It's my first official blog post writing from the perspective of an entrepreneur and I had desperately wanted to avoid the trite format of a lisitcle. I'm a firm believer that the story should always dictate the form not the other way around, and after many re-writes it's apparent that my mind wants to present these thoughts in list form.
Arrogance is often seen as a bad quality and un-checked it is. However there is a certain amount of arrogance inherent in any ambitious pursuit. I want to get paid to tell stories, there are lots of people who want to get paid to do that and not all of us will, so I would like it to be me and not those other people. We rarely think of our artistic dreams that way, but that "me over them" mentality is true of any competitive industry. A movie has only one lead, so not everyone can be the lead. Often times hearing fellow actors bemoan not getting a part, or when I didn't get the part we often say things like "I'm talented, I work hard, I deserve it." We're not wrong but the thing that is more difficult to face is that at a certain level you are only competing against other people who are talented, work hard, and deserve it. So much of our self-esteem as artists hinges on those three qualities and they essentially get cancelled out. So what does me being arrogant have to do with starting my own media company? You know when you really deserve the part you want? When you wrote the story, are the producer, and own the distribution platform. Like I said, I'm a little arrogant, I like being the person with the ace up her sleeve.
If I were to summarize all the useful advice I've gotten from acting coaches over the years it would sound something like this: "Do great work, keep training, and be patient once you've made your mark casting directors will put calls out for 'a Kelsey Goldberg type.' " Summary of my best writing advice: "Write every day, write new things, and be patient." Summary of best advice for me as a comedian "Perform as often as you can, hone your craft, and be patient.' Here's the thing- I'm not patient. I think it ties in with that arrogance, or maybe it's because I was shaped to much by instant gratifications consumer habits, but I like things to move fast. So all the advice about being patient... no thank you. Furthermore, with so much UGC (user generated content) I don't see the need to be. Yes you want to make sure the work you are producing is at a quality that you can be proud of. But completing a project and putting your work out into the world do be scrutinized is an accomplishment. And in a world where creators allow so much insight into their daily lives whether it be through vlogging, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. Putting work out there and allowing people to see me grow as an artist is a great experience. More over, I get to put work out there. Even when it doesn't pay that is creatively satisfying and what is the point of being an "artist" if your going to prostrate yourself in front of casting directors in hopes of being cast in something that yes, pays, but doesn't feed your artistic soul? You need a both to survive.
It's not that I think I know how to do it better, I know that often times I don't. It's that if I don't understand the decisions being made I get frustrated and pretty anxious. Well, I don't know what producers are thinking in terms of buying a scrip or hiring, I don't know what casting directors are looking for, when I book something my job is to bring the words to life- not have opinions on them, and I don't get a say in how the project is marketed, Even when you book something, even when you give a dynamite performance, you have no control over the success of the project. I am way to controlling for that. So when the opportunity to run a media company presented itself I knew that I needed to jump at it. Sure there are still things out of my control but I'm part of the conversation of how we solve them. Not enough traffic to the site? Let's look at the analytics, what can we do? I have a feeling of actively participating in the success of my company and my career every single day. While I've always lived by the mantra "do something every day in service to being a better artist," and I still do that, this is the first time I feel like I'm doing something every day that is in service to being a successful artist. That is an immensely freeing feeling and the quality of my work has improved by being this empowered.
I'm not even that poor, in fact I am incredibly fortunate in many ways, but my savings is meager and it's growth is plodding. Monetizing your work is incredibly difficult. Sure you can (and should) monetize your videos on Youtube but the ROI (return on investment) is very small. Working full time at a job for money and full time on your career is exhausting. It was always exhausting but as I get closer and closer to my 30th birthday my ability to thrive on no sleep is steadily decreasing. I want my only job to be creating content and needed to figure out how to do that without needing to become a sugar baby or create content that is purely pandering for views and sponsors. By owning a distribution platform AK47 is part production house, part publisher. Which means we can approach brands and marketers as a publisher. We have a multitude of options for advertisers which could generate profit. This is great because it means eventually we can pay ourselves. And while there is a certain amount of patience (ugh!) required in growing our audience to the point where we are useful to advertisers, knowing that there is profitability at the end of the tunnel is extremely motivating. As well it means we don't really need to think about profitability in terms of our non-branded scripted content. Those shows don't need to be profitable (though it's certainly better if they are). If people watch them it boosts our audience which boosts the value of the branded content. By separating them we are able to be more discerning in our creative choices which is ultimately to the benefit of both wings of our company.
"Use every tool in your arsenal." That's good advice for any career, and the arts is no exception. We see it all the time with actors, leaning in to the skills that set them apart. Great martial arts background? That's featured on your resume. Really, really, ridiculously good looking? That's shown on your headshot. Really smart? That's... It's unfair to say that's not an advantage- of course it. Your work will be of a higher quality if there's an intelligence to your acting choices. It's not as marketable as other skills though. Ultimately you don't need to be smart to play a smart character. When I first got out of theatre school I wasn't really happy with the types of roles I was getting, and I was even less thrilled with their infrequency. Desperately looking for an outlet I got some really good advice- "your smart, you've always been a good writer, start writing something for you to be in." So I did, and it turns out I was good at writing. But like with acting it still required a lot of hoping someone else would choose me. I can't plan a future on hoping someone else will think I'm worthy, at least not while staying sane. So when the opportunity to start the publishing arm of our company presented itself Allison and I knew not only should we do it, but that we could it it, because we are smart, and hard working and deserve success we are creating an environment where every action we take is directly working towards our own success. Whether it takes six months or three years (please let it be the six months option) we spend every day taking steps that directly contributes to our future success as artists and business women. I won't speak for Allison, but for me my career has felt like I might be on a hamster wheel. Running as hard as I could without ever knowing if I was going somewhere. For the first time in my career I feel like I'm running on the ground and you can't put a price on that feeling.
- Kelsey Goldberg
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