It was 18:05 on a Thursday and I walked out into the floral air of the concert hall foyer. The room, brimming with gold bannisters and plush carpets, was starting to fill. Tribes of classical music fans packed into the foyer, sipping champagne and pensively flicking through programs as they discussed the affairs of the day.
It was clear that music was not necessarily their primary objective, but rather making sure Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones could see that they’re holding A Reserve tickets – a status symbol employed to demarcate the have and have mores frequently within our audience demographic. It was then I overheard an all too customary conversation between two patrons…
A: “What’s playing tonight?”
B: “Oh, Shostakovich or something, one of these new avant-garde composers that I don’t much care for”
A: “At least we’re not in the stalls like Jane and Bill, I heard he had to sell his Bentley…”
B: “How scandalous! Shall we go and stand in the member’s lounge where everyone can see?”
The entertainment industry at large is a multifaceted and ever expanding beast.
You can find arts and entertainment workers in every country of the world, working at every socio-economic level, in every religion, every race, every format and medium.
From black box puppetry theatre for 15 people to Mega-shows running for decades at thousands of people a night, from Olympic opening ceremonies to spoken word beat poetry in a tiny cafe, there are endless possibilities. With so much possibility – how do you know where you fit?
I spent a long time thinking that ‘the art’ didn’t matter to me. I could be a technician for whatever might come along – School shows? Sure! Indian Arangetram – no problem! Multi-stage music festival in a field – Why not? The event didn’t matter matter because the functionality was the same. That is, until I thought beyond the tasks at hand and dove into a new art form.
This hit home when I was the Head of Production for a state orchestra. For the first time in my career, I was applying my skills and knowledge, my experiences and passion but in an arena so different that it just didn’t compute. The priorities were the polar opposite, the reasons for working were night and day. In short, it wasn’t the right fit.
This shocked me – I’d spent my career up to this point jumping from genre to genre without a problem – why was this different? Understanding this why refined my priorities and made me understand why I do what I do.
Turning back to our patron example at the top of the story, I don’t do what I do for Patron A & B – simply to say they have tickets for what I do. I didn’t last very long in that job.
This incident alongside a few others led to a wonderful modicum of introspection for me, I’d seen things and experienced moments that didn’t feel like the right fit. The question then became what is right for me?
If you’re having similar thoughts or puzzled by your own fit, allow me to pose the following 5 questions:
1. Think about your favourite events – what makes them exciting/fun/exhilarating?
2. Think about your first few shows you ever worked on – what made you come back and keep working in this industry?
3. Think about the goosebumps you get on the back of your neck when a show goes just right, what specifically makes that happen?
4. What gets you out of bed every day to come to work?
5. Close your eyes and picture yourself at work: Where are you? Who else is there? What are you doing? What’s the show?
That show… the one in your mind’s eye that you crave as the example of why you love this industry and job within it… do that! Do lots of that! Never forget what it is that makes you love being part of this wonderful entertainment machine.
For what’s its worth, my answers to the above are as follows:
It’s indeed often not the art form itself but the people and the environment around it. I need to do big shows with big audiences, lots of moving parts with complex problems that need solving. I need to work with people who are amazing at what they do and love what they do as much as I do. I need to know that there’s thousands or tens of thousands of people who I’m helping experience something amazing. That first second or two as the show starts and the crowd goes wild or as that thing that’s just been done onstage is utterly unbelievable to the point where there’s an audible gasp from the crowd – that gives me those goosebumps. To get out of bed I need to do new and interesting and challenging things that make you scratch your head with wonder as to how this could ever be achieved.
Finding your fit in such a diverse and possibility filled industry is something you should evaluate regularly. Don’t become blasé and fall into a rut, don’t settle. There’s way too much cool stuff out there in the world to settle…
Cover Photo Credit: Janusz Ciechowski