Relationships are Everywhere

community cultivation Oct 23, 2022

No matter where you end up in the acting and entertainment industry, it's always important to remember the value of building long-lasting relationships. Whether you're walking into an audition room, rehearsal environment, live set, fancy premiere, or dinner party, you never know who you might meet and how that potential relationship could change the course of your entire life and career.

 Up-and-coming actors need to understand that the relationships they build in the arts can be some of the most valuable ones they'll ever have. These relationships can open up doors of opportunity and offer a chance to collaborate with some of the most talented and creative people in the business. And here’s another thing: they can even provide the support and guidance of a second family.

 In my early teens we moved far away from my immediate relatives, and the arts became a rich and fulfilling chosen family of my own. Building a community of like-minded, creative, generous, and multi-faceted artists ensures my career can receive consistent support. It ensures I have a trusted network I can lean on for guidance, favors, connections, collaborations, and a sense of purpose. When you find your tribe of fellow creatives, you rarely feel alone or lost. You'll always have a network to rely on for inspiration, motivation, and advice. Plus, being part of a supportive community can help you stay accountable to your creative goals and make lasting progress in any stage of your career.

 You Get What You Give

 The right relationship can open doors that you never even knew existed. It can give you the opportunity to audition for a role you never would have otherwise, or get you access to movers and shakers whose decisions can make or break careers. But it's not just about what you can get from relationships. It's also about what you can give.

 One thing actors at any stage of their careers can do is serve as mentors in their community by providing guidance and support to others. You don’t have to be Meryl Streep to be a mentor. There is no EGOT cost of admission to filling this role. All it requires is the generosity to share your perspective and hard-won wisdom. This not only benefits the careers of artists even less well-known than you but elevates your own by helping build your reputation as a knowledgeable and experienced actor, and by providing you with the opportunity to share hard-earned knowledge with others. Mentoring is an effective and emotionally gratifying way to help actors network and connect with other professionals in the industry, which can ultimately lead to the new opportunities and connections that will get you that EGOT.

 It's hard to argue with the fact that actors who are well-connected and have good relationships with casting directors, producers, and other industry professionals are more likely to be considered for roles than those who never bothered putting in the work to cultivate these relationships. Actors who see networking as out of their wheelhouse or “not central to their intellectual project” may have difficulty getting information about new projects, and may miss out on opportunities to audition or be considered for roles. Even worse, they’ll be known as self-serving jerks by a community that truly relies on the power of others for growth, development, and support.

 Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you find it difficult to build relationships, take some time to learn from people for whom it comes more easily. Ask them for advice – what strategies do they use? What tips could they give you for overcoming your own discomfort? If your concerns are more deep-seated than can be resolved with a few tips, look for additional support. Your talent and ability are important, but in many ways the relationships you make are even more so.

 The best way to do this is to attend industry events, workshops, and meet-and-greets. Get your name out there and let people know what you do. Talk to as many people as possible and be sure to exchange socials or contact info. You can get involved with theater or film festivals, follow industry news and connect with your peers on social media. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm ways to collaborate with other actors on creative projects. 

I remember taking a trip down to North Carolina around the time my theater company was just getting off the ground. I hadn’t planned to go out that night—so much work to do even then!—but perhaps a swanky party at a high-ceilinged loft, which belonged to a local businessman and community leader, was just the respite I needed. At the party, I got into a random conversation with a producer from Winston-Salem, and a friendly chat soon turned into an impassioned professional brainstorm. I could have stayed in that night—perhaps doing more conventionally productive things—but this chance encounter turned into one of the most influential mentorship relationships to date: a fierce advocate, investor, mentor and friend. As of today, we are on our fifth major collaboration. 

 It can be easy to get caught up in the non-stop elements of your creative business, including auditions, financials, social media, the ups and downs of motivation, and booking (or not booking). But even as everything comes careening at you, look for those windows of opportunity to forge or deepen relationships. The more people you know, the more opportunities you will have. So get out there and start meeting people. You never know where it will lead.

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