is. I imagine what changes in my reality I might have to make in order to do my art. I realize that I need to be the one to decide the value of my own art. I set the intention to do my art, and not run after permission to do it. No apologies, no excuses, no waiting.