Booked a Gig? Book the Day!

Posted by: on July 28, 2015
Juggling

Michael is a consummate professional – we love working with him!

Question: When you book an event, how much of the day should you plan on giving to the show? How long should you expect to be there?

Answer: All day. All. Day.

Wait – Really? All DAY?!

Well, yes! I know it seems extreme if you haven’t worked a lot of events, but hear me out.

First and foremost, we are part of a larger “event machine”. The banquet manager, event planner, etc have to juggle catering, room set up, DJ or band, stage set up, flowers and decor, sound system, lighting, and about a thousand other things. Consequently, rigging and rehearsal doesn’t happen at our convenience! Let’s break this down so you can see how this might work:

“If cocktail hour starts at 6:00 with champagne aerialists, rigging needs to be completed no later than 4:00 so they can finish setting the tables. Rigging seems straightforward, but the decorator wants to swag fabrics from the center of the ceiling, and can’t do that until everything is up. Normally we would start rigging around 2:00 or 2:30, but we need to start earlier to accommodate the ceiling swag. OK – rigging at 1:00. The gig is in NJ, and we’re leaving from NYC. It’s a Saturday, so we can expect more traffic. On an easy day, it takes an hour and 15 to the venue, but we have to allow an extra hour in case of delays. Departure at 11:00. We want to do a quick spacing rehearsal for the ground acts, but the floor won’t be down until 3:00. At that point, the genie lift will be on the floor for the decorator to do the ceiling. Can we come earlier to rig? The decorator doesn’t need the floor down to use the genie lift, so we can rig, he can swag the ceiling, then the floor goes down, and we can see if the German wheel has enough space on the dance floor. Departure is now at 10:00 am.”

Do you see how that sometimes works? Good – it’s important to know that we are not trying to waste your time. You might ask why you’re even there early to begin with; I mean, after all – you’re just doing a hand balancing act at 9:00 pm! Believe me – we get it, sometimes we’re asking ourselves the same thing. The easiest answer boils down to two things: transportation, client. If we need to send everyone in the same van, ground acts are going to be there earlier and stay later to accommodate the aerialists. If this doesn’t work for you, another option is to plan your own transportation on your own dime. BUT, consider that this may be a client issue. Often, clients want everyone there early so they don’t have to worry, or they want everyone there for rehearsal, or they want a little sneak peek at what they’re getting. Remember – the client signs our paycheck, and in essence signs yours too. We advocate heavily for our artists, but if the client wants to see you, you’ll be there.

 

Are There Exceptions?

Of course! Here are a few:

  • You let us know when we booked you that you were only available after a certain time, or needed to leave at a certain time. Totally acceptable, as it places the onus on us as to whether or not to cast you knowing your time constraints.
  • You’re trying to squeeze something else into your day. It’s perfectly fine to ask for time parameters for an event – we’ll give them to you if we know them. That said, know that things change all the time in events, and you should be prepared to cancel whatever else you’re squishing in if something shifts.
  • If you’re doing someone a big favor. The bigger the favor, the more leeway you have.

 

Events are a weird kind of showbiz, and anyone who’s worked in showbiz for even a little while knows that it’s little things that separate the pros from the no’s. We hire the best of the best, and they consistently prove it to us by going above and beyond – doing whatever has to happen to make a gig shine. Committing to a full day of whatever is needed is a great way to get noticed – and hired – again and again. Special thanks to Chris Delgado and Michael Karas, who made us look goooooood this weekend in Atlanta! Best of the best. Dare to imagine, Laura

 

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You Can’t Learn if You Pretend You Know Everything

Posted by: on July 14, 2015

In an age of competition, grandstanding, and every kind of pride under the sun, today I wanted to give a shout-out to a forgotten virtue: humility. What is it? Does it have a place in the artistic market? And, most importantly, is being too big for your britches keeping you from learning anything new? (hint: yes.)


“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” ― Jiddu Krishnamurti


Kate editFirst, let me say that I’ve spent a good deal of my professional life being too big for my britches, literally and figuratively. It’s practically de rigueur for artists stepping into a cut-throat market to pose, posture, and puff up in the face of their competition; I surely did my share, and suffered for it.

Know What You Know… And What You Don’t Know

Knowledge is good. Experience is good. Knowing what you don’t know? Extra good.

Now, before you say, “How do I know what I don’t know??!!”, I invite you to think that through. There are lots of levels in the knowledge/experience game, but let’s condense it down to three for the sake of the inter-webs.

  1. High Level/Expert – You know your stuff, and have been at it a long time. You are recognized by your peers as an expert in your field, and your advice and input is often sought.
  2. Mid-Level – You have a solid knowledge base, and have been working hands-on for a while. You have a good sense of the multiple elements that make up your chosen field (ex: rigging, performance, training, marketing, etc.), and have a clear understanding of where you need more education or experience.
  3. Low-Level – You’re just starting out. Most of your knowledge is theoretical in the sense that you haven’t been able to put much of it into practice yet.
  4. BONUS LEVEL – Delusional. You have no idea what you’re doing, people routinely tell you so, you ignore them and proclaim yourself a god. Your foolishness knows no bounds. Try not to take anyone with you.

Now, no matter where you fall on the knowledge/experience spectrum, one thing is certain: you still have more to learn. The trap of pride is that it keeps us from acknowledging this – the high level expert may think she has no more to learn and become rigid, the low level novice may pretend to know more than she does, and place herself and others in danger, or just make foolish choices.

Research, Opinion, and Common Sense

So, what? Where does all this leave us? Well, pursuing humility and it’s best friend, wisdom.

Someone once told me that, even when I was VERY sure about something, I should occasionally preface statements in my head with, “I might be wrong, but…”. This helps us remember that things change: new facts come to light, we gain an different understanding of something, we see another way in which things could be done, etc. It doesn’t mean not having well-informed, strong opinion; it does mean keeping our ears open for ideas, knowledge, and perspectives we might have missed the first time around.

For newbies, become little sponges. Little pro-active sponges. Do your homework, ask questions, google until your fingers bleed. Don’t wait for someone to spoon-feed you information you are ultimately responsible for having, and don’t try to bluff your way through it all. DO present yourself professionally, and consider pursuing a mentoring or apprentice situation (ideal – you can learn oodles of stuff, ask tons of questions, and comfortably acknowledge what you don’t know).

And while we’re chatting about all of this, a few things to keep in mind while gleaning information:

  • Opinions are not facts. All opinions are not equal – some are better informed than others.
  • Be careful where you get your information – consider the source.
  • Ask yourself, “Why should I believe that?” Is it from a credible source? Does it have the ring of common sense to it? Is there hard science to back it up?
  • Are you researching to get a better understanding of something, or to “prove that you’re right”? There’s a big difference.

 

We all have so much more to learn, to consider, to pursue. There is ALWAYS someone who knows more than you do, so keep your ears open, and keep movin’ on up. Dare to imagine, Laura

Pro vs Hobbyist: Aerial Smackdown, Part 2

Posted by: on June 3, 2015

should i donate

Not sure what this is about? Click here to read Part 1! 

Unions, Guilds, and Industry Standards

Do you believe people should be paid fairly for work? Do you regularly champion raising the minimum wage? What about when it comes to artistic work? (did you catch a little voice in your head saying, “but that’s not really work”? See “The American Attitude Towards the Arts” section in the next post).

Circus professionals are engaged in a constant battle to educate up-and-coming artists, clients, producers, etc about appropriate working conditions, safety standards, fair wages, and the general realities of what we do (as well as trying to convince people that it is, in fact, work). We do not currently have a union, though we seem to be headed in that direction. Consequently, it’s up to us to police our own community before a) some insane regulatory body does it for us (read: everyone’s performing in helmets) or b) the bottom falls out of the industry, and no one makes a living. Some will call it “shaming” – OK. I call it educating – protecting my industry – and I encourage every professional who cares about what they do to speak out whenever you see everything that you’ve worked for being thoughtlessly undermined.

When non-professionals accept work at a professional level, and do so without pay, they reinforce the idea that art/entertainment is not “real” work, or at least not valuable work. A) I assure you, it is real work (I do more pencil pushing than I had ever dreamed possible) and B) there’s a reason people who do choose to work free or cheap don’t do so for long: events and shows are really, really involved. It’s not usually a matter of just popping into a venue, quick rig, quick show, take it down, post to Insta-gram. For a better idea of why we charge real money for real work, CLICK HERE.

Performers Only Want to Make Money

Yes – we DO want to make money. Just like you do when you go to your job. We would very much like to be fairly and adequately compensated for our work. Because when the glamour and glitter wears off (and it does – surprisingly quickly), it IS work. Work. Not play, work.

Professionals Should Just Be Better – Up Your Game!

I will only accept this argument from card-carrying free market capitalists (that’s probably not you).

For the rest of you, once upon a time, this was how the industry worked. You started your training young, apprenticed through your middle years, put in your time, and maybe – just maybe – made a career out of it. You had to know somebody who would vouch for you to move up in the ranks. What’s changed? The inter-webs. The internet has leveled (some would say destroyed) the playing field, since anyone can hang out their shingle and call themselves whatever they want. But where does that leave the consumer?

… Bewildered. Let’s be very clear: the consumer is not informed. They have very little basis for comparison, and have no idea what questions to ask, what to look for, how to tell a good aerialist from a green aerialist. When the consumer has no idea what “good” really looks like, and is unaware of meaningful standards, how can they possibly make an informed decision? They can’t.

Take a poorly informed consumer who is TOTALLY WOWED by an inversion mid-air, and combine it with !!!FREE!!!, and you can see why this is such a losing battle. Professionals can be as great as they want to be, but it’s hard to compete with free or dirt cheap when the consumer doesn’t understand what they are (or should be) paying for. It’s why Walmart still exists.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this marathon post! Whew! Dare to imagine, Laura

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Pro vs Hobbyist: Aerial Smackdown, Part 1

Posted by: on June 2, 2015

should i donateTruth? I’m writing this, and then fleeing the country for German wheel world championships in Italy. See ya, suckas!

Actually, I started writing this all as one post, but it got tooooooooo looooooooooong. So, I’m carving it into 4 easily digestible parts! Stay tuned for 2-4.

What is the difference between a professional and a hobbyist? Recently, I posted this meme on the F-books (click it to make it bigger). Most responses were positive, but a couple brought up some commonly held (if not voiced) opinions:

  • the only difference between a pro & a hobbyist is that the professional accepts/demands payment
  • I shouldn’t have to turn down a performance just because someone else wants to make money at it
  • performers should focus on being better, thus edging out amateurs
  • me performing at events (charity and otherwise) for free does not “take away” a gig from a professional

Hear that sound? It’s the sound of a hundred professionals grinding their molars in frustration. Why? Because these questions so boldly illustrate the misunderstanding and lack of awareness surrounding our business, it’s enough to make a gal want to hang up her sequins for good.

This is a HUGE topic, so I’ve included several links to additional posts so as not to reinvent the wheel.

Is There Really a Difference Between a Professional & a Non-Professional?

Yes. Yes there is. First, I would like to direct you to this awesome blog post by Allison Williams, which is aimed at individuals interested in pursuing a professional career, who may or may not be ready to call themselves pros yet. This post details many aspects of the work that laypersons don’t consider.

Second, let me tell you The Tale of The Ceiling Fan in My Bedroom. A few years ago, the Mister and I decided to install a ceiling fan in our bedroom to combat the misery of NYC summers. We went to Home Depot, picked out the perfect fan, dragged it home and … wondered how the hell to install it. We considered calling in a professional electrician/handyman, but wait! The guy down the hall said he could – and would – install it for us! It would be a breeze!! WIN! He brought over all his tools, and hammered and sawed around in the bedroom for a while. Three hours later, he came out and proclaimed it done! “The plaster is a little bumpy, but I’ll be back in a few days with some more plaster to smooth it out.” Long story short, the plaster was A LOT BUMPY, looked awful, there’s a small hole in my ceiling, and he never did come back. We also can’t put the fan on the highest speed or I’m pretty sure it will just fly off the ceiling. Sigh – should have hired someone. See where I’m going with this?

Being a professional is more than just being good at something; it reflects a level of dedication, experience, and investment (emotionally, financially, physically), that the layperson simply does not have. It involves expertise – something Americans seem to pooh-pooh in our age of WebMD, Pinterest, and YouTube. Thing is, expertise is a real thing, and my expertise trumps your hobby. Every time.

Let’s have a look at a few of the myriad ways pros and hobbyists differ. In addition to Allison’s substantial list, hobbyists are:

  • unlikely to have invested sufficiently in equipment, costumes, rigging, rigging training, and insurance
  • more likely to leave questionable safety practices or situations unchallenged, often simply because they are unaware that there’s a problem
  • unlikely to have a well-informed understanding of the nuances of event work, and are thus less able to anticipate common missteps or snags
  • often invested heavily in their own experience, and less interested in maintaining professional standards and working conditions

On the artistic side, there’s this.

What is a Professional Gig?

For the purposes of this particular discussion, it’s any event for which the client wishes to hire a professional. Does the person who is asking you to perform know that you’re not a professional? You may not think they’ll care, but trust me – even when they’re asking you to “donate” your talent, they care. In fact, people tend to get reeeeeeeeally uncomfortable when they find that the person they want to have rigging and dangling from the venue’s (very expensive) ceiling isn’t a pro.

Prior to any sort of agreement, if you do not clearly convey to the client that you do not do this for a living, you are misleading them; as in, “I do want to make sure, before we move forward, that you understand that I am not a professional aerialist. I (insert qualifications here), but I do not make my living doing this.” Does saying that make you uncomfortable? You should ask yourself why.

Click here for Part 2! Dare to imagine, Laura

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Dyeing Aerial Fabric – the Fabulous T Lawrence-Simon Guest Blogs!

Posted by: on May 26, 2015

T Lawrence-SimoneIf you don’t know T Lawrence-Simon, I’m very sad for you. In addition to his aerial and coaching awesomeness, he is a GENIUS with a sewing machine. Here is a recent post he put up on the F-books, which he has generously agreed to allow me to use as a guest blog. Thank you, T!!!!

“How Do You Dye Aerial Fabrics?”

T: I get asked this a lot. When dyeing aerial fabrics, start with “What is my fabric made of?”…most likely nylon or polyester (I am not familiar with other fabrics if used, but keep reading anyway). There are many types of dye out there because different fibers need different processes and chemicals to accept pigment into/onto the fiber. This is where your average neighborhood grocery/pharmacy store screws you over…if they carry any dye at all, they’ll have RIT dye.

RIT dye is the Voldemort of dyes. The dye that must not be used…

Here’s why.
RIT Dye is what is known as a union dye. It is meant to “dye” any fabric you throw it on. The way this works is that the dye product contains a little bit of as many types of dye as they can. If you throw cotton in, the cellulose fiber dye will kick in and do the trick, if you throw silk in, the protein fiber dye will kick in…etc. Raise your hand if you’ve thrown an entire bottle of RIT in the washing machine with an aerial fabric, and out comes a fabric WAY more subdued in color than the bottle seemed to advertise. This is because, while the amount of liquid in the dye bottle seems to be nice and opaque and saturated in color, you’re only gonna get a reaction from SOME of that, but the amount of water stays the same…dilution=less saturated color=sad aerial fabric.
Let’s put it this way, I have a dance company, I have 100 people in this dance company. In my company, 25 of them are trained in tap, 25 others are trained in hip hop, 25 others are trained in ballroom, and 25 others are trained in ballet. This event hires my company to perform because they see my website with 100 people and they’re like “wow, that many dancers will really spice up my event”…they ask us to present a tap number…sadly only 25 dancers show up to perform at the event… womp womp.
That, my friends, is RIT dye.

  • If you are trying to dye cotton spandex for a costume, cotton is a cellulose fiber, use cellulose dye (hint, you can’t really DYE spandex itself, so just focus on the blend fibers).
  • If you are trying to dye nylon spandex fabric for a costume, or nylon fabric for aerial silks, you’ll want a “protein dye”/acid dye (nylon reacts in the same category as silk and animal fibers).
  • If you are trying to dye a polyester aerial fabric, (tricky but doable) you must use a special dye JUST for polyester (it really is a b*tch).

Also, note, each of these dye processes needs other things to work, so make sure you bone up on the process (or hire a fiber artist with experience if you want a top notch job – ya know, so you can call it hand dyed because it is pretty and not as a euphemism for patchy). Also, some of these dye processes involve not-so-healthy chemicals, so don’t dye in enclosed spaces if possible, or at least open doors/windows, fans…etc, also keep the wee ones away, babies don’t need that in their lives.
Over and out.
T
www.FlyingStitchLabs.com

If you haven’t visited T’s website, get on over there! And if you haven’t taken a class or workshop with him, keep your eyes peeled for the next time he’s in your town – he is utterly fabulous in every way. Dare to imagine, Laura

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.

 

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What Every Performer Should Know About Ambient Work

Posted by: on May 20, 2015
Nico

Nico Maffey is always phenomenal!

Some call it atmospheric, some call it walk-around, some call it ambient. Whatever you call it, if you’re a circus performer, you’re going to be asked to do it – a lot! Clients are often conditioned to think more is better (“15 minutes versus 6? Give me the 15!!!!”), and some events just don’t support a surprise lyra act. So, what should you keep in mind when booking and performing atmospheric work? A lot, it turns out.

What We Wish You Knew

  1. It’s ambient, not main stage. Think slower movements, atmosphere, blending seamlessly into the theme of a room. When four artists are doing ambient and one is hurling herself around as if there was a Cirque du Soleil talent scout in the room, the dynamic gets disrupted and things look… weird. Slow your roll, Sparkle Panties. Be awesome, but blend blend blend. There’s a time to bust a move, this isn’t it.
  2. Respect traditional set times. Every event has it’s own flow, so I’m speaking generally and not as a hard and fast rule. BUT. Traditional lengths for ambient sets run from 10 minutes (strength-intensive acts like hand balancing) to 20 minutes (less-intense like hammock), with an equal amount of rest in between each set. Each artist usually completes 4-6 sets depending on the time frame. You also need to factor in whether you will be confined to one area such as a stage, or whether you’ll be walking around the event space. It makes me insane when I’m contacted by a client, and someone has promised that one artist will do 45 straight minutes of silks; this tells me they’re dealing with a company who a) has an over-eager aerialist who likely has never completed 45 minutes of straight silks and has no idea what she’s promising and b) a company who hasn’t done their homework on industry standards. No bueno.
  3. You’re always on stage. Always. When you are doing a set, I do not want to see you stretching, warming up, picking a wedgie, chatting, etc. You are always doing one of three things: a fabulous move, locomoting from place to place, or “noodling” (non-intense transitional movement). If you wouldn’t do it on a stage in front of the President, the Queen, and Simon Cowel, don’t do it in an ambient set.
  4. Have your ambient sets “choreographed”. Well, not exactly, but kind of. You want to have at least five sequences appropriate for ambient work in your back pocket to avoid too much noodling. For example, when Chris and I do partner acro, we have four sequences of about 8 moves that flow nicely, and allow for natural breaks. It’s amazing how all your creativity deserts you by set number 3…. plan ahead.
  5. Work on your personality. Ambient work, aerial bartending in particular, often requires interaction with the guests (welcoming them, BS, patter, etc). Are you a wallflower? Nervous talking to people you don’t know? TOO BAD. Make sure you know what “personality” your host wants for this event. Mysterious and silent? Welcoming and fabulous? Ask if you’re not sure.

 

When polled, most artists will tell you they’d much rather do an act than an evening of ambient. Why? Ambient work is challenging – physically, mentally (it can be mind-numbingly boring), and the glamour wears off quickly.

What do you wish artists knew about ambient work? Write it in the comments below! Dare to imagine, Laura

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ImaginAerial Serves Some (Upside Down) WOW at the University of Pennsylvania!

Posted by: on May 13, 2015

ImaginAerial had the pleasure of providing the cirque-style wow factor at the University of Pennsylvania last week – check out some of the early pics! Champagne aerialists, hand-balancing magic, and one helluva silk act. BOOM!

 

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ImaginAerial Had the Best Tasting Gig Ever!

Posted by: on April 15, 2015

Kate editImaginAerial just did the best tasting gig ever! Food and Wine named the best new chefs of 2015 at Edison Ballroom, the beautifully restored art deco event space in midtown Manhattan. We presented a tightly choreographed group synchronized silk number with some serious acrobatics and jaw-dropping splits for Stella Artois.

Afterward, we got to try some luscious food by such chefs as Stephanie Izard of the Girl and the Goat and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park. I may or may not have personally devoured two bacon wrapped hot dogs smothered in Gruyere cheese, black truffle mayonnaise and celery relish. And truth be told, I don’t even like hot dogs, but these were no pigs in a blanket!

It was fantastic on every front. We got to speak with some of the proprietors and I’m happy to say we impressed the chefs as much as they impressed us. Thanks to Brenna, Lani, and Kate for all their hard work! Dare to imagine, Angela

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Excuse Me…. Your Feet are Filthy.

Posted by: on February 25, 2015

“Black socks, they never get dirty,

The longer you wear them the blacker they get!

Someday, I’ll probably launder them,

Something keeps telling me don’t do it yet…not yet… not yet….not yet….not yet!

Admit it – you miss summer camp sometimes! Anyhoo, this week, the incomparable Ray Pierce gave the internet a GREAT reminder:


If you’re an acrobat or aerialist on stage, your feet need to be clean!!!!!!


Shoes can even extend the lines of the feet! Performer: Nico Maffey

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you: I have absolutely looked down in horror mid act and realized that I was on stage in front of thousands of people with dirty feet. They were clean when I walked out on stage (I swear!), but after the walk between the wings and my trapeze, it looked like I had walked through Mount Vesuvius. *face palm*

Keeping Your Feet Clean in Circus – A Primer

  • Keep a packet of baby wipes in the wings. If you need to go out barefoot, give them a quick wipe-down before you head out.
  • If the stage is filthy (and in some cases, particularly abroad, it may be), ask if the stage can be mopped down prior to the show (be willing to do it yourself if you have to). Not possible? Wear your shoes to and from your apparatus, get carried out gracefully by a beef-cakey hand balancer, etc. Whatever you’ve got to do!
  • When performing in a sawdust ring, have an easy-to-slip-on/off pair of shoes that you can wear on stage, slip off to do your act, and jump back in at the end (** make sure you don’t need your hands to do this!!!!). I have a little black pair of crocs – NOT the clog kind – that work nicely for this.
  • Consider performing in shoes! If it’s just not practical for your act, fuggitaboudit. But many performers wear tan jazz or dance shoes while they work.
  • Make sure your pedicure is intact! Many companies prefer no polish at all for just this reason.

Thanks, Ray, for a great reminder! May your feet be fresh (and clean) as daisies! Dare to imagine, Laura

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I Just Can’t Take You Seriously With That Email Address

Posted by: on February 17, 2015
New Years Eve, Times Square. Photo by Kenneth Feldman

New Years Eve, Times Square. Photo by Kenneth Feldman

Brrrrr – greetings from the frozen tundra that is now NYC! We’ve recently received a virtual flood of inquiries and submissions (thank you!). In all the sorting, watching videos, filing photos, etc, one thing really stood out: a few choice email addresses that left us wondering if we were receiving casting info or erectile dysfunction spam.

I Just Can’t Take You Seriously With That Email Address

If your email address is cutesy (twinkletoes27@hotmail.com, fuzzyteddybear@gmail.com, kittiesandcuddles@aol.com, etc), I assume you’re twelve years old and your parents will have to come with us on tour.

If your email address is sexy (noViagraNeeded@hotmail.com, luckysexylady@gmail.com, hotlips69@aol.com, etc), you’re probably not making it past my spam filter. I also wonder what you think you’re applying for.

If your email address is… quirky (bubblewrap@hotmail.com, compostingadvocate@gmail.com, Idontknowyou@aol.com, etc), I assume you either are new to the business, or that circus is very much a side job/hobby for you.

 

Your Professional Email Address

With a free email address one google click away, and easy mail forwarding available, there’s just no excuse for an email address that leaves your professionalism in doubt. First impressions count for a lot!

  • Your email address should be relatively easy to remember (when I’m casting for a gig, I don’t want to have to stop what I’m doing and dig through materials to find it). A combination of your first and last name works well, or an initial/last name combo.
  • Yes, there’s room for creativity – just make sure what you choose reflects your professional interests.
  • Our FAVORITE emails are yourname@blahblahblah.com, because this tells us that you have your own website! That’s another post, but you DO have your own website, right? We’ll tawk.

 

So, what are you waiting for? If you know I’m talking to you, go right now and get yourself a smart, professional email address that won’t push you to the bottom of the casting agent’s list. Give yourself every opportunity for success – remember, it’s a business! Dare to imagine, Laura

 

 

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