Can I say I am an Actor AND a…?

26 April 2016

Tired of wondering what to say when someone asks you what you do? Worry no longer!

Are we all as equally talented as each other?

No, really, give that question some thought. The answer, I suspect, will be subjective anyway.

Now I’ve got you thinking, I should mention that I was asked to write this blog when I responded to somebody who seemed to be unsure if they could define themselves as an actor AND a writer. (I am told Actor and Writer aren’t supposed to be in capitals but I’m sorry, I think we’re bloody important and deserving of it so there you go- I’ll run the risk with the grammar Police).

When some asks what you do, be it at a party or networking event, what DO you say? It’s actually more troublesome than it sounds- I remember being handed a microphone at a music industry event and we were asked to state what we do and I said ‘Actor, DJ, Writer, Singer’. It felt like SUCH a mouthful. To be truthful, I felt like an idiot saying it. And I felt others in the room felt the same when I did!

I asked myself’ ‘where did this come from?’ – this seeming inability to say the four things I do without feeling stupid or inappropriate- or a bit of an egotistical…. **rhymes with banker**

It came from a friend, who sadly I’ve since drifted apart from (but there’s no bad blood I just think he’s busy being successful, almost ironically in context of the article) – he was someone I looked up to a lot, I’d listen to his advice, I thought it well-balanced- he was a personal trainer and a DJ. Now he’s just the latter- and he’s HUGE now- a really big name in his genre and industry and it’s amazing to see him do so well in his passions. Because he seemed so ‘sorted’ in life, I always seemed to place him on some mental pedestal of hierarchy and absorb his wisdom like a sponge.

We were having brunch one day talking about careers- and he was commenting on mine- and I’m paraphrasing here – but he basically said ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ – he said I needed to whittle my 4 job occupations down to 1 or 2 at the absolute maximum and give 100% to them. He suggested by my saying I did four things it displayed a lack of sharpened focus.

Because of his stature (and he was only a rising star at this point compared to the size of his brand now), I took it all, as it was- and started to think about ‘whittling it down’.

I held this belief for a good couple of years. Or toyed with using a term such as ‘Entertainer’ or ‘Performer’- but you’ll usually find someone will ask around that anyway and want to drill down further into what you do; hence the ‘oh goodness, which of the four shall I give them?’ dilemma again? – So then I tried to apply what I felt important – if I was speaking to someone related to DJing, then naturally, DJing would come first and so on and so forth- but let’s be honest here- to give yourself only 1 or 2 words about what you do- then in my case, I was only representing 25 or 50% of my capability – why was I denying myself and other people access to my talents? For example, I know a massive DJ with a great interest in writing articles for magazines and such like – by not mentioning the Writing to someone I compartmentalised myself in my mind into a certain box, (and indeed him, pre-judging that he wouldn’t be interested in that area of my life) – and ultimately, I was doing myself an injustice and perhaps, just perhaps- missing out on potential opportunity.

Let’s take someone really famous- Jennifer Lopez or Beyoncé for example- Singer? Yes. Dancer? Check. Actresses? Absolutely. Writers? Sure. Producers? Right there on their CV. Philanthropists? Without doubt. Right down to perfumery makers- these extremely successful individuals have got it covered. Can you imagine them being shy about their talents? It’s arguably what got them to where they are now- thinking big and outside the box. Do they appear to be lacking focus or struggling? No. Do they have a considerable team around them to help them ensure everything gets done? Of course! But do you think that team was always so elaborate from day one? Of course not. They had to WORK HARD to create their brand and branding.

Therefore, I think what I’m trying to say is- STAND. OUT. With your talents- be proud of them. Wear them like a badge of honour- sure, it takes some getting used to – but I went through each and every one to see if I could justify using the title;

Actor- yes, I’ve had leading roles in television, theatre and I’ve just finished a stage-play in which I’m going to cast myself in it. So yes, I am, most definitely, an Actor. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a dry six months and haven’t been cast in something- have you been going to auditions? Applying for roles? That part of an Actor’s life can be a full-time job in itself! So that was that ticked off!

Am I a Singer? Absolutely! I may not be any threat to Adele at present- but in the past 12 months I have sang at weddings, gay pride events, hospitals to the elderly and poorly and I’ve just finished writing my 1st album of original material as a singer songwriter. Yes. I am most definitely a Singer.

Am I a Writer? YES! I blog on facebook, I’ve had two articles published in Attitude magazine in the past year, I’ve released three books this year on amazon and self-published them AND written the already mentioned stage-play and album above. Let’s not forget what you’re reading right now. So yes, I’m definitely a Writer.

Am I a DJ? Hell yes! Week in, week out, it’s arguably my most reliable source of income over the past decade that enables me to do the other three things when perhaps money isn’t flooding in from them. I love music and playing it for people. So yes, I am definitely a DJ.

So can I say all four? Absolutely! And very often, one crosses into one of the others. Let’s not forget most Actors have incredible skills that enable them to operate effectively elsewhere; they can make great Drama Teachers, Stand-up Comedians, Trainers in Learning and Development- there is a case for everything, even down to my Actor friends who make a considerably affluent income as Waiters- because it involves PEFORMANCE. The crossover is, more often that not, limitless. So why are we limiting ourselves?

Does it mean I wear all four hats at the same time? No, not necessarily- although it has been known. Sometimes, one, two or three are at the forefront whilst what remains takes a backseat for time management reasons or its just not where the current focus is in your projects right now- but it’s still one of your key capabilities.

Therefore- there is NO written rule- but as an effective rule of thumb? I would say as long as YOU can BACK IT UP, to yourself- and even to others if someone decides to delve; then as I did with my four occupations above – then you can use it. Okay, if you’re getting to eight, nine or ten things you do then yes, that may be exhausting for the person conversing with you- so be sharp and think of the one you think are most relevant at the time- or by all means – use terms such as a ‘Multi-disciplinary Performer’ if you prefer. I suppose another thing to think about would be ‘stick to your passions’ – are you a passionate Waiter? Then say it! If not, leave it out perhaps? As my incomparable mentor taught me, think about what your soul would DIE over if it couldn’t do- and LIVE to do just that!

But don’t let anyone else put you in a box and let you believe you can only be good at one thing or two things maximum- it’s simply not the case. Pity anyone who tries to tell you otherwise- for they probably wish they had the confidence to speak on their talents as you do in your vast array.

Like training yourself to always give your first name AND surname and auditions/networking events; practise it- practise it until it sounds confident and assured. If you’re believing it, other people are too.

Good Luck! J x

Paul Culshaw

Actor, DJ, Writer & Singer

Photo by StoneCrabs Theatre Company

Check out Ascend’s latest workshops