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 Leicester Landon
I moved to NY with two suitcases and $1,000 dollars. It was 2005.
Smart phones weren't big yet, so we all walked around with a little book of maps called the Not For Tourists guide (NFT). Any new transplant will have it easier than we did. With smart devices you have all the information you need right at your fingertips. However, there is something to be said for what NY has to offer when you aren't searching for something specific, rather just searching.
I suppose that's not necessarily to do with this business, but with life in general. Try to get in conversations with people. Be present in the city. Ask for directions rather than getting all the answers from your machine. Chances are you'll get more than you bargained for.
My first apartment was $300/mo in Bushwick. At the time, no one even knew where Bushwick was. Now, that place would be over a thousand dollars. I moved out after a few months to another unbelievably cheap place just off Central Park on the Harlem side. I moved again and again - at least once a year - unsatisfied with certain places that, in retrospect, would have been ideal homes for the long term. If cutting costs is important to you, find a great deal in an area that seems less-than-desirable. Be patient. The area will change. Eventually you won't be able to afford it anyway. Things change that fast.
I'm now in the cheapest part of Manhattan that exists: East Harlem. It has some grit that will never be gentrified; many of the city's housing projects are there. There are luxury condos going up close to the train stations, but there will always be a corner for budget-conscious artists; I maintain hope. When I'm priced out of this apartment, I will move to Brooklyn.
Most alternative-turned-mainstream artists are doing things in Brooklyn now. This means many of the intern and apprenticeship programs crucial for new-comers are housed in offices in Brooklyn, a quick bike ride away from Bushwick or Bed-Stuy, even Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Greene Point...
We have to be honest with ourselves and admit New York is not the gritty, east village squatter dream we imagined at some younger age. Practical proximity to business opportunities is what keeps me in Manhattan, though it's quickly becoming less practical as most small and not-for-profit theater companies are setting up shop in Brooklyn.
As I write I'm remembering things I wish people had said to me. I wasn't good at asking for help. I was determined to figure things out on my own. I wish I'd been more vulnerable and honest about my incapability - about the fact I was new and from a much smaller place.I wanted it to be a seamless transition. What a waste! Let it be a shock. Let it be new. Let it be a surprise!
Back to internship opportunities: Find them! Find companies doing the work important to you. Watch them, pay attention and figure out how/when you can help. Volunteer to help with a fundraising event. Sacrifice for the work that matters to you. It will bring you closer to the artistic community in which you belong. You do not want to waste your time with mass mail-outs hoping just anyone will take a chance with you. No one will take a chance with you. They already know too many people who want and deserve a handout. Be selective. Your art is worth it. I wish someone had told me this. Don't just give your art to anyone. Put it where it belongs. Every artistic choice you make is building your creative identity. Be proud of who you are becoming and the art you are doing.
I know, "How do I afford to live if I'm giving up all my time to theater companies."
Believe me, the people for whom you are volunteering your time are more tired than you'll ever be. They spent years sacrificing and building their own creative communities, struggling for their art. They do not get vacations. They are always working, building, contacting, and creating. Your exhaustion is not special. Get exhausted for what you believe in. That's what everyone else is doing. And it's worth it.
Actor Hack Blog
Those who waded through rough waters, so maybe you won't have to.