By Lauren Rayner
What was the inciting incident to forming Lauren Rayner Productions?
I began, as many in this industry do, wanting badly to be on stage, to entertain, make people laugh, and hope they feel something. I went through conservatory in London and hoped for all to fall into place in my acting career.
The exact opposite happened.
I started directing at the age of fifteen. I didn't understand the shows being programmed at my high school. In college, albeit a top ten theatre school, most of the plays performed were written by old (and by old, I mean mainly, dead) white men. Many experiences written about were not shared experiences of mine and while there are certainly
many master playwrights and stunning plays I encountered (Tennessee Williams, every bit of Shakespeare), I yearned for something more.
By seventeen I started producing. It was the only way to get the work up I felt passionate about. My mission as an artist has always been to produce work I would want to see and tell stories I would want to hear. By the time I graduated from University of Southern California, I had produced over 40 productions and 3 new play festivals highlighting the work of almost twenty undiscovered female playwrights.
Since then I’ve founded Lauren Rayner Productions, where I produce for stage, film and multi media events. I appeared on NPR's Marketplace discussing producing of independent work and am considered a crowd-funding expert I have raised a total of $202,011 across 23 online crowd-funding campaigns via Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
This all started with the simple dream to be an actor.
What was the inciting incident that created LRP? Undermining the status quo. Figuring out if I wanted to get something produced, I would have to do it myself.
What sort of programs, internships, experiences made you feel like you'd gained footing in producing?
After graduating from USC, I spent a number of years working in the Off-Broadway theatre world. In New York, I interned at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Fundraising & Development), The Play Company (General Management), Women's Expressive Theatre (Production), the Lark Play Development Center (Artistic/Producing) and Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater (Production & Box Office) and in Los Angeles at the Center Theatre Group in the Executive Offices under Artistic Director, Michael Ritchie.
My continued interest and background in education led me to teaching and consulting. I have been a teaching assistant at NYU Tisch School of Drama for Professor Elizabeth Bradley’s courses “Self-Start: The Fundamentals of Artistic Entrepreneurship” and “Leadership & Management for Theatre in a Global Context”, as well as assist to Professor Bradley for various professional workshops including a summit of twelve of Singapore’s cultural leaders in 2014. I have also enjoyed guest lecturing and speaking for courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York University, and Yale University.
While working with Calla Videt’s science-focused arts organization Sightline, I traveled to Harvard University to lead a weekend-long workshop with undergraduates with the goal of forging a meaningful dialogue between artists and scientists. Volunteering my time or small stipends, was a small homage to pay for these valuable experiences that continued my own education as I concurrently worked professionally in the field.
By the time I graduated, I had completed six unpaid internships on two coasts. Questions I get a lot: Was it worth it? All of the hours, the unpaid time? My answer: Absolutely. These experiences gave me the knowledge, resources and contacts needed to build my career in New York City. Without these relationships, it’s doubtful I would have had the foothold I needed to survive. However, I recommend listening to yourself and knowing when it’s time to step away from the comfortable world of internships and step into the real one.
You are your own boss and are so good with saving --- I think any financial tips you have would be AMAZING!
“Being your own boss” when it comes to solely earning your own income without the support of an established company is not for everyone. There are a few key areas one must consider before taking the leap:
• SAVINGS: That’s right, people. Do you have a nest egg? Have you been saving at least 10-15% of your income per month? Or even better, 25-35%? If you can successfully put away savings on a regular basis and actually keep it saved and out of reach for daily living expenses, this will alert you as to whether you’re ready to manage your money on a
very micro level with no company automatically withholding for taxes or retirement. It also gives you a buffer of funding (or an “Emergency Fund”) when times get tough, and inevitably, those unfortunate times do creep up on you without any notice.
• INSURANCE: Being your own boss has tons of perks. You get to make your own schedule and take on projects you care about, but one of the downsides is you will probably lose your access to affordable health insurance benefits. There are many options you can explore, like the Freelancers Union or Fractured Atlas. You will need to be able to prove you make a certain amount of income from freelancing or working part-time in order to gain access to some of these benefits, so it’s a sound practice to record and keep very clear documentation about your clients and income.
• WORK ETHIC / MOTIVATION:
Are you the type of person who can’t wait to get up in the morning to do what they love? Do you see roadblocks as exciting challenges and not an exhausting proposition?
Are you the type of person that doesn’t really care about sleep or “normal working hours”? Can you see possibilities in something that isn't already there?
If you answered YES to all of the above, perhaps being your own boss would be a fruitful opportunity.
If you answered a resounding NO to any of the above, to keep your day job. Above anything, being your own boss is a personality thing and if you need structure to keep motivated to continue working, you will ultimately find “being your own boss” more limiting than liberating
Written by Alix Paige
We've all heard it a million times (usually from friends of parents or random strangers):
"Acting is really hard!"
Yes.... We know. We know theatre doesn't pay and New York is the most expensive city in the country. We know there are literally thousands of people trying to do the exact same thing and the cards are pretty much stacked against us. We know it takes years, sometimes even decades, to have what WE imagine to be "success".
BUT, one thing we do to make this business even harder completely involves our own psychology: Constantly comparing ourselves to others. It's natural to be somewhat competitive to try to place yourself in this industry, or get advice from friends who've had success, but what I'm talking about is more specific and completely unhelpful.
When you scroll your Facebook feed for what-feels-like eternity and you see a friend you did a show with once just booked a commercial.... or a guy you went to school with (a freshman when you were a senior) created a show being produced at a major NY theater, or a friend got nominated for a freakin' TONY at 27... You see all of these things and immediately feel jealous or horrible about yourself, or a combination of both. I admit I have participated in this kind of self-degradation many times and still have to remind myself of something:
WE ARE ALL ON OUR OWN JOURNEY.
It sounds a little "crunchy granola", but it's absolutely the truth. We're all unique individuals from different families and places with different looks and personalities. We are all on different paths with different timing. Everyone has been through stages of their career where they've been confused, self-doubting, "unsuccessful", etc... We've all also experienced some success. It just happens at different times for different people.
First off, Facebook is evil. Try not to check it so often and DEFINITELY try cutting back on scrolling your News Feed, because guess what? Most people (usually) post about the best stuff going on in their lives. There is a WHOLE other life not on social media for every "friend" to see. People's accomplishments are wonderful but don't define WHO they are as a person and especially as your friend.
Secondly, YOUR LIFE IS AWESOME TOO! You may be having a horrible week, month, year, or decade (in which case, I'm sorry, that's terrible.) BUT the fact is, we all live in one of the best (albeit far from perfect) places on the planet. We're born with all kinds of rights and freedoms, clean running water, electricity, and plenty of food. PLUS we have people who love us, support us, and think we are great! Our lives are not that bad, in fact, most of our lives are pretty freakin' awesome. We are performers for god's sake!
Worst case scenario: We get to do what we love once in a blue moon.
Best case scenario: We get to do it all the time! Some people never experience that kind of joy once in their life. Let's all take a step back and think about our blessings and what we are grateful for.
Lastly, use what other people are doing as INSPIRATION and NOT DEGRADATION. If you see someone you know has been nominated for a TONY, think Holy shit! It's possible!. If you see a New York newbie you went to college with writing and producing his own stuff, think I should see it and support him. Maybe I'll take him out for coffee & ask what the whole self-made-work experience was like, If you see a girl just booked a commercial, think That is awesome. I remember when I did that thing once and I was super excited" and go write a list of all the things you've done (regional theatre, print work, PSA's, concerts, recordings, voice-overs, student films, etc....) Check that list when you start to doubt yourself. You will be SHOCKED at how long your list actually is.
Start comparing yourself to YOURSELF. If you think you didn't do your best and can do better, challenge yourself to push harder, wake up earlier, go to that dance class, or just know when to take a break and give yourself a hug. Acknowledge you are wonderful and awesome, and realize this business is not the be-all/end-all, because, as my friend Henry would say,
"We're just putting up a skit ya'll".
Actor Hack Blog
Those who waded through rough waters, so maybe you won't have to.