Deciding to produce a one person show was not premeditated. I love theater, but I didn’t love it in the sense to create this huge acting roadmap to escape my cubicle. The entertainment world is much too chaotic, predatory and plain stupid for me to do it their way. Wait tables when there is something called Youtube? Please.
I did have a professional slump that needed ego verification. In the past 4 years I was vigilant about founding a job that had heart; I wanted to change how we utilized technology, make technology accessible and fun. I was enamored with cloud technologies, hoping to learn how to better utilize them for video games, which has always been my passion. Yet, with every job came massive red tape, promotion dangling, glass ceilings and politics.
The good work I actually wanted to do was always sidelined about the games I ‘didn’t play’. So, in the midst of an impending layoff, I took up the challenge to see if I had the Production chops to do a major project with flawless execution. I mean, I couldn’t do what I was hired to do at the places of employ, so at least I owed it to my sanity to see the results elsewhere.
My first case study was substance behind the spin words: Effective & Lean. They’re consistently thrown around in meetings, water cooler discussions and seminars but really, what is effective and what is lean? Can a team truly be effective and/or lean?
After my one night showing of Black n Blue Boys / Broken Men, which was deemed a success (27 tickets sold from some nobody in Seattle’s fledgling theatrical scene), I garnered my answer:
One focused person with a clear goal is more powerful than a 50 man team using
pre-established PM methodologies (aka solutions).
My blood drenched lessons in effective leanness were:
Be Honest With Your Abilities.
You should have an unwavering, ball busting shield of confidence before you walk into any project by yourself. If you can not look in the mirror and say: ‘I’m going to f***ing rock this even if only 2 people show up‘, then the only two options available are:
- Get more training/practice/confidence until you can Or
- Stop the whole production right now.
There should be a mindset of any project, one person show included, that the end product is not delivered for accolades; it’s delivered for visual representation of dedication and client value.
It’s hard to admit that you suck at something, even if you went to school for it. Even if you got a degree in it. I love higher learning with a passion, but the world was not hewed by academia; it was built on blood, sweat and tears.
Swallow your pride. Admit that you suck. Fix it or not. You will save time and money either way.
There Will Be Haters; Be Ready.
Fabricating excuses, or grasping for vain support from peers will only obfuscate your goal. Those who secretly wish for your failure will sabotage either verbally or professionally. I prefer to take the zen way of thinking that said sabotage is not intentional. It will happen and it’s okay. Not everyone will be aligned with your established vision, but it’s not your job to get them on board…it’s your job to keep the goal on track. This is your race; not your friends, not your competitors, not the industry. Handle it.
Those who support you will be obvious allies. They will come out of the woodwork at your lowest and be grateful for them.
If You’re Serious, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.
We live in a world of digital promises; constant Ad revenue, Kickstarter, Patreon and other crowd funding derivatives. There is nothing wrong with these platforms, but there is one caveat: If you commence a labor of love project, do not ask for money unless you are willing to pay for the entire thing out of your own pocket. Initial investment shows the world you are serious, be it acting or development. Willing to walk your own tightrope without a net of crowd funding, angel investors, and Shark Tank moguls is the champion’s belt of truly calling the shots.
This is not a declaration to drain saving accounts, but a call to action about rational funding and long term thinking involving negotiation and trimming costs when necessary while maintaining a high level of quality. If such rationality happened in the tech world, Silicone Valley would not exist.
Be Clear About What You Want; Do Not Be Afraid to Say: ‘No’, ‘I Don’t Like It’ or ‘Do It Again’.
I feel that human beings are hard wired to please other human beings.
Saying ‘No’ with unwavering conviction is the equivalent of having a difficult conversation. But ‘No’ is not a difficult conversation, it’s an honest declaration of displeasure, inquisition and solution. I had a graphic designer whom I needed to make posters and flyers; I gave him estimates, pictures and a rate.
With the exception of a flimsy attempt of what I wanted, I received radio silence. I learned then that when I’m paying someone, I have the right to say ‘No’; while hurting said designer’s feelings was furthest from my mind, I didn’t want to waste anytime. So I asked if he still wanted the gig, he wavered and I made the decision for both of us by getting another graphic designer and cutting him from the payroll.
In contrast, the graphic designers I did hire did a bang up job, delivered when they said they would and was paid accordingly. ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ are powerful allies; simple and transparent.
Being lean is not easy; there is no way to sugar coat it. Yet lean and effective are two sides of the same coin; both focus towards the end result. When I produced my show, staying lean introspectively opened my eyes to my ‘career’. When you’re on the hook for your vision getting to the finish line, all while making it look like you had all the money in the world at your disposal, it will push creativity and hunger.
Let it, I’d say.
Being hungry and driven can create subconscious value, no matter how small.
I’m not above asking for tips!