Author Topic: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work  (Read 6262 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

JenniferEver

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 40
    • View Profile
Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« on: Jun 30, 2006, 12:28 pm »
I got a job SMing a show for a summer festival in NYC.

The pay is really low. For a month of work, it's about the cost of transportation for the month I'll be working on the show plus maybe a week of groceries.

My mom has a HUGE problem with this, of course.

I'm just out of college. I guess what I'm asking is what is the value of doing summer theatre, or other shows for little or no pay. Is it good experience that can build a resume, or is it along the same lines as college work?

Will putting these jobs on a resume lead to paying jobs?

(I'm sorry if there's already a post on this topic. I'm sure there is, but I tried to search and I couldn't find what I was looking for with multiple queries)

MatthewShiner

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 2477
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SMA
  • Current Gig: PSM THE LION KING NORTH AMERICAN TOUR; Assc Director and Production Supervisor HUNCHBACK International
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #1 on: Jun 30, 2006, 07:01 pm »
Ask this question to 20 stage managers, and you will get 20 different answers.

I think the key thing is you are just out of college and NYC - you competting for "X" amount of paid positions, when there are 2X or 3X people qualified for them.  You will find the most of the people getting those paid positions are people with a long list of shows on their resumes.  How do you get more shows on your resume, continue take non-paying jobs.  So, in some ways, yes, this will lead to other jobs.

There is a flip side to this; you could pegged as the person who is willing to work for free (just as there are those who are pegged for "PAs" or "ASMs" or "PSMs" - you can easily fall into a trap.

But right now, any experience is good experience.  Just make sure you have a plan on how to get from point a (no pay) to point b (pay), and don't linger too long.

BUT . . . you may find that work you that you really like to do is in the non-pay or low-pay range, and you may never be able to live off your stage management salary.  That's fine too. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

centaura

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 405
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #2 on: Jun 30, 2006, 09:26 pm »
Quote
BUT . . . you may find that work you that you really like to do is in the non-pay or low-pay range, and you may never be able to live off your stage management salary.  That's fine too. 

I spent several years working for a low-paying company because I really had fun with the job.  Eventually I wanted more, and moved on, but I don't regret those years.  Its all about finding your nitch.  I don't know what kind of parent you have, I had one that I had to literally work for almost 10 years in theatre before she gave up and accepted that that is what I want to do with my life.  She now tells me how well-rounded an individual I am, and how knowledgeable and flexible - I had to prove to her that I was on an okay path by doing okay in life.  I hope that your folks give you a bit more credit, but talking about your ambitions with them never hurts.  Tell them that this is resume material, and will hopefully get you on track for working for higher pay later.


-Centaura

JenniferEver

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 40
    • View Profile
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #3 on: Jul 01, 2006, 09:54 am »
Thanks so much.

How do you make a plan to get from Point A (no/little pay) to Point B (actual pay). I'm not out to make big bucks, but I'd like to be able to cover some expenses?

You mentioned making a plan. What kind of plan? At this point I figured any experience is good experience. I actually only SMed one show before (in college). I mostly studied directing in college and I hope to go for my MFA in directing. I'm SMing because I do enjoy it, it's a place where I can actually have a job and be working on shows right now right out of college, and hopefully get contacts and get into a position where I can AD and eventually direct. I like SMing, but it isn't my particular end goal, so it's hard to explain to people that I'm getting SM experience to get better SM jobs, but I hope one day to direct.

centaura

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 405
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #4 on: Jul 01, 2006, 10:57 am »
I don't want to come across negatively, but I'd like to reccommend that if your end goal is directing, then I would focus your sights on that.  There is a grace period out of college, when a lot of folks can afford to work for next to nothing just for the experience.  Ten years from now, that won't be the case.  You'll have bills and expenses that will have crept up on you without you realizing it, which will limit you from taking those 'experience' jobs that don't pay.

Why I'm saying that is now would be an excellent time for you to try to find directing internships, with your end goal being getting an AD job.  If you can afford to do work for little pay for the experience, then I'd recommend getting the experience in your main interest.  Not that knowing how to stage manage is not helpful for a director, but if you SM too long, you could get branded as a SM. 

To try to answer your question, for whichever path you'd like to take, making a plan [for me] started by looking at job postings.  Every job posting.  What kind of experience did they ask for at the higher paying jobs?  What type of lower paying jobs could I work to get that experience?  Which companies take folks fresh out of college?  From there, where can I go where they just want some experience?  Five years from now, when I have five year's experience, what are those jobs [that require that much experience] like?

I also tracked things from year to year.  Who's always hiring fresh each year?  Why is that?  Is it a bad place to work, or do they hire lots of new folks who use it as a jumping point to better things?  Look around at the types of theatres near you.  Do you have a preference of a location to work?  A particular city?  Or would the job be more important than the city that its in?

Goals are helpful in setting your sights, but also be flexible for other possibilities that come along.  My goal out of college was to tour internationally.  I spent 8 years touring the states to get the experience to try for international, but never got that far.  A stationary job came up that was tempting enough to try for, and so while I have not achieved my goal from out of college, I have improved myself as a person from all the travel that I've done, got lots of valuable experience, and am thinking that being stationary is a new adventure to try.  I really like my new job, the pay is good and I have full benefits and a retirement plan.

Hopefully I have been of some help, for whichever path you chose to take.  My first job out of college was a season at a half-equity house where I was an ASM.  I was an apprentice and made around $200 a week.  From there I was able to step out and get 'real' jobs, because I had a year at a professional theatre on my resume.

-Centaura

MatthewShiner

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 2477
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SMA
  • Current Gig: PSM THE LION KING NORTH AMERICAN TOUR; Assc Director and Production Supervisor HUNCHBACK International
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #5 on: Jul 01, 2006, 11:13 am »
If you want to direct, then direct.

If you want to SM, then SM.

(To add on to what I wrote . . .

If you really want to direct, you don't want to fall into the "but I stage manage on the side" trap.  You will end up stage managing.  Find a great theatre that offers a directing or artistic internship, and focus on directing and the artistic side of things.  Assistnat Direct.  Direct readings.  Direct workshops.  Direct.  Direct.  Direct.  If that is what you want.

I understand the logic behind stage managing as a way into directing, you get to be a part of the process, sit next to the director, assume some A.D. duties, but ultimately, you are gaining experience for stage management, and people will see it that way.)
« Last Edit: Jul 01, 2006, 01:16 pm by MatthewShiner »
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

Mac Calder

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 970
  • Gender: Male
  • Plan for the future, live for the now
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: Live Performance Australia / Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance
  • Current Gig: Technical Director
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #6 on: Jul 01, 2006, 07:17 pm »
If you want to get into directing, look into any local youth theatre companies around your area. I know in Australia that  2 local(ish) companies are looking for a full time Artistic Director, one of which directs 4 out of the 9 shows they put on each year, the other directs all 6 shows they put on each year.

ljh007

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: SMA
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #7 on: Jul 01, 2006, 08:20 pm »
I totally agree with Centaura. And with Mac and Matthew about directing now if what you really want to do is direct.
Maybe I'm old and jaded (and on a less-than-great-but-not-terrible summer gig right now), but I have found that *most* summer festivals are so low-budget that they actually rely on the exploitation of their (non-union) labor. They expect you to provide your own copies/paperwork & spike tape & cell phone, etc etc. They expect carpenters to provide their own tools. They expect actors to provide their own costumes. They expect everyone to work extraordinary hours, and they expect you do just do all this for the love of it. This craziness can lead to lots of fun and social bonding, but here's my thing - This is now my job, my career, what I do each and every day. So I am no longer at a point where I can put up with those operations and still make a living. So I don't. Sometimes I have to fight for reimbursements and go into heavy negotiation about travel expenses, cell phone costs, hours per day, and all that. If you find yourself working for a company that is asking for too much, please set your own limits early and stick to them! You owe it to yourself.

Okay, with that negativity out of my system: some of the best summer gigs I've worked have been municipal concerts (great pay as a city employee!) and some of the larger summer opera festivals (these are hit-or-miss). It is possible to get a great summer gig as an SM. But, as Centaura noted, you'll probably have to dig for it. In the meantime, enjoy the amazing honeymoon that is the recent-graduate experience!

JenniferEver

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 40
    • View Profile
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #8 on: Jul 02, 2006, 11:24 pm »
Thanks so much. You all have so much insight.

I sort of find that being in NYC is almost a disadvantage being unexperienced, because htere are just SO many people in this town trying to do the same thing I am trying to do, and I find so many INCREDIBLE jobs in other states or upstate, etc. I'm having a hard time even finding better jobs to apply for.

I understand what you mean about being branded as a SM. Or even just that if I do do well and find steady work as a SM, it would be hard to take the chance and start over as an AD or director. Do you think it's a good diea to just send resumes to theatre companies? If so, what would the cover letter say?

centaura

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 405
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #9 on: Jul 03, 2006, 10:11 am »
Quote
I sort of find that being in NYC is almost a disadvantage being unexperienced, because htere are just SO many people in this town trying to do the same thing I am trying to do, and I find so many INCREDIBLE jobs in other states or upstate, etc. I'm having a hard time even finding better jobs to apply for.

Have you ever lived outside of NYC?  I was just curious if you were a native, or someone who had moved to the City for their art.  If you were a native, and say, still living at home with the folks, I'd say stay and try for stuff in the City.  You'll probably end up working a lot more no pay/low pay jobs before you move up into better things, but you'd be able to afford it more.  If you've moved to NYC - I know that there are folks who will disagree with me on this - but I'd recommend applying for some of those nonNYC stuff.  Get some experience in a town that you can actually afford to live in (if you're a NYC city native, you might not realize how much cheaper it is to live outside of the city), and then come back to NYC later if that's your goal.  If just working is your goal, get out and around.  Living different places teaches you a lot, and broadens your perspective.  You'll also have a higher chance of getting paid for what you're doing.

I will say that this opinion is:

1) totally biased.  I have never wanted to live or work in NYC, the stories I hear of how people live there on low budgets makes me shake my head.  While there is art and culture there that there is no where else in the states, I think a lot of young folk move there and eventually loose their dream of theatre because they're not able to get work.

2) dependant on your situation.  If you're living at home with the folks, I think elsewhere you said you're saving for grad school, then you might be stuck with the location that your folks are living.  And I would fully understand that.  If where you're stuck is NYC, then I'll have to defer advice to an east-coaster.  Its such a saturated market I won't want to try to guess how to get a foothold into it.

That's my 2 cents on the subject.  I really don't want to set off the NYC or notNYC argument, I'm just offering my opinion.

-Centaura

JenniferEver

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 40
    • View Profile
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #10 on: Jul 03, 2006, 11:00 pm »
I'm a native NYer. I've never wanted to live or work outside of NY.

I can't imagine being a native NYer theatre professional and moving OUT of NY.

I know NYC is expensive, but I love it here, my family is here, etc.
My fiance works in finance and his job is here as well.


centaura

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 405
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #11 on: Jul 04, 2006, 09:22 am »
Have you heard of the SMA?  Stage Manager's Association?  Right now they're on a kick to try to get national, but they started as a NYC based group for stage managers, and that's still their strongest area.  They may be worth looking up.

-Centaura

ljh007

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: SMA
Re: Summer Festivals/Unpaid work
« Reply #12 on: Jul 05, 2006, 11:16 am »
Do you think it's a good diea to just send resumes to theatre companies? If so, what would the cover letter say?

Check out the Employment forum on this site! There are some existing threads there about your questions, or you could start a new discussion if you have a question that hasn't come up in any existing threads.

And absolutely do check out the SMA, as centaura recommends - they're great, and as a member you get lots of job postings, many of which are in NYC!

Tags:
 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
7 Replies
5693 Views
Last post Jun 30, 2006, 12:22 pm
by JenniferEver
0 Replies
2281 Views
Last post Sep 21, 2006, 09:13 pm
by duckduckgoose
6 Replies
4452 Views
Last post Mar 11, 2007, 06:14 am
by cuelight

riotous