Like that movie with the dead people kid...only not.
Most people know the term "pay it forward" because of that movie with the kid who saw dead people. While a good movie, that's not really the reason I'm posting today.
Everyone in this world has friends, people they like, people they don't like, acquaintances, etc. The other day, I helped someone on my "don't like" list to get a great opportunity theatrically. Before I go farther, it's important to note that this "don't like" goes both ways, we are both aware that we see differently on many things, and are quite happy co-existing in this world. Please don't let this post become about that previous statement. What's important here, is that there was an opportunity that I knew of, he was perfect for the role, and I sent him in that direction. He now has a final callback for a national tour thanks to that opportunity. I have a lot of friends who know us who asked me, "why?" I'm not going to lie, I was struck by the question. You see I believe firmly in paying it forward. Life is about helping other people when you can, and accepting help when you need it. I would hope that you help others enough that when you need help, it's either there, or easily accessible because you can ask for it.
In any industry, most of the battle is who you know, how you use those connections, and who's willing to help you meet the right people. I have been very fortunate with the people I've met and the connections I've made, and much of that is due to this philosophy on life. Always pay it forward whenever you can. I was in no position to take advantage of this opportunity, nor was I anything close to what they might have been looking for. I would have wasted a trip to NYC, and blown a lot of money to get seen for something I had no shot at. With this acquaintance of mine, the type fit perfectly, and he lived only half an hour away. It seemed a shame not to send him to that call, and now he's doing well because of it. Regardless of our interactions and lack of friendship, I know that I can expect the same sort of help from him sometime in the future. Karma is not a myth. It may not necessarily be a mystical being who shows up to smite you when you forget to wait for a pedestrian at a crosswalk, however it certainly rewards you for helping others.
I find too often that people within the theatrical profession are constantly in competition. The nature of auditions is competitive, I know, but so few people truly relish in that competition. For the most part, the people I know don't do theatre because they love auditioning, they love what comes afterwards. Auditions are just a necessary evil. Why create more stress by constantly working to undermine a colleague? Most of the people I've met in the industry feel this way. If I come to town and I need a couch to crash on, someone is more than willing to lend a hand, knowing that if ever they're in the same situation where I am, I'll help out. It's that simple. To me, this audition was the same argument. If ever this acquaintance of mine comes across an audition that I'm right for that I may not have heard about, I am sure he will shoot me off a text letting me know. That's what this industry is all about.
People in this world are so caught up in making friends and doing everything to hold on to those friends. I believe that if people tried less hard to make and appease friends, and simply co-existed, the whole industry would loosen up a notch. I don't believe in self-sacrifice, because everyone should be a god/goddess to themselves, but I do believe that when things are going well, throw some of your excess bones to someone down on their luck. It's amazing what they'll do once they've risen up.
Pay it forward is a rule to live life by. Some would call what I just said, expecting payback, which sort of ruins the whole essence of paying it forward. The original intent is that you do something selflessly for others so that they'll in turn do the same to another stranger. By osmosis, however, if that system works properly, eventually someone will do it to you and so the cycle continues. In an industry where connections are everything, expand your reaches into as many people as possible, and soon the right people will be able to place you somewhere you couldn't have accessed otherwise. Create and culture connections, and those connections will be willing to give you a hand right back.
Nice guys don't have to finish last, I promise.
Photo by Danny Bristoll
(fac·to·tum | \ fak-ˈtō-təm) noun - a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
I find myself hilarious, and I use this blog to stroke my own ego. Thanks for indulging me.