Navigating Uncertainty in the Entertainment and Performing Arts Industry
By Mary-Dora Bloch-Hansen
The entertainment and performing arts industry can be an exciting and fulfilling career path.
However, the industry is inherently unpredictable and vulnerable to numerous sources of uncertainty, such as shifting consumer tastes, economic factors, market fluctuations, technological disruptions, and unforeseen circumstances like the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Writers Guild of America strike, which began on May 2 after their three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expired, added another layer of uncertainty to the industry’s landscape. The impact of the WGA strike on Canadian television audiences and creators remains uncertain, as the extent of its impact is subject to various factors that may change over time. Nevertheless, this strike is yet another reminder of the unpredictability that is all too familiar in the entertainment and performing arts industry.
Whether it’s due to an unexpected event or a sudden shift in the industry, uncertainty can cause fear, anxiety, and high stress, particularly when it comes to the fear of losing work. Finding ways to take care of ourselves during these unpredictable times is essential for surviving within this industry.
Thankfully, practical tools and resources are available to help navigate uncertainty during unpredictable times. Figuring out what works best for you is key! Some strategies I have found helpful over the years include creating financial plans, building community and networking, continuing education and training, prioritizing self-care (mental and physical health), setting healthy boundaries, cultivating support networks, engaging in hobbies, and taking much-needed breaks to recharge. This is a non-exhaustive list, and what works for one person may not work for another. The important part is figuring out what helps you fill your own cup during uncertainty. Developing little rituals or practices for self-care is a highly individual experience. It can go a long way for building capacity when we fall into states of burnout.
Creating Financial Plans
Freelancers and independent contractors in the entertainment and performing arts industry can have unpredictable incomes, which makes financial planning critical. A budget that includes saving for emergencies and unexpected situations is essential. Easier said than done, I know! Freelancers can also benefit from tracking their expenses, invoicing clients promptly, and negotiating fair rates. I have found QuickBooks to be a fantastic resource for managing all my income and expenses. By being financially prepared, you’ll be able to focus on your work and your art rather than worrying about your finances.
Building Community and Networking
Building and maintaining relationships with colleagues, industry professionals, and potential clients can help you stay informed about job opportunities, industry changes, and other developments that may impact your work. Attend industry events, join online communities, and engage in social media to stay connected with others in the industry.
Education and Training
Learning new skills, obtaining certifications, and attending workshops and seminars can help you stay inspired, engaged, and adaptable in the industry. By proactively continuing your education, you’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected situations and changes in the industry. It can also open doorways to new and exciting opportunities.
Self-care: Mental and Physical Health
Uncertainty can be stressful and anxiety-provoking, so taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is essential. You have probably heard this a million times, but getting enough sleep, eating well, intentionally moving your body, and finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as meditation, mindfulness, or journaling really go a long way! Staying positive and focusing on the things you can control can also help you navigate uncertainty with more confidence and resilience. Meditation apps like Insight Timer and Headspace have really helped me get through challenging times, especially when affording things like therapy or memberships at yoga studios feel financially inaccessible. Self-care is essential to maintaining one’s physical, mental, and emotional health, especially in high-pressure arts industries. It is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure you have the energy to keep up with the demands of the industry.
As performers or entertainment industry professionals, we are often asked to work long hours or to take on additional responsibilities. It is important to set boundaries and prioritize your own needs to prevent burnout. I will admit, setting boundaries is no easy task, but with practice, it will start to get easier. It might be helpful to practice saying “no” more throughout your day to get familiar with it and notice how it feels in your body. Setting boundaries is a great way to reduce stress and carve out more intentional time for the work, projects, and activities you are most interested in.
Building a Support Network
Building a support network of friends and colleagues can help you feel more connected, supported, and improve your overall well-being. This can involve joining a support group or networking with other industry professionals. Establishing connections with like-minded individuals is crucial. As social beings, humans thrive on relationships. By cultivating support networks that encourage peer support and resource sharing, we can create a community of care and resilience, rather than fostering isolation and competition, which are already pervasive in a highly competitive entertainment industry.
Engaging in Hobbies & Taking Breaks
Engaging in hobbies outside of work can help you relax, recharge, and refuel. This can involve things like reading, engaging with visual arts, exploring a physical practice or anything that takes your mind off work and brings you into the present moment. Regular breaks to prevent burnout by finding a healthy balance of work and rest are also essential. This can involve taking short breaks during the workday or scheduling time off throughout the year.
In conclusion, navigating uncertainty in the entertainment and performing arts industry can be challenging, but it is not impossible. By implementing practical tools and resources into your routine, you’ll be more equipped to manage the fear and unease associated with losing work due to circumstances beyond your control. By finding ways to take care of themselves, professionals can perform at their best and navigate the unique challenges of the industry.
About the Author
Mary-Dora (MD) Bloch-Hansen (they/them) is a queer millennial, multi-disciplinary performance artist, care worker, doula, somatic movement educator, writer and second-generation settler based in Tkaronto. Their work focuses on queer body-centered practices and healing arts for a more livable future. As a dance artist, MD has slowly begun engaging in research and creation for a new solo performance work, supported by residencies at Dance Makers Toronto (2020), Lake Studio Berlin (2022), Toronto Dance Theatre (2022), and the National Ballet of Canada’s Open Space program (2023), among others. They have also collaborated with various artists, including Amanda Acorn, Amanda Smith (FAWN Chamber Creative), David Earle, Nicole Negro, Pamela Rasbach (Typecast Dance), and Alyssa Martin (Rock Bottom Movement). With Rock Bottom Movement, MD was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best Ensemble in the performance of MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS (2017).
In addition to their artistic practice, MD works as a care worker, doula, and somatic movement educator, weaving various holistic modalities into their work. They are passionate about creating affirming and transformative spaces for the community and are committed to using their skills and experiences to foster resilience in the people they work with. Drawing from their own experiences of trauma and disability, they explore how the arts, movement, and care work can be used as tools for community transformation and collective healing.
MD holds a BFA in Performance Dance from Toronto Metropolitan University (2013) and a BA in Psychology (Honors) from Laurentian University (2022), where they were awarded the Canadian Psychological Association Certificate of Academic Excellence for their honours thesis on the health experiences of 2S-LGBTQ+ individuals living in Northern Ontario. They were also recently awarded the Canadian Graduate Scholarship-Masters award for their ongoing research contributions. Currently, MD is pursuing a Masters of Social Work at the University of Toronto. Check out their work and offerings at www.somaticpractice.ca or follow their IG @somaticpractice.
Financial Planning Resources
- Financial spreadsheets and other DIY tools from Rags to Reasonable
- Personal Finance Essentials: a free course from McGill University, open to anyone in Canada
Designated Sharing Time
Designated Sharing Time: a monthly peer group where you can tap into the collective support and wisdom of your community.
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