How will you cope when you reach middle age and you realise your performing and dancing career may be over?
For me the answer was simple: I hadn’t ever thought about it, or even considered that getting older would physically affect my career. As far as I was concerned I would go on forever and never retire. Then in 2008 my agent secured me a private audition for Thriller Live UK Tour. Upon arrival at the studios it rapidly became apparent that every other performer there had just graduated, and there was an average age gap of eighteen years between us. I was old enough to be a father to everyone. This completely affected my state of mind and confidence and I proceeded to give the worst audition in history, to the point where I wished the studio floor would open up and swallow me whole. My heart was willing, my body wasn’t. It was an incredibly bitter pill to swallow.
After sixteen years of non-stop work, touring the UK and travelling half way around the world, of never having spent longer than a year in the same place, of late nights, long hours, and of sustaining all manner of injuries through years of dancing – I was physically exhausted. Not only that, I was weary of constant financial struggle, lack of security, bouncing from one job and one place to the next, and having no guaranteed future or career. The end of my thirties was approaching fast and it was time for a major change. So, after much soul searching I made the most gut-wrenching decision I’d ever made. I boxed up my make-up, hung up my tap shoes, and closed the door on the only thing I’d ever been truly passionate about since the age of five. I retired from life under the spotlight – it was time for a new chapter to begin…but what?
I knew I wanted to remain in the industry and that my twenty five years of experience and knowledge could be used to my advantage. I embarked on a self-promotion campaign and wrote to more than forty Casting Directors, asking for work experience. I was fortunate enough to be offered a short internship with Hubbard Casting. Shortly after, I secured employment with a corporate film company as their Casting Associate. It was during this time that I finally realised what I wanted to accomplish.
Having gone through amazing professional training at GSA, endured countless auditions and struggles as a performer, and then experiencing being seated on the other side of the casting table, my idea was to create In House Casting, a support service for professional performers and employers that addressed the three major issues I had identified.
First. As anyone who has attended one of the CDS/NCDT accredited colleges or similar vocational establishments will be aware; once you graduate, the front door closes behind you and you are on your own. The support network you enjoyed for three years vanishes and you have to outsource and pay for much of the support you once enjoyed for free.
Second. Having used several casting websites, both as a performer and as a Casting Associate, it was apparent that some of these sites were set up and run by people who have never worked as a performer, or even within the industry, and some are organised and administrated by people whose ‘vision’ has been to merely list jobs while fleecing struggling performers and artists for as much money as possible, and not offer a single ounce of support to their members.
Third. I couldn’t find one company that offered what I deemed to be vital support services to performers at affordable and accessible prices, all incorporated within one website.
So off to work I went…on a dedicated mission to recruit two teams of people, the In House technical team who would comprise developers, programmers and designers – the guys who would build our website from scratch – and the In House artistic team – a collective of independent colleagues who have all worked in the industry and who all have a much needed and professional service to offer. I received a grant from Dancers Career Development to assist with finances and finally, after eighteen months of planning, preparation, blood, sweat and tears, the team is assembled and I am finally ready to make the change I dreamed about after that dreadful audition in 2008.
The major goal of In House is to form a strong support network and offer those services which are often overlooked. A performer can improve their online presence by uploading an ‘ident’ to their In House profile, affording Casting Directors the opportunity to view and hear them ‘live’, as opposed to relying solely on a two dimensional image; we provide counselling for members coping with stage fright or audition nerves; we provide piano accompaniment service for audition and rehearsal purposes where we record your sheet music into an MP3 file; we offer a unique tax and accountancy service providing year round support for any financial worries; and we offer a headshot, showreel and voicereel service. We have many more unique support services planned for 2012 which we are sure performers will find invaluable
So now after eighteen months of hard work I find myself at another crossroads within the industry, with a new and hopefully successful path ahead. There are times when I miss performing and yearn to be back on the stage, particularly when watching live theatre. However, I believe I made the right decision to retire and I’m now looking forward to imparting my knowledge and experience, and, with the rest of the In House artistic team, providing an unrivalled support service to assist those still struggling in this competitive industry
After the continued success and growth of In House Agency, In House Casting officially launches on January 15th!
Mark Pettitt – Director, In House Casting & Agency