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Industry: Theatre, Literary, Television

Location: Los Angeles, California

ME: How many years have you been working in this industry?

VICTOR: I have been working in regional theatres (Center Theatre Group and The Pasadena Playhouse) for five years now. Two years ago, I made a transition to double my priorities— meaning, I wanted to continue pushing my work as a creative young professional, but I also needed to focus and begin my career as a writer. In the last two years, I’ve completed two writing fellowships (as a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices fellow, and a LAMBDA LGBTQ Emerging Writer). I have also completed three playwright commissions, and I’m working on completing two more this year (2016). Within this work, I also decided that television writing can be a field that sustains my life as a writer, and therefore I’ve enrolled in the UCLA Extension Writers Program and have completed one year of TV Writing courses (drama).


ME: How many people are currently on your team?

VICTOR: I began to intentionally build a working relationship with a talent manager in January, 2016. We have weekly conversations were we check in on the status of my writing projects, talk about the pipeline of upcoming projects, discuss trends, and he relays the industry's needs based on conversations he is having with network executives and other managers/agents. He has also been a guiding light as I’ve completed my pilot for a fast-paced political international drama titled BELIEVER, and as I begin working on others. We are just now entering the part of our working relationship where he and I will begin taking meetings with executives as I now have polished projects to show for.

I also began to intentionally build relationships with other writers, theatre professionals, and television executives. For me, relationships are important because they lay the foundation for a future of partnerships and potential collaboration. Through this I have formed a recent team with a marketing expert at FOX, an actress from HULU’s East Los High who will direct, a grammy award winning musician and composer, and a production company to produce a short animated film inspired by a play I wrote in 2013. The tie in— our passion for an increased awareness about Alzheimer's research and the deaf and hard of hearing community. Not all conversations that bind us are about our ambition regarding the industry. The things that bring us together are the very things that make us human, our passions and our ability to change awareness and the world around us. 

Additionally, there is a high level of self care involved in the pursuit of ambition. This is an awareness we must all have— the realization that in order to maximize results, we must first and always take care of ourselves. There are many great friends in my team, those whose council I seek in challenging times. I also have a psychic/spiritual advisor, a cranial sacra therapist, and friends who check in on my eating habits and workout routines.


ME: When you feeling like giving up what keeps you going?

VICTOR: Giving up is not an option. That does not mean it is always easy to continue. When times are challenging I branch out by delegating and asking for support. Three and a half years ago I was involved in a terrible car accident that left me so weak and injured that I could not carry a book in hand. I had to slow my life down; I had to make ‘healing’ a priority. No one ever teaches us how to heal; we are not taught how to slow down to make room for healing. For eight months straight, I had to learn how to make room for four chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy appointments a week. I had to learn how to ask for help, how to be transparent about my abilities, how to say No, and how to say Yes with modifications (stating the parameters of my abilities). This was a tremendous lesson. Now, I’ve learned how to be very transparent about my abilities, and more so— I’ve learned to ask for help. When I feel like giving up, I ask for support, I ask for help, I build out and make sure I have a support team that can strengthen the goal.


ME: What is the one thing people didn’t warn you about?

VICTOR: I should not take things personally. Most times, people make choices based on their needs, desires, flaws— and when it affects me, I should never take it personally. 


ME: Who or what inspires you?

VICTOR: Shonda Rhimes inspires me, Obama inspires me, individuals who carry out their civic responsibilities in their work inspire me. My grandmother and grandfather inspire me. I often times think about the tremendous struggle migration must have been for them. They decided to leave Mexico and come to Los Angeles with nothing but a suitcase and their children. How many of us can simply carry our lives in a suitcase, and arrive in a new country without resources, language, and a known/promised future? That risk is incredible. Their choice to take that risk is often a meditation for me. I think about the huge leap our family has made because of that simple choice, and the stalwart investment they then made throughout a lifetime to sustain that choice, to carry it out, to see the fruit of their labor in the establishment of a family in the United States of America.  Their struggle is vast, it makes any risk I could ever take feel small, it makes it feel conquerable. I am inspired by that choice every day.


ME: What has been one hard knock moment?

VICTOR: I resigned from Center Theatre Group in 2013. This was a leap of faith as I needed to take time to restructure my life, as I was acknowledging my need to prioritize my career as a writer, too. My job there was not able to support any other part of me, and that was okay— I couldn’t take it personally. I had to walk away. I was unemployed for three months. I had landed a very competitive 8 month writing fellowship, but it did not support me financially at all. I took the leap regardless. My family and friends helped me get through this tumultuous phase. That, and the book “War of Art” really helped me reprogram the way I thought about being a creative professional. During this time, I notified my entire network about the changes in my life and asked them to share with me any open positions that might serve the new life I was trying to build. Three months later, four friends recommended me for the same job. I took notice, applied, interviewed, and began working in the Artistic Department at The Pasadena Playhouse. I walked into my interview and was transparent about my new priorities. They appreciated my transparency and hired me. We structured, and have continued to structure my contracts and salary there to fit my personal/creative needs, while I achieve and really— exceed— the goals laid out each year.


ME: How do you stay organized as a freelance artists?

VICTOR: I have two planners (Moleskin Weekly Notebook and Self Journal by self For me, it is important that my planners are tactile. I have to be able to see them, feel them, scratch things off, take notes, add notes, color code... One is a weekly view— it allows me to scan the week and month for things I have to be aware about. The other, is a daily planner, one that asks me to state what I am grateful for that day, and asks me what I will do that day to achieve my three overall goals for the year. These two allow me to see the micro and the macro— they allow me to be move steadfast, and still take time to acknowledge the small wins that build towards victory.


ME: How would you define success?

VICTOR: Success, for me, means being able to stand tall with a strong network of support and community behind you, one that feeds you, and one that you feed, too.






NAME: Brandon Jordan Brown

INDUSTRY: Writing and Poetry


KAT: When you feel like giving up on your art what keeps you going?

BRANDON: I think the answer to this question changes, based on a lot of different factors––creative blocks, depression, busyness, etc.––but I do know a few things that I try to balance that offer me a lot of help:

+ Being around other writers // few things are more encouraging and challenging than spending time with other people who also have a love for your preferred medium/genre. For me, talking with other poets, learning who they're reading, hearing them complain about how hard things are, finding out where they're getting published––it all helps me get more excited to write. And, it can also add a healthy dose of "competition," in the sense that watching any other person succeed at something you also hope to excel at gives you a gentle reminder that, at the end of the day, art takes a lot of dedication and discipline.

+ Living life // I've found out, and continue to find out (the hard way), how important it is to learn some sort of balance between writing poetry and experiencing life––the mundane, the profound, all of it. I have the tendency to lean toward extremity, so in moments of imbalance, I find myself attacking art in intense bursts, then crashing and burning for a bit. It's been incredibly beneficial for me to set up a loose schedule for writing and editing my poetry so I can approach it as a much more sustainable endeavor. 

I think a good balance of these two elements––diving down and coming up for air––create a more consistent artist.

KAT: Who inspires you?

BRANDON: There are a ton of incredible poets who I really look to for inspiration––Maurice Manning, Carrie Fountain, Philip Levine, to name a few off the top of my head. I am drawn to a number of things about the writers I love: their style, their subject matter, their speech. Finding "your people" is such a gift as an artist, and I highly recommend it. Other than that, I can point straight back to the people and places that raised me. Growing up in the South, I find myself in a unique literary tradition with a really powerful set of shared vocabulary, ruminations, and even critiques. The longer I write, and the more I'm away, the more I have leaned into those people and places to explore what feels most authentic to me for my work. 

I also have a master's degree in theology, so I find my poetry tends to abide in a space that often focuses on the same sort of "business" of theology and other related disciplines––Who are we? What is our condition as humans? Where are we headed? How has that been influenced by where we've been?

KAT: What is one learning moment that you hope others don't have to experience?

BRANDON: I really don't think I have an answer to that. For each "negative" idea that I can come up with, my mind immediately tells me that it was somehow important. Rejection is important. Burnout is important. I think these things can be our teachers. The most crucial part, perhaps, is listening and reevaluating when we are met with something difficult so we can move forward. I've felt like I've been on the brink of giving up poetry many times in my low moments, but, like I mentioned earlier, the encouragement of friends and fellow writers and allowing myself to recalibrate my perspective were absolute lifesavers. Poetry, like other artistic pursuits, is a long game. I am constantly reminding myself that I don't have to achieve everything I hope to all at once. We need to remember that we won't say everything that needs said in one instance.

KAT: How do you stay organized as a freelance artist?

BRANDON: Well, I've stepped out of full-time freelance work for the time being to take a writing gig I couldn't refuse, but I still hold on to some freelance work on the side, and having a full-time job and carving out a lane as a poet takes intentionality to make it work. Use a calendar. There are always deadlines, and whether they are related to a client or a contest, you don't want to miss them. I try to calendar any and all deadlines and set alerts for the ones that are especially important. Additionally, I use an invoicing software to keep track of payments, because if you don't do it, no one will. 

When it comes to poetry, I have a Dropbox folder with all my work in it, finished or in progress. Each piece has its own folder because each time I edit a poem, I save it as a brand new draft. Doing so helps me see how a piece has developed, and if I ever wanted to retrace my steps, I could easily do it. I also use Duotrope to track submissions, which is very helpful.

KAT: What has been the biggest win for you so far?

BRANDON: Back in 2014, I was selected as a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow in poetry. This absolutely was a milestone in my artistic development. Besides all the benefits it offered––workshops, courses, readings, connections, etc.––it offered me validation, which is something we all need. It feels good to know that what you are doing is landing somewhere with some degree of success. That isn't to say that the only true marker of success is positive reception (we have enough examples of people who weren't appreciated in their lifetime), but if it is a goal of yours to put your work into the world, it certainly is food for the journey. 




Name: Michael Nelder Henderson III

Stage Name: Michael Nelder

Industry: Poetry, Spoken Word, Public Speaking, Facilitation, Personal Development, Motivation 

Location: Los Angeles, California

KAT: How long have you been in this industry?

MIKE: I've been writing since 2010. For the last 3 years I've really been working in this industry.

KAT: How many people are on your team?

MIKE: I have a videographer, a manager, and a 3 people.

KAT: When you feel like giving up what keeps you going?

MIKE: The power of expression vs. impression. As a poet, I'm always trying to produce art that is authentic to my voice. When you've tasted validation from a piece of art, it's easy to write for the applause of people rather than the affirmation from knowing you told the truth. As a writer I'm always asking myself, what am I really trying to say. On the days where someone didn't call back or that opportunity didn't pan out, I think about why I began writing in the first place; as a form of survival, as a way to push back against a society that knowingly and unknowingly pushes you to be like everyone else. I think about how poetry was a gift given to me first and I should always treat it as such irregardless of people's recognition of that gift. 

KAT: What is one thing you weren't prepare you for?

MIKE: People pay you based on your perceived value, not your actual value. Perception plays a role in how people view your art. I've been on both ends of the spectrum, where I was being paid for something and I thought, how they heck did I get here? I've also been in situations where I felt like my value was not recognized. My solution: to set boundaries by accurately communicating to people who I am, what I offer and what I will do and not do. I had to stop taking opportunities just for a check and take them because there was conviction behind why I was moving forward. Typically I find my value as an artist is perceived accurately in the spaces that resonate most with who I am and why I do what I do.

KAT: Who or what inspires you?

MIKE: Extracting the beauty out of mundane things, watching people fully express their passions, hip hop instrumentals, classical music, people's stories, vulnerability, good movies, good books, good food, meaningful conversations, spirituality, scriptures, being able to guide people to their own unique voice and then helping them to channel it effectively, my journal, just about everything inspires me. Even people who are lazy inspire me because I can look at them and see latent potential. Wonder what people are missing when other people sit on their hands. 

Lately, Lin Manuel Miranda (creator/ writer of the play Hamilton), has been really inspiring to me. I love that he took hip hop and spoken word poetry and wasn't afraid to infuse this art form into theatre and history. I love the novelty in just being yourself and I see so much of that in Miranda.

KAT: What has been one hard knock moment for you?

MIKE: One hard knock moment. Actually a lot of my hard knock moments have come from faith based institutions. My assumption is that they should be on the vanguard of valuing people's uniqueness and gifting but often times, it's a harder fight there than somewhere else to be valued. 

I remember one organization reached out to me to do a poem for a themed event. Up until the event correspondence and direction were regular, the poem had to be about a certain topic, certain length, rehearsed with the band, performed for a number of services. After I finished performing I was so surprised that the musicians and other who served were handed something for their time while I had to talk with the director about payment. This left a very bad taste in my mouth because I assumed that I would be valued. This experience taught me how to set boundaries, never to assume and to educate people's exceptions about the time it takes to create something out of nothing, rehearse and then present that body of work. 

KAT: How do you stay organized?

MIKE: Organization is my downfall, lol. I have always had a problem in this area because I'm such a big picture person, have a hard time planning anything. I do have this website called "Trello" that I use. It's a project management tool that business use to collaborate and I've sort of made that into my Self Management System. It's creative enough for me to stick with so it's helped! 

KAT: How would you define success?

MIKE: I would say success for me has to do with the inward expression of who I am matching the outward expression of who I am. I am successful to the extent that what I say and what I do is in alignment. I think my success is also caught up in what I leave behind for other people, what lives on after me. I am successful when people can see themselves in my art.