Freelancing is fun, exciting, scary and one never knows what amazing work is coming next. The following is my accounting of working as a Talent Associate for the 2017 Indspire Awards.
Firstly, yes, Talent Associate, not talent? Yes, a Talent Associate. My motto right now is to say yes to everything, and when this opportunity came up I said sure as it’s been over a year since I have done any work with my community. As much as it may have hurt my pride slightly to be on the other end of performing, I also enjoy paying my mortgage and take gigs where they come. Also every Elder I know tells me I have too much pride anyway!
A Talent Associate is one who wrangles talent. That is all the information I had going into the gig, so that’s all you get until you go through the week with me as outlined below. Are you excited? Well get there, this is Canadian Entertainment baby!
I arrive Monday morning and meet all the other Talent Associates. We have orientation. My supervisor explains our job in more detail. At this time, it is still a bit fuzzy as to what specifically I will be doing, but I find out I am the Talent Associate for the Voice of God, Lawrence Bayne. It is only fitting that my job is to wrangle God! I am not sure what to expect, but get panicked when half way through the day I learn that I don’t know how to read a calendar and the week ends Friday not Thursday. I am headlining a gig in Cornwall on Friday. CRAP! Jenn get yourself a proper time manager! I must let someone down, either this gig or my comedy booker, and I choose Indspire. I try to be charming with the booker knowing he may not book me again and that is my fault for not reading the calendar properly. Oh the pain of needing an assistant but not making enough money to have one!
I enjoyed lunch talk with other production members. We talked about three basic topics:
- Lateral violence in our workplaces (not this one but other ones);
- How dreamy National Chief Perry Bellgarde is; and
- I tried to let everyone know more of the freelance work I do including comedy. May as well network while eating amazing food. (the catering was off the hook!)
Tuesday was more orientation and a lot of sitting. Our job involves waiting around for stuff to do, then doing it manically, then sitting some more. My talent is arriving in the evening and my supervisor says I can still go home at 7 (which makes it an 11 hour day) but I say “nah I’ll stay”. I figure if I am going to work with this talent all week, best I meet him first thing. I met God’s voice, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
I am going to stop here and explain the Indspire Awards. They are awards given to Indigenous Canadians in different fields. Business, culture, youth etc. They are important so our communities recognize how far we have come and to help pave the future with hope. More on this later. Just note it is important to me to still give back even though I have officially left the justice field, I still care and want to give back and work with my people.
I am this time underwhelmed by the experience. I like to excel at everything and on day two I learned I may not have the base skill to do the job. Me? Not be able to master a skill? Yep, walkie talkie use 101 #FAIL. On a walkie talkie one has to be fast, short, in and out. It is a shared airspace where everyone can hear you. A sample conversation on a walkie talkie:
Person 1: “George to Henry, what’s your ETA”
Person 2: “2 minutes”
Person 1: “Copy that”.
Here is the conversation if I am invovled:
Person 1: “George to Jenn, what’s your ETA”
Jenn: “To where? Hey George, how are you today?”
Person 1: “good, what is your ETA to the Wardrobe Room”
Jenn: “ok well if I start walking now, it depends on how many people in the hallway. Also I have a small limp today, getting old you know. And I might have to go to the bathroom, so I really don’t’ know”
Person 1: um…
Jenn: “how about I see you when I see you. Also, did you hear what trump did today?”
Person 1: “Copy that (audible passive aggressive sigh)
Let’s just say I am not a master of talking in short phrases. I am also incapable of even asking for someone’s location without saying please or thank you, and when other’s don’t say please or thank you I feel they are being rude. Their efficiency hurts my feelings! I am a walking Canadian stereotype.
Back to the weekly accounting. Wed I spend more time with my talent. He spends a lot of time in his room or booth and we don’t talk much. I organize him, ensure he has tea/coffee/gingerale and whatever he needs. I think this is the easiest job ever. Anyone could do this. Then I remember that not everyone thinks ahead. Let’s say my husband did this job. He would not wonder what type of tea the talent wanted, he would wait for someone to tell him what to do at every turn. I am an initiative taker and well, a people pleaser. This dude is gonna freaking like me!
Wed I begin to question the experience again. I am not here for the money (Canadian show business is not a money maker), I spend way too much time staring at a wall waiting to help my talent and time in my head alone can be dangerous. (as outlined in my book really buy my book). I am getting sad, wondering what has become of my life that I am not the talent but the “wrangler”. “oh poor poor pitiful me” so to speak. Then, things start changing. Three other associates go out of their way to ensure I am doing well, bring me food as I can’t leave my post, and words of encouragement come. I also watch a rehearsal and remember I am part of something amazing here. I am a small part, but a part nonetheless.
Thursday things ramp up. Big talent is around, Mr. Bayne is busy and is also really funny. Now that we have spent some time talking he realized how awesome I am ( I really am). I also realize how badly he needs a wrangler. The dude forgets everything everywhere. It’s funny. He feels so awful that I have to go and get stuff and I am like “this is literally what they are paying me for”. I am happy for any task. I should add now that his voice is like butter. He is amazing at his job and I am happy to work for him. I am not on day four of 12 hour days and am very tired. I see the tiredness in other people and see a lot of snapping at each other. I see crew working hard and a great production crew putting it all together. I am at this point an anthropologist in the theatre world, looking at all the interactions, the players, the roles and of course, the food. I had a good day but at home cry a bit to the husband that I am unsure if I can do another long day like this. Friday is going to be minimum 16 hour day! He replies with “poor poopsie” our new code word for “suck it up”.
Friday comes. Part of my job today is not just ensuring my talent is happy and arrives where they are supposed to, but I get to stand in as a presenter for rehearsals. So I get to watch the full dress rehearsal. I am seeing it all come together, the entire week of hard work. I see cultural dancers, professional dancers, a DJ, a rapper, an Inuit Folk Singer and Buffy St. Marie. More on the acts later, but I am now getting excited. This is a pretty cool gig.
I get up at 5:30 a.m. to catch my bus to get to the National Arts Centre. I arrive and work immediately taking care of my talent’s needs. There is excitement in the air.
I spent a great deal more time with God (Lawrence) today. He regales me of stories from his long spanning career. I IMDB him and of all his many jobs I am most impressed that he has been on Murder She Wrote! He then tells me a story about Angela Lansbury. Sitting and talking to him is like my time spent listening to John Wing and Mike Wilmot. Entertaining stories of a different time in entertainment. It was very enjoyable. He then tells me about a time he was at festival for La Femme Nikita fans. Like Comi-Con but just for La Femme Nikkia. He tells me how crazy the fans get and that his wranger for that show has had to intervene. I then make it very clear that I am not taking a bullet for him! I also ask if it’s okay to talk about him in my blog to which he says “obviously”.
Showtime came and I was thrilled to know some of the very deserving recipients, and honoured to be part of an event serving them. The entertainment though, this was so good. There was a First Nations rapper, an Inuit Folk Singer and Buffy Saint Marie closed the show. The cultural performance was better than any I have seen, even though I was a little disappointed to see no Metis jigging involved, I am sure they did the best they could. Check out all the performers, you won’t be disappointed.
Once the show closed, Lawrence was ready to schmooze a bit and then go home. I watched some of the post show gathering and felt very apart from it all. Perhaps because I knew it was fleeting and I was merely “temp” help, perhaps because I spent much of the week alone with my talent or perhaps because I had worked 16 hours and had to run home to troubleshoot some client work! No matter the reason, I was done, though I grabbed some cake for the road.
I really enjoyed my experience. It helped me remember that I want more of my freelancing work to be entertainment or humour based. I like all my business clients of course, but I truly want to grow and get more experience in production. I asked myself why I had not pitched anything myself to APTN or other networks? Perhaps fear, perhaps just very busy surviving but this experience has got my creative juices flowing and some plans in the works. I did not network very much because I was so tired at the end, but I do have all these amazing new people in my life and for that I am grateful!
Would I do this again? Perhaps, as I am sure Lawrence will have in his rider to only hire me now (ha) but sure I’d do it again. I would hope they look at my CV and see some other opportunities, or perhaps more learning and mentoring should they wish but in the end, I was so very happy for this experience and learned some valuable things:
- I become more of an introvert as I age. I like people but in smaller amounts than I used to.
- My husband will always rub my feet at the end of a hard day. Sometimes reluctantly but he’ll still do it!
- There is a spirit amongst people working together on a tight production/project. Long hours spent together, it has a small family vibe. In this case a functional family vibe which is rare!
- Perhaps I need to work on my walkie talkie protocol!
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