Incentive, Product and Paying to Play



The ACTion Collective certainly has me thinking in some different directions these days. "What?" you ask, cautiously curious. "What? What is this 'the ACTion Collective' of which you speak?" Oh, Gentle Reader, how can I explain it? I could direct you here, here or here for mentions of the good ol' AC on this here 'blog, of course, but why do that when I can just as easily send you to...

Why indeed?

One of the primary concerns Andrew and I were discussing that led to forming the ACTion Collective was the way in which actors end up paying for their craft. True, the more dedicated ones often get paid for practicing it, and would never consider literally paying for the privilege; would they? The sad fact is, we do. Even working professionals pay for classes (either to study, stay in practice or network), pay for memberships and pay for the various expenses related to being one's own business, always looking for new work. In fact, even when we are paid for work, many of us (certainly a majority) are taking a generous cut out from some more profitable thing we maintain between acting jobs. Thus the overall effect: we are losing money. It can be hard to enjoy your work under these conditions, much less thrive in it.

In a short five days, we will have our second event, and Andrew and I are hoping to keep a growing momentum with these events. Ultimately, we want the thing to be a bit more self-sufficient so we can have events more frequently, open it up to members to take initiative and generally get the "action" part fulfilled. To that end, we've begun discussing the possibilities for non-profit business models, as well as methods of presenting and marketing the ACTion Collective to people. And amongst those people we effectively have to "sell": actors.

This seems odd at first, but the more I think about it the more sense it makes to me. At a first glance at our fledgling organization, an actor might think, "What's the catch?" And that's at best; at worst, s/he might think, "Poppycock (or other expletive - ed.). I'll not waste my time and energy on something other than getting that part in that play / movie / commercial / showcase." We're used to being used in some way, frankly, and so focused on getting paid for something, anything we do that free stuff doesn't make much sense to us. Sometimes, we don't even value it. Because it's free. This is human behavior stuff, and actors are a really stubbornly human bunch, we are.

So, at least until we gather ourselves in the comfortable folds of some kind of reputation, for now we are examining the incentives and potential products of our homespun organization. One of the things that I really like about it (dangerous that - liking things only leads to misery when things have to change, as they inevitably do) is the intention of combining play with craft, and the balance of those two elements is something we spend a lot of time discussing. Because we can always hang out a banner that reads, "Free wine!" We'd probably get half of New York's actors to every event. Similarly, we could make that banner simply say "art," and get a tremendously interesting influx of crafts-folk. But we want it all. (We're actors.)

How do we put games into the craft, so that both combine to create synergy? How do we invite the social aspect to foster real connections between people, so that we're getting somewhere substantial with our fun? What will draw people in, both to participate and invest? What do we produce, ultimately? Fortunately, there's no shortage of ideas for events. We've also gotten a very positive verbal response from almost every person we've invited to join in on the community, and many of them have submitted ideas and requests. The great thing is, that's my main incentive. Just making some kind of contact with great people is motivating; actually getting to be involved in their work is a uniquely rewarding form of payment.

 
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