When Is A Pencil Not A Pencil?
No this is not an existential question about reality and parallel dimensions. This is a general and genuine dilemma of the self employed.
When you use a pen?
When you work for yourself but work through various agencies you invariably need a really good system of keeping on top of your crazy schedule. Either keep a diary on your phone, google calendar or a good ole fashioned diary. I like a diary because I find it helps to see what’s been filled out for definite (or as definite as something can be) and what’s a maybe or as yet unconfirmed. So, most of my diary entries start off written in pencil, ah ha the answer is that obvious I hear you cry?! Not exactly. Things get pencilled because dates often move around and get changed and otherwise my diary would be a big mess of crossings out that I wouldn’t be able to make any sense of it. I occasionally put some things in with pen, but it’s usually just because I can’t find a pencil.
When it’s a heavy pencil?
No, a heavy pencil is not one owned by giants or made of concrete. A heavy pencil is a term used by agents and bookers. After auditioning or casting for a job what often happens is your agent or booker will ring you to ask you to put certain dates on a pencil but let them know if you get other work in over those dates. That generally means they have a few people in mind they are considering for the job and so if you get other work offered to let them know, sometimes this forces a decision. They will either decide they really want you in which case it will become a heavy pencil, or else they will release you from your dates.
Once on a heavy pencil this basically means they really think they want you but are still deciding for definite and it’s in your best interests to really keep those dates free as you are in for a good shot at the job.
If you are really (un)lucky they will put you on a REALLY heavy pencil!!!!
When it’s a really heavy pencil?
When you get put on a really heavy pencil you usually feel like you are on the edge of a cliff and don’t know wether to throw yourself off or not. You know they definitely like/want you but for whatever reason haven’t confirmed you yet. This could be because the job dates are still being confirmed or because they are still deciding between you and someone else/a whole army of other people. This is the most irritating type of pencil – just decide already!!!! Pick me!!!! This is the point where you are usually debating whether to cancel your holiday/wedding/cats birthday to keep yourself available for the job. This is also the point at which you have usually spent the fee from the job in your head on another holiday/wedding/birthday somewhere down the line which is a really bad thing to do but hard to stop yourself from doing.
Hallelujah I’m confirmed!
Once you have chewed off all your nails stressing over wether you are ever going to get an answer. Now, provided you have prayed to all the right gods, eaten all the right foods done everything you do with your left side of your body with the right side and obsessively checked your phone for a new message/email/voicemail every 30 seconds, you will then get confirmation you are actually doing the job. Hooray!!!! You’ve been booked for the job and as you collapse in a withering heap of joy, you realise you really do need to cancel your cats birthday but, that you can now afford a weekend in Brighton to treat yourself. Suddenly the phone rings…
“The whole of August?”
“On a pencil?”
“C: All you need is love.
S: A girl has got to eat.
C: All you need is love.
S: Or she’ll end up on the streets”
Christian & Satine – Moulin Rouge
As it’s Valentines, I thought Love was an appropriate topic to write about. The dance and theatre world take a lot from you if you are involved in it and so why do I do it? BECAUSE I LOVE IT!!!!! I couldn’t have survived this long if I didn’t and when I say survived that’s exactly the best way to describe it because a lot of the time it’s a fight and if you aren’t prepared to fight then don’t bother even getting started.
“Dance is the hardest profession in the world.
The hardest profession in the world. Hard work!”
Hard Work – Fame, the musical
It’s not enough to have talent, when you get to college and then finally start auditioning as a professional you suddenly realize just how many incredibly talented performers there are out there, which is brilliant and inspiring but can also be really intimidating. There’s plenty of people who work really well for a few years and then drop off the radar and the next thing you have heard they have gone into a totally different career, which is perfectly fine but is a shame when they have trained so hard. It’s a short career for the majority anyway so if you really want to make it a long one then you definitely have to hang on for the ride.
So, how exactly do you do that? There is not that much really well paid work and it quite often is done by a small clique of people. It can be hard to break into that clique of dancers who have been doing those jobs for years and are very established and are best friends with the choreographer but, it can happen. I find as a dancer/choreographer/producer/etc that the best way to survive is to be involved in lots of small projects which means that if something falls through you have other things to fall back on. You really have to be organized. Don’t have a diary? Get one!! Or at least put everything in the calendar on your phone/Ipad/tablet to make sure you don’t get your days wrong and double book yourself. Also, be prepared that some of the jobs you want to do really might not pay that well, at least at the beginning.
Feast or Famine?
When you are self-employed it seems that you are either really, really head spinningly busy or twiddling your thumbs and in danger of being sucked into watching repeats of homes under the hammer (just because). This means you either have money or you don’t a lot of the time and you need to get good at balancing your money so you can still survive when work is thin on the ground. You also need to stop yourself from going crazy when you aren’t busy. Keep improving yourself, go to class, watch amazing dancers on youtube and get inspired, go for a run, find a new hobby. Anything that gets you out of the house and is free is good (dancers love free!!!). Don’t just sit at home and moan. The creative industry is never going to come knocking at your door because there are too many people who are hungry for it if you aren’t. I hear so many younger dancers moaning at auditions or at class and their lack of drive is what lets them down not their lack of talent. It’s really easy to get caught in that cycle of bitching and moaning about how things are in the dance world but you really have to adapt or die so you might as well stop being so negative and try and look at things from a different angle. As Tim Robbins said in the Shawshank Redemption
“It comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living, or get busy dying”
It’s an absolutely brilliant film and if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a great film to curl up with while the weather is raging outside your window. Also, if you haven’t seen it, skip to the next paragraph now because this is a bit of a spoiler alert. The main character Andy Dufresne spends 19 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, all the while chipping away with a tiny hammer to create an escape tunnel. It takes him 19 years of chipping away!!!! He eventually gets out and realizes his dream and finds freedom.
The point i’m trying to make here is that sometimes the dance and creative world can feel like prison, not that I’m trying to depress anyone but you can feel very isolated, not sure what to do next, demoralised and with no way to turn. I’m a realist which is why I’m giving it to you warts and all. It’s not all about glitz and glamour and it is really, really, REALLY hard work. But it can also be the most amazing, rewarding, fun, eye-opening job in the world. It can allow you to meet incredible people, travel the world and do some seriously crazy shit and get paid for it. So, you need to keep chipping away at this business bit by bit and you will get your rewards. It’s a bit like the tortoise and the hare. Some people will get there quicker than others but just stick to your path and if you really want to, you can make it.
Being an artist of any sort means you are actually allowed to be you. Not many jobs really allow you to be you, you have to conform to all kinds of things. Being an artist means total freedom, sometimes this is a bit intimidating but it is pretty incredible. So, in order to really get the most out of it, you just have to love your work and work hard at it. Just like getting the best out of any relationship, you have to love that person and put in some effort to really make it work.
So, in the name of St Valentine:
Love what you do and do what you love, whatever that may be in life
Love Fleur xx
“you consider me the best actor slash model… and not the other way around.” (Zoolander, 2001)
So, most people can probably identify what their job is in around less than 5 words, maybe you are thinking about this now. Well, that’s pretty impossible for me and for most of my friends working in the same industry this is a conversation that’s been had more times than I can count and we still don’t really know how to manage it. This is what I want to say:
I work as a dancer/model/producer/choreographer/dance teacher/VIP hostess/event manager/whatever you need
Too much information!
Lately I have been opting for this:
“My background is as a dancer but I work in Production and Choreography now so I still perform but work as a Creative”
A bit boring but a bit more specific.
In my head my work roles are divided with all these slashes and I hear dancers saying it all the time, “I’m a dancer/actor”, “I’m a dancer/singer”, “I’m a dancer/model”.
Wow, so how is it possible to be all these different people and wear all these different hats?
It aint easy.
Sometimes I feel like it would be easier if I could actually remove my brain and insert a fresh one for each job, there is so much information to juggle. Wurzel gummidge might have been on to something. If you don’t know who he is he was a children’s TV character who was a scarecrow and he had different heads for different occasions. Confused? If you’ve got 10 minutes to waste have a look at this clip or else skip to 3 mins in for a crash course.
Anyway, I thought I’d try my hand at a blog this year and give you a little insight into the life of being a dancer/model/producer/choreographer/dance teacher/VIP hostess/event manager/whatever you need.
Hopefully you’ll find it interesting and even sign up which will give me the kick up the arse I will need to keep it going past January.
Thanks for reading