The Professionals: The Art of Acting

Image – Shauna Blaize

Interested in acting and dreaming of glamorous nights on the red carpet, a big award speech and champagne flowing parties? Getting into the movie industry or television requires careful planning, grit and a huge dose of business sense. In this two part series, Shauna Blaize, an accomplished model, budding actor, producer and writer, shares her opinions about the art of acting as well as the reality which budding actors may encounter and should prepare for.

When I say actor, I don’t mean the A list celebrities that we see on the red carpet. That is a level that many of us (let’s be honest) won’t get to see. In this business, you are lucky enough to just be a ‘working actor.’ To be a working actor it means that your income comes from acting-you don’t need to waitress, work in a fast food restaurant, basically you don’t need to do any side job(s) and/or mind-numbing work that allows you to eat while going on auditions.

I live in New York and to meet a true actor…it doesn’t happen very often. I meet tons of actors (as a matter of fact who isn’t an actor in this city?) but rarely do I meet any that actually earn their living from acting. So here we are, the “non-working” actors consistently looking for acting work while working that dead end job. Now this is the day to day that you don’t read about too often when you Google “how to be an actor.”

Most people think you take a few classes, get a manager, then a talent agent and then boom! you are on your way. Well not exactly. When you graduate from an acting program at a well-known school like Julliard or NYU for example, they have showcases where agents and managers can come to see you perform and you may get a bite off that. Those of us who did programs at conservatories/studios that are not Ivy League (and for those who didn’t get signed on the spot at a showcase), we have to hit the pavement.

I won’t tell you how to go about getting representation because Lord knows I am not in any position to share the secret as I myself am not privy to it! Also, the truth is that even if you were to obtain representation, your job doesn’t end there. An agent/manager’s job is not exactly to get you a job so much as to put you closer to it. YOU still need to book it. Also keep in mind that you are not the only client your representation has. Even if you are with a boutique agency that has a smaller roster of clients, you still need to have the mind of a hustler. You still need to wake up every day with an intention. You cannot sit down and wait for a call. To be an actor is to be an entrepreneur. There is no boss giving you a “to do list” or a desk where you sit down every day, open up Excel, and then find what your responsibilities are.

Acting is a business with a lot of grunt work and many of us don’t realize how much of that type of work is involved. Many of us focus on the creative side but there is absolutely no getting around the need of having a business savvy mind. You hear it all the time but to actually live it; to get up every day and push yourself when there is no one standing there managing you or telling you that you will be fired if your work is not completed, is a different thing.  Any work, pay checks, professional and personal fulfilment will all be generated by you. The truth is, you can’t have the creative mind without the business smarts.

“You can be creative from your head to your big toe but if you do not have the drive or the savvy to sell yourself, you will not get far”

In a business that people think involves a lot of “pretending” or “faking” you actually need a lot of truth.  According to the late Sanford Meisner, “acting is being truthful under imaginary circumstances.” You want to be truthful in your work of course but you also need to be truthful with yourself-brutally honest to be exact. You need to be able to ask yourself if a life of uncertainty (that can stretch for years with no visible end in sight) is something you can deal with.

“You need to ask yourself if you can motivate and light a fire under your feet when you are tired and there is no immediate or obvious consequence should you decide to skip a day-or two or three”

You also need to be truthful in what you are in this industry and that is the most personal and I think the most important thing I can share with you.

APH: Many thanks to Shauna for sharing this great post with us and we look forward to sharing the second part of the “Art of Acting” with our readers in December.

About the Writer: Shauna was recently in the off-Broadway play The Girls of Summer and last month she produced and starred in her self-written short film Winning.

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#MyCareerStory – A passionate curiosity for information!

Image – Dolapo Oni

Have you ever wondered what a career as a research analyst looks like? What do research analysts do? What exactly is being researched and analysed? To provide some more insight into developing a career in Research, Amara interviewed Dolapo Oni, Head of Energy Research at Ecobank Capital – a subsidiary of EcoBank.

APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background? 

DO: I studied Economics at undergraduate and postgraduate level at the Universities of Uyo and Ibadan, Nigeria.  After my undergraduate degree, I worked as a staff writer for a company that published a magazine called ‘Networth.’ My real work started after my Masters when I joined Agusto & Co. Ltd, a credit ratings and research firm. This is where I really started my affair with research. Although my role as a staff writer had kicked things off in the right direction, I discovered my passion for information gathering, analysis and reporting. I was with Agusto for about four and a half years before joining Ecobank’s Research team. I am currently the Head of our Energy Research desk and have been with the bank for about 4 years.

I know there are different kinds of research analysts – marketing, decision support, business data – please could you shed some light on what a research analyst does? 

#CareerChat – Simple and Effective Tips for Success at the New York Bar Exam.

LegalIn a previous article, Lola discussed the challenges and potential benefits of intercontinental relocation on developing a legal career. In this she reflects on her experience of undertaking the New York Bar exam and shares some tips to enable prospective candidates succeed.

 “In an increasingly globalized legal marketplace, and with increasing numbers of United States practices – particularly New York based – opening in Britain, it makes sense for UK-based lawyers to be dual qualified.” – BPP

Studying for any bar exam can be intimidating for most candidates, especially for foreign trained lawyers who are unfamiliar with the basic legal concepts. A healthy level of anxiety is better than an unhealthy level of confidence. The key is to channel your anxiety towards diligent preparation and these tips for success will go a long way to help you prepare. 

#PhDChat : ‘Athena Swan – Quest for Change or Another Tick Box Exercise?’

Image – Jason Corey

‘Opinion’ is our latest addition to The Hub. This is a space where writers can share their personal opinions about topical issues. In today’s article, a current PhD candidate* discusses her experience of becoming pregnant during her lab-based PhD. Should PhD candidates be treated as students (tax exempt stipend, no benefits) or staff (pay tax on salary, employee benefits e.g. maternity pay)?

I’ve been contemplating this post for a while – to write or not to write, to share or not to share. After careful consideration, I believe the story should be shared so that this issue can be debated by and with a wider audience. Perhaps this post can resonate with the collective experiences of others who found themselves in my position.

Women’s rights, equality for women and now promoting more women in science are hot topics today. But is it just another tick box exercise or an honest quest for change? What is the reality on the ground?

In 2005, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) established the Athena Swan Charter to – ‘encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research’. A statement on the ECU website reads: ‘We support universities and colleges to build an inclusive culture that values the benefits of diversity, to remove barriers to progression and success for all staff and students, and to challenge and change unfair practices that disadvantage individuals or groups’.

Since its inception, many universities have signed up to adopt the charter and have put measures in place so women in the profession are better supported such as flexible working hours, Job shares and scheduling events during core hours (10 am – 4pm).

Bridging the Skills Gap – Are you Skilled to Kill?

essential-skills-for-winning-chess Employers say they can’t get enough skilled labour. Further and Higher Education institutions talk about embedding employability skills in the curriculum. On a personal level, what does being skilled mean to you?Have you identified the skills you have and the skills you need to stand out in your job search or in your current profession? Are there any gaps or are are you skilled to kill? In this article, Dr Nadia Anwar discusses the term ‘skills’ and the importance of skills training.

Skills come both naturally and through training. They are the weapons of power with which you can make a long lasting impression on the highly demanding job market and influence people who play a significant role in your success. Although present in all, most of the time, skills need to be acknowledged and recognized by a person so that they could be appropriately demonstrated in his/her private and public life. However, what are these skills and how are they acquired still generate confusion in potential candidates and hiring agencies.

Skills function as a measuring tool to judge someone’s ability or the degree of efficacy in performing a task.

However, a significant key to understanding any process that involves an interaction designed to assess someone’s ability in any field or aspect of life is to place the concerned person in the context and environment in which s/he is being judged. Not only that, the context also needs to be accommodated by tailoring the skills according to its demands.

#PhDChat – The Postdoctoral Conundrum; to postdoc or not to postoc?

5. Postdoc conundrumFor many PhD candidates, undertaking postdoctoral training after their PhD programs appears as the “natural” career transition upon graduating. This is not an exact science and in today’s post, Dr Victor Ujor discusses the ‘postdoctoral concept’ and offers beneficial tips for PhD candidates thinking of the of the next steps in their career after the PhD

For most PhD students particularly in the sciences, as soon as they near the end of the grueling PhD journey, they are literally feverish at the prospect of landing a real ‘money-paying’ job. In today’s economy, such jobs are few and far between. Nonetheless, they still exist, but to get one, you ought to have a roadmap from the onset. An overwhelming number of PhD candidates drift towards the Postdoctoral end of the job spectrum for a number of reasons.

First, most PhD candidates feel they are expected to do a postdoc – gain extra experience, get more publications and then land the real job. In some cases, that does happen, but if one does not have a clear-cut strategy as to how to negotiate the winding Postdoctoral alleyway, they might end up stuck in a convoluted maze for an unpleasant period of time. Second, more often than not, Postdoctoral positions are more available that positions in industry, which pays more. Third, some PhD candidates are confused about their career prospects i.e. should they decide to ditch academia for industry.

For PhD candidates at the confusing intersection between the end of the PhD program and a vastly hostile market, perhaps it is important to clarify the concept of a postdoctoral experience .

 What is a Postdoctoral experience really?

Does Intercontinental Relocation Mean Restarting Your Legal Career or Training?

Legal Careers Moving across countries or continents occasionally pose career defining questions and challenges such as the equivalence or transferability of qualifications or certifications. In today’s post, Lola Adekanye shares her experience of a transatlantic legal career and offers practical suggestions on nurturing a legal career across continents.

So, for some good reason you have to be uprooted from one jurisdiction to another in the course of your legal career journey, tossing your plans to go to law school and chart a path on the bench or at the bar up in the air. This is the picture of my career journey thus far; I started my career in England, then I relocated to Nigeria and subsequently to the U.S. While, some lawyers change their career paths completely from law to a different field or discipline. This choice has its own challenges as one would still need to qualify and be employable in the new location and when properly weighed, this was not a very attractive option for me.

In the course of obtaining two law degrees in England,  professional law certificates both in Nigeria and  New York and another law degree in the United States, I have come to the conclusion that a transatlantic legal career can be rich and fulfilling with proper planning.

The two major deterrents to transitioning lawyers or law students are qualifying in the new jurisdiction and employability given the lack of familiarity with the legal systems and structures in the new jurisdiction.

Qualifying  – Legal studies and the process of qualifying to practice law in most jurisdictions is notorious for being grueling and very demanding and the entry requirements vary distinctly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so it is important to adequately prepare by conducting appropriate and extensive research.

In addition to research, obtaining first hand information about the jurisdiction is fundamental. Having the right information early on will put you on the right path and save time. The qualifying requirements to sit a Bar entry exam varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and are usually very specific. For instance some jurisdictions require that a law degree must include specific courses. Thus, current law students are in a good position to prepare to meet those requirements while they are in law school while practicing attorneys can manage their schedules to start making plans to meet the requirements. Practicing attorneys may also find that in some jurisdictions, experience counts as an alternative entry or admission requirement to exam.

A clear road map for qualifying puts things in perspective for lawyers who consider changing career paths due to the challenges of transitioning into a law career in a new jurisdiction. It turns out that changing to a new career path would require a considerable amount of studying which may take equal amount of time or perhaps more time than it would take a transitioning lawyer to sit the qualifying Bar exams.

Employability – My legal counsel during my undergraduate studies enlightened me to the comforting fact that a law degree equips you to function in a variety of capacities order than litigation. This would require that you  obtain at least basic substantive knowledge in another field or additional soft skills in addition to core legal skills such as drafting and research. This is even more true as clients directly or indirectly demand an integrated service of their attorneys and law firms.

 The ability to apply business skills or orientation, operational knowledge, language skills and science knowledge to legal representation is an advantage to landing a job or finding a role within other non-conventional legal positions.

On that note, if you are a current student or aspiring lawyer, it might also be worth considering a combined degree as it can be of great benefit. For anyone studying outside the U.S, taking a minor in another course of interest during their undergraduate year while you major in law would be the way to achieve this. While for students studying in the U.S, going for first degree in any course in order to qualify for admission to law school to earn a Juris Doctor which is a law degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) in other jurisdictions is advisable.

Finally, keep an open mind to a host of alternative practice areas to litigation.

Lola Adekanye obtained her Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University. She operates as a Legal Counsel as well as a Business Risk and Compliance Consultant. Lola enjoys writing as well as sharing her experience in developing a legal career as well as business strategy and international education.

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